You’ve written a book that—I hope!—contains all the elements set out below. How you layer them into your story is another topic altogether that I’m not going to touch on here.
Now the challenge: to distill your book into a Book Description that will intrigue the potential reader enough to buy it. The reader must grasp what your book is about in order to determine whether he or she is interested.
I trust I don’t insult your intelligence by stating the obvious, but you’d be surprised how many indie authors believe that merely telling potential readers in their Book Description that their book is wonderful will make sales.
But don’t the Big Publishers do that? you want to know.
Of course they do, but in a roundabout way. They send book galleys out to famous or critically acclaimed authors and ask if the authors would like to “blurb” the book. In return, the publisher will cite the author’s latest book on the book jacket so the author receives free promotion.
No wonder so many authors do it. I’ve blurbed books by Jamil Nasir, Linda Nagata, Kay Kenyon, and others for Bantam Books.
Still, even famous authors’ endorsements, if you’ve got them, go on a different section of your book’s Product Page, the section for Reviews. Endorsements do not belong in your Book Description.
What does? Precisely and concisely as possible, set out:
In a contemporary memoir, literary novel, or romance, Time may not be important enough to mention in your Book Description. But you should establish Time in your book, and if you think the Time will intrigue the reader, state it. This can be especially important for historical fiction of whatever genre (romance, mystery, literary, fantasy) and science fiction.
Other than in experimental fiction (and how boring is that?), the place or places where your story unfolds is essential, including in fantasy set in an imaginary world.
This is the core idea that probably inspired you to write your book, the Big What If? What if adults of all ages, from all walks of life, were accepted by the Berkeley College of Magical Arts and Crafts to learn Real Magic as in The Garden of Abracadabra. What if an oppressed housewife in 1896 is compelled into murder and intrigue and a passionate romance as in Celestial Girl (A Lily Modjeska Mystery).
Lead character or characters
If you’ve got only one lead POV character, identify and describe him or her precisely and concisely. Same for any other lead POV characters.
Villain or evil
Your villain or impending evil (or abusive family) may be described specifically or merely hinted at. But make sure your hints are specific.
The action that kicks your book into gear and draws your readers into the story. Precise and concise in your Book Description, please!
Sum up the urgent plot questions that follow from your premise and inciting incident in an intriguing way, but do not describe the whole plot. The whole plot is why you want your readers to buy your book!
If the work was published in a magazine or anthology, a citation to the original publication
This is, I think, completely appropriate in a Book Description, and not to be confused with professional critics’ or readers’ reviews, which properly go in the Reviews section of your product page.
Your credentials and awards
Also appropriate, but insert any laudatory language of the award in the Reviews section of your product page. A citation to the award is enough in your Book Description.
Now for some Examples. I’m pointing out the Essential Elements.
An earlier version of this Book Description for Summer of Love was written by Bantam for the print edition. This is a long, deeply researched, complicated book in which the time period and the setting are vital.
I adapted the publisher’s Book Description and improved upon Bantam’s version for my ebook by adding a few more specific details and the overall story question (that Bantam didn’t address in its version):
The year is 1967 (Time) and something new is sweeping across America: good vibes, bad vibes, psychedelic music, psychedelic drugs, anti-war protests, racial tension, free love, bikers, dropouts, flower children. An age of innocence, a time of danger. The Summer of Love.
San Francisco is the Summer of Love, where runaway flower children flock to join the hip elite and squares cruise the streets to view the human zoo (Place).
Lost in these strange and wondrous days, fourteen-year-old Susan Bell, alias Starbright, (First POV Character) has run away from the straight suburbs of Cleveland to find her troubled best friend (Inciting Incident). Her path will cross with Chiron Cat’s Eye in Draco, a strange and beautiful young man who has journeyed farther than she could ever imagine. (Second POV Character and Premise)
With the help of Ruby A. Maverick, a wise, feisty half-black, half-white hip merchant, (Third POV Character) Susan and Chi discover a love that spans five centuries (Plot Question). But can they save the world from demons threatening to destroy all space and time? (Villain or Evil)
A Philip K. Dick Award Finalist and San Francisco Recommended Book. (Awards)
From the author of The Garden of Abracadabra and The Gilded Age, A Time Travel (A New York Times Notable Book and New York Public Library Recommended Book), The Garden of Abracadabra, Volume 1 of the Abracadabra Series, Celestial Girl (A Lily Modjeska Mystery), and Strange Ladies: 7 Stories. (Credentials)
Here is the Book Description for Every Mystery Unexplained, a novelette published in a hardcover anthology. Note that because of the shorter length and single POV lead character, the setting is less important and the protagonist’s conflicts are set out. The Description includes the novelette’s original publication and the other famous authors published in the anthology.
The year is 1895, and Danny Flint is a young man living in the shadow of his controlling father, a famous stage magician whose fortunes are fading. Uncle Brady, Professor Flint’s trusted assistant and business manager and Danny’s best friend, cannot stay in the same hotel as them—Uncle Brady is African-American. Danny is grieving over his mother’s recent accidental death, for which he feels he is to blame.
When a mysterious beautiful lady comes to them for help, Danny and his father will confront the ethical dilemma between spiritualist séances and faked séances performed by stage magicians like them.
He will learn to reconcile himself with his grief and guilt, learn the secret of Uncle Brady’s identity, and assume his place at center stage as a talented magician in his own right with the help of the mysterious beautiful lady.
Every Mystery Unexplained was published in David Copperfield’s Tales of the Impossible (HarperPrism), which also included stories by Ray Bradbury, Joyce Carol Oates, and Kevin J. Anderson (Original Publication).
So there you have it, my friends. Put some thought and care into your Book Description. You won’t regret it!
How to Write a Compelling Book Description Part 4: Problems with Book Descriptions and How to Solve Them Lisa Mason #SFWApro
From the author of Summer Of Love, A Time Travel (a Philip K. Dick Award Finalist and San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book) on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and Sony.
Summer of Love, A Time Travel is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.
The Gilded Age, A Time Travel on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, Sony, and Smashwords.
The Gilded Age, A Time Travel is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.
The Garden of Abracadabra, Volume 1 of the Abracadabra Series, on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, Sony, and Smashwords.
The Garden of Abracadabra, Volume 1 of the Abracadabra Series, is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.
Celestial Girl, The Omnibus Edition (A Lily Modjeska Mystery) includes all four books. On Nook, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and Sony;
Celestial Girl, The Omnibus Edition (A Lily Modjeska Mystery) is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.
Strange Ladies: 7 Stories on Nook, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and Sony.
Strange Ladies: 7 Stories is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.
Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable pet pictures, forthcoming projects, fine art and bespoke jewelry, worldwide Amazon.com links for Brazil, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, and Spain, and more!
And on Lisa Mason’s Blog, on my Facebook Author Page, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, at Apple, at Kobo, at Sony, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.
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