Book description help

I’ve taken my own advice and rewritten one of my book descriptions.

The current description is:

For Dillon Latimer, meeting his long-lost mother comes too late. He’s been a ghost for five years. Still, a little thing like death won’t get in Dillon’s way when he decides his mom’s life needs improving.

Unfortunately, it’s not easy for ghosts to influence the material world, especially when every choice Sylvie makes brings her deeper and deeper into danger.

Sylvie Blair ran away for reasons that seemed right at the time but she’s never let go of the past. When it comes back to haunt her—literally—she’s forced to face her regrets, even as she tries to decide whether to believe her high school sweetheart’s crazy stories about ghosts and drug cartels.

Can Sylvie let go of the past and embrace the future?

And can Dillon keep his mom alive long enough for her to live happily ever after with his dad?

New description:

At seventeen, Sylvie Blair left her infant son with his grandparents while she went shopping. She never came back.

Twenty years later, she’s devastated to learn of his early, untimely death. But although Dillon’s body is long since buried, his spirit lingers on.

And he’s not real happy.

He doesn’t like his mom’s job—too dangerous. He doesn’t like her apartment—too boring. And he definitely doesn’t like her love life—non-existent.

But when Dillon decides that his parents should be living happily ever after, he sets them on a path that leads deeper and deeper into danger.

Can Sylvie let go of the past and embrace the future?

And can Dillon survive the deadly energy he unwittingly unleashes?


Any feedback? Typos? Confusing sentences (beyond the natural confusion)? Opinions or revision suggestions?

Thanks for any help!


Book description/marketing 101

I wrote a long note on reddit today (mostly to stop myself from tearing apart the book description of a self-published author who hadn’t asked to have his book description torn apart, ha). It’s potentially useful info, so I thought I’d cross-post here. Saving for posterity, so to speak!


My background: I worked as a senior acquisitions editor for a division of Pearson for ten years, during which time I wrote the marketing copy for the majority of the titles I acquired. I’ve written the marketing and back cover copy for probably close to two hundred books. Recently, I’ve seen several book descriptions from self-published authors that make my fingers itch to pull out the red pencil. I mostly keep my fingers still, since nobody asked for my opinion, but in an effort to relieve the frustration, I decided to share some tips for writing book descriptions for those who are interested. If your book description is perfect, feel free to stop reading now. 🙂

1) Your book description is not a synopsis. It should not be the same content that you would include in a query letter to an agent or an editor. Your goal is to entice the reader into opening up the book and looking inside, not to summarize. If your description reveals the ending of the book (“an epic journey to save the world”), there’s no reason for the reader to read it.

2) Your book description is a commercial. You’ve got thirty seconds to sell your product and that’s about it. If you don’t catch the reader/buyer in those thirty seconds, your opportunity is gone. As a consumer, you already know what makes for good and bad commercials. Laundry lists – this soap will whiten your clothes and smell wonderful and rinse off easily and get your brights brighter and make your day better – don’t work. Over-the-top hyperbole – best thing since sliced bread! – doesn’t work.

Stories work. And value propositions work.

3) Your marketing copy is the most important few hundred words of your book. If you’re paying to have your manuscript edited, ask to include the marketing copy. It’s vital to get that text right.

4) Whether or not you’re paying for an editor, run the copy through and a grammar checker. Look for the same issues that you should be looking for in your writing: over-use of adverbs and adjectives, repetitions, clichés and redundancies. Fix them. Writing a book description that includes lines like – “time after time,” “things go from bad to worse,” “fate has other plans,” is like writing, “generic average book here, try me.”

5) Less is more. Amazon allows 4000 characters in their description field, but you don’t have to use them all. A compelling fiction description either raises questions in the reader’s mind or reveals characters that the reader might want to spend time with. A compelling non-fiction description offers a clear value proposition and tells the reader, “you should spend time with this book, because you will get X, Y, Z out of it.” If you can accomplish that in 500 characters, you rock and your description will be the better for it.

6) Your description should match your content in terms of tone and style. If you’ve written a light, fun caper comedy, don’t write a description that puts the emphasis on the evil villain and bloody deaths, and vice versa. If your book is dark humor, make sure the description shows both. And not by saying, “this book is darkly funny,” but by writing that is both dark and funny.

7) Read the descriptions of best-selling books in your categories. Those books are best-sellers because people read the description and bought the book. What do the descriptions have in common? What are those authors doing right? If every book description in your category includes a character’s name with background, then readers in that category are looking for that. Give it to them. That doesn’t mean your description shouldn’t be original, but the sweet spot is a description that looks different, but not too different.

8) Authors are in the classic can’t-see-the-forest-for-the-trees when it comes to our own work. I’ve self-published two novels and a short story and I’m still not satisfied with all of my own marketing copy. So ask your beta readers for help. Find out how they would describe the book. If they were suggesting someone else read the book, what would they want to tell them about it?

