How to choose an excerpt that won’t turn readers off

My Readsalot blog often functions as a blog tour stop and I always read the excerpts from the book I’m posting about. After all, I’m always looking for something new to read. I was posting a blog tour stop last week and I was a bit confused with the excerpt. It didn’t match the book description at all. I actually looked up the book and previous blog tour stops as I was sure the blog tour operator had made a mistake. But no, it was no mistake. This isn’t the first time I’ve been totally turned off by an excerpt and that got me to thinking about what I – as a reader – prefer to see as an excerpt. Here’s what I came up with (and please keep in mind that I’m certainly no expert and this is just my personal preference):

Captivating. We all have busy lives in which we are trying to do a gazillion things at once. While I love reading and spend more time reading than I probably should, I don’t want to read an excerpt that is a slow starter. I want something that immediately grabs my attention with a big bang!

Length. Personally, I don’t like reading long excerpts. Although I love to spend time searching for my next read, my time to search is limited. I often won’t even bother trying to read a longer excerpt as I find the mere idea exhausting. What is too long? I think the sweet spot is around 500 words.

Matches the synopsis. Synopses are a pet peeve of mine. There’s nothing worse than reading a book that doesn’t match the synopsis. This is double true for excerpts. If the excerpt doesn’t match with the idea of the book created by the synopsis, I’m not going to bother with the book no matter how much the synopsis might capture my attention. How can I trust the book to match the synopsis when the excerpt didn’t?

Sets the proper tone of the book. It is important to set the right tone for your book in two significant areas: sex and language. If I read an excerpt that contains a very hot sex scene, I’m going to assume the book is full of hot sex and if it’s not, I’m going to be disappointed even though the book may be a good read. This is also true for language. Personally, I’m a big ‘ol potty mouth and I have no problem with swearing in a novel, but that’s me. There are a lot of readers who want clean books. If your book is full of the f-bomb, but your except is squeaky clean, readers are going to be upset when they read the book.

What are your pet peeves regarding excerpts?

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11 thoughts on “How to choose an excerpt that won’t turn readers off

  1. josiahrosenbergerauthor says:

    All great points! 500 words seems to be a pretty good starter/taste for me, too. Then, if it gets me hooked there, I’ll go on to a preview chapter.

    -JM

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  2. Shirley Harris-Slaughter says:

    I too don’t like to read long excerpts. Its like reading the book. I want something that grabs my attention right off. That’s how I like to start my excerpts off. I’m not sure if it captures anyone’s attention but I definitely try. This is a thoughtful article on a subject that is not always talked about. Thank you D.E. Haggerty.

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