Let’s Talk: Can a synopsis spoil the book for readers?

title

This is something that always in the back of my mind when I’m reading the synopsis of a book.

Will it spoil me? Do I really want to know this before opening the book?

But writing a synopsis must be hard. How do you explain what a book is about without actually explaining anything that happens? A synopsis is a vague summary… And yet sometimes they might not be vague enough. But what one person considers a spoiler might not be seen as a spoiler to the people who write synopsis’.

So can a synopsis spoil the book for readers?

how

I know they’re there to give a brief summary of the book. Enough needs to be revealed to be intriguing. Enough needs to be said so the readers can judge whether they want to read it or not. If the purpose of a synopsis is to tell you what the book is about, shouldn’t it be a given that you know the story before going into it?

Well, I don’t think so. A synopsis can spoil a reader simply by saying too much. Isn’t that what all spoilers are?

But think of it this way:

Have you ever seen a movie trailer, and it looked INCREDIBLE…only to be disappointed by the actual movie because all the best bits were actually in the trailer? You’d already seen the best parts, you already knew what was coming, and so the rest was just a bit “meh”.

That’s how I view spoilery synopsis’. A summary that just reveals too much of the story…and leaves you feeling a bit deflated by the time you realize.

problem

It’s not a problem in the sense that we should all riot with pitchforks. It’s not that extreme. But sure, it’s a bit of a problem. Or possibly just more of an annoyance.

I mean, imagine going into a book thinking it would be amazing, only to reach the end and feel like it was a waste of your time because you already knew what happened. Because you were expecting something more than just the synopsis in full description. It can be so disheartening to reach the end of a book and feel like you’ve wasted all those hours.

Just think of how annoyed people get when someone spoils a book for them. Just because it’s published on the back of the book, doesn’t mean it’s no less a spoiler. Most often than not, it can be even more annoying because you don’t realise it spoiled you before you’d already “wasted” the time reading it all.

common

Luckily, I don’t think it’s that common. Most people are great at not giving too much away.

But it’s happened to me a couple of times. Annoyingly, I can’t remember which books they were. I just remember finishing this one particular book, closing the pages, and thinking “nothing new happened”. I remember somewhat enjoying it, but I couldn’t help mentioning in my review that slight disappointment I felt when I realised the synopsis basically told me everything beforehand. I hated it.

And because of that, every single time I write a review of a book, I’ll reread the synopsis to see if I think it gives away too much of the story before I add it to the review. If it does, I’ll either give a warning or just post a link, so people can only read the synopsis if they look for it. If the synopsis on the back cover of my book is different to the one on Goodreads, I’ll read both and copy down whichever one I think suits best/is most vague/is least spoilery.  If I’ve been spoiled by a synopsis, I’ll mention it in my review, on twitter, possibly other social media. I kind of do everything I can to warn people it’s there.

Granted, a lot of that may be fueled from annoyance.

But I don’t think it’s a common thing. I may be wrong – I don’t actually read the synopsis of a book that often. Or at least, I DO…but then by the time I read it I can’t actually remember what it said, I just know I want to read it. I go into most of my books blind. 



So now it’s your turn!

Do you think it’s possible for a synopsis to spoil a book?

Have you ever been spoiled by a synopsis? Did it bother you?

Do you even rely on the synopsis to judge if you’ll read it or not, or do you use other things? The genre, reviews, people’s recommendations?

Join the discussion in the comments!

Until next time…

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32 thoughts on “Let’s Talk: Can a synopsis spoil the book for readers?

  1. I’m always of the firm opinion that a book is only truly good if I can read it while knowing what happens and still enjoy it. Of course, I like not having books spoiled. But if a book is re-readable, it has to have something more to it than a plot that took me by surprise. If I love a book, I want to be able to read it ten more times and still think it’s great every time, not think “Oh, but I already know what happens, so really there’s no point.” 🙂

    I have run across a couple synopses of books that seem to give away something of the main “point” or “twist,” and it is baffling. My only guess is that the editors tried writing a less detailed synopsis and it fell flat, so they finally went with one that gave away more of the plot. I’ve done a couple publishing internships, so I will say that writing a book summary from scratch is harder than it sounds. Figuring out what the core points of the story are and how to convey them concisely without spoilers, but also engagingly, is tricky. It’s possible that the editors decided that, in order to draw readers to the book, they really had to state certain key plot points that were alluring to readers.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I completely agree, Briana. It sounds so challenging to write a synopsis– I really struggle to make the ones I write concise and spoiler-free for my own blog… in fact, I often just abandon a proper synopsis and discuss the book themes if I can’t escape spoilers. I can’t imagine trying to do that for a living.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. That’s a very good point! I’m surprised I didn’t think of that when writing this, because I’m the same. All of my favourite books are definite rereads for me, so it’s not just a case of shock factor when it comes to the story. I actually don’t mind spoilers a lot of the time!

