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.


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.”

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.