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Why Your Book Description Matters

The book description is the pitch to the reader about why they should buy your book. It is the basis of the sales copy that will get them to see that the book is for them (or not), and then convince them to make the purchase.

It may seem that this article was put here out of place, but the truth is, if you haven’t already started it, now is a good time to start putting together your book description for your book either to include in your query letter to agents and publishers or to add to the back cover of your self-published book.

Remember, people are looking for a reason to not buy your book, so having a good book description is key to keeping them on the purchasing track.

How to Write Your Book Description

A good way to write a book description is to use the Hook, Pain, Pleasure, Legitimacy, Open Loop Format

1. Hook

The first sentence should be something that will grab your desired reader and make them take notice. If that isn’t right–or worse, if it’s wrong–you can lose the reader immediately, and then it doesn’t matter what the rest of the description says.

People are always looking for a reason to move on to the next thing. Don’t give it to them. Make the first sentence something that compels them to read the rest of the description. Every good book description you see is interesting from that first sentence. The idea is to focus on the boldest claim the book offers. Think if that most sensational fact or the most compelling idea.

2. Pain

In nonfiction, experts recommend that once you have their attention, then clearly describe the current pain they are in. In novel writing, the idea is similar, but instead of showing your reader’s pain, show your character’s pain. If you can accurately and realistically describe the pain of the character so that the reader empathizes with them, df, you will have them fully engaged in the description and seriously entertaining the idea of buying the book.

What pain does the character face? What unsolved problems do they have? Or, perhaps what unachieved aspirations and goals do they have? Clearly and directly articulate these, in plain and simple language. Make the situation seem impossible.

3. Pleasure

Then offer them a question about a possible solution. Done right, this creates an emotional connection by describing how the book will make the potential reader feel after reading it. Or even better, what the reader will get out of reading your novel.

Legitimacy

This is simply about letting the reader know why they should listen to you, why you are the authority and the expert that they need to hear from. This can be very short and should not be a focus of the book description. You want just enough social proof to make them keep reading.

This can also go in the hook. If there is an impressive fact to mention that should be bolded in the first sentence. Or if there is one salient and amazing thing about you or the book, that can go in the book description, something like, “From the author of [INSERT WELL KNOWN BESTSELLING BOOK.]” If you’re an unknown writer, put in something like “If you liked (a book of the same genre by a famous author,) you’ll love (title of this book). Or if your book is a cross of two genres, write something this “Where Jaws and Twilight meet.”

5. Open Loop

You state the problem or question your book addresses, you show that you solve or answer it, but you also leave a key piece out. This encourages the the reader’s interest and leaves them begging for more.

You do want to be very explicit about what your story is about, but you don’t want the plot’s solution in the description. This is to create an “open loop” that will make your reader realize that they have to buy your novel.  

Here is the description that I used in my first novel: When God Turned His Head:

Beautiful Drusilla was in love with Kanter Thorton but to protect him she was forced to marry another man. After years of abuse her husband is poisoned and all eyes are on her as the likely suspect. Only Kanter and a young lawyer named John Adams believe she is innocent. Will Drusilla finally be set free in this drama set in the backdrop of Post-puritan/Pre-revolutionary War Boston?

It makes you want to read more: After reading this description, any reader is going to keep going into the reviews and other information. You’re hooked—you want to know how the future second president of the United States is going to help solve this murder..

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