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How to Write a Compelling Book Description

Before you kick back and relax after finishing your manuscript, there's one more important piece you could be overlooking: the book description, or back-cover text. While it might seem like a minor detail, it's a critical part of your book.

Your front cover's job is to attract a reader's attention and interest, but it's the back cover that must sell your story. Most people spend twice as much time reviewing the back-cover text as they do looking at the front cover. Plus, this text is highly visible. Not only is your book description on the book itself, it's also used on websites, such as Amazon.com. Since this text is the best opportunity for you to convince shoppers to purchase your book, it deserves careful thought and attention.

Be concise

The ideal length for back cover text is 150 to 200 words. Think of this copy as a movie trailer or commercial – provide highlights, entice your audience, but don't get bogged down with summarizing the plot. Readers should be able to identify your message within ten seconds, the average amount of time a browsing customer spends reading back-cover text before moving on.

Research comparable books

Reading other book descriptions will give you a sense of what yours should sound and look like. Pay attention to what words, phrases, or ideas excite you or make you want to know more, and perhaps incorporate them into your book's description.

Write like a marker

There are so dos and don'ts when it comes to talking about your book in marketing copy. When you refer to your book, don't say "the book," but instead write your book title, set in italics. Use proper formatting styles – don't underline words or use all caps. Don't refer to your audience as "the reader" or "readers." Instead, write the copy in a manner that incites the reader to take action. For example, in place of "Readers will learn how to improve their mental health," write, "Learn how to improve your mental health."

Use paragraphs or bullets

One long paragraph is difficult to read. Break up text into shorter paragraphs. Nonfiction books often feature a paragraph and bulleted list. If you include a list, make sure that you have a lead-in sentence followed by a colon, and that each item in the list has parallel construction.

Avoid clichés

The back-cover copy is not a book review, so do not include cliché statements, such as "It's a must-read" or "This book will change your life." Simply telling people to read your book isn't effective – make them feel compelled to read it.

Showcase major endorsements

If you have acquired praise from reputable sources, you can include short excerpts with a credit line giving the name and title of the person who gave you the endorsement (as long as you have obtained permission to do so). It's best to use quotes from people or periodicals that relate to your book.

Compel readers to learn more

The last paragraph of your book's description should leave the reader wanting more. You don't want to spoil the ending or give away too much, but tease it just enough that readers take action and purchase your book.

Take your time

Put your best foot forward on your back cover. You dedicated time and effort to crafting a captivating story or powerful lesson inside your book. Now, it's just as important to spend time and carefully consider the words on the outside of your book as a representation of the wonderful story that lies within.

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