maybe it’s me, but

… can excerpts be weird or what?!

As my book budget is a little tighter and the quality of some of the (m/m romance) work a bit meh, I find myself reading excerpts from books more and more often these days. This is especially the case when the blurb sounds vaguely interesting and I’m wavering about the purchase or I’m a bit hesitant about laying out the hard earneds because it’s a new to me author.

Now that I’m actually reading them, I’ve noticed how excerpts can vary hugely. I’m not just talking about the differences in reader responses such as ‘Good God that was fabbo/shite’, but, more interestingly, the actual bits of the story they (you know, the Royal ‘THEY’) may use for the excerpt.

See to me it works like this: book cover/hook, blurb/line + excerpt/sinker = here fishy, fishy, fishy.

So, if the excerpt is the sinker – basically the final opportunity to reel that sucker in – why is the approach to them so diverse? You’d think there’d be some kind of standard excerpt/scene requirements for how to showcase a story or an author, wouldn’t you??

Why then will the reader sometimes get a sex scene or a first chapter or a declaration of love or a snippet of the conflict/tension or even two of these things on the odd occasion? How come some excerpts are so long you feel that you might as well just buy the book already or so short it makes you start to think they must be trying to hide something? Are they chosen by the author or the publisher or the editor or do you think it’s the marketing department acting out their version of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey?

I’m curious. If you read excerpts – even if it’s infrequently – , what are you looking for in one? Are you someone who prefers the first chapter or would you rather just a couple of paragraphs to give you a sense of the setting, the characters or the writing?

About Kris

Reads, rants, randoms & R+s. You've been warned. BTW, don't follow me if you're a GLBTQQphobic wanker. It won't end well. For you.
This entry was posted in book buying, extra further randomness, maybe it's me but, WTF. Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to maybe it’s me, but

  1. orannia says:

    …book cover/hook, blurb/line + excerpt/sinker = here fishy, fishy, fishy.

    You just have the best way with words Kris πŸ™‚

    I know exactly what you mean. For example, the excerpt for Bent (Sean Michael) is the first chapter. Absolutely no hint (IMO) of what was to come πŸ™‚

    I don't know if they need to be standardized, but I do think they need to reflect the book as a whole. If it doesn't, then you are really left scratching your head and thinking 'WTF?'.

    As for Bent…apart from the lack of sex, which was…rather frequent throughout the book, not that I'm complaining, it did give me a good feel of SM's writing style. And that's important.

    IMO – an excerpt should give you an idea of an author's writing style and perhaps the direction of the book? Not so sure about the latter. Thoughts?

  2. Jenre says:

    I'm often perplexed by the excerpt too. A case in point is with Josh Lanyon's first pair of AE mysteries at Loose Id. I'd read a really good review of it but had only read one other m/m previously so I was a little unsure as to whether I liked the genre or not (can you believe that, yes, there was a time I felt a bit icky about m/m. Oh how things have changed!). Anyway, I read the excerpt over and over again. It's one of the sex scenes in the first book. Now, when I look back, I wonder what the heck the people at Loose Id were thinking because the extract didn't contain any of the wonderful wit that JL is famous for and his books contain very little sex at all so using a sex scene is giving a false impression of his work. If it hadn't been for the review that I had read which had quoted some other, wittier sections of the book then I would have probably passed on it – and what a great shame that would have been!

    If an extract is long then I don't usually read all of it as you basically get an idea of the author's style within a few paragraphs, and that's why I read extracts so that I can get a feel for an author's style of writing. Sometimes I've read an extract, bought the book and then skipped on three chapters to point where the extract had finished! It seems ridiculous that an author would allow so much of the book to be placed in the extract. Then again, I have absolutely no idea how much control an author has over the extract.

    Out of consideration towards your weak stomach, Kris, I haven't mentioned purging today. πŸ˜‰

  3. Tam says:

    Ummm, god I'm oblivious to this stuff. I read the excerpt (what an odd word) to see if I like the style. It tells me right off the bat if its 1st person POV which may or may not scare me off and if the characters seem dumb as a post or something about it just doesn't appeal to me. (like all the names have no vowels and copious apostrophes)

    I don't necessarily like it when Ch. 1 is included in its totality. It doesn't always give you a sense the story (which Orianna noted) but then I don't just want a sex scene out of context either. I think I'd rather see some kind of emotional interaction between the two characters. Let me read about the build-up to a sex scene or how they are handing the conflict in the relationship to determine if that works for me. Or if its a mystery give me a taste of the mystery. I want a connection between the characters outside of bed and you can't always tell if that's true just based on sex.

    Maybe some of the authors who frequent here can say if they get any say at all.

  4. K. Z. Snow says:

    This is weird. I just posted at my blog about blurbs. I swear, that pink wig…thought control…

    Excerpts? Don't give me a sex scene. Don't. Instead, give me credit for realizing the book comes from an erotic romance publisher and, therefore, will contain sex scenes. I am rarely impressed by “hotness” taken out of context. Very rarely.

