Tips for a well-written book description

Your book is done. You have your eye-catching cover and a great title. But your job is not over. It is time to write what is probably the most important words – the book description.

The book description appears on the back cover of paperback or on the inside flap for hardback books. For selling online at places like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, the book description is located right under the list of available book formats.

No matter where it is located, this is the one thing all potential readers turn to when they are trying to decide if they want to buy your book. And that is why it is so important that you get your words just right. But first you need to know what a book description is not supposed to be and what it should be.

What it is not

Your book description is NOT a synopsis of the book. You should not be summarizing the plot. Readers don’t want to know too much or what would be the point of buying the book.

What it is

The description is an ad. In a few short sentences, you need to hook the reader. Your goal is to intrigue, entice and convince customers that they simply must know more.

It can be a time-consuming activity, but it is well worth the effort. If done correctly, a reader will purchase your book. If done wrong, nothing can save you (except a recommendation from the right source.)

Tips for Writing your Book Description

  • Great First Line – You need to grab readers with the first sentence. If the reader doesn’t go past this, it won’t matter how well-written the rest is. People are looking for a reason to move on to the next thing. Don’t give it to them. Make the first sentence something that entices them to read the rest of the description. Also remember that only the first few sentences show up on Amazon’s description. Readers must click ‘read more’ to read the rest so make the first lines count!

 

  • End with a Question – It often works well to end a description with a question or point of tension – something that will hook the reader on the character’s dilemma. “Will Alista’s visions be enough to save her?”
  • Keep it short – There is no word limit but you want to keep it sweet, short and focused. Aim for two to three paragraphs of around 150 to 200 words total. Basically, cover what is the book about and why the reader will be interested.
  • Write in Third Person, Present Tense – Even though your book is probably written in past tense, your book description will be written in present tense as if you are sitting face-to-face with the reader and telling them about the book. And even if your book is written in first person point of view, your description will be told from third person POV.
  • Focus on Main Character & their Goal – You need to be able to name and describe your main character in one sentence. You don’t need to include other secondary characters. Your focus should be on the main character’s goal. You don’t need to include any subplots.
  • Use Emotional Power Words – Your book description should evoke emotions. To convey those feelings, you need emotional power words such as devastated, torn, passion, terrifying, etc. (You can Google ‘Power Words’ for a list of hundreds of words.) Just be careful not to use too many.
  • To Compare or Not to Compare – I’ve seen advice to compare your books to other similar books and then I have seen the opposite advice. Some authors think it will help readers decide to buy the book while other authors feel it can make the book look inferior and that if you compare it to a book the reader hates, you could lose the sale. So the choice is yours.
  • Awards & Excerpts of Reviews – Whether you should mention any awards or accolades in your description brings the same dilemma as mentioning other books. Some authors are for it but unless it is an impressive, known award, it might be best to leave it out. Many readers simply won’t care. I know it won’t sway me to buy a book. The same holds true for including quotes from reviews. Unless it is a review from someone influential or impressive, you don’t need to include review quotes. If you do decide to add it then do so after the description.

If you would like to see a great breakdown of descriptions from The Hunger Games and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, click here.

Writing good book descriptions is challenging. One of the ways to get better is to read lots of book descriptions. Go to the top sellers in your genre and peruse those descriptions and learn from them. It takes practice but writing a well-written, compelling book description will lead to sales.

Publishing a book: Part 3 – Self-publishing an e-book

For the past two weeks, I have been discussing publishing your own book. The first week I covered traditional publishing and what steps you would need to become published through a book publishing house.

Last week, I discussed the options of self-publishing a physical copy of your book. This week I want to focus on the steps to publish an electronic book (e-book).

Of course step number one is to have a well-written novel. I am assuming any editing or polishing has already been done at this stage, and you are ready to publish.

Cover

HILL_KILLING_DEPTHSOne of the most important aspects of selling your book is to have a good, eye-catching cover. Even though this will be online instead of a brick-and-mortar store, many readers select their books based on appeal.

While some authors are skilled enough to design their own cover, I would highly recommend that you have a professional do it. And go to one that is going to custom design a cover for your book rather than just one that will take a stock cover and add your name and title.

Book Blurb

Just like paperbacks have descriptions on the back cover, your e-book will need an enticing blurb. This is the second most important aspect after the cover. Your cool, awesome cover made the reader click on your book link. Now it is up to the book blurb to seal the deal.

Please take a lot of time when writing the blurb. Don’t just jot down something quickly. Go read book blurbs and decide what works. After you write yours, polish it just like you did your novel. It needs to shine!

