Okay, you’ve just written the great American novel and can’t wait to release it to the world; then watch those royalties come streaming in. You’ve asked a friend to proof-read it and give you constructive criticism. He thinks your book is really good. You may have even forked over $100.00 to a professional who designed a mind-blowing cover. Who wouldn’t want to buy a book with a cover like that? you ask yourself.
Stop. Take a deep breath. There’s one more make-or-break job you have to do: write a book description. That’s not as easy as it sounds, especially with publishers like Smashwords who limit the short description to only 400 characters. You may have a great long description, but you are going have to start deleting parts of it to fit into the short one. It can be very frustrating. I've seen some short descriptions where part of the last sentence is cut off. Obviously, the writer didn't double-check it before publication.
Here are some suggestions to consider:
1. Don’t use subplots: Keep to the main point and don’t confuse your readers: they probably don’t want to take the time to read a long description anyway. Ask yourself, “What is the primary action that drives my book?”
2. Make it concise. A creative writing teacher once told me that a poem is more difficult to write than a short story or novel because with a poem, every single word must be packed with meaning.
3. Keep it under 150 words.
4. Write in the third person, present tense. Imagine sitting face-to-face with your reader and they’ve asked you what your book is about.
5. Write it as if you are the publisher—not the writer. Remember—the book description is a marketing tool—it's not literature; so it’s okay to hyperbolize a little. Just don’t overdo it.
6. Read book descriptions by other authors in your genre.
Last, but not least: Use Emotional Power Words. Make your readers wake up and take notice. How?
1. Use words that will raise their spirits and make them feel better. Examples: miracle, triumph, jawdropping.
2. Sex sells. Take advantage of this by using words such as: sensual, thrilling, naughty, steamy, brazen.
3. Make it forbidden by using these words: Pandora’s Box, confidential, cover-up, bootleg, Black Market.
4. Fear is a powerful motivator, especially if you write murder mysteries. Use words like: looming, revenge, frantic, searing.
5. Fan the Flames. Make them feel outraged at injustice. Use words such as sick and tired, back-stabbing, ruthless.
6. Feed Their Greed: most people either want to make or save money. Use these power words to take advantage of this: bargain, profit, discount, quadruple.
7. Make them feel safe. Use these words: no risk, privacy, official, tested, guaranteed
Try using only six to ten of these emotional power words in your description. And last, but not least, here’s the most important factor to keep in mind when you are writing your description: make sure that your book lives up to your promises. You don’t want your reader to feel cheated. Make sure you deliver what your advertise, or your reader may want his money back; and even worse, may feel compelled to write a bad review or give a one-star rating. And that’s the last thing we writers want. Happy editing and good luck with your amazing new novel.