I've been working on the summary to my book that will be released next month and had to refrain from going unconventional. Again. For the summary of one of my other books, I tried going against the grain and wrote a one-sentence summary.
It didn't work.
But that's not always the case. I see unusual summaries work often - some written from the perspective of the main character, some in the form of a letter. I've even seen an author let an excerpt from the story say what needs to be said. Some of those worked for me, and some didn't.
What has been your experience of unusual summaries? What worked and what didn't? Examples?
Caitlin: The first one that comes to mind is WE WERE LIARS. But I didn't like it. I was annoyed that there wasn't more of an explanation about what the book was about and I probably wouldn't have read it if it wasn't for a book club. After reading it, I still didn't think the blurb set it up well. I think if an idea comes to you that just seems really great and isn't conventional, then cool, go for it! If it fits the book well, it's certainly worth a try! :) But I don't think it's worth it to sit around trying to think up an unconventional way to write the summary. I think that process would probably create something that comes off as gimmicky and/or "you don't need to know what this book is about you just need to read it" (which is annoying, IMHO).
Dan: When a reader visits a book page on Amazon or another online bookstore, I think there are three main factors that influence their purchase decision: cover, description, and price. There is some value in trying new things to move books, but I'd be very careful in going unconventional with the description. Readers expect certain things when shopping for books, and a nice 2-3 paragraph book description is one of those.
Straying from that in hopes of "standing out" may ultimately do more harm than good, but it's probably worth investigating if you have a clever idea. A/B testing, also called split testing, is an important tool that authors and publishers can use to assess the impact. In the simplest form, you try one description for a designated time period, then try the other, and see which one converts better. So I'm all for trying unconventional things, as long as it's backed by hard data.