Book Descriptions – Definition and Importance
The book description’s the first impression most people are going to get of your writing. You want to do this part right! It needs to entice them to read the book without telling everything.
Common Pitfalls of Writing Blurbs:
Telling too much: You want to get the reader to buy the book, not tell them the whole story. There’s a time and a place for this, but in general, you want to keep some salient points secret.
Rambling: This might be a personal preference thing. I don’t like long book descriptions. They run the risk of rambling. Telling too much and rambling may sound like the same thing, but I define the first in terms of giving away plot points and the second as unnecessarily defining stuff that should be obvious.
Naming too many people: You have a very finite amount of space; don’t waste it by telling us everybody’s name.
I’m sure there are whole books on the art of writing a catchy book description. Depending on the genre, this might not work. I mainly write science fiction, fantasy, and mystery/thriller. I’ve done a few romance ones for friends, but other than that, my experience is pretty limited to the three genres listed above.
Tagline: I’m partial to taglines. These are one-liners that sum up a key aspect or theme of the book. They should be short yet catchy.
Introduce the Main Character(s) (Character): Who is the reader going to meet? What do they do? Why do we care? You don’t need to answer all of these questions in the blurb, but you should be able to capture the essence of your MC in the first little bit.
A second paragraph about MC is usually necessary for romance as there are two main characters to introduce.
Throw the Monkey Wrench at the MC (Conflict): What’s wrong? Something must not be going right for this person or there wouldn’t be a story to tell. I usually use this as a transition to an additional paragraph or as a lead in to the wrap-up question or statement.
Wrap-up question/statement (Stakes): What’s going on that the reader should pick up the book to find out if the MC is safe/ accomplishes his or her goal? If you want to get a little cute and it fits the tone of your story, tie the wrap-up line to the title somehow.
Example 1: Violence in Vegas (A Lei Crime Kindle World novella)
Tagline: Sin City holds some dark secrets …
Paragraph 1 (Heroine and her friend): But Marcella Scott’s in town to help Angela Melkin-Pierce with a small case of sabotage. Somebody’s been slashing guests’ tires and ransacking rooms at The Grand Game Hotel. With the guest list including the Reno Birdwatcher’s Society and the Paradise Quilting Club, the suspect list is very thin. The only intriguing option is Gatton Technologies, headed by eccentric billionaire, Jeffrey Gatton. When he decides to host a masquerade party at the hotel, Marcella goes undercover.
Monkey Wrench Thrown at Heroine (Conflict/Problem): The air of elegance quickly turns to terror when masked men kidnap Gatton and Angela.
Wrap-up and tie to title (Stakes): Marcella’s going to need all of her wits—and a borrowed handgun or two—if she wants to survive the violence in Vegas.
Slight Variations: If you have a main villain and your leading guy/gal, you might want to spend a paragraph on each of them.
Example 2: Ie. Money Makes it Deadlier (A Lei Crime Kindle World Novella)
Tagline: Money can buy many things, but can it purchase a permanent solution to divorce?
Paragraph 1 (Villain): Martin Cantrell would like to know the answer to that question. He has money, respect, and power, but he also has a monthly alimony payment that’s making him miserable. When a friend offers to deal with the “ex” problem for a fee, he can hardly say no. Time is of the essence. The life insurance policy on his ex-wife expires in less than two months.
Paragraph 2 (Heroine): Unaware of the plans set in motion, Special Agent Marcella Scott goes about her business as usual, only now, she finally has an excuse to dress up on the job. She’s been asked to go undercover to check out some banks. One of the branches just happens to be managed by Martin Cantrell’s ex-wife.
Monkey Wrench thrown at Heroine/Wrap-up: What’s an agent to do when a perfectly peaceful morning turns into a hostage-taking standoff?
Example 3: The Dark Side of Science (Prequel to Devya’s Children Series; Science fiction)
Tagline: The mind can hold powerful secrets.
Intro MC: When Dr. Jessica Paladon worked for her friend, Dr. Dean Devya, she helped create Nadia, one of the world’s few Minders. Tough circumstances drove her away from that life, and to protect the secrets, she willingly took a drug that induced amnesia.
But now she needs those memories.
Monkey Wrench (Conflict): Two children—her children—Nadia and Varick are competing in a winners-take-all, losers-might-die competition for the biggest secret government contract out there. They’re fighting for the right to exist.
Wrap-up (Stakes): If Jessie can’t remember, how will she help them survive?
Example Book Blurbs I Helped Write:
Please note that most of these are mystery/thrillers. I have very limited experience with romance ones as well, but the general points still apply.
A Snake in Paradise by Eden Baylee
Out of Her League by Shawn McGuire
Kapu by Dave Schoonover
Born to Love by Amy Shojai
Palm Trees and Snowflakes by Scott Bury
Book descriptions are probably one of the most dreaded necessary parts of writing a book. But they can be fun. This is your chance to shine. Play with the words and make them work for you. If you hop on my mailing list and get to know some of my works, you should be able to implement this method just fine. At that point, if you want me to take a look at your book description and offer some suggestions, I’d be happy to do so. (Disclaimer: Time permitting. I have a day job that I need to keep up with too.)
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