How To Write a Great Summary For Your Erotic Story
Your cover is your first line of attack when getting your book or ebook noticed. Your second is your summary. It’s what you’d find on the back of the book, and it’s designed to get you hooked and reading. In a lot of ways, it’s even more important than the picture. You need to get your story across as interestingly as possible to appeal to the kind of reader that likes what you write. You need your summary to reflect the voice of your story, and you need it to be genuine. You can lie on your cover, but lie in your summary and your reader is going to hate you.
And I do mean hate.
Let’s break it down into some main points of where you can go wrong to keep you from writing a great summary.
1) It’s Boring
Blunt but true. Your characters meet and fuck. Maybe they already knew each other. Maybe they just bought a house together, and they’ve been seeing each other for years, but now they’re finally thinking of actually having a threesome with the neighbor who they went to college with. The threesome sounds a bit interesting, but then you felt the need to fill the rest of the story with how they used to hang out all the time, and they’re kind of interested, but their parents are going through issues and moving in, and blah, blah, blah.
Usually it’s a lack of focus where you just wrote a story and everything seems important and you want it all in the summary. You really don’t. The reader will read all that back story when they open your book, if they bother to get that far because your summary bored the hell out of them.
What does the reader want to know? Why is this story worth their time. They work all day, they have kids or family or friends or television that wants all of their attention, but they’re willing to sit down and read a story. Why will they read yours? A great summary has: Character interaction. Plot, specifically conflict. Curiosity. The promise of a sexy story.
2) The Characters Aren’t Interesting
Guy/Gal #1 meets Guy/Gal #2 and they get it on. Maybe they fall in love. Why does the reader care?
They’re attractive—Well, they better be. They’re in college—Meh, it’s relatable to some, but does it matter? It’s not a story. They’re a nerd—Alright, a little interesting. They’re a nerd obsessed with getting that one hot guy to finally see them as more than just the kid that he bullies to do his homework. Hey, that’s a person with conflict. Do they have any passions? Do they have any unfulfilled dreams that’s this story just happens to fulfill? Maybe it’s that orgy they’re invited to, or a wife swap, or sex in public, or an anonymous hook up? Oh, this story is about sex? Well it is now.
Characters are defined by their desires and actions. Looks are superficial in your summary unless it’s a plot point (so cute thy couldn’t stop themselves, etc.) You get a small amount of space to tell people who they’re reading about. I like to write characters with personality for my longer stories. One because they write themselves, moving the story with their own energy. Two, because they look great in summary form. The gorgeous asshole that everyone wants but can’t stand to keep in bed after sex. The manic bitch that calls you up in the middle of the night to fuck, then steals your car and crashes it as she leaves. The drunk, passionate hookup that turns out to be days away from joining the clergy.
Personality through action. You’re describing your characters and getting the plot in there too. It makes the most of your space and gives you the biggest impact for a great summary.
3) The Plot Isn’t Interesting
Your two characters have sex. Maybe they fall in love. Maybe they fall in love and then have sex. Yawn.
Okay, they just met. They’re attracted to each other. #1 is chasing #2. Will they catch them? Better but not riveting.
#1 is a doctor in a psych ward. #2 his sexy new long term patient that he’s not allowed to touch for fear of being fired. Except, he can’t stop thinking about her. She’s vulnerable and alone, just got into a fight with her caretaker brother that refuses to help her any longer. She’s a hellion, causing trouble with everyone, pranking, teasing, causing fights, and having the naughty habit of stripping nude whenever she sneaks into #1’s office at night because she’s determined to lose her virginity at all costs. Can the doctor keep his distance and not give into his nearly obsessed, carnal desires for this crazy, yet troubled girl?
Wait, there’s more. If he doesn’t give in, she says she’ll just screw the next hot guy that checks in. She’s willing to prove it right then and there. And then she’s going to tell his supervisor that he forced her to do it in exchange for money. Hello conflict. We have a plot someone would be willing to read.
Things happening is certainly a plot, but when your characters react, have conflict with each other and with themselves, things start getting interesting. It’s drama, and it not only writes a great summary, but also makes a great story to read. It also makes the sex so much hotter than having your characters just going through the motions. All that anger, frustration, unresolved desire, and secret relief to have an excuse to give in can make for very powerful interactions. Your reader knows and seeing a summary that reflects that can hook them in.
4) The Plot Is Interesting But You Can’t Find It
Your main character is all about writing that one song that’s going to let him top the charts and finally make the break from crappy gigs to champagne hot tubs. He raised himself up on the hard streets of Chicago after his parents were killed to gang violence, always dreaming of a family, searching for that elusive thing that’s going to make him complete while he worked himself to the bone. He had one guidance counselor that made an impact in his life but he still dropped out of school. He got out of drugs after nearly losing it all, then finally found a manager that took a real financial shot on him. He’s finally ready for the big time, but his long time relationship wants more and he just met someone new that makes him feel alive and crazy all at once.
Hello back story. You just flooded the character’s entire life yet neglected to get the reader to care. Bring it to the moment of the greatest conflict and focus on that. What does the reader need to know to want to read?
#1 is with someone that now demands a commitment of a full time boyfriend, and he doesn’t know if their relationship is worth the loss of his dream of musician. If that wasn’t bad enough, he’s just met #2. Crazy, wild, full of passion and in so many ways unattainable as a super star looking for a song writer and fuck buddy. Does he risk breaking his heart for this new lover and throw away his long time relationship for a fling nearly as fickle as the music industry, or does he settle with the safe but dream crushing bet?
