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Grab Your Reader’s Attention With a Captivating Book Description

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Many writers focus countless hours of attention on their title, trying to create something that completely encompasses the idea of their book. Usually, the result is a lovingly crafted, thoughtful idea. However, when a reader sees this intriguing title, they don’t just immediately buy the book.

What takes them to the next level of commitment? The book description!

Read on to understand what makes a captivating book description so important, and why the “elevator pitch” version of your book can help you gather more loyal readers.

Why Does The Description Matter?

The jacket copy or summary of your book is incredibly important: it is what allows you to connect with audiences of all kinds, both those who are readers of your genre and those who are checking it out for the first time. The description answers some central questions, often in chronological order, but not always:

  • Who is the protagonist?
  • What do they want most?
  • What are they doing to get it?
  • What gets in the way?
  • What is the tone of your book?

People who already love the genre and the look of your story will use the description to confirm that this is the book for them, but others, who may not typically read a thriller or a romance, will be looking to the description as a place to find common ground. They want to find something that sparks an interest: a deep mystery, a hilarious tone, an unusual conflict. This moment of reading the description is a complex interplay that results in a reader realizing that they are holding a treasure.

How to Write Your Description to Draw In Readers

  • Before you even begin to write your description, distill it down. Most of us love the many intricate details that make our books unique, but a description is also giving people something familiar to latch onto. A great strategy is to write a whole page (or two!) of description about your book. Then, ruthlessly cut all but 25% of what you originally wrote (I know! Even if it is all wonderful!). This exercise will help you see what basics must be there.
  • This description, when it is finished, should start with something incredibly compelling, not necessarily the first thing in the book. Write an action-packed, conflict-filled first sentence. Many people will read one sentence of a description before they put the book down, so give them absolutely everything you can in that first sentence.
  • Remember the goals of your description: tell us why we care about this character (or characters), what is working against them, what they want, and a few tantalizing details that will make us realize this is no ordinary story. Stop just short of the big conflict, since you don’t want to give the ending away!
  • Put the book in a category. The genre matters in the description; even if you feel like your literary fiction has elements of mystery, focus on the most important genre so that people know what they are getting. If you feel like you are truly crossing a lot of genres, get your readers to weigh in.
  • Feel stuck? Write two totally new descriptions. One of the best ways to get to the perfect description is to write more of them! Force yourself to start from scratch, knowing what you learned with the first version. This doesn’t mean you’ll throw anything out; if anything, the final version will probably pull the best parts from your many drafts.
  • Test, test, test! Try letting people read your description and then tell you immediately all their reactions: let them tell you the questions they still have, the things that seem unimportant, and anything that confuses them. The authentic, first reactions of new readers are exactly what you need; the person reading your description is likely reading quickly, and you want to make sure that you are so clear that even a distracted, barely-there reader will still be drawn in.
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Avoid These Common Mistakes in Book Descriptions

  • Avoid the Build-Up. Even though your actual book must give us enough rising action to understand the world and love the characters, pretend like you are thrown right into the thick of things in the description. You’re “selling” people on the most exciting moment, not on the intricate backstory.
  • Avoid the Jargon/Explanations. If you have your own language, culture, world, or even just extremely location-specific references, try to save them for the book itself. Make the description as straightforward as possible; if there are words that require anyone to say, “hey, what is that?” they may need to go. On the other hand (and I know this is a subtle distinction), interesting names that are clearly names, or interesting place names that are clearly places, can be thrown in without being explained; give us colorful details that don’t require an extended explanation to understand.
  • Sacrifice those Subplots. Your book is so much more than its central plot, but getting that across in a description is often impossible. Feel free to write a couple of versions that glancingly mention the subplots, but a great strategy is to zero in on your main conflict, your main characters, and the elements that will contribute to whatever the “final showdown” of your book is.
  • Avoid the Conclusion. As mentioned above, don’t take us all the way through to the end of the book. The best way to avoid this is to grab a few of your favorite books and read their descriptions: at what point does the description tantalizingly end? Make sure that you are doing the same thing.

Find Your Audience at BookBoro

The description is ultimately your bid into the world to find the perfect readers for you; making it as good as you can is well worth the time it takes. As you share your book and its description on sites like BookBoro, you’ll find that having an amazing summary pulls people into your story. The marketing and attention-grabbing steps will be that much easier when you start off with a description that entices new readers in. Your audience will fall head-over-heels into your story when they’ve already connected with your topic!

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