Fear Not the Short Book Description

For a lot of authors the five most terrifying words they will ever hear is “What is your book about?” It’s not because they don’t know what their book is about. It’s because their book is about so much they don’t want to leave anything out.

The answer usually starts with a giggle and “Oh my gosh…” thrown in here and there.  It’s uncomfortable for both the speaker and the listener. By the time the last syllable comes out of the author’s mouth, the listener has grown tired of nodding politely and usually walks away thoroughly exhausted from the experience with no intention of running home and buying the book from their favorite online provider.

Do not fear your book’s description.  Embrace it by defining it. Remember, not every subplot, secondary theme, and character motivation is necessary when describing your book to a potential reader. You should take the time to carefully craft a concise description. Tackle the task of describing your book in four phases.

First, sit down and write a one page description of your book. Allow yourself to include all of your plot points in this incarnation of your description. In fact, if it goes over a page don’t beat yourself up because no one is going to see it. This is for you and you alone.

Second, read through your one page description five times. Have a red pen handy because you are going to slash through every nonessential theme. Keep in mind; if it’s not your main theme, it’s nonessential. Be warned, this is going to be painful. All those things you thought were important to the structure of your book don’t matter here.  If you decide after four reads that you’ve cut enough, read it again. You can never cut too much.

Third, from your now heavily edited one page synopsis, create a one paragraph description. Keep it to the basic three sentence structure. Once you’ve completed it, set it aside for a day or two. Give yourself some time to think about it and absorb it.

Finally, take your one paragraph description and create a one sentence description from it. This is all about the hook. What is the one main theme of your book? What is your genre? This one sentence description will help you overcome the fear of having to describe your book to someone who asks. You’ll deliver it with confidence. You’ll pique some one’s curiosity. You’ll sell books.

R.W. Ridley is an Author Marketing Specialist for BookSurge Publishing in addition to being the self-published author of four award winning books. His one sentence description for his first book is “The Takers is a young adult horror novel about a 13-year-old boy who wakes up to discover he is responsible for the end of the world.”