Okay, so the title of this post is probably not the best metaphor ever written. Maybe, I was just fishing for compliments, or reeling you in… okay, okay. Enough.
But relating your books sales, or rather your book marketing, to fishing is not so far off the mark as you may think.
I am sure you would have heard the term ‘hook’ used many times when referring to writing, particularly fiction
Most authors know and recognise the importance of having a ‘narrative hook’ in their book’s opening lines and at the end of each chapter, even in the closing paragraphs of books in a series.
The idea, of course, is to leave your reading wanting more, wanting to know what happens next or indeed, on ‘tenterhooks’.
Which, by the way, is an old English word deriving from the 14th-century wool making industry. A ‘Tenter’ was a frame used to stop cleaned woollen fabric shrinking, (from the Latin ‘tendere’, meaning ‘to stretch’). Hooks are placed around the edge of a frame, to which the fabric was attached, so it stretched it enough to stop it shrinking whilst drying.
By the mid-18th century, the phrase ‘on tenterhooks’ came to mean being in a state of tension, uneasiness, anxiety, or suspense, i.e. figuratively stretched like the cloth on the tenter.
However interesting all that may be, these facts have nothing to do with fishing and by association, sadly nothing to do with my terrible metaphor.
So, let me get to the nitty-gritty of this post, which is about your book’s description.
For this blog post, I am including your back-cover blurb and the description you use on your sales page of online sites, such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble etc. as the ‘description’ discussed.
It seems, by the requests for answers I receive and the social comments I read, the writing of your book’s description is an area many authors struggle with, which is, on consideration rather strange as, after completing an entire novel, pages upon pages of creative writing, authors should then struggle to write a dozen or so lines describing the very premise of the book.
Which is, in all honesty, probably one of, if not the most important few paragraphs of the entire work.
What I find is, as the creator of the story, authors tend to want to put every element into their book description. (Much the same is true in amateur cover design.)
The thing is, the description is not supposed to be a summary, or a report, or a review. It is simply an advert. The intent of which is to ‘reel’ in book browsers and have them buy your book.
Allow me to elucidate.
Someone will buy your book if…
Firstly, the little thumbnail image of your front cover catches their eye.
Then, when they enlarge, click, expand or whatever they might need to do to see your book as a larger image if they like what they see at the smaller resolution. (The reason you need a great cover artist. One like PeeJay Designs. PeeJaydesigns@mail.com)
This is the online equivalent of having a potential buyer physically pick up your book from a bookstore shelf and hold it in their hands. If they never pick it up they will never buy it.
The next step is, your potential purchaser will now read the carefully crafted and captivating description of your book. This could be the ‘blurb’ on the back cover or the description given on an online bookstore.
Reaching this point means the cover has done its most important job.
Of course, your book’s description will stop the reader in their tracks, intriguing them enough to want to…
One, buy your book immediately or…
Two, read some of the ‘Look Inside’. (If in a physical bookstore, flick through and read a few random samples.) and then they will, of course, buy your book, won’t they?
Sarah Gribble of The Write Practice, says. “I recently picked up a nonfiction book, which I don’t read many of, and almost put it right back down. But the description intrigued me. It got me to read the first couple pages, standing right there in the store. Then it got me to buy the book.”
However, if you have a lazy, badly worded and therefore an unsuccessful book description, they will simply move on to the next book, regardless of how wonderful your actual story may be, a story they, along with thousands of others, will never get to read.
This means you will have blown your chance, your opportunity to get the sale, all for a few lacklustre lines.
Okay, I hear you saying, “How do I make my book’s descriptions work for me?”
I’m glad you asked because it’s a little like fishing; you must bait your hook with the right lure, the right bait, for the fish you want to catch. (Yep, back to my metaphor.)
Perhaps, one of the best ways is knowing what to do and what not to do when writing your description.
The (basic) do’s:
Always write in Third Person
Use keywords, emotional words, like chilling or passion; they work well for both nonfiction and fiction book descriptions. You can Google power words to find some good ones. But do not overdo it.
Also, consider what people might be Googling that would take them to your book. This is especially true for nonfiction works. Think about employing those in your description.
