Good Book Descriptions & Bad Book Descriptions

Book Descriptions are incredibly overrated

Book Descriptions are so overrated by authors it is remarkable. Authors tend to have this magnificent vision of what they think happens when readers reach a page –

  1. That the reader forgets everything else and reads the Book Description
  2. That the Book Description tells the reader – the book is well written, like the description
  3. That the Book Description has a synopsis of the book or something about the book – and the reader thinks – Yes, this is the book I wanted to read. And the reader purchases the book – almost solely on the strength of the Book Description

None of that happens. Over 80% of readers do not read even a single line of the Book Description

What actually happens BEFORE the reader reaches your book page

  1. Readers see the cover of the book, usually in a sea of covers
  2. If your Book Cover is not well done and attractive, it will not even catch the eye. So an excellent book cover is imperative
  3. The Reader decides if they like the cover or not – an almost instant decision
  4. The Reader decides if the book is in one of their favorite genres or not – another instant decision (based on whether or not the cover matches genre conventions and genre expectations)
  5. (If review rating is shown) Reader looks at the review rating of the Book

Reader decides to click on the cover (or not)

Your cover has to ATTRACT the eye of the reader and then WIN them within 1 to 3 seconds and get them to click on the cover

What actually happens AFTER the reader reaches your book page

  1. Reader looks at the review rating (the most important factor) and the number of reviews (2nd most important factor)
  2. Reader looks again at the cover in large size and confirms that the cover looks good and seems to be the right category (4th most important factor – high quality cover with high attention to detail and high level of clarity)
  3. Reader looks at categories and confirms it is in the right categories (3rd most important factor)
  4. Reader reads reviews
  5. Readers reads a bit of the book sample
  6. (If reader likes the book) Reader buys the book

Most of the time (80% or higher) the reader does not read the book description at all. 99% of the time the reader does not press ‘Show More’ to reveal the entire Book Description

An indicator of the importance (or lack thereof) of the Book Description is that Amazon does not show the entire Book Description. Amazon shows just the first 1 or 2 paragraphs. If the Book Description were critical, do you really think Amazon would hide most of it?

Important Note: This also means that the first 3 to 4 lines of your Book Description are exponentially more important than the rest of the Book Description. The latter will not get read 99% of the time. Don’t bury the lede – make sure the 1st 2 to 4 sentences of your Book Description clearly state what genre it is, your credentials as an author (if any) and HOOK the reader into the story

One Edge Case Scenario where Book Description matters

The one edge case scenario where Book Description actually matters

  1. If the reader is on the fence because the reviews are borderline (3.5 stars instead of 4 stars or higher)
  2. If the reader is on the fence because the cover and categories don’t seem to match what the reader is looking for (in terms of genre)
  3. If the reviews are all one liners and don’t give details on the book

In that case, and usually only in that case, the reader will go through the Book Description.

General Note:┬áDespite the fact that a Book Description is not important, it’s still nice to write a good Book Description.┬áBecause obvious flaws in the Book Description can take a reader from ‘ready to buy’ to ‘not ready to buy’. Because you should make every element of your book page polished, even aspects that do not get read much

Why Authors overrate Books Descriptions

Authors tend to be focused on words and writing and ignore the actual packaging and polish of the book i.e. the cover, what the book page looks like, the typesetting of the book, what their author photo looks like, etc

In that worldview, where words are the most important element, it is natural to think that words written by the author (the book description) are the most important and overrule

  1. Cover designed by the cover designer
  2. Words (reviews) written by the readers
  3. The layout of the book
  4. The layout of the page
  5. The other elements on the page

However, those other elements are actually very very important and usually take precedence over the Book Description

Why you should still write a Good Book Description

There are a few reasons you should have a good book description

  1. As an author, you should have the discipline to not have any part of your book page or website or book be unpolished
  2. If you don’t have reviews, or if the reviews are sparse in content, the book description will get looked at
  3. If your book cover is terrible or mediocre, then readers will look to the Book Description to convince themselves your book is worth reading
  4. Writing Book Descriptions is very good practice of writing ad copy. It’s also good to practice hooking readers into your story (something your book should have)
  5. As an author, you should have a rule/guideline that every single thing you write, you write it well and polish it well

For a small fraction of readers, especially those on the fence, a good book description can be what gets them to buy your book

Things to Avoid in Book Descriptions

Absolutely must avoid

  1. Spelling mistakes
  2. Grammatical mistakes
  3. Having it all in one long paragraph. It must be small paragraphs of 2 to 3 sentences each
  4. Putting the key details in the middle or the end. NO ONE clicks on ‘Show more’ to see the entire description. If they read the description (they don’t, usually) they just quickly look at what can be seen without expanding the Book Description
  5. Anything political
  6. Adult language or Foul Language or cursing
  7. Selling too hard in the Book Description
  8. Writing a synopsis of the book. Please don’t do this. Try to Hook them, not reveal what happens in the entire book

Things to Definitely Include in Book Descriptions

Here are things the Book Description must have in the first paragraph itself (above the fold). Things which readers should be able to see without pressing the ‘Show More’ button

  1. What book category the book is in
  2. One main hook to get reader to buy the book. At the minimum it should get the reader interested enough to click on the book sample and start reading the book sample
  3. Absolutely no spelling mistakes or grammatical mistakes
  4. Who the book is written for
  5. Awards if any. Only big awards
  6. Big Author recommendations, if any. Only from New York Times Bestselling or Big Award winning authors or USA Today Bestselling Authors
  7. Which popular authors your books and writing style are similar to

You have to fit all of that into one paragraph of 2 to 4 sentences. Everything beyond that will get hidden ‘below the fold’ i.e. after the ‘Show More’ button

Here are additional things the Book Description must have (in the remaining paragraphs of the book description, ‘below the fold’)

  1. Multiple hooks to get the reader interested
  2. Absolutely no reveal of the actual story of the book and what happens in the book. Do not spoil the surprise
  3. Clarity on what genres the book is in
  4. Keywords section close to the end which lists the key genres and categories and key ‘keywords’ for the book
  5. Recommendations from established authors
  6. Reviews from happy customers – please only add ‘review snippets’ and not entire reviews
  7. Which popular books and popular authors your books are like. If you like X then you will love this book
  8. Paragraphs of 2 to 4 sentences each. Never more
  9. Each paragraph has a specific function i.e. either hook the reader, or provide validation that a reviewer loved it, or some such specific function

Book Descriptions fall much lower in Importance than Book Covers, Reviews, Book Samples, and Book Categories

A main thing to remember is that although you do want to write a good book description, it falls much lower on the scale of importance than things such as Book Covers and Book Editing and getting Reviews. Please do not spend more than a few hours polishing the book description – After that focus on the stuff that really drives sales

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