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.