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Part of self-publishing's joy is the author's complete control over every aspect of their novel's publication: Content. Title. Cover Design. Etc.
Part of self-publishing's frustration is also the complete control an author has over every aspect of their novel's publication.
There's a lot to do and learn.
One essential item is the book description (or book blurb). This information is listed on Amazon or other retailers, giving potential readers an idea of whether a book will interest them. As self-published authors, it can be challenging to write this effectively because we either want to hold back as much information as possible, so we don't spoil the story, or we enter too much information into it because otherwise, we feel the description will not make sense.
For over a decade of self-publishing, I've had some bad and good descriptions. What I've learned reads best is to follow some of these simple rules:
- Keep the description under 200 words
- Start it with an intriguing opening sentence or two before getting into the meat of the description
- The first paragraph should highlight the protagonist, his background, home situation, etc.
- The second paragraph (and possibly the third) should state the conflict or problem the protagonist encounters
- The final paragraph should mention the stakes of what happens when the protagonist solves the problem
- Option 1: a final sentence, preferably a question to the potential reader that they want to know the answer to
- Option 2: another paragraph outside of the story description that gives a taste of what to expect from the book
|Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash|
Let's apply those rules to the description for my upcoming book Watermeloned: A Mystery Sci-Fi Novel. Here are my first two sentences. These are bold to stand out from the rest of the description and grab the reader's attention.
- First came the meteor.
Then came the murder.
This highlights two seemingly unrelated items that have a connection. After reading this, the reader may want to read the rest to learn if they are related.
Next, we'll learn a few things about the protagonist. (The italics here only separate the paragraph from the rest of this blog post.)
- Leon Dweller’s life is in shambles. His wife left him, he drinks too much, and his career as a private detective has met a dead end.
We have the name of the protagonist, his home life situation, personal qualities, and career. It's important to be brief and to the point. The entire life history of the protagonist is unneeded. Remember, we're trying to make the reader want more. So don't give them everything.
Next, we need to establish the conflict or problem that arises for the protagonist. I've opted for two paragraphs on this part, focusing on the opening two sentences. One will highlight "the meteor," and the other will highlight "the murder."
- Late one night, Leon witnesses a strange meteor. Unlike the usual passing spark in the sky, this one moves slowly, methodically, and finally disappears. He wonders what it could be.
That same night, a gruesome murder happens in town. An unlikely person asks Leon to find the killer. Reluctantly obligated, he agrees to do it.
Now it's time to bring up the issue he'll need to resolve. Again, I'm hinting at what is coming, providing only some information. It should be enough to intrigue the reader. I'll use the final paragraph and Option 1 ending single sentence.
- Convinced that the meteor and the murder are connected, Leon’s investigation leads him to unexpected answers. Solving the case is one matter. Learning the implications of his role in it could impact all of humanity is quite another.
Will he be able to follow through on the consequences of what he discovers?
Because this story is a mash-up of two genres, I wanted to be clear to the reader what they're getting themselves into. Think of how frustrating it could be to begin a book thinking it's a murder mystery, but then sci-fi elements start poking around. Or vice versa. So, I'm also going with the Option 2 paragraph for this description.
- Combining the suspense of a murder mystery and the intrigue of sci-fi with some humor for good measure, this novel by the author of Imaginary Me unveils a puzzle of a story that ends nowhere near where it begins.
And that's it! All of it was said in about 180 words.
Using the above formula for your next book description should simplify the process and allow you to write one that captures the reader's interest and leaves them wanting more!
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