The Complete Guide to Writing A Compelling Book Description

It’s one in the morning and muffin crumbs and pencils have made a home in your untamed hair. “It’s just a few sentences,” you tell yourself.

We’ve all been there, spending way too long on a book description and not knowing what to write.  Avoid getting into these frenzy nighttime scenarios by going over our tips on how you can make your book description turn some heads.

Simply put, book descriptions typically include a summary of the book’s storyline that invites the reader in, and then eventually makes them want to purchase it. There are many factors to consider, including marketability, customer base, and clarity. The book description is not only telling a reader why they should have it— it’s telling them why they need it. 

With a victorious book description, you’re one step closer to having the sale in the bag.

We’ve listed below some of the essentials when writing your book description:

Tease, but don’t satisfy 

The most important part of your book description is your hook. Your hook should be that first sentence because a reader might easily stop after that. Many hooks state the conflict of the story, arousing anticipation and curiosity, but others will start with a notable review or award (this will be talked about more later). In this case, the hook notes the praise you’ve received from a trustworthy professional. 

After the hook, you dive into the gist! Take a few sentences to give some hints about what the reader will expect from your book without spoiling any major plots. Ask family members to give their first impressions of the book, or have them summarize it out loud—use their off-the-cuff feedback to craft a synopsis that teases out the main points. The tricky part is not revealing too much or not giving enough.  Your description should be simple and relatively short. Introduce your main characters, setting, and themes. Present the problem, the process of the problem, and a clue of how it will be solved.

To practice, go to your local library or bookstore and read some of your favorite authors’ book descriptions. Or watch some movie trailers to see how you feel afterward. Are you frustrated with how much they’ve revealed or are you now eager to watch the movie? 

Ask yourself some simple questions about your book: What happens next? Will your characters survive? Who is this story about? These easy questions can help guide you to the crux of your narrative. And if you’re really in a pickle, throw out the first words that come to mind when you think of your book. Then take a break, come back to your notes, and start finding patterns to link together. 

In short, you want to drop readers into your book’s scene and then gently pull them out.  You want them to taste just a bite of the cake. 

This example of “Hope and Freckle” by Bill Kaveney starts off by taking the reader outside the world of the story, then continues with a short plot synopsis, and ends on a cliffhanger question to create a sense of urgency. 

Hope, a white-tailed deer, and her spotted fawn, Freckles, are facing hunger and danger in their forest. Hope decides that they must leave their home and go in search of a better place where they will be safe. When they arrive at a new forest, Hope and Freckles face unexpected challenges that will force them apart. Will they be reunited?

After you have read the story of Hope and Freckles, continue to explore the stories of people all over the world who have to leave their homes because of danger or hunger. Let the tale of Hope and Freckles begin to teach you about the millions of people who face the same difficulties that this mother deer and her little boy face as refugees.

Remember your audience

Your book may appeal to the general public, but there may be a key audience out there that is even more likely to fall in love with it. Find that key audience and keep them in mind as you’re writing your book description. Let them know why this book is so perfect for them especially, whether that’s by identifying their community, age range, genre, or other categories that they can be grouped into. Try to be as specific as you can get. For example, you can say something like, “this is the perfect story for children who are ready to learn about refugees and world hunger.” This can oftentimes be the last sentence of the description if it’s a better wrap up than a cliffhanger (this will also be talked about later). 

Use your keywords 

If you have any keywords that can catch the eye of your reader, put it in your book description. A keyword is a word or phrase that represents your book or states what you want your book to accomplish. When thinking about what your keywords should be, ask yourself what your reader would google search to find your book (i.e., “book about _____). You can also research comparison book titles and authors and see if the keywords they’re using fit for your book. 

You might want to start by making a list of words that come to mind and go from there. Amazon will pull any popular search terms that become associated with your book naturally and from the book description itself, so you can also check the Browse Category lists for keywords that can get you into categories. The more specific the category you are in, the more visibility you will get.

Here’s an example of “Our American Dream” by Fiona McEntee of a book description that successfully uses keywords throughout the entire synopsis. 

Immigrants come from countries far, to dream their dreams beneath American stars. Let’s see who’s here in this great place, a land of diversity: the United States! 

Our American Dream is written by Fiona McEntee, an award-winning nationally recognized immigration lawyer. As an immigrant, mom of two young children, and lawyer who fights for justice every day, Fiona wrote Our American Dream to help explain the importance of a diverse and welcoming America.

Our American Dream is the first in a series that celebrates immigrants and immigration

Note any awards, high reviews, or recognitions 

Don’t be shy about the success of your book! Consumers want to hear how this book made other people feel and how it ranked compared to other titles for esteemed awards. Keep your praises brief (by that I mean don’t put a 300-word review in your description), but tell everyone what you’ve done.

Read this example of “The Age of Intent” by P.V. Kannan to see how you can fit an acclaimed title into a sentence (this exact description is on the book title’s Amazon listing).

Named one of the Best Business Books 2019 by strategy+business, The Age of Intent guides readers through the challenges of using AI to improve customer experience.

Have you ever wished that every company you interacted with could just know what you wanted and go get it for you? That when you picked up the phone or opened a chat window that the company would use what it knew about you to anticipate your needs?

Leave them hanging

If you can, leave readers wondering what happens next. This is like your hook but at the end of the description. The first sentence is what gets a reader to keep reading, and the last sentence is what your reader walks away with. Keep your story on their mind. Let your readers know why they should care and how this book will either help solve their problems or inspire them. Kindly remind them that they can have more by purchasing the book.

Take this example of “I Lost My Shoe! What Do I Do?” by Candace Coleman for a book description. The hook is a rhetorical question to get the ball rolling. It follows by providing a brief summary that pulls out the key movements of the story: the main problem, the process of solving that problem, and a hint to how the problem will be solved. Finally, it ends in suspense.

What’s a kid to do without his shoe?

Dave and his family are ready for a fun trip to get ice cream – until disaster strikes! Dave hops on one foot all over town trying to find his missing shoe, and enlists the help of his friends and neighbors (and even zoo animals!) to locate his lost shoe.

After searching high and low, Dave finally discovers that the help he needed all along was with the person he least expected—and the last place he looked!

Now go give it a try! Write and then rewrite. Always have a friend read it and then revise it again.


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