Content

There is much more to having a novel than just the story. You need front matter (cover page, copyright page and perhaps a table of contents or dedication page) as well as the back matter (a biography and list of other books you have written and perhaps even an excerpt of another book).

Formatting

This is one of the trickiest parts of preparing your novel for publication. Both Amazon and Smashwords (e-book distributors) offer steps to format your book for their publication. My suggestion would be to follow Smashword’s steps first. It clears out many of the problems that you didn’t even know existed. If you aren’t completely savvy in the ways of computers, please elicit or hire help for this step. Formatting effects how your novel appears on e-book readers so it is an important step in allowing readers to enjoy your writing.

Distribution

Once you have a properly formatted book, you are ready to self-publish it. And to begin, you should start with the largest e-book retailer out there – Amazon.

Kindle Direct Publishing is Amazon’s platform for self-publishers. They offer step-by-step instructions on offering your book on their website. You have the choice of either 35% or 70% royalties based on the selling price of your e-book. If you approve it, your book will be sold in all markets from the UK to Japan and Italy as well as the United States and Canada. They also offer a program called KDP Select which where you exclusively allow them to publish your book. It is up to you to decide if being only found in the largest e-book retailer will benefit you more than having your book available at ALL e-book retailers. (You can opt to do KDP Select for a limited time.)

Smashwords offers a way to publish your work with many distributors from Amazon to Barnes & Noble and iTunes and many other retailers. It can save you time from having to do each distributor individually though since you are paid through Smashwords instead of directly from the other retailers there is a slight lag in payment processing. (I use Smashwords for all the retailers except for Amazon.)

As I said earlier, Smashwords had the best walk through in getting your manuscript ready for publication. It strips down most of the formatting and ensures that your novel will look good on multiple e-readers. And I love that you only have to do this once to show up on several major e-book retailers’ websites.

Once you have completed all these steps, you are a published author! With that begins the fun of marketing your books.

Revisiting the all-important book blurb

CIMG0524The book blurb is one of the most important promotional tools you will write for your novel. This short piece of prose can entice someone to buy your novel – or pass it up. Because it is so important, you should spend a lot of time perfecting your novel’s blurb.

Now I have written on this subject before. But two things made me decide to revisit this all-important topic. First, I just wrote the book blurb for my latest book, The Heir to Alexandria, which comes out later this month.

Second, I read a lot of book blurbs through the authors I feature on this blog every Friday. I lot of them are not doing their job of enticing me to buy their book. They are chocked full of unnecessary information and often are too long.

Remember a blurb is short – 150 to 200 words. Think of it as a movie trailer. It needs to hint at the story but not give everything away.

In your blurb, you want to focus on the main characters and what is at stake. The key is not to reveal too much of your plot – and its resolution. You want to leave the reader wanting more.

Questions to consider so you don’t reveal too much of the plot.

Does the reader really need to know that? (And be harsh when answering this.)

Could what I wrote be a spoiler?

Am I revealing how the conflict was resolved?

Use Action and Emotive Words

When writing, pick words that show action and evoke emotions.

Here are some powerful adjectives often found in book blurbs: devastating, heart-wrenching, harrowing, passionate, terrifying, joyful, entrancing, searing, unforgettable, enchanting, chilling, heartbreaking, heart-rending, pulsating, bewitching, captivating, shocking, endearing, and spell-binding.

But make sure if you use these terms that they are accurate. Don’t tote your novel as fast-paced, action adventure when it isn’t.

End with conflict

Always leave the reader wanting more. The last line should have them dying to know what happens. You can end with a question or hint at future danger. But most of all, do not hint at how things will work out. You want them to read the book for find that out!

The book blurb can be a struggle for many authors. It will take many hours and many drafts. You will pour over word choice as well as what plot tidbits to include. But know that this time is well spent as a well-written, enticing book blurb can make the difference between someone passing your book or clicking “add to basket.”

Publishing your novel – recap

I am coming up on two years as an Indie Author. Summoned came out in August 2011 and was followed by Quietus in November of that year. The final book in my trilogy, Destiny, was released in November 2012. CIMG1036I also published a short story, The Search, in September 2012. I have learned a lot over the past two years and have written numerous blogs about self-publishing your book. Here is a recap of some of those posts…

Investing in an Awesome Book Cover – The cover of your book is probably one of the most important decisions you will make. It doesn’t matter if you have a great story if no one is willing to pick up the book or in the case of e-books, click on the link.  Click here to read more.

