WRITING THE DESCRIPTION FOR YOUR BOOK
You’ve got an amazing book you’ve written. It’s been edited and polished, and now it’s ready to be published. You’ve gotten a great cover designed. So now what’s the next important detail? The description of your book.
First, let me point out that some call the description a blurb, but these are two different things. A blurb is usually a sentence or two touting a book, usually by a newspaper, book reviewer, or another author. For instance: “. . . scary as hell” would be a blurb, and then the author’s name or newspaper or book reviewer would be listed. A blurb can also be kind of like a tagline on a movie poster or a DVD cover. “In space no one can hear you scream” is a famous tagline for the movie Alien.
So the description for your book that you would have on Amazon or another retailer wouldn’t be a blurb (but could have a tagline or blurb in it somewhere). Your description is also not a logline or a synopsis. A logline is a screenwriting term for a one or two sentence description of a movie, usually under 50 words. A synopsis is the entire story boiled down to a page or a few pages. A synopsis tells the entire story: the beginning, the middle, and the ending.
You do not want to write a synopsis for your description, and you definitely don’t want to give away the ending of your book in your description, or too many plot twists and turns. What you want to do with your description is to entice the reader into either buying your book, or at least intrigue them enough to want to read the first 10% in the Look Inside feature on Amazon.
Once a title, cover, and price have piqued a reader’s interest, the description can often be the last hurdle (and sometime the reviews, but we’ll get more into reviews in future posts) before purchase. So the description is your chance to hook your reader into buying or borrowing your book.
So, how do you write the description? There are many books written on this subject, but I would definitely recommend Bryan Cohen’s book. That book, and others, will go into a lot more detail than I will here, but I’ll try to give some pointers.
First, as I said before, you do not want to make your description a synopsis of your book. You want to introduce your main character(s) to the reader, the main problems or obstacles the characters are facing or trying to overcome, and also a main adversary (or could also be the obstacle). And you’ll want to reveal the setting of the story (place and time). This is for fiction; I’ll get into nonfiction shortly because they require very different descriptions. In fiction, you want to set up the story and then raise questions: Will the two characters fall in love? Will they get away from the evil characters? Will they survive the disaster?
As far as structuring your description, I believe you should keep the description pretty short. I know it seems counterintuitive that readers who love to read entire books hate to read long descriptions, but it seems to be the case sometimes. You don’t want your book description too short, either. You need to have enough there to get the reader interested in your book.
I like to try to use the three-to-four paragraph structure for descriptions. A short paragraph, then another, then another, and then maybe one more. It could be three brief paragraphs, or it could be five. But having large blocks of text can look intimidating, so breaking up your text into easier-to-read paragraphs can really help.
I think you should try to incorporate your genre into your description. If you’re writing a horror novel, then try to make your description scary or foreboding (without being cheesy, of course). Action? Make your description fast-paced, maybe with short and powerful sentences. Romance? Introduce the two characters who must overcome all the obstacles and fall in love.
It’s a good idea to study descriptions of books, especially books in your genre. Read descriptions by other indie authors, but also read the descriptions of traditionally published books. Go to a bookstore or used bookstore or library and study the backs of paperback novels or the descriptions inside the dust jacket. Those descriptions were written by professionals who were trying to get you to buy the paperback or hardcover book.
Like studying book covers in your genre, it’s helpful to study descriptions in your genre. I’ve heard that writing the description can be as hard as writing the book. And it can be difficult to boil a book down into a synopsis or a description, but getting it right can be rewarding.
For fiction, you’re telling a story. For nonfiction, you’re often helping to solve a problem or giving information on a subject. Nonfiction descriptions should be structurally different from fiction. Again, it’s important to read the descriptions of other books that are similar to the one you’re going to publish. For nonfiction, you’re going to want to make your description longer than fiction because you’ll want to pack as much information into your description to make the reader want to read your book. For instance, if you’ve written a diet or exercise book, you would want to describe how and why your book is different from so many other books. You’ll want to show that you’ll be giving the reader valuable information for the money and time they spend. Even though your overall description may be a lot longer than a fiction description, I still think it’s a good idea to break up long text into shorter paragraphs, and using bullet points can be a big help.
Remember, after your book is published it’s easy to change your description if you want to. You could experiment with different techniques and see which ones work better by keeping track of your sales (you can also track the success or failure of keywords this way). And you should be keeping track of your sales/borrows, at least monthly, but weekly or daily is even better. How will you know if a new description or keyword or marketing promotion is working well if you don’t keep track of your sales data? Even if writing/publishing books is a hobby for you and money isn’t that important, there’s still no better data than your sales/borrows. Even if this is a hobby, I’m sure you want to reach as many readers as possible. Why else would you write?
After you’ve written a description and you think it’s perfect, try reading your description to your family or friends. Or send your description to other authors you know or beta readers, if you have them. Or, if you belong to an author group, show them your description and get their feedback.
So, you need to do some research on descriptions of other books in your genre, and then get to work on your own description. Write out several descriptions and see which one is working best by reading them to other people you know.
Hope this helps someone out there.
Until next time. . .