How to Write a Good Book Description

Monday, April 03, 2017

There are several things to consider in order to help your book achieve it's greatest potential discoverability. Readers, librarians, and retailers can't purchase a book they can't find, and your book metadata is responsible for whether or not your book pops up when they type in search terms relevant to your book. Because of this, writing a good book description isn't just about telling readers what your book's about once they find it; it's about telling search engines what search queries your book could answer so that they actually can find it.

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The Purpose of a Good Book Description

You set up your book description when you set up your title's metadata. You're able to set your book's metadata when you own the ISBN associated with your book, which is one of the many reasons it's important to own your own ISBN. A good book description is detailed, descriptive copy that is good for public display, used for your book marketing, book discovery, and for sales purposes. It helps potential buyers find and understand your book. It's your pitch. Your chance to get people interested. And it's your opportunity to get search engines interested as well. The better your book description, the better your chances for gaining visibility and remaining visible. 

Tips on How to Write a Good Book Description

  • Describe your book in simple, straightforward, and consumer-friendly terms.
  • Your description should be at least 150-200 words long.
  • Give readers enough information to understand what your book is, what it’s about, and if they’ll like it – key factors in deciding whether to buy your book.
  • Consider a prospective online customer hasn’t read the book, can’t physically pick it up, and may not know anything about it yet. If they don’t know the book exists, how would they look for something like it?
  • Use paragraph breaks, bold and italic fonts, and other structural elements like ordered lists (bullet points) to provide emphasis and highlight key aspects of your book. Short paragraphs and bulleted lists are better than a single block of text.
  • HTML markup, the tags used to tell web pages how to display your text, should be limited to: <p>, <br />, <ul>, <ol>, <li>, <em> or <i>, <strong> or <b>, and corresponding end tags. Ensure that any code is clean and valid. Do not include active hyperlinks in your description.
  • Avoid time-sensitive language, so that your description does not become outdated. For example, do not say “latest,” “soon,” “forthcoming,” or “most recent,” and do not refer to “last year” or an author’s “next book.”
  • To get ideas for good descriptive copy, read the top consumer reviews for some titles comparative to yours. Great reader reviews often are very effective at explaining books in an enticing and engaging way.

The Structure of a Good Book Description

Headline

Start with a clear and punchy headline that highlights the big things that matter about your book from a reader perspective (genre, key topics and themes, major brands, awards). Get them to want to find out more or simply purchase based on what they’ve read already.

  • The headline should be a maximum of 200 characters (roughly 25-30 words). This is what will be seen on retailer pages before consumers are prompted to “read more.”
  • Make it bold and follow it with a paragraph break.
  • It should have a strong selling focus. Think of this as the “elevator pitch”—less about plot and the specific details and more about why a busy reader should want this book. If someone didn’t know the book existed, what might they be looking for that would bring them to your book? (Something like, “A beautifully illustrated picture book about bullying, friendship, and learning to stand up for what’s right” beats “Sam and Sally don’t get along.”)

Detailed Exposition

The headline should be followed by detailed exposition. If a consumer clicks to “read more,” you want them to find rich detail about the book.

  • 100+ words detailing the notable topics, themes, plot elements, and features of your book
  • For fiction titles, this is where you can describe the plot, settings, and key characters.
  • For non-fiction, detail the subjects covered and important people, places, and things.
  • This is where you can “set the mood” and give readers an idea of the style and tone of your book
  • Use paragraph breaks and bulleted lists where appropriate to add structure and break up large blocks of text.

Strong Close

Finally, the copy should end with a strong close, emphasizing the value and why someone should buy your book. If someone has read this far, they are interested. Now make the sale.

  • At least 25-50 words.
  • Who is the book for? “Fans of …”, “Great gift for…”
  • Consider including awards and nominations or a strong review quote.

Strong title metadata is necessary to your book's success. How to write a good book description is just one piece. For more best practices, download our free title metadata guide.

 

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IngramSpark Staff

Hi there! It's your friendly IngramSpark staff here, happily sharing a wealth of publishing knowledge with people from all walks of the self-publishing biz.