      And I definitely don’t underestimate how hard it is to write a synopsis! I used to try writing them on my reviews, but now I just use the ones already provided because I never know how much is too much.

      Like

      1. I don’t really mind spoilers either, but I think we’re in the minority. Of course I don’t want someone to tell me the major plot twist of a book for no good reason. But I’ll probably live if they do. Hopefully there will still be something that keeps me interested in the book.

        I used to write my own plot summaries as well, then I realized that only a very small percentage of people seem to read them, so it seemed like a better use of my time to use get them off Goodreads.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I mostly find book synopses helpful because I like knowing what I’m getting myself in to and knowing I’ll enjoy the plot. But it does annoy me when synopses reveal events that happen over halfway through the book. I spend ages expecting an event to happen and by the time it does happen it’s not as exciting as it could’ve been.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They’re definitely helpful most of the time, and I get what you mean! When you’re expecting an event to happen, it can make you impatient to see it. The majority of the time, the events happen towards the beginning though, so we’re lucky in that 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for addressing this, Ashleigh. I don’t think many people have discussed this topic before.
    For me, the answer is: it’s very possible. There is this one book with synopsis that’s basically giving away the big reveal, it’s called Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn. It’s a great book, but I’m very fortunate to only read the synopsis in passing so I didn’t actually got spoiled. I only realized the problem when I was writing the review and pasting the synopsis into my post. I thought I was the only one who felt that way, but then another blogger confirmed my suspicion that the synopsis was giving too much information.
    I suppose it’s still a good book even if you know the big reveal, but for me it’ll surely take away my enjoyment and surprise while reading.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No problem – glad I could write about it! 🙂
      I think a lot of the time it depends on how much you enjoy the book anyway. If you enjoyed it while already knowing (like you would in a reread) then great, the synopsis doesn’t matter. But if you know you would have enjoyed it more having not known, it can definitely be a slight disappointment!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s definitely a possibility. I think there is a struggle for synopsis writers between giving too much information and giving too little. Both are not really ideal, as the latter might cause people to just pass over the book. Ultimately, as you said, what each person thinks constitutes a spoilers is different, so it’s impossible to please everyone. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced it, at least there’s nothing that really jumps to mind right now. But personally, I don’t really mind spoilers, as long as it’s not the entire thing, because for me the way the story is told, the lead up to it is just as important as the plot points or twists.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I actually don’t mind spoilers that much either! Sometimes I’ll even look for them because I just need to know. A lot of it comes down to how much you enjoy the story anyway – if you love it while knowing, great! If you just were okayy with it, knowing beforehand might not have helped with that :/

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Synopses have definitely ruined books for me. I’m at a point now where I only read a synopsis rarely. Most of the time, I ask my friends to explain why they think I’d like a book. That said, after reading a book I find them valuable.

    The biggest struggle I have, actually, are covers for series books. Often the cover of the next book in a series will spoil some critical element of the book I’m reading. It’s really frustrating!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I rarely read synopsis’ either, I just go from other people’s reviews and the genre. I have such a vague idea of what the book is about, I hardly ever get spoiled aha 😆

