How to write a book description that converts

Does this sound familiar? You’ve spent months planning and writing your manuscript, had it taken through a strict editing process, worked with cover designers and when you’re finally ready to go, you’re in such a rush to upload you don’t give much thought to your book description? 

Well, don’t worry. You’re not alone. So many writers leave their book description to the very end, and it can often get overlooked. However, if you think about a customer’s buying cycle, a book description is key. Don’t get me wrong, a cover is important and the first thing that catches a potential reader’s eye but the book description is what makes them click that buy button.

However, now we are talking about the dreaded ‘S’ word… sales. 

You need to start thinking of your book description as a sales page for your book. Now, I know that when most people think of sales, they immediately imagine using some shady tactics to sell a few more book copies….

That’s not sales though – well, not the type of sales we’ll be doing. I’m just saying that your book description isn’t a creative writing project. It exists to do a job — convert readers into buyers. 

But, the question is, how do we write a book description that converts? Well, in this article, you’ll learn:

  • How to structure a fiction book description 
  • Why a nonfiction book description is different than that of a fiction book
  • What free tool you can use to make eye-catching book descriptions

Writing a Successful Fiction Book Description

In a lot of ways, a fiction book can be a lot trickier to write a description for compared to a nonfiction book. Many nonfiction books are directly solving a problem, which makes it easy to talk about the benefits a reader can get. In fiction, it’s a little different because we’re all solving the same problem – the reader’s need for a good book to read. Regardless, the impact of a great, or of a poor, book description cannot be understated. 

The self-publishing market is getting more and more competitive, so any advantage you can get over your competition is worth the time. For fiction authors who want to write a great description, here is a basic structure I like to use, which is taken from Bryan Cohen’s book, How to Write a Sizzling Synopsis

Step One: A short tagline.

I’m sure you’ve noticed that on a book sales page, there are only a few lines of the book description on display with a ‘read more’ link.

Those few lines have to be compelling enough to get the shopper to click the ‘read more’ link. You can have the most convincing book description that would normally convert at a high percentage, but if nobody clicks through to read it, it’s wasted. 

That’s why you’ll need to include a tagline. 

A tagline is almost like a little hook for your book. Hollywood films use this strategy incredibly well! Here are some of my favorite movie taglines for some inspiration: 

  • Alien (1979) Tag: In space, no one can hear you scream
  • Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) Tag: One man’s struggle to take it easy
  • Ghostbusters (1984) Tagline: Who ya gonna call?
  • Jaws (1975) Tagline: You’ll never go in the water again
  • The Big Lebowski (1998): Her life was in their hands. Now her toe is in the mail

So, come up with that short tagline that’ll hook potential readers in. If you’re struggling to find inspiration, you can use a rhetorical question as a way to ‘open the loop’ with the reader. By offering a question without an answer, you’ll make clicking that ‘read more’ link more compelling. 

Or, you can use a comparison to hook a reader in. This works because you’re relating something the potential reader knows nothing about (your book), with something they already have set emotions about. The book Dinosaur Lords uses this strategy for their tagline, saying “It’s like a cross between Jurassic Park and Game of Thrones.” Granted, it probably has a bit more clout when it is George R. R. Martin saying it, but the point stands. 

It’s also important to remember that if you ever decide on testing your book description, alternate your taglines first. You could have a killer book description that nobody reads because of an ineffective tagline. That’ll potentially save you writing a whole new description! 

Step Two: A present tense summary

Once you’ve hooked your potential reader with your epic tagline, it’s time to tell them a little more about your book. You’ll want to keep this incredibly simple, as too much information is confusing for a reader who is coming across your work for the first time. There’s going to be plenty of time for your reader to get to know your characters and setting when they start reading your book. For now, though, you’ll want to stick to the following rules. 

  • Only mention vital character details: For the short summary, a character’s surname or extended background isn’t important
  • Omit characters and places that aren’t important: If you can give the outline of your story without mentioning minor characters and secondary settings, do it. 
  • Don’t include any sub-plot: This is self-explanatory, make sure you keep your short summary focused on the important stuff
  • Use short sentences: Using short and sharp sentences can give your writing a bit more suspense – use it wisely

Basically, you’ll want to keep this simple enough to tell your reader that your book is in their wheelhouse. Think about it this way, for your potential reader to start reading your short summary, they’ve already done the following:

  1. Found your book on Amazon through a targeted ad, search, or general browsing
  2. Seen your book cover and title, and were intrigued enough to click through
  3. Read your tagline and decided to read more about your book

By now, they just need the quick summary to make sure your book covers topics they’re interested in. 

Step Three: A selling paragraph 

In a similar logic to what I mentioned above, if they’ve checked out your short synopsis and they’re still reading, it usually means they’re interested. Now you can start to build up some hype around you and your book. 

In this section, you’ll use a few strong adjectives and power-words to interest your reader. If you’re unsure what a power word is, you’re in for a treat because they’ve been used by sales writers for years with a lot of success. In fact, you’ve almost certainly purchased at least one thing over the years from the guidance of a power word or two. 

If you want to know more about power words, here are some great lists:

You’ll also want to mention any other important information about you and your book in this sales paragraph. For example, if you’re a school teacher who has started writing children’s’ books — or if you’re a previous bestseller — now’s a great time to mention it. 

Step Four: A call-to-action. 

Okay, so you’ve had a potential reader engage with your entire book description. Now, it’s time to guide the potential reader to make a buying decision. 

Every book description should end with a call to action. With your call to action, tell the person reading your description what their next step is. Usually, that next step is buying or reading your book (if on Kindle Unlimited). This doesn’t have to be a full paragraph pleading with the person reading the book description. Instead, keep it short and simple. 

It sounds so simple, but many authors don’t have a call to action at the end of their book descriptions. Perhaps they’re just ready to hit publish, or maybe they don’t want to feel like they’re pushing for a sale. Either way, you can capitalize on the interest of your potential reader by making sure you ask for that sale. If you’re unsure on how to construct a killer call to action, here are some guides I find useful. 

Step Five: Put it all together

When you break it down, a book description seems pretty easy, doesn’t it? 

You’ve got this. 

Now make it happen. 


Photo by ASTERISK on Unsplash

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