So, you’ve written a book. Now, how do you get people interested in that book?
There’s plenty of (very similar) advice on how to market your book on social media, via press releases or through public speaking, but not many of these advice-givers focus on the main selling point of your book: The Description.
Luckily, I’ve got your back (cover copy…haha). Sigh…
Writing a book description is no one’s idea of fun. After all, how do you condense your 90,000-word novel or 150-page non-fiction book into a few tiny paragraphs? You know you have to. If you’re going to self-publish, you need to post a compelling description on your website, with your book listings and in press releases. For writers going the traditional publishing route, you need a concise (and still compelling) description to send to agents and publishers.
It’s just something you HAVE to do as an author. (Unless you can hire someone to do it…you lucky bastard)
And the worst part is, the description must be short. As we hear too often, people have teensy tiny attention spans. If you need 800 words to describe your book…sorry but few people are going to get through it all.
So, you need a concise book description, preferably one that is around 150 words. I know, that seems about as easy as bench pressing an elephant, but you can get there in three relatively painless steps.
Ready? Okay, get out your pen and paper and, let’s start…
STEP ONE – WRITE A LONG DESCRIPTION
Take your time with this. Think of everything you would say to someone about your book. Aim for around 500 words.
As you write this description, try to get the most compelling part of your description into the first few sentences. Yes, this is the famous Hook. If you don’t know what your book’s hook is, think of a question that would draw you in (What would you do if you found out your best friend was a zombie?) or the character’s situation (Today, John just found out his best friend is a zombie).
For non-fiction, a strong statistic from your book is a great hook (In the U.S. alone we spend $1 million a day combating zombies). Questions also work well for non-fiction as does trying to address a concern (If you’ve ever wondered what to cook when your zombie friends come to dinner…).
Spend plenty of time working on the hook and then write out the description highlighting the main points, plot twists and features of your book.
The long description is fun and lets you get all your ideas out, but you’ll rarely use it. It’s simply too long to suck people in. Which is why we need another couple steps.
STEP TWO – WRITE A MEDIUM DESCRIPTION
Don’t worry, you don’t need to write a whole new description, but you do need to edit your first description like crazy.
Remember the scene from A River Runs Through It when Tom Skeritt keeps telling his son to make his essay “Half as long”? That’s what you need to do. Shorter and shorter until the description is down to about 250 words. (If you don’t remember the scene, the clip is below!)
This is hard, but it really gets you to understand the key things you want to say about your book.
So, get out that red pen and trim away until you cut away the fat and get to the finer points of your book’s description.
This medium description will work great for your website, but for descriptions on online bookstores, press releases and queries, you’re going to need to keep that pen out.
STEP THREE – WRITE THE SHORT DESCRIPTION
If you thought the last step was hard, well, this is even harder. Again, you’re going to cut any non-essentials out. I know you think there aren’t any left, but there are. Trust me.
In this part, you may need to re-word and re-write a few sentences to combine them or really add a punch to them. All the while, keep refining that initial hook.
Your short description should be no more than 150 words. Yes, you can do it!
Take your time with this one until it really sings because this is what you’ll use to sell your book to the world through online retailers, agents and press releases. In most cases, it can also work as your back cover copy.
BONUS STEP – THE BLURB
You may not need this, but a blurb is a nice thing to have when you need to give a very quick description of or hook for your book. Think about the bare essential of your book (this can be your hook line) and use it as your blurb.
The blurb should be around 30 words.
Take your time with these steps. Try to do just one a day; that way, each day you come back , you’re looking at your description with fresh eyes and will be better able to judge what is essential and what is just you babbling about your baby.
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