Monday, October 28, 2013

5 Steps to Writing a Killer Book Description

I love to repost blog pieces that resonate with me. They're worth another look! With National Novel Writing Month about to descend on the writing community, I thought this piece might be useful for those already thinking about how to describe their WIP. Enjoy this great post from Clive West!---Mary Ann

When I put our first few books up for publication, I admit that I was totally befuddled by all the boxes and fields that I had to complete. I'll also freely admit that I was glad when I finally got to the last one and was in the enviable position of being able to click the sirenius 'Submit' button. I was so relieved when I saw the books become available - that's it, I told myself.

But, of course, it's not so.
Your book may seem like the best thing since sliced bread ...
There are thousands of new books being uploaded every day and each will sink or swim depending upon a number of factors, only one of which being the relative merit of the material. Putting it plainly, if you don't do the absolute best that you can for each of your offerings, your books will plumb the oceanic depths, providing reading material for only those condemned to an eternity in Davy Jones' Locker.

Having spent many years being in charge of marketing and recruitment for an employment agency and also having written a book on taking charge of your job interviews, I decided to put my knowledge and experience into producing a simple five-step process for writing a killer 'product description' involving a similar system to that which I've successfully used to land jobs for both myself and others.

This is an all-purpose solution which you can apply to just about any book you care to mention.

This is one line which stands alone and it needs to capture both the essence of the book and the imagination of the reader. Movie companies have been wise to this for years with such memorable quotes as:

  • Alien: "In space no-one can hear you scream"
  • ET: "He is afraid. He is totally alone. He is 3 million light years from home."
  • Titanic: "Collide with destiny"
  • The Addams Family: "Weird is relative"
  • A Fish Called Wanda: "A tale of murder, lust, greed, revenge, and seafood."
That's a fairly eclectic bunch - hopefully it should give you some good ideas.

What's the book about?
Remember those long-forgotten days when buying something new to read meant letting your eyes meander along the crammed shelves of a bookstore? If you didn't have a specific title or author in mind, what was your buying process? I’m guessing that it was to spot the cover and then read the blurb, wasn't it? Only after that had appealed to you did you look at page one. Therefore, the 'Look Within' feature is not going to be engaged by your readers if your blurb doesn't strike home. This means that you need to write a brief and enticing summary of what the book's about without resorting to:

  • Hyperbole
  • Bragging
  • Lying
  • Giving the plot away
Something specific about the book

You've probably covered the majority of it in the previous element but here you need to come up with something which your book has that others might not have such as its setting, protagonists, time period, adherence to fact etc. It's important that you create a uniqueness about your writing but without making it sound too far removed from the mainstream.
Why would someone want it?

Put yourself in the shoes of the potential buyer - why would they want your particular book? Here's where you get to use words such as 'powerful', 'gripping', 'captivating', 'charming', 'romantic' etc. Don't over-egg the pudding - keep it brief and limit it to just one sentence if you can. Less is more as they say.
A call to action

The final part of your winning description is to include some instruction to the reader to make the purchase. This needs to be subtle but no too subtle. For example, things like 'Buy it now' are best reserved for auctions. Far better is something such as:
  • On offer this month for a reduced price
  • Buy a copy and get a free sneak preview of ...
  • For a short time only, free e-autograph and dedication
  • Register your copy and get entered into a prize draw
The psychology for dealing with readers when writing a description is this.

  1. Pique their interest.
  2. Reassure them that they're on the right track with your book.
  3. Focus them on your book
  4. Make them see why they want THIS book
  5. Get them to go and buy it!
... which is why the order you put the elements in is significant.

Happy selling.

Clive West has written 4 books as well as being a director of publishing company, Any Subject Books. Before that he ran an employment agency for professional workers and, based on his many years of experience, he has written a book about taking charge of your job interviews called Job Interview Success - How To Get Hired.

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