What is a book description?
Your book description quite simply encapsulates all of the reasons that someone should buy and read your book. Just as a cereal box tells a shopper that the contents are crunchy, delicious, made from corn and fortified with nineteen vitamins and minerals, your description both reveals something about the contents of your book and tempts the reader to give it a try. If your book is a “rollicking thrill ride,” then, by all means, tell us! Fans of rollicking thrill rides will be gratified and, just as important, you’ll give fair warning to anyone not in the mood for a rollicking thrill ride. In the hurly-burly of the modern book marketplace, nothing beats a compelling, well-crafted description for appealing directly to choosy, ambivalent shoppers.
A book description is not art; it is ad copy, which is one reason why many writers have such difficulty writing their own. They want their books to sell out, but not at the expense of “selling out” their artistic integrity. Nevertheless, the description is as integral a part of book publishing as the book cover itself. Someone has to do it, and it might as well be you.
One of the most troubling aspects of book descriptions is that it can be difficult to know how well they’re performing. If your book is poorly written, bad reviews will tell the sorry tale. However, if your description is poorly written, you will simply fail to sell your book, a missed opportunity that will not show up on any report. A bad description chips away at your royalties around the clock, silently and invisibly blowing one chance after another to build your readership and fan base. For this reason, it’s worth all the time you can possibly invest to polish your description to a high sheen and even adjust or update it under certain circumstances. Your “silent salesman” will work day and night to repay you for your effort in the only ways that mean anything in this business: more readers, more sales… more royalties.