Professor Wu's Rulebook

Judged by a cover? What to avoid when writing a book description?

“Don’t judge the book by its cover.”

That’s the rule that we were told to apply to everyone and everything. Books are not an exception.

But where does it leave authors who are about to publish their novels? Should they completely disregard the design of the book covers because what’s inside is more important?

Absolutely not!

The design of the cover is essential for the marketing success of your book. If you don’t fully believe it, check out the study by 99designs.

In it, the authors researched several book covers before and after they were redesigned. As a result, they found that a successful book cover design can improve book visibility by up to 50%, or even more.

You might still be hesitating and say that putting a pretty picture would be enough for a successful book cover. And you’ll be wrong once again.

The success of your book cover is not just defined by the picture, fonts, hardcover, or paperback. Your book description is equally as important because it gives a little glimpse – a sneak peek – into the world that the reader will immerse themselves into when reading your book.

That’s why writing a good description for your book cover is important if you want your book to sell better. Today, we will help you write an engaging description by sharing a few things you need to avoid.

1. Making your book description too hard to read

First, let’s answer the most important question – should you use fancy language for your book description?

You may, but just think about your future readers for a second.

It’s not in everyone’s capacity to spend too much time in the bookstore to read long and eloquent book descriptions. Angela Baker, a writer and researcher at Supreme Dissertations, shares: “Our research shows that a reader spends 2-3 minutes on average to check out the new book, including its description.”

Moreover, when a reader sees a book that interests them, they just want a brief but informative paragraph about the book’s contents. They don’t need long, vivid, Tolkien-style descriptions.

It might be tempting to showcase your literary talents to try and attract the readers, but it’s not your aptitude for fancy language that they are looking for when they’re choosing the next book to read.

So, try to keep your book description as straightforward as possible. Avoid long sentences and overwhelming words. Also, try to use more verbs instead of adjectives and adverbs. This will make your book description more dynamic.

2. Not connecting your book to the real life

One of the most important factors in successful book marketing is relatability. When the author connects their book to real-world events, it instantly drives more interest and attention to it.

In her recent sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, The Testaments, Margaret Atwood made such a connection, confirming the readers’ suspicions about the influence of the real-life events on this book. As a result, such a move made her book even more exciting and relatable in the eyes of the readers.

Another example is the book description of George Orwell’s Animal Farm. People who have read this book know that this book (spoiler alert!) in some way references Stalinist Russia and the complete loss of freedom that Russian people experienced at that time. This reference was wisely put in the book description as well because it gives a hint at what the book is about:

So, if it is possible, in your description, connect your book and real-life events to create more context for the readers. And if you cannot do it for some reason, tell what your book can teach the readers and why it is relevant to them at this point in time.

3. Having no hook in your book description

The book description has to immediately engage the potential reader. Hook them with a gripping question, address some issues, tell an anecdote or funny incident.

Focusing on the character is also a common approach among the essay writers who do that to add some suspense and also give a little sneak peek of what is ahead for the reader.

Margaret Atwood used this approach in the book description for The Handmaid’s Tale, focusing it on the character, Offred:

If you decide to dedicate your book description to the main character, keep the focus on the main events that happened to them and the emotions that they felt. This way, they will appear as real people in the eyes of the readers, making them sympathise with your character.

4. Not adding social proof

If you want to get your book published and noticed by the readers, you need something to convince them that it’s really good. Of course, you know that the book is good, but your readers are yet to discover its greatness.

One way you can make your book seem like the real deal is by adding social proof to your book description. For example, it can be a review from a reputable resource, like the one from The Wall Street Journal of Margaret Atwood’s novel The Blind Assassin:

You can also make up your entire book description using the reviews from different journals and magazines. This is a common (and effective) approach to help your book stand out from the crowd.

Over to you

Even though we are taught not to judge a book by its cover (in the literal sense of this phrase), we still do. But how else will we know that the book is good?

In the design of a book cover, all elements are important, especially the book description. It invites the reader into the new world that they are yet to discover, makes them excited and thrilled about what’s ahead of them.

So, put some time and effort into making your book description good. And you can keep this article at hand to remind you about the mistakes you should avoid.

About the author of this post

Nicole Garrison is a content strategist, writer, and contributor at TrustMyPaper and a number of platforms for marketing specialists. She is a dedicated and experienced author who pays particular attention to quality research. In her free time, Nicole is a passionate runner and a curious beekeeper. Moreover, she runs her own blog LiveInspiredMagazine.

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