CAREER ADVANCEMENT / JUN. 02, 2014
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How to Write a Book Summary that Turns Readers into Buyers

After hearing your book title or seeing your book cover, most readers will want to read the back cover. If online, they will search for the synopsis or summary. However, very many printed books lack a proper summary. Some authors only offer their biographies. Though this might show that the author is qualified to write on the subject, it doesn’t say anything about the book itself. Other books even come with blank back covers with no summary.  

A proper book summary should have:

  • Relevancy – Why should readers bother? How is the book relevant to the reader’s concerns, needs, wants and interests?
  • Credibility – How believable is the book? Even science and fantasy fiction needs to be credible. For crime novels, the account of court trials and facts of an investigation should be accurate. In addition, history books should also rely on facts.
  • Uniqueness – How is your novel different or special? What makes it more interesting than the other thousands of novels out there? What is unique about your history book? Has the story been repressed, ignored and forgotten? How will knowing this forgotten history change the view of people today?
  • A hook – The hook is the actually the summary’s theme. All the preceding points comprise it. The hook captures the attention of readers and makes them want to read the book.

If you want to know how to write a book summary, the following are the steps you need to take.

1. Read the first paragraph and try and figure out the main idea of the book. Next, skim through the book, glancing at the graphics and headings. Finally, read the conclusion. At this stage, the idea is to get a general overview of the book and effectively engage with it.

2. Go back and read the book from cover to cover. If possible, read it twice. As you read, take notes about significant moments in the book, as well as motifs and themes. Highlight important points and use sticky notes to mark off key pages. It might also help to watch the film version, if it exists. Find out the author’s main idea and his intent and purpose for holding that viewpoint. Take note of the supporting elements which are used to back up the main idea.

3. Make an outline which includes the primary idea as well as the supporting details and facts. Make sure the information is arranged in a logical sequence, for instance chronological or most to least important. However, you order does not have to be the same way it is in the book.

4. Write the summary. The first sentence should state the author’s name. Present the main idea, as well as the supporting points. The rest of your summary should explain how the author defines, illustrates and supports the main idea. Remember, a summary should only convey the author’s views. Therefore, you need to be very objective.  

5. As you edit and revise the summary, compare it with the complete book and ask yourself: Have I restated the supporting points and main idea accurately? Have I rephrased the words of the author without changing their meaning?

6. If you are required to include a critique or write a critical summary, you can ask yourself; What are the book’s strengths and weaknesses? Did the author succeed? Why or why not?

The goal of learning how to write a book summary is to enable you to restate an author’s main point, intent, supporting details and purpose in your own words. Writing a summary will help you better grasp a book, and will also enable your reader to understand it. In return, this is likely to enhance book sales.

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