Last week I proofread my edited copy for any last errors or changes. I found surprisingly more than I expected--like twenty things. Point one being that an author should give it one last thorough perusal before deeming it print-worthy. Point two is what I'd like to talk about in this post: choosing an excerpt.
As I read along, I came to a scene that made me smile. Readers are especially going to like this scene, I told myself. That's when it hit me that I should be looking for excerpts from the book that could be shared to get potential readers excited about my book. Some authors find ways to get their excerpt published in venues like magazines, while others use them on social media to entice, or at speaking engagements to give the audience a taste of one's work. However it plays out, it's always a good idea to have some excerpts in your back pocket. Check with your publisher before sharing these, in case it violates your contract.
I selected four short sections of my manuscript that I thought would be enjoyable to hear. What was it that made me think a particular section of paragraphs would make a good excerpt? Mostly I picked what I liked--a good starting point. The analysis came later. Two of the four sections were based on scripture passages that most of my readers would find familiar. Three of the four had tension, action, or strong conflict; the other was a tender moment. Additionally, two explored relationships between characters. Avoid paragraphs of backstory, setting/world building, and long explanations. I also avoided sections that would give away too much or spoil the climax. In summary, I used familiarity, conflict in plot or character relationships, and emotion.
Each excerpt should leave the reader with at least a hint of a resolution. Leaving an audience hanging at the edge of a cliff might elicit a desire to read more, but can produce feelings of frustration. Listeners without the book in their hands want the reader to leave them with a satisfied feeling. That, too, promotes pondering a purchase. For example, Secrets of the King's Daughter is set in the Mesoamerican jungle. One of the characters is attacked by a boa constrictor. Rather than end the excerpt with the audience wondering if the character will die, the selection goes far enough that we know help arrives, but he is not fully released from the snake's hold.
Try your excerpts out on a few friends and get their reactions before finalizing your selections. Keep these in their own file for easy access. The author should practice reading these aloud beforehand, so she can be ready at any moment to "perform". Most of all, have fun with it! You are sharing parts of your wonderful book and giving your audience a chance to find out what they want to know--if this book is for them. Do them this service with enthusiasm and the right excerpt(s) for a chance to make both of you happy.