Think writing a synopsis is hard? Try writing the soundbite, the blurb, the handle. This is my least favorite part. Sol Stein defines the handle as "A short description of the book designed to evoke interest in it." Note, designed to evoke interest in it. Note, short. Note, description. How is this even possible?
A good handle shows how a reader will benefit from reading the book. For instance, the handle for my first novel is: "Uncut Diamonds is Steel Magnolias with Mormon characters."
What this means: If you like Steel Magnolias, a rambling, character-driven story about women dealing with life's challenges and somehow coming out on top, with humor, tragedy and pathos thrown in, then you will enjoy my book. The clue "with Mormon characters," is meant to pique the interest of those intrigued by Mormons, who have been very much in the news the past few years. This book will give readers an inside look into a Mormon family.
Another thing about a handle is SHORT. Basically 10 to 15 words, max. My handle above is 8 words, a bit short, which can be a problem. Why? Because if it's too short, one has the inclination to expand on it until before you know it, you've spouted off for 5 minutes about your book and eyes glaze over. (As I know from sad experience.) It should be short, but not too short. Mine would be better at 12 words, but I can't figure out what 4 words to add. Adding the genre can be a useful tool in describing the book. YA Paranormal, Chick Lit, cozy mystery, lesbian literary-- these all give a crystal clear picture.
A handle boils down to one enticing phrase that captures the essence of your story, often using a familiar movie or book for comparison. Can't find the right phrase? Try listing a number of phrases that summarize your book's benefits and substance, and narrow it down to that perfect combination. Voila, you have your book's handle. Sounds easy, doesn't it? *laughs hysterically*
Here's a few phrases I've come up with as I struggle with creating the handle for House of Diamonds:
* Two sisters, married with children, are best friends, yet in different phases of life. Can their relationship survive the trials each must face?
* Cindy and Marcie are sisters. Something is wrong with Cindy's baby. Marcie, the experienced mother of seven, doesn't want to say anything and worry her sister.
* Marcie, mother of seven, finally gets an opportunity to realize her dream of being a published author. While her sister Cindy, mother of two, discovers something terribly wrong with her baby.
You can see why I'm struggling. None of these actually fit the requirements. They aren't short, descriptive or enticing enough. The marketing guru for WiDo is working on this, but anyone who wants to try a hand, please feel free! I'm stumped.
And if you have an awesome handle for your own work, please share it in the comments!
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown
"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it." ~Jesse Stuart
"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf