What to Disclose in the Synopsis: Reader Reactions to Surprises
Guest Post by Irene Watson
A reviewer wrote me:
I was concerned that the book synopsis did not mention the part of the story that the author is dealing with his homosexuality. I read the book and am not reviewing it.
Every so often I get emails from reviewers indicating the synopsis didn’t specify adverse, to them, content. In some cases the synopsis even looked like it was written by someone that didn’t read the book because it didn’t reflect what was inside the covers. This could be a huge issue for the readers, especially if they aren’t expecting something that turns them off.
There are a number of topics that must be disclosed in the synopsis and my suggestions are:
*profanity/expletives – even though our society is very lax in this department many are still turned off
*homosexuality – either your own experience (as above) or any homosexual encounters
*sexual orientation – anything to do with BLGT themes
*politics – especially if you are slam-blasting a party/establishment or pushing your own views
*religion – especially if you have a strong point of view on a specific religion and denounce others
*erotic sexual scenes – anything that would be censored or for adult reading only
*necrophilia – many readers would consider this as objectionable or inappropriate
*kinky sex – BDSM, menage, and such – stuff to be done behind closed doors
*horror – blood/guts/beheadings – yikes! – need I say more?
*paranormal – many don’t believe in this and could be upset if it comes up unexpectedly
* and basically, anything that could be go against a person’s beliefs
This list comes from my own experience with reviewers as well as reading reviews by others that gave negative reviews. Non-disclosure could certainly be grounds for a negative review.
If you can’t quite fit the disclosure into a synopsis then I believe a warning would be just as effective. I have seen some authors place this just below the synopsis:
Warning: Contains expletives
The specific reviewer that I quoted above refused to write a review but I’ve had reviewers that chose to write a review and mention the adverse content in the review. Both are in their own right. Some reviewers feel they need to warn potential readers so they wouldn’t be surprised or turned off the same as they are, or some just refuse to even participate in giving what turns them off any energy and writing a review.
The interesting part is I tried to find something online about what to disclose in a synopsis and couldn’t. There are thousands of articles on how to write a synopsis but doing a cursory look none of them addressed disclosure. This topic IS an issue so it surprises me there isn’t more buzz about it.
So…what turns you off in a book but it wasn’t disclosed in the synopsis? Do you have any others to add to the list above?
Irene Watson is the Managing Editor of Reader Views, where avid readers can find reviews of recently published books as well as read interviews with authors. Her team also provides author publicity and a variety of other services specific to writing and publishing books.