Describe Your Book in Five Ways
By Amy Groening

We often talk about the importance of writing good promotional copy (back cover text) for a book, but you may find that one little proco isn’t enough to see you through. You may be pitching your book to stores, applying for adspace, submitting it for inclusion in flyers, tweeting about it, creating a book trailer for it…you name it. An abundance of effective book descriptions will keep you well-stocked for different scenarios, and help you create a more effective marketing strategy built around these central ideas. So grab a pen and paper and get ready to describe your book in five very different ways!

1) The Elevator Pitch

Us writers often find we work better on paper than in speaking situations, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be prepared for both! You may have come across the term “Elevator Pitch” in a job interview prep class or business course. An elevator pitch is a succinct and persuasive “sales” pitch; ideally 20-30 seconds long (the amount of time you may be spending in an elevator with the other person, hence the name). This is the pitch reserved for professionals, strangers, people whose interest you have just a few seconds to grab before their gaze turns in another direction, or the elevator doors open and they vanish down the hall. It’s not every day that you have a chance to discuss your book with someone face-to-face, and the strategy is a bit different than just reading the proco off the back of your book to them.

  • What is your goal?
    If you’re crafting a pitch for a bookstore, your goal is likely to get them on board to sell your book. If you’re talking to an individual, your goal would be more specific to getting them to buy a copy of your book. And if you’re talking to a book reviewer, your goal may be to have them walk away with a free copy of your book in their hands and a promise to review it.
  • What is their goal?
    What could your prospective listener be looking for in your pitch?
    If they’re a bookstore, they want a selling angle: will this book help flesh out their Local Authors shelf? Will your book help to cash in on a current trend? Or does it connect with a hot-button social issue readers are looking to learn more about?
    If they’re a potential reader, your pitch could get a bit more personal. Does your story entertain? Inform? Help wounds to heal?
  • How will your book fulfill those goals?
    Focus on the goals of your listener, but craft that pitch in a way that fulfills your goals too.
  • Think of an introductory question.
    Some people say to think of the question first; some people say to think of it last. However your mind works, having a good question to ask your potential customer, that will help get onto the topic of your book and why they should buy it, is essential. It could be as simple as “read any good books lately?”, or more specific to your subject matter (eg: “Do you carry many books on adoption?”).

    Put it all together.
    Craft your pitch. Craft several. Try them out at home. Once you’ve run over a pitch a few times, ask a friend or family member to listen and tell you (honestly) if it holds their attention.

2) The Book Trailer

Here’s another 30-second book description, but this one allows for a bit more drama. In the Elevator Pitch, you’re going to be speaking to someone eye-to-eye. In a book trailer, you (or the voice actor) will be addressing the audience through a screen. Trailers allow you to be a bit more dramatic, but you still need to be straight and to the point. This would be more like a shortened version of your back cover text: think 50 words or less. Make it snappy: keep a few details for intrigue, but avoid complex concepts that need to be unpacked and explained to be interesting.

3) The Flyer Ad

Book ads in flyers are extremely short, and pose your greatest challenge yet. How do you get your point across and make it interesting in 25 words or less? Yes, that’s about what you get for a flyer. Take your book description and carve it away until the most interesting, barest of essentials are left. Then, chances are, you’ll still need to cut things down. Try taking a 10-word sentence and saying that same thing in 5 words.

4) The Tagline

Thought a 25 word description was tough? Try ten or less. A tagline serves a slightly different purpose, though. It’s not intended to describe your book as a whole, but should convey one single (provocative) idea. It should be memorable, interesting, and evoke emotion.

5) The Tweet

From 10 words to 144 characters. Now you’re battling against not just everything else in a flyer, but everything else in your readers’ twitter feed. Think about working hot-button hashtags into your tweet. Take a look at the tweets in your own feed and see what interests you most. When you’re tweeting, you’re addressing hundreds or thousands of readers, but each one of them is reading that tweet as though you’re addressing it specifically to them. It has to be personal; a 144 regurgitation of your back cover text won’t do. Connect with them, and be prepared that they might want to connect back.

Whew. There you have it: your book described in five different ways. We’d love to see how you did—feel free to share your results in the comments section (hey, you might even catch the interest of our other blog readers!).

About this Contributor:

Amy Groening is a project manager at Word Alive Press. She is a passionate storyteller with experience in blogging, newspaper reportage, and creative writing. She holds an Honours degree in English Literature and is happy to be working in an industry where she can see other writers’ dreams come to life. She enjoys many creative pursuits, including sewing, sculpture and painting, and spends an embarrassingly large amount of time at home taking photos of her cat committing random acts of feline crime.

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