Thursday, February 21, 2013

10 Things not to put in your book description

Over the next 2 weeks I'm going to look at writing a winning book (product) description. As is always my wont in these things, I like to use humor to make a point and so this week's blog is about what not to do. I hope that my readers here will be amused but, be warned, you'll find examples of everything for real out there in Internetland.
Obviously some people just don't get the joke, do they? See how many you’ve been guilty of at some time or another.
Rip off a review
We all like getting nice reviews, don't we, but sometimes they can be very thin on the ground. Time goes by and then, at long last, someone says something appreciative about your masterpiece so (naturally enough) you want to draw everyone's attention to it (and away from the bad comments). Rather than hope the pearls of wisdom will be found from amidst all the porcine by-products of those less enamored with your efforts, you copy and paste selected complimentary text into your summary. Don’t let the little matter of breach of copyright (which is held by the reviewer) stop you. Of course, you could try and get their permission (if you have contact details) but why waste time on it?
Don't you just love it when you see things like "Unputdownable", "Fantastic" or "Incredible" (or any similar variant)? Since we don't all like the same thing, such a claim must logically be flawed but don’t let that stop you. The more suspicious creatures out there might think that the reason a book is being hardsold is because it can't sell itself any other way but that’s their problem, after all.
The idea is to get as many sales as possible – correct? Therefore it’s a cracking marketing idea to say it’s also got werewolves and vampires in when it’s actually an historical melodrama, or that it’s cram-packed with action when it’s really a political intrigue. When it comes down to it, what’s a few porkies (British rhyming slang - pork pies = lies) between friends? Everyone does it, after all. Unfortunately it might get you a lot of returns and some lousy reviews but just bite the bullet and ignore them.
You’ve written the book for goodness sake – what more do people want? If they want to know more about the book – buy it (d’uh – that’s the idea) and, if they want to know more about you, they can go to your Facebook page. Leave it all to the sample text or the 'Look Within' feature which is what they’re for, after all.
Trash someone else's book
Your book's a great work of literature, isn't it? Well, why not boost its position by climbing on the shoulders of someone else's efforts? Make it clear how bad another author's work is in comparison to your own and, if you can, include a nice little libelous comment such as “Author X plagiarizes Author Y’s work” or (better still) quote them as saying that their own readers are “Suckers” (à la 'Doing a Ratner')
Boast that it's all things to everyone
You think your book's out there with the best so say so. Tell everyone it's better than sliced bread and that it's something that they'll want to read over and over again (until the sequel comes out, of course). Choose your words carefully so that you appeal to as many of the romantics, the paranormals, the eroticists and the crime fraternities as you can. I call this the Knock-Off Swiss Army Knife Syndrome - something which claims to be able to do hundreds of different jobs but which, because it's neither one thing nor another, falls apart the first time you use it.

Times are hard, the book's not selling, so why not tell everyone how badly you need the sales? The sympathy card works for some people so roll up those shirtsleeves, break out your bow and let's have a nice little sing-song played on the heartstrings of your readers. Sadly, no matter how good a fiddler you are, this is going to sound off-key to even the deafest of ears (and there will be many of those).
Just copy a bit of the book’s text
If the book's good, it should more or less sell itself, right? Give 'em a key snippet of text - that'll hook them, won't it? Why tell them what the book’s about; if they want to know they can damned well buy a copy and they don’t need to know about you – that’s personal.
Buyers have just arrived at your book's page and they're met with a bewildering host of text - the title, background information, description and summary, price, adverts for 'similar books' <spits> etc. You've spent ages crafting your description so giving it the attention it deserves is the least readers can do. TO HELP THEM, WHY NOT WRITE IT ALL IN CAPITALS - THAT'LL MAKE IT STAND OUT.
Insult the reader
You published your book a year ago and there are still people on the planet who've not read or even heard about it. Ridiculous as that must seem, it's going to be true so why not do a bit of a customer survey and ask the address of the cave they've been living in or if they've been comatose for 12 months (and, if so, why wasn't their next of kin reading it to them)? Readers love having their thoughts provoked like this and it'll surely only serve to pique their interests.
And now I’ve just one thing left to leave you with: “Please read my book, it's brilliant and I need the sales SO BUY IT NOW!!!”

Clive West runs a publishing business called Any Subject Books as well as being an author in his own right. He's always on the look-out for talented new writers with something to say - if that describes you, visit their 'Writers Wanted' page. You can also see more about the company on Facebook.


  1. I have certainly READ every one of these in descriptions both on the internet and in bookstores. But, you forgot one. You write something that only someone as close to the work as YOU is ever going to understand!

  2. To my mind it really comes under the 'Dishonest Advertising' umbrella. On that subject, you should watch some of the adverts that we have on Italian television.

    The bakery ones are especially good. They show these huge cakey fingers crammed full of chocolate or jam. Don't worry about your waistline or the cholesterol, though. If you buy a packet, you'll find all the 'fingers' are more like finger nails and the filling is a small dot in the middle.