Be succinct and to the point, no purple prose or verbose writing.
Be clear about the genre, the main genre, do not focus on sub-plots. i.e. if you have a thriller, say so, do not harp on about the romantic story which runs as a sub-plot.
Employ the proper utilization of grammar
Use eye-catching, powerful language. Just like your book needs a hook at the beginning, so does your book description. No one’s going to continue reading the description, let alone the whole book if the first line is as boring as dry toast. Plus, this is often the only thing an online shopper will see before they are prompted to click to see more, and you want them to click, don’t you?
Hint at the climax, never reveal it.
Tell your potential readers how perfect your book is for fans of… genre/style etc.
Mention any awards, high-class reviews, or serious ratings – (see notes below in ‘don’ts’)
Add any audience and age-appropriate.
Give trigger warning when it’s necessary. (These can have a positive effect on sales.)
The (basic) don’ts:
Never use shouty capitals.
Give too short a description.
Cut off words
Make false or misleading claims
Double/triple edit. Do not allow any misspellings or typos to get through. If you cannot write a short description without any errors, there is little hope your book will be error-free.
Do not employ ‘date language’ like ‘just released’ or ‘new novel’, in a week it won’t be and you will need to re-word your description.
Stay away from aggressive calls to action. Such as “You MUST buy this book”. Using such language lends a note of desperation and drives potential buyers away.
Do bear in mind retailers accept differing lengths of descriptions, so you may need to tailor it to each site’s requirements.
Surprisingly, some things you might think influence, do not, according to recent Bookbub research;
It seems it is irrelevant to include details of which type of bestseller you may have, i.e. New York Times Vs USA Today. Simply saying ‘Bestseller’ has far more significance.
Adding a question at the end of your description has no effect on your potential purchaser’s decision making. Which makes doing so a total waste of time.
Neither does saying the book is your debut novel, or your tenth novella, or your seven hundredth and fiftieth for that matter. It has no significant impact on the choice to purchase.
Therefore, use your description to tell people about your story, get them intrigued, wanting to know more.
Avoid telling them about ‘the book’. You may be proud of all those things, but readers don’t give a flying ***, they simply want to know if they will enjoy the story.
Including the series name in the description did not affect readers positively or negatively. Therefore, adding such information (in the description) is pretty much a waste of time and effort. It seems the cover, and the titles on online pages, already show that information; so potential buyers do not want the same information repeated over and again… they know, they get it already.
I now hear you asking how you get to a good description.
The easiest way is to create two versions of similar text, like this:
Both versions have the same information. They both start by listing the accolades which represent the renown of the book.
However, from there, description A focuses more on Nick Dunne’s perspective, while B hones in on Amy.
So, go ahead, create two versions of your book’s description, test them against each other and determine which works best for your book.
Use friends to help you decide. After all, their point of view will be far more accurate than your own; you will not be buying your book, they will and they know what attracts them better than you ever will.
Try using the following suggestions as an outline guide.
Start your description by using a bold opening sentence, possibly a statement to grab the reader’s attention.
Use at least one hook to grab readers’ attention.
Ensure the description does not contain any spelling or grammatical errors.
Make certain to ‘inspire’ your potential reader to ‘buy’.
While I do not suggest using direct comparisons to ‘famous’ or ‘renowned’ authors, (such as “…is the new Stephen King” or “Better than Sophie Kinsella…”) which is considered cheesy, desperate, egotistical and opens all sorts of avenues for negative feedback and bad reviews, it may be worthwhile making a statement your book would be “Perfect for fans of Lee Child” or “Martina Cole fans will love this gritty and convincing thriller“
Note, the words, ‘Gritty & Convincing’ are taken directly from the cover of Martina Cole’s book. Never be afraid of copying the methods and styles used by major publishing houses.
Once you have found a style and method which suits you, why not create your own template and use that for your future books?
After all, great fishermen have their own way of baiting their rod for the type of fish they want to catch. You can do the same, go get the readers you need, lure them in, hook, line and sinker.
See, fishing is not such a bad metaphor after all.
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