You wrote a book – congratulations! You’ve achieved something incredible. You wrote it, formatted it, reviewed the copy, self-published it and you are thoroughly satisfied, now all that is left is to put it up for sale and rejoice as readers the world over enjoy your work.
But – selling a book is no easy task. Particularly in a literary world where self-published books are plentiful. By some UNESCO estimates, more than 800 books are published in the U.S. alone each day.
So, how do you make your book stand out?
Aside from writing a terrific book, the most important thing to do is to write an even better description. In fact, it’s arguably more important to write a great description.
The description is the front line for your book, the entryway to your literary world. It is the most important piece of writing you’ll do in terms of marketing your book and getting it noticed. And getting noticed is key! No one will know how good your book is if they aren’t enticed by the description to pick it up in the first place!
As both a consumer and a writer, there are a few things I’ve noticed that separate a good description from a poor one (and often these items mean the difference between someone buying your book or passing it over).
The word count should be in the 150 to 250 range. This is a brief description meant to sell a reader on the book, it should not serve as a summary of the book. You are advertising your book, presenting a teaser that will make the reader want to pick up your book and find out what happens.
Introduce your protagonist, the inciting incident, the setting/place/time – all the basics. Use strong, emotional language, in the third-person (even if the book is first-person). Writing in the third-person is a particularly effective way of removing yourself (the author) from the description.
Some suggest beginning with a hook, some ending with it. Either way, you need to “hook” the reader by evoking the genre and speaking to your intended audience. If your book is a crime thriller, make that clear with language that builds suspense or implies the unknown. If it’s a fantasy, let the reader know that they will be transported to strange new worlds with unique creatures and characters.
Raise the Stakes
Once the reader knows your protagonist, the inciting incident and has been hooked by the language, the stakes need to be cranked up to instill tension and motivate them to know more. A good story is steeped in conflict; tell your potential reader, either subtly or flat out, what the conflict is.
Write It as the Publisher
You wrote your book as the author—telling a story. An author is not a salesperson. You should write the description as the publisher, the person who wants to sell this book. Or better yet, have someone read the book and write the description for you! Whatever you do, stepping out of the author role is critical to writing an effective description.
While these aren’t the only rules, nor are they hard and fast, they will serve as guidelines when creating your description. The description is your only opportunity to grab your reader and make them want to read your book.
Don’t waste this chance—use it to get as many people reading your book as you can!
Paul is the Senior Copywriter at Lulu, writing weekly blog posts and helping guide content for the company’s marketing. When he’s not deeply entrenched in the publishing and print-on-demand world, he likes to hike the scenic North Carolina landscape, read, sample the fanciest micro-brewed beer, and collect fountain pens. Paul is a dog person, but considers himself cat tolerant.