Let’s make it even more interesting. #2 ups the odds. #1 Can bring his longtime lover with him to a retreat where the band is recording for the next month. Like a commitment honeymoon. But with the absolute understanding that if #2 wants sex, #1 is required to give it up, every time, or no $10,000 paycheck at the end of the month. That cash would go a long way to finally giving #1 the life he’s dreamed of with his long term lover, but is the cost worth it?
The back story is now the character’s interactions, and the central plot is the main conflict of the story, built more intense because of how the characters feel for each other and what they can lose if things go bad. Beautiful drama makes an interesting story and great summary.
5) You Gave It All Away
You told everything in your summary, from the conflict to the resolution. What’s the point of reading? Shakespeare might have been able to get away with it, but don’t presume to be so lucky. Every good summary has a question the reader is left wondering. Either you outright ask it for them ‘will their marriage survive an orgy?’ or you let the reader wonder as you lay out the conflict without voicing the resolution. ‘He’s in love, she’s looking for fun. One night together changes everything.’ What did it change? Did he realize she was crazy cakes and got over her? Did she realize he was a mutant from mars? Oh, she fell in love too. But you still had to read to find out.
It’s a tried and true saying; leave them wanting more. Your summary is show business and you need to dazzle every way you can.
6) No Follow Through, AKA, You Lying Bitch
How many times have I read a great summary that promised me suspense, sexual tension, finding the one and chasing them down to do terrible, nasty things in passionate embrace, only to read, get five pages in and the characters have already met, fallen in love, and might as well be an old married couple by the time they fuck? Way too many. I hate these authors so much. They lied to me, got my hopes up with the promise of tension, then bored me to tears. Assholes.
I am not a fan of the set up and fuck that goes along with a lot of smut writing. It’s redundant and usually lacks any emotional stakes for the characters to make things interesting. That said, when these author’s write a summary, they know how to tell you what’s in their book. They’re blunt. Sometimes they’re crude. Multiple penetration, hardcore action, filthy bad girls and boys getting it on. They’re not lying. That’s what their story is about. And when I’m looking for a smut fix, I know how to find their book because their summary told me so.
If your summary promises something because you finished your story and when it came to write what it was about, you realized it was boring as fuck, rewrite your story to fit your summary. I did it with my first stepbrother romance, ‘I’ll Tell.’ I was writing the summary when I was about thirty pages in, got on this juicy idea of blackmail because seriously, no one really cares about the emotional tension of stepbrothers the way they do about incest. The gay pseudo incest angle is just so bland and difficult to sell (yet amazon still bans it.) Then I wrote blackmail as having been the main feature of their encounters while in the story it was initially just a little spark. But wow, didn’t it just sound so much sexier as the headline? Blackmailing your older, very upstanding stepbrother into nasty, angry sex. Repeatedly. Until he gets him back with even more degrading revenge because he just went crazy over his bastard little bro. Totally hot.
What’s a respectable author to do? Rewrite the story. Don’t lie to your readers. They’re not idiots and they don’t like to be treated like idiots. You can treat your characters as bad as you like, but be good to your readers. It’s better to honestly let a person know that what’s in your book is not what they’re ever going to like, than force them to read something that freaks them out or turns you into a liar. It’s the difference of a reader passing over your story vs buying and bitching about it to everyone they know. I know, it’s only internet bitching, but still, it’s needless drama and undermines your ability to build a relationship with your readers. Because, seriously, I remember the names of the authors that fucked me over way more, and I refuse to even look at their stuff when I see their name. You can really burn a bridge when lying.
7) No Warning
You didn’t lie, but you did something that can be just as detrimental. You didn’t warn your reader that your story contained (crazy hot sex, degrading language, fluffy sap—I want to see this damn warning! rape, torture, multiple partners, rough sex, tying up your main character, violence, blood, etc, etc.) You don’t have to put it in a huge flashing bold warning if you don’t want to, or list every single thing, but you should make sure the language of your summary reflects the content. You should anyways because the reader that’s looking for what you write will find it faster. But more importantly, the ones that can’t handle your level of nasty to sweet will know to avoid what they don’t like.
If you do put it as a warning, don’t be down about it. Nasty smut is nothing to be shameful about, and as a writer of it, celebrate your warning just as much as your book. Make it part of your summary and sell your smut.
Constructing Your Summary
A great way to get ideas for a story; write the summary first. Write a bunch of them. They’re mini trailers of cinematic gold… Er… writing gold. It’s all good. It forces you to focus on the conflict and driving emotional character interactions that your reader will be hooked by. And if that’s the stuff that hooks your reader, shouldn’t your story revolve around it?
Let’s go with yes.
But let’s say you already have your great story and you just need that summary. Start by breaking it down. Pull out the bits of drama, the interesting points about the characters, the pivotal scene or question that’s going to make the reader go running to read your story and find the answer. Lay it out, look at it, flip it around and find a flow. Take out what doesn’t work, add what does. You’re sculpting. Go through as many drafts as you need to. It’s not always the first time, even if you have everything you need in front of you.
So the magic number is 150. 150 words is like the big universal goal of a successful book summary. I didn’t pick the number but I use it as a guide to make sure I’m not being too long winded when I write a summary out. I don’t want to bore my reader, just give them a taste that leaves them wanting the whole thing. Make a point to name your main characters as the relationship focal. Give a bit on each, their driving goal and personality quirks and why their interaction is actually interesting. Leave with a question that the reader is going to care about. Rinse and repeat until it sparkles and hooks any eye that passes.
I plan on writing a more in depth post on how to do this, but hopefully you can get a feel for it by a lot of what not to do with great summary writing. It can seem daunting at first, a summary requires a more concise, minimalistic approach that cuts through all the filler of story writing. But getting it right makes a huge impact on readers choosing your story.