Book Descriptions Are a Pain
Readers rapidly scan through book descriptions to get an idea of what a book is about. These descriptions contain several elements which include the primary advertising tool, a basic plot description and an example of the authors writing style. In the past, I didn’t think much about these marketing blurbs. In a way, they are like a strange poem. Short, to the point and perfect. At best, a book description gets less than 10 seconds to make a good impression.
If a book description is too long, uninteresting, poorly written [even a single word can be fatal] or unappealing then the reader will be turned off. Readers span the entire spectrum of society and range from extremely sophisticated to boneheads, funny to deadly serious, psychopathic to magnanimous, passionate flower child liberal to hard-core conservative and well-read to first-time reader.
For me, creating a book description proved the most difficult part of writing a book. I began my quest by reading articles on the topic and my research yielded a few gems, but nothing substantial. Their best advice proved to be “read a bunch of book descriptions.” Some real rocket science there. Geese.
As I read over hundreds of book descriptions, I began noticing patterns. Some were poorly written, too long, had bad grammar and made no sense. Their authors did not understand how essential they are for a book’s success. Others were tight, funny, witty and intriguing. These authors clearly put a lot of effort into their words.
With trial and error, I developed a process. I admit that it is very chaotic and not refined, but this is the best I have come up. I begin by reading a bunch of book descriptions from the same genre in order to get myself into the proper mindset. I try to appreciate the snappy/witty flow that readers are looking for. I then write up something. I do this without an outline or concept. From there it is a long struggle of experimenting, editing and obtaining reactions from my beta reader (my mom.) A big tip is to do this early in the writing process and come back to it every month for a fresh perspective. In this effort, I have been required to start from the beginning more than once because my book description went in the wrong direction or read awful.
The book description needs to contain enough story to intrigue the potential reader yet not reveal the entire plot. It must contain a good hook that grabs the reader’s attention. If successful, readers might look at a few reviews. Then the reader might achieve the author’s ultimate goal. They click: Buy It Now. Insert Rocky theme music.
I have given some thought as to why this task is so difficult. As an author, I am involved with the entire plot at a very personal level. I know every written word and all aspects of the characters. This includes insight not revealed in the written pages. Condensing this whirlwind of precious information into a single paragraph feels like picking which family member will get to go on vacation and which will stay home. This has to be balanced with a cheesy promotion to hook the reader. It’s agony on a completely new level.
I wish authors did not have to make book descriptions. I somehow got it into my head that this would be somebody else’s job. In my case, it all came down to lots of hard work and I wish I had more skill in this area. One thing I have learned is how to appreciate a well-written book description.
You’re the best -Bill
August 28 2019
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