Book Descriptions That Get Browsers to “Buy Now”
Your book is taking shape and is getting near launch. This is an exciting time for first-time and seasoned authors alike. Editing is underway, and you are defining your book’s style and brand. It’s time to turn your attention to writing your book description.
What’s the Difference Between a Book Description, Blurb, and a Synopsis?
If you don’t know the difference between a book description and a blurb, you’re among the majority. There is a lot of confusion on this topic, even among publishers. The term book blurb and book description are used interchangeably because they are essentially the same thing. In the traditional publishing world, this piece of sales copy is called a blurb. New-era publishing leaders like Dave Chesson and Daily House refer to it as a book description. Both are correct.
What is more important is that a blurb or description (which I will refer to as a “book description” from here on) is not a summary of your book. A book description doesn’t give away the ending! These are teasers; the purpose is to entice browsers to buy. Book descriptions can appear on the back of a printed book, on the sales page of an online bookseller, or in advertisements.
Do not include your book’s ending in your book description!
A synopsis, on the other hand, summarizes your entire book—beginning, middle, and end. Think of it as a sort of book report. You might need a synopsis if you’re looking for representation, aka, it’s what you send to literary agents. This kind of copy might also be sent to media outlets or included with requests for editorial reviews. Another modern use for the synopsis is as a cheat-sheet for influencers who are willing to give you an endorsement, but who are not actually willing to read your entire book. In reality, this is often the case.
Get Outside Opinions on Your Book Description
Writing your book description is difficult. You’ve spent months (or years) writing. As far as quality time goes, you’ve probably spent more hours with your book than with your friends and family. For most authors, to be able to cut all your darlings and stick to only the essentials when writing a description is painful if not impossible.
Yet, when it comes to sales, your description combined with reviews are what moves books. You can get thousands of eyeballs on your Amazon product page, but if your book description sucks, so will your sales.
Outside opinions are a helpful shift perspective. Ask your editor and a few choice beta readers to select three main selling points of your book. This could be pivotal scenes or problems you can solve. Letting outsiders help gives you the distance you need when writing your book description.
PUBLISHING POWER TIP: Organize all the copy for your book so you can easily access it. You’ll need your blurb, bio, synopsis, endorsements, short and long book descriptions in one place (like a folder in Google Drive) because you’ll be using this copy everywhere, including bookseller sites, promo sites, social media, and your author website. This also will become the foundation of your press or media kit.
Actionable Tips for a Great Book Description
In the digital world, for better or worse, book sales copy needs to start with keywords. No one will read your book description and, by extension, your book if they can’t find it online.
Start by typing search terms into Google, Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, and Barnes and Noble. Think through what you would use to find a similar title to yours. First, examine if the search results are what you expected. If not, keep at it until you come up with ten keywords and phrases.
Install the Chrome extension Keywords Everywhere (if you don’t have it already) and use it to study the search volume and competition for keywords that are relevant to your book. Based on this data, narrow down your keyword selection to two or three of the phrases or words that have the highest volume and the lowest competition.
PUBLISHING POWER TIP: Before you start creating copy for your book, you need to analyze how people will search for it.
Hook Readers in the First Sentence
With your keywords in mind, start to write the descriptions. This first sentence is one of the most important sentences of your life. Hook your readers! Let them know who (or what), where, and when in quick succession. If you’re telling a story, don’t use the character’s name, describe or “show” them. For example, “Tormented by grief and betrayal, a 14-year-old Union soldier and his Confederate brother are drawn back to the battleground where they died in 1861…” If your book is about a method or process, again, don’t label, describe it. In the example, we know that it’s a ghost story set partially in the Civil War and in a timeline sometime later.
Keep it Short and Simple
With keywords in hand, move into either the conflict (fiction) or the problem (nonfiction). Keep away from ornate language or complex sentence structure. Keep it tight, exciting, and stick with the main storyline. Close with a teaser or cliffhanger. Don’t give away the cow! Give readers a compelling reason to find out how your book resolves or hint at how you can solve a nagging life or business problem.
The length of a converting book description will run from 200 to 500 words. Follow the rules for online content while maintaining your voice and personality. Your actual book can be as meandering as Remembrance of Things Past, but your sales page needs to consist of short, engaging, motivating sentences, and discoverable keywords.
Your description will let shoppers know if your book is their kind of book! Good reviews give social proof that the quality of the book will not be disappointing. Don’t let your book languish unread and unappreciated. Follow these guidelines and your copy will convert browsers to buyers.