How to Write Effective Book Descriptions: A Guide for Self-Published Authors



The book cover is often the first thing a reader notices. But the book description is the author’s hook. The goal for every self-published author is to peak the reader’s interest so they are enticed to purchase your book. This might sound easy, but time and time again writers will include too much information, not include enough detail, or just fail at making an appealing book blurb.

Fiction author, Richard Ridley, has been writing books for more than 20 years, and is no stranger to marketing his work. Over the years, Richard has mastered the art of writing effective book descriptions, which have lead to stronger book sales. Check out his successful tips below and learn how to effectively write your next book description!

1. Don’t include subplots. When it comes to the book description, the only thing that matters is the main plot or main theme. That’s all you need to focus on when you sit down to write your book description. Including anything else will send you off into an endless loop of “then this happened” moments that will dilute your book description. What is the primary action that drives your book?

2. Keep it under 150 words. This, no doubt, will elicit some moans and groans by a lot of authors. Summarizing a book that consists of tens of thousands of words to just 150 is impossible, right? No. In fact, I am of the belief that you should be able to summarize your book in a single short sentence. Remember, you don’t have to concern yourself with the character development and sub-plots, so those tens of thousands of words it takes to adequately draw a reader into a book aren’t necessary when it comes to your book description. In the simplest terms, what is your book about and what will make readers interested?

3. Write in third person, present tense. Even though your book is most likely told in past tense, your book description is not. You are describing this book as if you’re sitting face to face with the reader, and they’ve asked you what the book is about. You wouldn’t speak to them in the past tense. In addition, the book description is told from third person point-of-view even if you’ve written your book from first person point-of-view.

4. Use emotional power words. You are trying to evoke emotions with your book description, the same emotions that your book evokes. To convey these feelings, you need emotional powers words like tormented, charismatic, passion, obsession, terrifying, etc. There are too many to mention here, but a quick search for “Power Words” on the internet will produces hundreds of words to choose from. Just be careful not to overdo it. Use power words sparingly and strategically. If I had to put a number it, I’d say in a 125 word description, you’d use 6-10 emotional power words.

5. You are not the author. You are not writing your book description as the author. You are writing it as the publisher. Making an impact on the reader is your principal concern. What will move the reader to want to know more about your book? What will motivate the reader to add your book to his or her cart? Write the book description with your head, not your heart. Remember, the book description is marketing material – not literature.

Another thing Richard suggests, and we at BookRix have suggested this as well, is to find your favorite author and books and read through all of their book descriptions. Chances are, they’re getting it right. If you write in a genre outside of what you typically read, then search for those specifically. Read as many as you can, take notes, and identify the formats used.

Richard provided an example of a good book description that he feels was written correctly. The following excerpt is from The Outlander, a Gil Adamson novel:

In 1903 Mary Boulton flees alone across the West, one heart-pounding step ahead of the law. At nineteen, she has just become a widow-and her husband’s killer. As bloodhounds track her frantic race toward the mountains, she is tormented by mad visions and by the knowledge that her two ruthless brothers-in-law are in pursuit, determined to avenge their younger brother’s death. Responding to little more than the primitive instinct for survival at any cost, she retreats ever deeper into the wilderness-and into the wilds of her own mind.

According to Richard:

From the description, I know the book is a psychological thriller featuring a young woman on the run from some very nasty people. I get a hint that her husband may have deserved his fate, but I’m also led to believe that Mary Boulton may be mentally unstable. The description is roughly 90 words. It’s told in third-person, present tense, and I count seven emotional power words (”heart-pounding,” “frantic,” “tormented,” “mad,” “ruthless,” “primitive,” and “wilds”). I only know the main plot: she killed her husband, and now she’s a fugitive running for her life. I picked up the book because of its cover, but I opened the book because of this description. I now own it.

Keep in mind that your book description extends far beyond a side panel in online eBook stores. This description will be used for social media efforts, and for promotional material for your self-publishing efforts.  It’s something for your fans to latch onto. Keep it punchy, clean and concise.

Happy writing, everyone! Best of luck with your book descriptions!

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