Amazing Book Descriptions
A book description informs potential readers about a book’s content. It contains a summary, advertisement, teaser, and a hook. When choosing a book, readers blast through book descriptions in seconds. They have thousands of choices and limited attention spans. If a reader senses the slightest disappointment, it is on to the next. In order to be successful, a description must be mind-blowing. Only then can there be the slightest chance to obtain the coveted “buy it now” click.
Until I became an author, I assumed that experts in the “publishing department” of big printing companies created all book descriptions. Clearly, the authors would not be involved in any part of the process. Why? How could an author remain objective? That kind of behavior would be unethical or at least dishonest. Like when people write their own press release. “Well-known author Bill saved a million puppies today without any concern for his own safety. Truly a hero and an all-around great guy.”
Yeah, not so much. I have since learned that authors write their own book descriptions. For me, this task proved to be extremely difficult. In past blogs, I have stated that writing a book is 99% marketing and 1% other. Clearly, a book description is part of that 99%.
In general, a book description consists of three short paragraphs but I have seen long-winded five pages monologs and a single sentence. They range from boring choppy junk to lively meaningless fluff. Some are “get to know you-all” first person and others are distant “I hate you” third person. The tone ranges from nice to arrogant, directly informative to loosely related, whimsical “Where’s the beef” hamburger commercial to high-pressure timeshare marketer. Side note. I came across a children’s book about a bunny attending his first day of school. The description reads like a lawyer summarizing a murder. What were they thinking?
For my first three books, I struggled to create a useable description. I began by reading hundreds of descriptions to get a feel for the format. In time, I noticed patterns and good technique. As far as the ethics of creating my own description? That line of thinking went right out the door.
I remember a line from the movie Used Cars. “What's that yellow paint doing on that car? Did it use to be a taxi?” “No, ma'am, that's yellow primer.” “Yellow primer?” “Yes, that's being used on a lot of cars these days. It's a rust preventative, it adds life to the body.” Add fake smile here.
Once I had the format down and the right mindset, I wrote something akin to a condensed summary. Now that I had something, I worked with my mother (my beta reader), my publishing helper Bethany and editors. This included the unusual step of printing it out in a huge font and looking at it from a distance. Through many changes, I came up with something acceptable. This effort took about 40 hours over three months.
For my next books, I am trying something different. After I create the first draft, I write a quick book description. The result is an imperfect summary with an attempted hook. Readers would not be impressed.
While endlessly self-editing my first draft, I look over my description at least once a week. Over time, I make changes and try out ideas. This included new directions, different hooks and new themes. Overall, the basic concept changed, useless junk got tossed and my sentences improved. On more than one occasion, I started over. I estimate this is effort takes 50 hours over 1.5 years.
The result looks much better than my previous descriptions. It reads slick, fun and engaging. Potential book buyers are more likely to bite the hook and learn more. Perhaps they will read a review?
Here is an example of a first pass:
In this sequel to Interviewing Immortality, by Bill Conrad, James finds himself back in his old life. He has firmly decided to put behind all the nonsense surrounding the immortality procedure in his past and live a quiet life.
Of all the people who could turn his life upside down, it was one the mother of a wonderful child. Her actions were so heinous that James once again decided to take a life in order to continue his immortal abilities. This callous action was undertaken to provide him the necessary abilities to locate his former captor. In undertaking this quest, he would find much more than he was seeking and in the process, learn more about himself.
Wow, rather weak. Here is the present version (still in development)
In this thrilling sequel to Interviewing Immortality, James is determined to rid himself of murder, torture, and immortality. Who would guess that the deplorable mother of a wonderful child would turn his life upside down? Her heinous actions convinced James to harvest one last time; allowing the boy to grow up in a world free from her wrath.
Of course, James would enjoy the amazing physical and mental benefits resulting from his deplorable act. He uses this precious gift to travel down an unlikely path; locating his former immortal captor, Grace. Only her 500-years of knowledge could help him to answer the deep life questions that plague his existence. This task would prove almost insurmountable, as this secretive individual takes every precaution to remain hidden.
During his chaotic journey, James encounters three new immortals who desperately desire to learn every aspect of his improved harvest technique. They stand out as ruthless, secretive and meek individuals who treat humans like cattle. To make matters worse, they refuse to allow James outside of their watchful eye. Then, to add a final complexity to James’s life, the great Pharaoh Cleopatra sends him off to meet her immortal son.
Clearly an improvement.
What do I call this process? Engineering a book description? Blindly making something work? Fake it until you make it? Slow and steady wins the race? Bill’s killer description process?
I don’t like making up names for my personality quirks. To me, it’s all about finding something that works. What do I think about this approach? Clearly, it’s unorthodox, but the results are much better than past attempts. Also, it is less stressful.
How did I decide to use this approach? I needed a new book description, and the result looked bad. This frustrated me and I put it aside for a while. I looked at it from time to time and occasionally made corrections. This turned into a once a week discipline. When it came time to create another description, I felt a lot less pressure to create the first pass. As I edited, the results looked better, and it occurred to me that the process worked.
I am not sure other authors could successfully use my technique. It’s likely they would quickly reach a plateau without further improvements. This technique works for me because my personality likes to tinker and is never satisfied. Perhaps I figured out how to turn a disadvantage into an advantage?
Does this mean I engineered my own mind? I should write a book about that. Hmm. That’s going to need a book description. I better start it now.
You’re the best -Bill
February 05, 2020
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