Why Teasers Matter
Like many women, I went to see Magic Mike last week. Also, like many women, I was very much looking forward to a comedy about male strippers. Because that's what all of the previews made it look like.
There were, in fact, male strippers, so that portion of the previews was entirely accurate. And I quite enjoyed the stripping scenes (Channing Tatum might not be the best actor, but that boy can dance like whoa.) Unfortunately, for me the rest of the movie failed. It was
*not* a comedy. Instead it had a bromance subplot, a romance subplot, drugs, sex, and a "trying to get out" subplot. And none of them were heavy on the funny.
Did I hate the movie? No. Like I said, the stripping was pretty. However, other than that aspect, it completely failed to live up to the expectations created by the preview. I won't get into why it seemed like it failed for what it was as that would be an entire blog post on its own, but I'm left wondering if all the things that bothered me while watching would have bothered me if I'd gone in expecting it to be a serious movie. (Well, except the math issue. That would have bothered me either way. Seriously, dude? You saved about $41.67 a month when you're pulling down over a grand a week in tips? And you have more than the one job? You're not an entrepreneur, you're an unmotivated loser.)
Anyway, it got me thinking about query letters and cover copy and cover art
(because that's what all good authors should do when watching strippers.) Those are, in essence, the book's preview (unless you have a trailer then all of this applies there too.) You can have all the best plot points in the world included, but if the tone and voice of the query/cover copy/cover art don't match what's in the book, the story won't mesh with reader expectations... and they will see it as a fail.
I remember with one of my books, I got the cover art and was in love. It fit my book on so many levels that I wanted to blow it up to a poster and hang it on my wall like I was a teenager and it was a picture of the movie star flavor of the week. Then I got my cover copy... and I cried. *I* wouldn't have bought my book based on the copy. It made my book sound excruciatingly dull and didn't fit the tone of the story at all. My editor and I worked through things and ended up with cover copy that fit, but I was terrified of having the original stick. (No, I won't say which book.)
The thing is most (not all, but most) of what I write includes a significant degree of action-adventure stylings, even when it's a romance. If that doesn't come through in the cover, readers will go in expecting a nice quiet story and be all aghast when people are cursing like sailors, gutting each other, and having sex that involves knife-play. In short, it would make the book a fail for far too many readers.
The same is true when querying agents/editors. If the letter doesn't fit the tone of your manuscript, you've set yourself up for failure. Depending on what the agent/editor is looking for, you could get a no based on your query when the pages would have been a yes, but they never made it that far.
Once everything is completed on your end as the author, you lose the ability to manage reader expectations. At that point, it's all up to what you've done during editing and preparation. It's why it's so incredibly important to have a solid team on your side. As long as everyone has the same goals with your book, things should line up so that readers get what the cover of your book shows them.
If not, they may never know if what is there would be great because they won't finish reading it.
But at least the stripping was pretty.