Have you ever had this experience?
You go out to eat, choosing the place based on the promises made in their ads for friendly, attentive service in a relaxing atmosphere, and on the photos of food on their website.
You’re hardly in the door before you realize you’ve been duped.
The level of sound booming from the music system would serve well for a concert hall. The hostess has to scream to be heard over the “music” as she asks how many are in your party. When you tell her you’re alone today, she shrugs and says, “Just sit anywhere.”
Before you have a chance to look at the cover of the menu your waitress wants to take your order. Because you’re not ready you’ll end up waiting over twenty minutes for her to find her way back to your table. She can’t be bothered to put a pleasant expression on her face as she scribbles your order and rushes away.
After another long wait your meal is served. One look at the pool of grease surrounding your entrée, the mushy, limp vegetables, and you know you’ll have more regrets about your dining decision. The waitress swoops past your table once in the entire time you spend eating. She never meets your eyes as she demands to know if everything is all right. She never slows to hear any answer you might have to the question. She only nears your table again to throw the bill down.
The entire time you’re eating the music is blaring, the wait staff shouts their menu descriptions at the patrons, all of whom must also shout back to the wait staff and to their dining companions.
Yes, you’ve dined. No, you haven’t dined. You’ve eaten. You’ve taken care of a physical need. But you didn’t get the sizzle.
Yep. That sizzle promised in the laughing, happy faces of the wait staff pictured in the restaurant’s ads. The sizzle promised in the claim that they will provide a relaxed and friendly atmosphere in which to savor your meal. The sizzle promised by the photos prominently displayed in their ads, their online presence, and their menu. The sizzle that made your mouth water as you contemplated the image of steam rising from the slightly pink center of a juicy, perfectly grilled steak – the photo attached to the entrée you ordered.
Think you’ll return to that restaurant? Not likely.
Now, the really sad news. The restaurant experience I described can be reworded to cover my recent experience with a novel that promised the moon and delivered a mud puddle. And as I get older, I find I have less patience available for giving a second chance to authors who don’t deliver what they promise. There are just too many excellent writers out there that I could be spending my reading time with.
I used to be unable to leave a book without finishing it – no matter how awful I found it. But I don’t punish myself like that anymore. Sure I spent a fist full of cash for that book. But now I can look past that and acknowledge that the novel has no hope of making me feel better about my purchase whether I read to the last page or not.
If we think it’s not important to write every book as if it is the most important thing we will ever do, we will disappoint and anger our loyal readers. If we think it’s not important to present a consistent, inviting presence to our readers and prospective readers, we may find ourselves with the one-star or no-star rating that the restaurant described above deserves. And while diners and readers may make allowances for a one-off bad evening or read, they won’t hang around if we continue to disappoint.
So how are you delivering on the sizzle you promise your readers? How do you make your book or article sizzle? How do you present your persona online and in person? Leave a comment and tell us what puts the sizzle in a book or author in your eyes.