    I want to see something that gives me an idea of how the main characters think, how they behave or interact, how they talk. Or how the author describes things. You want to give me a hint of conflict? Fine, go ahead. But just a hint.

    Don't give the whole flippin' first chapter, either. I won't read it. Part of it, maybe, if it's really intriguing. But a lot of first chapters aren't particularly intriguing. Or revealing. They're set-ups for the rest of the story.

    (And now, Ranty McSnow needs to put her money where her mouth is and get some writing done.)

  5. Ingrid says:

    As the others have said before me. The excerpt for me is to get an idea of the writing style and pov.

  6. Rikki says:

    A few paragraphs are enough for me. 1st person or not, writing style, characters, this is what I want to know about. Definitely no sex scenes, please. Without context they don't do anything for me.

  7. Tracy says:

    I rarely read excerpts unless I'm asked by the blog I do guest reviews for if I want to read a certain book. I really have to connect to the authors style of writing and be engaged – I want to know more than what they've given me. If that doesn't happen I usually pass.

    I do NOT want sex scenes though! I'm like KZ and want credit for knowing it's an erotic and want to know more about the story itself.

  8. Lily says:

    Lol *fishy fishy fishy* as Orannia said, you sure do have a way with words.

    I don't usually read the excerpt and definitely never the entire first chapter. I look for authors I've read before or have seen reviewed/recc'd, a paragraph or two telling me what the books about and hopefully a catchy cover are usually enough for me. If I'm still not sure one way or the other I may read a bit of the excerpt for more clarification.

    The problem with a lot of excerpts though is that many are just sex scenes and don't really say anything about the book anyways and the first chapter often is building up the back story and doesn't really indicate how the rest of the book will be.

  9. Kris says:


    “You just have the best way with words Kris :)” LOL. Why thank you ma'am. πŸ˜‰

    I don't think they should be standardised either, but, given that their purpose is to sell the story to the reader, I just find the fact that they are so different bloody odd.

    Hmm, I'm not sure about the direction of the book either. Maybe a hint of the possibilities of it??


    “Out of consideration towards your weak stomach, Kris, I haven't mentioned purging today. πŸ˜‰ ” Gee, thanks Jen. O_o And, no, I can't believe there was a time when you felt icky about m/m.

    My gut feel is that, like a lot of blurbs, the author has little control about what the extract is. Like you, I've often thought why the hell would they give us THAT to read as an example of the story.

    Tam: So enough to see what may or may not appeal?? I get that. Like you, I'm also interested in seeing the main protags interact or connect. Don't give me some weird arse obscure scene that has secondary characters either. I always end up trying to work out who the heck they are and what they have to do with the price of lemons.

  10. Kris says:

    Ranty McSnow: It's all about being a beauty school drop out, hun. Mind control is just a side bennie.

    I'm with you about sex scenes. The only time I find them useful when making a decision about a purchase is when the scene stinks to high heaven (ie stilted, ridiculous terminology, over in 10 secs flat, etc, etc).

    First chapters I can take or leave. I will rarely read the entire thing, but I do find them useful when it comes to spec fic because they give you a great sense of the worldbuilding… and whether the author has focussed on this to the detriment of the actual story.

    Ingrid: Writing style and POV got it. πŸ˜‰ I'm not a huge fan of 1st person, but am always ready to be convinced so the POV shown in an excerpt can influence me as well. My thing is tenses. I have issues.

    Rikki: “Definitely no sex scenes, please. Without context they don't do anything for me.” Yup. Better to give the reader a sense of the sexual tension or emotional interaction between the protags than a sex scene.

    I think it's really interesting that most of us only want a few paras… as long as they're meangingful/give us what we want. Maybe I should start a petition?? πŸ˜‰

  11. Kris says:


    “I really have to connect to the authors style of writing and be engaged – I want to know more than what they've given me. If that doesn't happen I usually pass.”

    I think you've hit the nail on the head. The aim of an excerpt, I would think, is to make the reader want to know more about the characters, the story, etc. If it offers nothing that will intrigue the reader than what's the point?!

    Lily: *coming over all modest and stuffs* Well, I AM awesome. πŸ˜‰

    Granted we are only a small sampling of m/m romance market, yet I really beginning to wonder why then so many sex scenes feature in excerpts if none of us think they provide enough information upon which to make a decision about a purchase. Friggin' weird. *ponders* Perhaps we're not pervy enough??

