how to write book description for fiction and non-fiction

Bryan Cohen is the author of Ted Saves the World, the first book in a new YA sci-fi/fantasy series, and a collection of creative writing prompts books. His books have been downloaded over 400,000 times.

Bryan has always been interested in writing. He started his indie publishing journey by writing a blog about writing inspiration.

Google kept sending him traffic from “writing prompts” keywords. That’s when he decided to release books filled with writing prompts on Amazon, starting in 2010. After five years of success inspiring others to write, Bryan decided to start publishing his own fiction.

Fiction had always been Bryan’s real passion. But writing nonfiction comes more easily to him. He wrote five or six fiction projects, none of which he published, before he decided to release his books of writing prompts. He credits his nonfiction work with helping complete his fiction work.

Even though writing fiction and writing nonfiction are very distinct art forms, studying and practicing both are complementary to one another.

Productivity habits and routines that writers get into can translate between these art forms. Here are several ways you can cross over between types of writing to improve both.

Copywriting for Fiction Authors

Copywriting encompasses all the words that go outside your book. So it includes anything on your back cover, anything on your Amazon product page, the words that go in any advertisements you use (Facebook, BookBub, Amazon ads, etc.), and so on.

When you’re trying to get people who don’t know you to trust you enough to buy your book or to sign up for your email list, you need the words outside your book to be convincing.

The most important piece of copywriting for authors is the first line of your book description.

80% of customers stop reading after the first line. So you need a first line that is clear and that entices them to keep reading.

The second most important thing for authors to remember about copywriting is the importance of a call to action. At the end of every piece of sales copy you write, you should have a call to action that tells your audience exactly what you want them to do.

On your Amazon product page, you should tell people to click and buy your book.

If you’re asking people to subscribe to your mailing list or something else, you should clearly state that at the end of your copy. In today’s world, people have information attacking them every second. A call to action makes it as clear as possible what you want someone reading your copy to do. If you communicate clearly and succinctly, you’ll get much better results.

Writing a Good Headline for Your Book Description

A good headline needs to have four key qualities:

1. It’s short.

Bryan had a situation where he didn’t realize the headline he was using on Amazon was getting cut off because it was too long. If your headlines are too long, you run the risk of losing people.

2. It’s interesting.

Headlines should be compelling. Your headline’s primary job is to make people want to read the next line. You should write a headline that intrigues them and makes them want to read further.

3. It’s genre-specific.

If you’re writing a thriller, you shouldn’t emphasize the romance part of your story in your headline. The headline should be crafted to emphasize those parts of your story that your target readers want to hear about.

4. It makes sense.

The best way to think about this is to ask yourself, “Will most people who read this headline understand what I’m talking about?”

How to Come up with a Headline

After you’ve written your book, sit down with a pad of paper or an open word processing document and write down at least 20 different ideas for your headline. The goal here is not to come up with a good headline but to simply write down as many ideas as you can think of.

After you’ve come up with at least 20 ideas for your headline, share them with your beta readers, with any author groups you’re a part of, and with friends and family. Get as many different opinions about these headlines as you can.

From the list of 20 headlines, you should narrow it down to four or five that might work, then edit those headlines.

Pro Tip: Sometimes the best ideas will come to you after you’ve done your initial brainstorming session. So don’t just think that your work is done after a single brainstorming session!

How to Write a Book Description for a Nonfiction Book

A good book description has several sections:

1. The headline

The purpose of the headline is to make the audience read further into your book description. You want it to be short, eye-catching and interesting.

2. Expertise

In this section, you want to explain to people why they should listen to you.

3. Benefits

In this section, you want to clearly explain the benefits your audience will receive from reading this book.

4. The selling paragraph

In this paragraph, you use emotional adjectives to connect with your reader. People buy based on emotion.

5. The call to action

The call to action is where you actually ask people to buy your book by clicking on the buy button. This sounds simple, but it definitely increases conversions.

Bryan Cohen quote

How to Write a Book Description for a Fiction Book

Fiction book descriptions also tend to follow a pattern:

1. The headline

Think of this as the tag line from a movie poster. The point of the headline is to get people interested and wanting to read more.

2. The synopsis

The most important thing that authors miss about the synopsis is that your book is about a character, so you have to tell us who the book is about in your synopsis and give us an idea of the problem the character is facing.

3. The selling paragraph

In this paragraph, you identify the genre for the reader and let them know if the book is part of a series.

4. The call to action

Again, this is where you tell the reader to buy your book by pressing the buy button.

Links and Resources Mentioned in This Interview

2K to 10K by Rachel Aaron — Rachel Aaron’s book on how to write faster
Adweek copywriting handbook — How to write powerful advertising copy
Sizzling Synopsis — Bryan’s book on how to write a book description that sells more books