Great expectations: of titles and pitches

There is nothing cooler than getting reader feedback. Too often, we sit in our gilded batcaves and go about our jobs as if we were the ruler of all things wonderful. Then you get the opinions of those who shelled out money for your little beauties and get a bitter taste of reality.

While in my own gilded batcave, I happened to be roaming around, looking at books that I’d stashed in my Wish List – a list so vast, I’ll be 190 y/o before I finish reading them all. While I was perusing one particular book because I liked the author, I stopped to read the reviews – and got an interesting education regarding expectations.

In amongst the mostly good reviews were a number of reviews that took the author to task because they didn’t feel they got what they were expecting. The chief complaint was that the title, subtitle, and synopsis didn’t deliver the goods as advertised, and the reviews concentrated on what they felt the book did NOT do. Gah! This is a marketing brain fart. It’s literary bait and switch.

How you brand a book is what lets readers feel satisfied that you delivered the goods. So it goes to reason that your title, subtitle (yah, cover art, too), and synopsis all give the proper face to the inside of your book. If your book carries the title Training Errant Beagles: This Side of Crazy, then the content better speak to that subject. If, however, the book goes into great detail about the author’s personal relationship with the beagle with only a tidbit about the actual training part, then I guaran-dang-tee you there will be a percentage of readers who will be snarling at you because they bought the book to learn how to train a beagle.

* Just a quick aside – beagles can’t be trained. I don’t care what the literature and other beagle owners say, they’re all lying.

Here is an example of what I’m talking about. This was pulled off the reviews of a book listed on Amazon:

Overall, this book was very disappointing. Yes, the author’s story is quite poignant, as she recants her struggles in very good detail. It even has its funny parts. The problem is what the book does not do. Honestly, as a person who has had trouble with eating from time to time, I was hoping this book would give me some insight about why people become addicted to food, and some tips on how to overcome it. Unfortunately, I am now much more aware of the author’s early sex life than I am of the nature of food addictions.

I suppose that one could, after reading this book, come away feeling better about themselves, knowing that they are not alone or others may have it worse, but most readers of this book would probably know that already.

You don’t ever want to absent-mindedly misrepresent your book. If you give yourself a title (or your editor does) and you write your pitch – or the editor writes the back cover copy – then it jolly well better deliver as advertised, or you’ll get comments like this.

Expectations don’t happen just in published books

This happens in queries all the time. Actual pages have little in common with the query. It’s like the author took the smallest element out of his story because it made the query sound good, but in reality had little impact on the actual story. Kinda makes me cranky because we wasted each other’s time.

The upside is that a consumer didn’t shell out money to buy something they will end up not getting, and my time is only worth a pitcher of margaritas.

How many of you have read a book that ticked you off because what was on the outside was far different than the inside?

3 Responses to Great expectations: of titles and pitches

  1. Donna says:

    George Lucas’s Blockbusting was that for me. He went on the Daily Show and pitched it as a book that tells the secrets behind what made certain movie scripts into blockbusters. I was hoping for writing/plotting tips, but it was more about the casting, politics and dealmaking behind the scenes. My bad. I should have bought it in a bookstore where I could flip through it instead of online.

    My mother once taught our beagle to speak. She could say “Out,” “Hello,” and “Hello Earl” (my dad’s name). To be fair though, she was part German Shepherd. Must have been the GS genes.


  2. Ok, I’ll allow that the GS part of that beagle was obviously dominant. Otherwise, that beagle would be worthless. Cute, but worthless.

  3. NinjaFingers says:

    …what did the beagle chew up this time?

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