What Makes a Good Book Description?

For writers, one the most pesky problems is creating a solid, working book description. Once we’ve finished the book, outlined it, fleshed it out, tweaked it, had it edited, and gotten it ready to read, the last thing we want to do is go back and create it all over again in 300 characters or less!
But like it or not, it’s essential. Who’s going to start reading a book if they don’t know what it’s about? It also provides you a jumping off point as you try to design your promotional materials, and, if you’re lucky, presentations on your book. I’d like to share a few methods I fall back on for achieving this step, just in case it has become a stumbling block for you.

Method One – Build as you Go

One of the best ways to approach a description of your book is to do it while you’re outlining the original. That is not to say it must be complete at that stage, or even accurate. But the best road to a completed objective is a good starting point. And if you have written something already during the planning stages of your story or book, you’ve given yourself an alternate plan or map to completion of both the description of the book, and the book itself. If your path changes mid story, and you decide to takes things another way, all you have to do is edit the original description. Editing is a lot easier that starting with an empty slate.

Method Two – Use Examples as a Guide

Another way to do it is to read other descriptions online that you find really compelling. Try to analyze the point at which you become most interested while reading the description. For instance, in the cover description of Courtney Walsh’s Things Left Unsaid, it says, “He wasn’t this person anymore. He was clean. He was sober. He ate kale.” As soon as you read it, you’re amused, at least to some extent. This guy had overcome something and was maybe struggling to maintain. It sounds interesting, and it’s short and sweet. Patterning our descriptions after another can make the work less painful sometimes.

Method Three – Meditation

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Photo by Pixabay on

Maybe the least frequently used method is to simply meditate on your manuscript. Is it a self-help? If so when you first decided to write it, what were your objectives? This book will lift you to levels of confidence you never knew you had! Or maybe, “Math was never your friend until now!” For novelists, sift your mind back to when you were first grabbed by the inspiration to write the book. When I wrote Love in the Victory Garden, I remember thinking about the struggles, even of every day meals, and I included, “Abbotsville struggled with too little to eat, and not enough to do to stop thinking about too little to eat” in my description. I think it brings images to mind and maybe interest along with them.
As we go on, of course, we come up with our own methods of getting the description just right. And while it’s a necessity, and often forced to fit within an impossibly short framework, it can be and often is the best advertisement for our work. Thanks for reading & feel free to offer feedback.

Cece Whittaker is a novelist in southern New Jersey.

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