Recently, I started a few gigs at Fiverr.com. If you aren’t familiar with that site, it’s a place to hire people to help you do those things you can’t do or don’t want to do.
I write book descriptions for people.
I call myself the Uncover Agent because I help people uncover their messages in their books, life and business.
When I help writers write book descriptions, I find that many can’t find their message. They don’t know it, or they know so many pieces of the story that they don’t know what to include and what to leave out. They’re too close to the subject matter.
If you struggle with writing your book descriptions, maybe this will help:
Before you write a description you need to know these four things. (Write them on a sheet of paper or type them in a WORD file.)
1. Who is the story hero/heroine. Describe that person.
2. What is the hero’s story problem or goal? (If this includes a villain, include who that is.)
3. What are the stakes? What will happen to the hero if he doesn’t obtain his goal? If he doesn’t solve his problem? What’s at risk? Will he lose his life? His home? His daughter?
4. Who are you? What is your message? Authors are entrepreneurs. Writing books is a business even if you’re a novelist. What is your tag line? Whom do you serve with your writing? If you don’t know the answer to these questions, now’s the time to brainstorm what this should be.
Once you have these four items, you’re ready to build your description. Use strong active verbs instead of weak passive ones. For instance, if you’re describing a romance novel, weave words like this into your description: hot, steamy, spicy, scorching, passionate, burning. (Find active verbs at www.verbs1.com.)
Let the readers know what your hero wants and what will happen if he doesn’t get what he wants. Feel free to use the hook. If you already have reviews, you can start your description using quotes around specific words that readers used.
“Chilling … Mesmerizing … Page-turner … Captivating.”
You are selling your book. Don’t hold back.
Several other ways to improve your description is to:
- Research other book descriptions in your genre. For example, romance novels typically have a hero and a heroine. Their story problem/goals typically clash. Their goals are in conflict with each other, which creates tension.
- Find the best-sellers in your category, the ones with the most five-star ratings. Read their description.
- Read the reviews of the best-selling books in your genre and learn what readers liked and what they didn’t like.
- Write the description in third person. Present tense.
- Don’t give away the ending or the plot.
- Pique their interest. Entice them to want to read more.
- Make sure that your sample in the book that’s available at Amazon leaves them begging for more.
Here’s an example from Amazon:
The Girl with No Name, by Diney Costeloe
A heart-wrenching story from the bestselling author of The Throwaway Children.
Thirteen-year-old Lisa has escaped from Nazi Germany on the Kindertransport. She arrives in London unable to speak a word of English, her few belongings crammed into a small suitcase. Among them is one precious photograph of the family she has left behind.
Lonely and homesick, Lisa is adopted by a childless couple. But when the Blitz blows her new home apart, she wakes up in hospital with no memory of who she is or where she came from. The authorities give her a new name and despatch her to a children’s home.
With the war raging around her, what will become of Lisa now?
Who is the heroine: Thirteen-year-old Lisa.
What is her story problem: She doesn’t know who she is or where she came from.
Stakes: She lost her identity. She must survive in a children’s home and try to remember her past.
Remember that you are selling a product – your book. This is your sales page.
Know your target audience. You may have several different audiences who need your book, but each one has different needs. For instance, a group of college kids are going to have different needs than a retiree, but both may have a need for your book if it’s about change.
List their pain points. Once you know your target market, find their specific pain. What do they want that they can’t have or don’t know how to obtain? For instance, your young audience may be looking for a new job because they believe they’re in a dead-end job. Whereas, an older audience, might be looking for ways to adapt to change in their life, but they’re wondering what their new purpose is. Both are looking for ways to cope with change, but they are searching from a much different vantage point.
List the benefits of your book. What will your readers be able to do after they read your book that they can’t do before they read it? Find the job that fits their purpose? Find the confidence to ace a job interview? What is it?
Use YOU instead of I. Your description shouldn’t have the word ‘I’ in it. Let readers imagine themselves in your story by using the word ‘YOU’ instead.
Start with a hook. Capture the reader’s attention right away. Let your first phrase or sentence stand out from the other paragraphs. Make it exciting.
Use VERBS to NOUNS if you use bullet points. Doing this keeps your phrases parallel and easy to read. To find active verbs you can go to www.verbs1.com and to find nouns go to www.noun1.com. Notice how the following bullet point examples are a VERB to a NOUN. Starve your Fears. Capture your Desires. Harness your Demons.
- Keep white on the page. Less is more. People click off in a hurry. Be brief, specific and exciting.
- Use bold and different fonts. Notice how I’m using a bold font at the beginning of each of these bullet points. It helps the reader skim the content. You can do the same with your first sentence. If you have a great book review, use words that someone said about your book. “INSPIRATIONAL … LIFE-CHANGING …”
- Proofread. After you write your description, let it sit for 24 hours. Then read it again. Typos and inconsistencies or redundancies will glare back at you.
- Awards. If you have won awards, even if it’s not for this book, you can say, “Award-winning author,” somewhere in your description.
- Be an authority. If you are an MD, have a PhD, or have a title that elevates you as someone who knows your material, use it. However, don’t say “I” – write as if you are NOT the author. Write as if someone else is talking about you. An example would be, “Let Dr. Dumas, orthopedic surgeon and scientific researcher, help you with your joint pain.”
- Call to action. What do you want readers to do? Buy your book, right? Ask them to open the book and read the summary, and buy your book. Give them a reason to want more.