And once you’ve written a draft, ask for feedback. Send it to your beta readers or critique group and ask what they think. Post the blurb and invite criticism. But you don’t want to write by committee—if people start making lots of suggestions for additions, it probably means you should start over from scratch. As Neil Gaiman said, “Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”

9) Do not ever start your description with “This book is…” or “In this story…” Really, just don’t.

In the Zone

Yep, I am in that cruise control zone now. With four good writing hours today, I managed to write 3409 words. My current total is just over 10,000 words and I’ve pretty much written a very detailed outline of book one. Ten scenes.

Once I go back in and flesh out those scenes with details, dialogue, foreshadowing, symbolism, Biblical scripture, etc….I should end up easily with about a 25,000 word novella – or episode one. 😀

Tomorrow I get to think about and plan for the second episode.

Yay me! 😉

Zero words

Turned out that yesterday was not a writing day. Thinking about marketing set me off on totally different paths: I browsed, did research, read about advertising, and spent too much time considering ideas about book releases. In other words, it was a useless day. At 4, I went to yoga with relief, and then came home and cooked. I try to stay pretty current on the business aspects of self-publishing, but I mostly ignore the marketing posts. For me, marketing is something to be tackled in the future. But does three books completed mean that the future is here? I think not. I think five is the right number of books to have before beginning. But I bet when I get to five, I’ll think six or seven is a better number.

Anyway, today’s goal: some progress on my current story and some outlining on my next book. I don’t want to start writing the next book until January: I want to play in November and spend December revising Time and working on one publishable short story. But Grace keeps creeping into my thoughts. I know her character arc (I think) but I don’t know what happens to get her from one point to the next. At the moment, all the conflict seems to be internal conflict. I need to find the external conflict to make it an interesting story, I think. Maybe I’ll do some reading about plotting today.

But I’ll also try to write 1000 words!

Without Any Ado

Just a quick post to announce that I have FINALLY managed to carve out time to write on the manuscript. So hard to do that in between work stuff, getting ready for a new job stuff, and new storyline ideas that just won’t stop coming!


I easily knocked out 2112 words today. Not great words, but lots of great nuggets within those words. They will polish into something I can be proud of. But most importantly that launched my brain into writing mode. I love this mode. 🙂

So now my NaNoWriMo count is up to 6612 words. Since I didn’t write for seven days in a row, the NaNo site says that my current pace is 551 words per day and at that rate I will reach 50,000 words by January 30th!!


Wait until they see my dust this week – the dust I leave in my wake as I speed through the word count highway. 😉

Between projects means fanfiction time

1200 words of fanfiction written yesterday. I’m probably going to aim for the same today. It’s been fun to have my mind churning over character story lines again. One of the nice things about fanfiction is that the story never ends, it just keeps going and going. And you can go back and revisit the past. Didn’t like the way a story turned out? Write it again, do it differently. Didn’t like the direction the characters headed? Pretend it never happened. It’s a world of limitless possibilities. And so fun to write.

I’ve started tweaking A Gift of Time, too, as I get feedback from my beta readers, but I’m trying to refrain from making major changes yet. Still, I can see that Chapter 10 needs a fair amount of work and thoughts of how to make those changes are bubbling around in the back of my head.

I’m going to guess, though, that I’ll be releasing it in December, which means I ought to think about marketing and release efforts and all that kind of thing. Hmm, just the thought makes me want to go take a nap. Ha. Maybe I’ll write some more fanfic instead.

Today’s goal: 1000 words of a fast-paced action scene. Fight scenes are always a challenge for me — I’m so much better at dialog — but it’s so satisfying when the words on the page manage to come to life.

Three days in

So I am three days into my non-writing binge. The craving has started. I loved the first seventy-two hours or so, but it’s starting to feel like enough is enough.

I got my first reviews back from readers on fictionpress–blogged about them on my own blog, so I won’t repeat that here–and my first beta reader comments last night and this morning. I spent a few hours reading the manuscript yesterday–something I promised myself I wouldn’t do, but did anyway. And now… I want to tweak. Just a little. Just a bit here and there, a repetition, a typo, a clunky sentence. And I want to write something else. I’m busy for the next couple of days–there will be no writing time–but my thoughts keep turning to stories.

I loved my main character by the end of the book. She was often a pain-in-the-ass along the way. In fact, always a PITA.


From the very beginning, she drove me crazy. She and the other main character find a lost child in the first chapter of the book. I had this mellow idea that she’d bring the kid home while they looked for the kid’s parents. She said, almost immediately, “I’m a doctor, a mandated reporter. No. The child goes to DCF.” SO inconvenient. Later, she had one little job to do–to open her door so that she could get kidnapped. She flat-out refused, saying, “I’m not stupid. No.” At the almost climax, she gets the gun. What does she do with it? One guess, and if you guess something to do with the Hippocratic Oath and a complete unwillingness to defend herself with physical violence, you win.

From the very beginning, she was a character who simply refused to play along.

And I’m done writing her. I can go write someone else now.

My fingers are itching to start.