Setting the price for your e-book – You have spent months, even years, toiling over this book. You of course think it is worth just as much as any New York bestseller. The problem is you aren’t Stephen King or John Grisham. No one – or very few people – recognizes your name. Click here to read more.

Writing an awesome book blurb – A few weeks ago, I wrote about the importance of having a book cover that entices the reader to pick up your book or in the digital age, click on the link for your book. Now that the cover has done its job, you need an awesome book description to entice the reader to purchase your book. Click here to read more.

Tips for drafting your author bio – Every author needs an author bio, whether it is for their book, web page, Facebook, author page or when appearing as a guest blogger. The purpose of an author bio is to give readers a clue about who you are and what you are about. Click here to read more.

Does your e-book need a table of contents? You have written your e-book and are ready to publish it. So do you need to include a table of contents? Well, that will depend on the type of book. Click here to read more.

Should you use a Pen Name? – Actors and musicians often don’t use their given names. Some authors also decide to publish under a pseudonym or pen name.  Click here to read more.

Virtual Book Tours: Are they worth it? A popular way to promote your book is to do a book tour. But with limited time and money, many authors opt to forgo touring to physical locations and choose a virtual tour. Click here to read more.

The Benefit of Joining Author Groups  – Becoming a self-published author doesn’t mean you have to navigate the self-publishing world alone. One of the best things I have found is all the wonderful support from other indie authors. They can help you promote your book, give you encouragement, discuss current publishing trends and advise you on which promotional opportunities helped them the most. Click here to read more.

Publishing your e-book through Smashwords – Often the first place new authors think of publishing their e-books is Amazon. And this makes sense since Amazon is the largest e-book retailer out there. But not everyone has a Kindle. Some people have Barnes and Noble’s Nook or Sony’s Kobo or choose to read off their smart phones or computer. To reach these readers, you need to have your book in iTunes, Barnes and Noble, the Kobo store and various other e-book retailers. Click here to read more.

Hopefully, these nine posts can help you start your own self-publishing career.

Writing an awesome book blurb

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the importance of having a book cover that entices the reader to pick up your book or in the digital age, click on the link for your book. Now that the cover has done its job, you need an awesome book description to entice the reader to purchase your book.

A good book blurb is an essential element in selling your novel. Some people find writing book blurbs easy while others struggle with exactly what to say and how long to make their description. The important thing is not to dismiss this significant element in marketing your novel.

The purpose of the book description or blurb is to grab the reader’s attention. You want to entice them to buy your book, but you don’t want to tell them the whole plot and certainly don’t want to spoil the end.  A well-written blurb can be the deciding factor on whether the reader purchases your book so definitely spend some time perfecting your copy.

For a short story, the book blurb should only be one or two paragraphs. For novels, consider three paragraphs of no more than 250 words total. Here is a brief overview of what each paragraph might contain but worry more about good prose instead of following this formula.

First paragraph: Introduce your character and the setting. Or open by building the overall plot and setting.

Example: At the age of four, Lina discovered she could start fires with a mere thought – a trait which had died out long ago. Cautioned by her telepathic cat, Tosh, she kept this Elemental power a secret to avoid being an outcast. That was easy to do growing up in the remote grasslands of Zena.

Second paragraph: Set the mood and the conflict. In other words, delve a little deeper into the plot.

Example: Now an adult, she had no plans to leave her beloved homeland. So when a strange urge compels her to travel north to an unknown destination, Lina resists this unnatural feeling. But her plans to stay in Zena are taken out of her control when she is kidnapped by gypsies and wakes in a foreign land. The desire to travel north is as strong as ever. She fears she will have no choice but to give into the compulsion. When a raging fire prevents her return home, she realizes she must find out once and for all what or who is summoning her.

Third paragraph: Steer toward the resolution (Remember to hint at it and not give it away.) Leave the reader wanting more.

Example: On her journey, Lina befriends an odd assortment of allies. Together they battle mystical creatures and unnatural forces despite the fact that such magic had died out over 800 years ago.  Lina reluctantly begins to use her innate Elemental power as she becomes more certain that someone is using magic against her. When she discovers the shocking truth, it will change her life in ways she could never imagine.

One way to write your blurb is just to write down as much about the book as you can. Then you narrow it down. You will end up cutting and editing just as you did your novel. Only name your main characters. Concentrate on riveting words that stir the emotions of the reader.

However, you decide to craft it, remember the book blurb is your sales pitch. Don’t skimp; spend time polishing it. The well-written blurb really can make all the difference.

Want more tips on writing blurbs as well as some good examples? Check out this website.