Guest Post: Greg Messel, author of The Illusion of Certainty

You all know that I love guest posts, right? I love reading what authors have to say about their writing and process and their inspirations. Today, I’ve got Greg Messel, author of The Illusion of Certainty. He answers a really interesting question: what is your book about? I know that several times I have requested a review copy and the book I got doesn’t seem to resemble the description I got. (I’ve also gotten to the end of a description and thought, “What is that all about?”, but that’s a different question.)

Now, be sure to read clear to the bottom — at the bottom of this post, you’ll find info about how you can get a free copy of Greg’s new book! Don’t miss out on that!

So, what is the book about? Read on to find out….



That IS the question. It is a question that as an author you usually need to answer in less than 30 seconds.

I have watched potential customers and readers at bookstore signings and book festivals. I’ve observed their actions and their faces. They often pick up the book and look at the cover. Then they flip it over and read the summary on the back. I know I have just seconds to make the case which will convince them to not put the book back on the table.

As I watch them read the jacket or the back of a paperback copy of my book, I think of the time I’ve spent trying to craft a concise, yet interesting summary of my story.

I once had a boss who said you always need to have your “elevator speech” ready. An elevator speech is needed to quickly explain a quick concept. When I enter a elevator to ride to a higher floor, what would I say if someone said, “what is your book about?”

I now have less than a minute until me or the person asking the question, will get off of the elevator. There is no time to hesitate, no time to hum and haw to get your thoughts going. It’s the essence of your sales pitch. “Why should I buy your book?” they are asking.

You must find a happy medium between an extended, long-winded summary of the plot and a quick but uninformative answer such as “it’s a love story.” My three novels are “love stories” but they are much more. Why should a reader want to spend their time reading my book out of all of the choices there are out there? I’ve been to the LA Festival of Books and had signings at book stores where you feel that you are in the presence of people who love books.

However, I remember two book signings at Costco. It was then I really felt like a commodity. I was sitting at my table full of my books smiling and saying hello. A shopper comes by with a shopping cart full of toilet paper, bug spray for their rose bushes and a package of 48 frozen burritos. They stop and pick up my book. They look over the cover and then flip it over to read the summary.

To the author, this book is a piece of your soul. I’ve spent almost a year, carefully writing and re-writing this book. I’ve agonized over the title and cover design. I written more summaries of what this book is about then I can count.

It now comes down to this–the person looking at the book jacket is wondering, “why should I give you 14 bucks for this book?” Is there something about my book which is going to make it worth it or should they pick up another of the hundreds of books piled on shelves directly behind me? Or should they forget the book and just buy a new sweatshirt?

When I watch a potential reader or buyer carefully looking over the outside of my book, it makes me glad that I have a well-designed cover or a good summary on the back. The clock is ticking. What will they decide?

My second book, “Expiation” is set against the backdrop of the politics and turmoil of the 1970s. I have noticed a positive reaction when I add that tidbit of information. This grabs the interest of certain demographics such as Baby Boomers

A good quick summary of “Expiation” is contained in an ad in the New York Review of Books. It reads, “In this romance that spans 30 years from the turbulent 1970s in San Francisco, two former sweethearts reunite and try to reclaim their love.” Good elevator speech!

Now I’ve published my third book “The Illusion of Certainty.” What is it about?

The book has three parts. It takes place in Portland, Oregon, Seattle, London and Paris. It is about unexpected events which shape people’s lives and test their mettle. One overriding theme is the book is “the only certainty in life is uncertainty.” I have some twists and turns in the plot which I do not want to reveal in my summaries and “elevator speeches.” So what am I going to say? I can’t be uncertain about that. Hmmm.

I need to figure that out before you get off the elevator.

About Greg Messel

Greg Messel has written three novels and three unpublished memoirs. He published his premiere novel “Sunbreaks” in 2009, followed by “Expiation” in 2010 and “The Illusion of Certainty” in 2011. Greg has had a newspaper career as a columnist, sportswriter and news editor. He won a Wyoming Press Association Award as a columnist. Greg also spent many years in the corporate world as a Financial Manager. He now devotes his energies to writing at his home in Edmonds, Washington on the Puget Sound just north of Seattle, where he lives with his wife, Carol.
You can visit his website at  Connect with Greg on Twitter at or Facebook at

Giveaways, Contests & Prizes!

To celebrate the release of Greg Messel’s new book, The Illusion of Certainty, he is offering one free paperback copy of his book at Pump Up Your Book’s 1st Annual Holiday Extravaganza Facebook Party on December 16. More than 50 books, gifts and cash awards will be given away! Click here for details!


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