Kw: how to write a book description
After your cover, the summary of your book is going to be the first impression your readers get. It’s basically an advertisement designed to sell a copy of your book to potential customers. That means you need to know how to write a self published book description that sells!
How to Write a Self Published Book Description That Sells
You’ve already made it this far! By now you’re probably a seasoned writer. So it should be a no brainer to write a little synopsis, right? Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. It’s pretty tough to boil down all that hard work into a few sentences or paragraphs. How do you tease the story without spoiling too much? Or explain what’s inside without giving it all away?
Don’t worry, it’s possible to write a self published book description that sells if you follow a few easy rules.
What is a book description
A book description is a small blurb that is meant to grab the attention of a potential reader. If you’re self publishing you’ll also want a killer book description for any online retailers your book is listed with.
Where do I use my book description?
- On your online store listing (like Amazon)
- In your portfolio or on your personal website
- Social media pages, ads, and posts
- To pitch the book to people who you’d like to read and endorse or review it
- On the book itself
How long should my book description be?
Book descriptions need to be long enough to get the point across, but should still be succinct. Like an actual book, the length is going to vary depending on the genre and content.
Your target audience should also be considered. A middle grade fiction book, for example, only needs a couple sentences for the description. A long nonfiction book, on the other hand, will benefit from a lengthier summary.
For most adult fiction, try to summarize your book in 5-10 sentences.
First of all, grab their attention
Unless you capture someone’s attention right away they’ll probably pass by your book. Start your self published book’s description with an attention grabbing first sentence (or two) that will get people interested.
If it’s a fiction story, you’ll want to use something interesting from your narrative to hook readers. Take George Owell’s 1984 for instance. The description starts with, “Winston Smith works for the Ministry of Truth in London, chief city of Airstrip One.”
It doesn’t have a lot of meaning because both “Ministry of Truth” and “Airstrip One” are both made up for the book, but it tells enough with context to make readers want to know more.
For nonfiction, the description should be a summary and breakdown of what’s in your book. A cookbook would give details about what types of recipes are inside, for example.
For fiction: introduce the story and main character
Although you can play around with exactly how much information you reveal, your book’s description should at least include the basics of what the book is going to be about. Find a way to cleverly introduce your main plot points.
A great tip to get better at writing short, eye catching descriptions of your story is to read the descriptions of popular books in your genre.
Just don’t give away the ending!
For nonfiction: tell them what they’re getting
With a nonfiction book you’re going to have to plan your description a bit differently. They usually include details about what’s in the book, especially if it’s meant as educational. You can still hook them, but in a more matter of fact way.
Nowadays, though, the lines between fiction and nonfiction are often blurred. Take Educated by Tara Westover, for example. Her book’s description starts with, “Tara Westover was seventeen when she first set foot in a classroom.” The rest of the description reads a lot like fiction because it’s a narrative, not a textbook.
With nonfiction, look to your specific genre for guidance on what’s normal. One key difference, though: You can, and often should, give away the ‘ending’ in a nonfiction description.
Other tips for nonfiction book descriptions:
- Did you summarize the content of the book?
- Are there reasons why your perspective on this topic stands out over others? (For example, are you an expert in your field, professional chef, etc.)
- Does your book focus on something new or under discussed?
- Are there photographs or other noteworthy additions?
- How will the book benefit the reader?
Make it in the 3rd person
Yes, even for autobiographies or books written in the first person. It’s important that your book description is neutral and not personal, even if you’re the one writing it.
Add in quotes or endorsements
Endorsements are a huge part of how to write a self published book description that sells. Ideally, get some from the biggest publication you can. If the New York Times isn’t interested, though, you can always look for authority figures in your specific niche.
Even just one endorsement or celebrity quote can make a big difference in your book’s sales. If you don’t have one, focus on making sure you have a tagline before the description or an amazing opening sentence.
A popular way to explain a book is to compare it to something else. Saying your book is “something for Harry Potter fans” will be almost universally understood.
It’s also overdone and can even take away from your own unique story. Don’t compare your book to someone else’s work unless you feel it’s very helpful to do so or you’re making a comparison to another book you wrote.
One exception is with endorsements and quotes. If someone calls your book “the greatest thriller since the Davinci Code,” run with it!
Keywords matter in online book descriptions
When you’re so focused on making sure your book’s description is amazing and captures the audience’s attention it’s hard to also think about keywords. But, having keywords in your online book descriptions is still important.
Keywords are what search engines use to find information that people are looking for. If someone types “thriller” on the Amazon Kindle store, for example, books with that in the title, genre, or word in the description will come up.
Never, ever write a description that’s stuffed full of keywords, though. That will actually have the opposite effect. Just keep a few important keywords in mind when you’re writing your book description and try to include them.
To sell, but not salesy
It’s important to avoid salesy language when you write your book description. It might basically be ad copy, but you’re trying to attract readers. That means that your summary needs to be high quality and a strong reflection of what the book will be like. Not just designed to hook and sell.
Trust your instincts
It’s your book. Self publishing is all about having control over your own work, and that includes how you sell the book. Even if you know how to write a self published book description that sells, it’s important to also write with your own voice. In many ways an imperfect, but passionate description is better than one that’s purely written as a marketing tool.