      And that’s so interesting, I never thought about that! I think the only times I’ve been spoiled by a cover is with the title of the second book (that’s happened to me twice) – if that’s the sort of thing you mean? When it comes to the actual design, I don’t tend to look into them much so I don’t notice things that might spoil me ahaha!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Definitely a problem. Some books I’ve read spoil something happening 3/4 of the way through – synopsis’ should be used to convince you to read the book, but too often they’re either too vague or too specific. If I feel like I could explain the plot to someone else before I’ve opened the front cover, it’s given too much away.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s difficult to find that balance between being too vague and spoiling the story, but plenty of people manage it just fine. I like to think that only things included at he beginning of the story should be included – sort of just the “thing” that starts the entire story off – and from there it’ll be good 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I think it’s definitely a possibility that a synopsis can spoil a book. I was actually thinking of this earlier today. I was writing my review for Nevernight and went to copy the synopsis from Goodreads, only to find it was more detailed than the blurb in my physical copy. I felt like it revealed way too much, almost going as far as to spoil a plot twist, so I typed out the shorter blurb from my edition of the book instead. So yes, I think sometimes synopses can give too much away and leave no surprises for the reader. But again, if they don’t point out the exciting stuff, then readers may not be enticed to pick up the book. It’s a fine line. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!
      It’s definitely a fine line! I applaud the people who manage it, I know for sure I’d find it difficult! A lot of the time Goodreads do tend to have more detailed synopsis’, which is why I always read both to see if they’re the same or to choose the one that fits better. Especially after reading the book, it’s a lot easier to tell which synopsis would be better 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I believe it’s possible, but it doesn’t usually happen for me. Very rarely has a synopsis spoiled the book for me, but then again, there’s been many, many times where I didn’t even read the synopsis before starting a book! I never really thought about this though, until I read your post. Great idea for a discussion topic!! 👍🏻

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!
      It definitely doesn’t happen often – the people who write them as a job know what they’re doing, after all 🙂 It’s a very rare occasion, especially for people like us who don’t actually read the synopsis every time ahaha 😆

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I find synopses so damn difficult to write. Hands down the hardest part of a review, especially if the story has lots of twists and turns or millions of characters and subplots. I haven’t had too much of a problem with synopses and blurbs giving away spoilers, but I do often find them misleading. I’m a total sucker for when publishers do the ‘if you liked X, you’lll love this’, and I get so annoyed when the book is absolutely nothing like the one(s) they’ve linked it with. I think it often sets up false expectations. For example, I read a debut novel earlier this year which the publisher had likened to du Maurier’s Rebecca. It was a good book, but the whole time I kept subconsciously assessing it against Rebecca, which wasn’t really fair on the debut novelist. I probably would have liked the book more if I hadn’t had that comparison in mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I tend to take no notice of the comparisons for that exact reason. The only one’s I’ve really seen is when that phase happened of every dystopian novel being compared to The Hunger Games, when there’d be nothing similar apart from the genre. I get that it can help people decide what they want to read, but still. A lot of the time it just doesn’t make much sense to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I am so glad you wrote a post about this, because it’s actually something I’ve been thinking about a lot. Just the other day, I was reading the synopsis for a book and realizing that it was REALLY long. I thought to myself ‘Why are you telling me everything that’s going to happen, publisher?’ I was already hooked in without you telling me about the rising action, climax, and resolution. Of course, this isn’t with every blurb I read, but sometimes it can get a little frustrating when I realize that I might as well not read the book, as I already know what happens. Excellent post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah it’s really frustrating. Obviously if its a really good book, knowing the story won’t matter, but a lot of the time you pick up a book because you feel like reading something new. Knowing the entire plot just makes it seem a bit pointless

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I have a blogger friend that pretty much describes the whole book when she writes a review: I’m aware now, but before I would read her reviews and realize she was giving away the WHOLE book! And then ending!
    I try to make my review only mention what would be included in a goodreads synopsis or an Amazon blurb…I don’t want to give away the special events! If I’m reviewing a sequel and I know it’s going to refer to secrets from the first book, I try to let people know there might be spoilers (unless I can review w/o mentioning the secrets from the first book)!
    Sorry you’ve had books ruined. 🙁

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh no! It’s awful when someone basically reveals everything in their reviews – at least you know now though.
      I’ve realised that a lot of the time I don’t even mention what happens in the book in my review. I have the synopsis above my review, but a lot of the time I just say what I think about the plot in general. There’s only a few times I mention something from the story (like in my review coming on Friday, I mention some of the character’s situations), but I constantly check the synopsis when I do that to make sure I’m not revealing any more.

      I’m the same when it comes to books in a series! I have a little graphic that I put before the synopsis in my reviews of sequels saying there might be spoilers for the previous book 🙂

      Like

  12. Yes I hate it, that happened to me just recently. I didn’t even realise it was synopsis, it was placed at the beginning of the book, just simple retelling of everything. Only when the actual book story started I realized that was synopsis – i was like FUUUUUUU!!!!!!! I tried to read the book, but I was swearing in my head every passage. I was supposed to be guessing and having troubled expectations of the things to come together with the characters, various plot twists etc but I knew everything and it pissed me off, there was no joy of reading at all, whats the point. As you said, its gonna be just waste of time and nerves, better skip completely.

    Liked by 1 person

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