  12. Tracy says:

    Absolutely Kris! I just recently read a blurb about a book from a new to me author and interest flared. I then read the excerpt. I was bored out of my skull and that was an excerpt!! If I can't get through that short part of the book I certainly don't want to read more! πŸ™‚

  13. Sean Kennedy says:

    Just with my own experiences, I can tell you the only time I've had any choice over what excerpts are chosen is when I've been posting them myself at chats or promo days. With the 'official' excerpts it wasn't my decision. I have to admit I was a bit perplexed by how long excerpts are – entire chapters that just look like 'wall of text'. On one hand though, I think that's okay, because at least it gives the buyer an opportunity to look over a fair whack of what they're shelling out their money for.

  14. For me the excerpt has to get me intrigued w/o giving away major plot points. There's a particular author who is cursed with TMI in her excerpts. I think first chapter or prologue works. That's what I usually flip to when I'm buying a paper book, so that's what works best for me.

    The first sentence either hooks me or loses me. 😦

  15. To continue-I think Nalini Singh is blessed in the excerpt department. At the end of Angels' Blood, there's an excerpt for Branded by Fire and all I could think was “Whoa!” The woman's a genius. πŸ™‚

  16. Ingrid says:

    Kris, I am not too fond of 1st pov either. I hate books starting with “I”. It is so not done to start with I in dutch writing

  17. K. Z. Snow says:

    Funny how many people dislike first-person POV…and yet how many m/m contemporaries are written in first-person and are wildly popular!

  18. Ingrid says:

    Guess the bad written ones are stuck better in my memory.

    I know ie that Adrian English is in 1st pov and it does not bother me at all while others …

  19. Kris says:

    Tracy: Eggzunkly!

    Sean: Thanks for telling us of your experience. I had a feeling that this was the case.

    I take your point about long excerpts, but I'm beginning to wonder how many people actually read the thing in its entirety.

    Bridget: Yes! I HATE when an excerpt gives away information about the plot. Readers want hints, NOT spoilers.

    “The first sentence either hooks me or loses me. 😦 ”

    I am the same. I just started a fantasy which has only one page of prologue and is written so evocatively it was like reading beauty. Stunning.

    *sigh* I seriously need to try NS. I feel really left out. πŸ˜‰

  20. Kris says:

    Ingrid: I've posted before about 1st POV ( My issue with it is I don't want to share the story with another I. I want to be the I.

    K Z: It's strange, isn't it. Like Ingrid, there are some that work for me better than others and I think it depends upon whether the author is still able to provide the connection between the reader and the 'I' of the story; get them in the same head space if you will as opposed to throwing the reader of the 'I' bucking bronco.

  21. Sean Kennedy says:

    If I'd known so many people disliked 1st person POV I think I would have been scared off writing my firstbook!

  22. Kris says:

    Well, just don't do it again! LOL.

  23. Sean Kennedy says:

    Jeebus, you're all such picky bastards, aren't you?

  24. Kris says:

    Why are you only just noticing this??

  25. Sean Kennedy says:

    I guess I was just blinded by all the extreme flattery you keep throwing my way, Kris.

  26. Kris says:

    All stalkers love their stalkees, Sean. It's a given.

  27. orannia says:

    Bridget – I completely agree with you about the Branded by Fire (Nalini Singh) excerpt. Yes, it was a sex scene, but it just worked on every level πŸ™‚

    Kris/Tam – packages have arrived (oh, how mysterious does that sounds πŸ˜‰ Thank you SO much! Am reading Kissing now as I noted Jenre wants it.

    Jenre – I'll hopefully have Kissing on its way to you at the end of the week. It's coming from as far on the other side of the world as you can get, but hopefully it should take about a week πŸ™‚ Question – I also have Lover's Pledge here. Would you like both?

  28. Sean Kennedy says:

    I've always been a believer in Stockholm's Syndrome. Hobble me and call me dirty bird! You know I like it.

  29. Kris says:

    Orannia: Excellent! Enjoy.

    Sean: ROFL. But what would happen to Mina?? I couldn't just leave her behind. Maybe she would keep the boy kittens in line?? Ok, it's a plan. Where do you live again??

  30. Ingrid says:

    Kris, remember I said I donΒ΄t like books starting with “I”?

    Well I open JoshsΒ΄latest yesterday and guess what???

    Sean, you dont get distracted by the flattery but the hair!

  31. Kris says:

    Ingrid: JINX!

  32. Ingrid says:

    *sigh* it seems to be

  33. Jenre says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  34. Jenre says:

    Oops, typos.

    Orannia: Yes, I'll have both, please!

    Kris/Sean: I like 1st person POV! Ignore them all, Sean, cause I'm your no.1 fan

  35. Kris says:

    Jen: Being #1 stalker has waaaay more street cred. Just saying.

  36. Sean Kennedy says:

    Kris, you think I'd leave her behind? Never!

    Jen, this is why I like you more.

  37. Kris says:

    Rejected again. *sigh* Oh well. My stalker's handbook says that there would be days like this, but not to worry because the stalkee is definitely my soul mate. *GRIN*

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