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Writing

How to Write a Great Book Description: Step-by-Step Guide

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Oct 2, 2020 • 4 min read

As anyone who’s set out to write their first book knows, the goal of writing is not merely to complete a manuscript; just as important is getting actual readers for your book. Fortunately, writers have many marketing tools to capture a reader’s attention and get them to choose their book amid a sea of options. These tools include a unique book cover design, a pithy title, strong critical reviews, a marketing campaign, certifications such as being a New York Times bestseller, and the subject matter itself.

Another form of marketing material that helps authors reach their target audience is a book’s description. The best book descriptions can hook a reader and get them invested before they’ve even read a single page.

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3 Reasons Book Descriptions Are Important

While a good book cover entices readers visually, a good book description provides an overview of the text without revealing any spoilers or demanding too much of a potential reader’s time. Both a fiction book description and a nonfiction book description serve as a book marketing tool—a product description for a work of writing. Whether you’re a bestselling author or a new writer who’s just completed a first novel, book marketing is an important part of the publishing industry.

Here are three reasons why writing a great book description is crucial to marketing your book:

  1. A good description increases the visibility of your book online: Increasingly, readers make their book-buying decisions via the Internet. Certain social tools, like The Paris Review or The New York Times Book Review as well as reader-centric websites like Goodreads, help with these decisions, but when a reader has no critical guidance from others, they rely on book descriptions. An Amazon book description tends to be only a few sentences long, but it might be the most important book marketing tool you have at your disposal.
  2. A good description makes an ebook more accessible: On websites like Amazon, where many readers seek new ebooks for their Kindle devices, a compelling description is essential. Whether you are self-publishing on the Kindle platform or are just trying to get your ebook’s Amazon page to show up in Google searches, you’ll want to make sure its book page contains the most marketable language.
  3. A good description makes your book stand out in a store: In bookstores, staff recommendations tend to include book descriptions, and physical books often contain short, pithy descriptions on the back cover. In all formats, a great book description is a key ingredient in creating bestselling books.

How to Write a Book Description in 5 Steps

Think of your own book description as a blurb that informs potential customers what to expect should they choose to invest in your writing. A good book blurb functions a bit like an elevator pitch, in which you briefly explain an idea to a person who’s never heard it before. Here are some writing tips to help you craft a book description that sells:

  1. Pick a good headline. Various online platforms, including Amazon, allow you to start a book description with a one-sentence headline. Make the most of this headline by telegraphing your book’s genre and premise, along with anything conveying merit, such as awards you’ve won.
  2. Use your first line to hook your readers. The first sentence of your book description is the most important sentence of your sales copy. Hook your reader by asking a question or by making a provocative statement to get a reader’s attention and inspire them to continue reading.
  3. Use short paragraphs to fill out the rest of the blurb. Short paragraphs keep your book description easily digestible, which is important if you’re aiming for rapid buy-in. If you’re writing fiction, use these paragraphs to summarize the main storyline (but don’t dwell on subplots). If you’re writing nonfiction, preview why you think your topic is important (in either first person or third person voice) and lay out your core argument. Some nonfiction book descriptions even include bullet points to summarize their contents.
  4. Include a second hook at the end. If you’re writing a fiction description, end on a cliffhanger that can’t be resolved unless someone buys your book. If you’re writing nonfiction, consider ending on a call to action that exhorts readers to start a journey by buying your book. This works great in the self-help genre, but it also works well in books about policy, politics, and social activism. If you’re writing creative nonfiction (also known as literary nonfiction), consider following the ending on something resembling a cliffhanger.
  5. Remember, no one is above book marketing. Bestselling books don’t simply materialize out of the ether, no matter how accomplished the author is. Whether you’re aiming for a national bestseller or just want a few appreciative readers, you have to embrace the book description as part of a larger outreach strategy. Get yourself interviewed on whatever reputable podcast will have you. If you’re also a blogger, promote your book on your blog. Let the public hear a pithy description of your book so that all the time you spent writing will pay off to its fullest extent. Learn more about how to promote your book here.
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