The book description is the blurb that might go on the back of a print book, or the description you put on the sales page of your book online - it's the piece of copy that entices readers to buy your book.
(Blurb and Book Description are not always exactly the same, and sometimes a blurb refers to a quote or one liner review from another famous person endorsing your book - but here I'm using them interchangeably to mean the description of your book designed to sell it to your readers.)
I recommend writing your book description NOW before you've even written the book. And I'm going to tell you why....
Why is Writing a Blurb so Hard?
Writing book descriptions is hard. So hard. It can feel harder than even writing the book itself. How can 100 words seems so much harder than 100,000?? 😛
But any type of concise writing or summarising - and in a persuasive, enticing way that doesn't give everything away - is a totally different skill to writing long form. It takes practice to do well.
And it is especially hard for authors to write their own book descriptions, because you are so close to the content of the book. It's hard to think like a reader who doesn't know the book yet, because you know every nook and cranny of it.
The Benefits of Writing the Book Description Before the Book
The point of writing now is not only to get practice in - though, that is a benefit, because you'll probably need that time to get it right before you publish!!
It's also to refine and distill your idea in your own mind. To make sure you're focused and always coming back to - what's in this for the reader?
What promise am I making that this book will need to fulfil?
Writing the description first really helps clarify this in your mind. You're creating a touchstone you can come back to keep your book on track.
How to Write a Book Description that Entices and Sells
For FICTION, your description will follow this basic structure:
- Hook - an intriguing action that poses a question
- Character - who are we dealing with and what's their problem?
- Conflict - who or what is going against them?
- The Stakes - what's at stake, what are the consequences?
- Don't over describe. You're not summarising the story - your inviting the reader to take a journey with the promise of adventure. This is a teaser or hint of the main problem that will need to be solved. - your "dramatic question." This unanswered question should entice your the reader to want to pick up your book to get it answered!
- Some social proof if you have it, to build trust.
(*Your "dramatic question" is the the driving question of your story, the central conflict, that doesn't get answered until the end. e.g. Will Harry defeat Voldemort? Will Romeo and Juliet overcome their family's feud to live happily ever after? Where is that Green Sheep?)
See if you can identify those description parts in the examples below.
Feyre is a huntress. And when she sees a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she kills the predator and takes its prey to feed herself and her family.
But the wolf was not what it seemed, and Feyre cannot predict the high price she will have to pay for its death...
Dragged away from her family for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding even more than his piercing green eyes suggest.
As Feyre's feelings for Tamlin turn from hostility to passion, she learns that the faerie lands are a far more dangerous place than she realized. And Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.
Sarah J. Maas's books have sold millions of copies worldwide and have been translated into 37 languages. Discover the tantalising, sweeping romantic fantasy, soon to be a major TV series, for yourself.
Will needed Lou as much as she needed him, but will her love be enough to save his life?
Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun teashop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.
What Lou doesn't know is she's about to lose her job or that knowing what's coming is what keeps her sane.
Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he's going to put a stop to that.
What Will doesn't know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they're going to change the other for all time.
For NON-FICTION your description will follow the basic structure of:
- Hook - a bold claim or question
- Describe your reader's pain - show you really get where they're at
- The Transformation (the result).
- Plus add something about yourself to prove you're legit.
Spend more time focusing on the specific transformation, than listing out your solution/the chapters and topics covered in the book. They can always look at the contents page for that.
For the description, it's the promised TRANSFORMATION your reader cares about, that will make them want the book, more than a description of your solution.
Like fiction, you're more hinting at the solution, the how, leaving something open like an unanswered question.
Unanswered questions are itches that readers will want to scratch, and they can only do it by reading your book!
If you were about to leave this planet, what would you say, and who would you say it to?
This shocking and provocative question is at the core of the remarkable and inspiring book, One Last Talk: Why Your Truth Matters And How To Deliver It. This book emerged from the speaking series designed to help people discover their truth, and then speak it out loud, developed by renowned coach Philip McKernan.
In this book, McKernan goes beyond the event, and dives into what it means to discover your truth and speak it, why people should do this, and then deeply explains exactly how this can be done. If you feel living more authentically could allow you to have a greater impact on others, or you can’t find the words to speak your truth as boldly as you know you need to, this is the book for you.
Make no mistake, the path McKernan lays out is simple, but not easy, because your greatest gift lies next to your deepest wounds.
Some extra tips for writing effective book descriptions:
- Use keywords - they do help your book get found in searches on Amazon. (Publisher Rocket is amazing for keyword research, for both fiction and non-fiction.)
- Think like a reader. What are they looking for?
- Meet genre expectations - what you highlight in your description will differ based on genre or niche.
- Keep it short and to the point!
You don't have long to grab people's attention. This is not a book report or synopsis. Hook, hint, tease, entice. Don't give them a summary that means they don't even need to read the book anymore. Over-describe, and you've closed the loop, there's no tension or unanswered question enticing them to know more.
- Write and rewrite the description. It will take practice to get it right. Get feedback (from people who are your target audience or from people who know what they're talking about to give you good advice.)
Because you're the author of the book, you know every detail, every event, every important point - and it will all feel vital, and hard to know what to include and what to leave out.
But really, the reader doesn't need to know MOST of that, to want to read the book. They just need the main premise, a promise that this book fits what they're looking for, and the open loop/unanswered question that will leave them wanting more.
So you need to try to distance yourself from your book a bit, to more successfully write the description.
This is why I recommend writing it first, before you write the book.
You might actually find it easier, while the book is still more of a concept in your mind, not fully formed yet.
You can always rewrite it later, if your book ends up being something different.
But writing a description first will make sure you are super clear on what the point of your book is. If you're vague on that, you won't be able to describe it, and you'll know your concept needs some work.
And it will focus your aim, keep you from meandering off track, to help you ensure the book lives up the promise you made in the description.
How do you find writing book descriptions? Any extra tips that help you, comment below!
Did you know Amazon allows basic HTML markup to format your book description? This means you can add bold text, italics, dot point lists etc.
You don’t have to worry about learning HTML to do it though - there’s a super helpful free tool that will do it for you.
Create your book description in Kindlepreneur’s Book Description Generator - it just generates the HTML you need, not the whole book description itself! You’ll still have to write that…pity.
But that is still pretty useful! They have free tutorials on how to use it, and even more resources for helping your write better book descriptions.