The Agony of Book Descriptions (Also: help!)

What is a book description you say, Squiders? It’s that thing that shows up next to a book on Amazon (or your favorite book-buying location) that gives you a basic run down of the plot so you know whether or not you want to read said book.

They also may go on a back cover/dust jacket on the book themselves.

For writers–they’re essentially queries, except now you’re querying the general public instead of agents/editors.

Book descriptions are hugely important–how you portray the book will directly influence who, if anyone, buys the thing. And in this age of author-led marketing, book descriptions often fall to authors rather than PR people. And you’ve got to tease just enough to get people to pick the book up without giving too much away. It’s a razor-thin line.

I am going mad, Squiders.

I’ve done book descriptions and queries before, of course, but Shards is actually the first adult book I’ve had to do them for. (Everything else has been YA. Which is interesting, because I write pretty equal shares YA and adult, but I guess I put the YA out there more.) And I’d say it has more complexity than other stuff I’ve done–layers of symbolism and mythology, plus most of the cast has millennia worth of background.

And somehow, I have to take everything, pick the right approach, and break it down into approximately 250 words to lure people in. The right people too, those that like mythology in their urban fantasy/paranormal romance and won’t mind that there’s not werewolves or vampires. (Or zombies.) Those that won’t mind some romance in with their plot.

I’ve been playing around, but I don’t know what’s best. I’ve got two viewpoint characters–Eva and Michael–and while Eva is definitely the main character, Michael’s obviously a major player as well. So I could try it from both their viewpoints–give them both a quick intro and then lay out how their conflicts intersect–or just Eva’s. I can play up the romance or avoid it. I could TEAR MY HAIR OUT BECAUSE I DON’T KNOW WHAT DIRECTION TO GO IN AUGH

I’ve got three and a half in action, and they’re all completely different, and I can’t tell if one of them is a better direction than the others, and the feedback I’ve gotten has been pretty evenly split.

Other authors–especially urban fantasy authors–any tips? Anything you like to remember when you do your own? Anything you’ve found especially helpful?

Readers–especially urban fantasy readers–what tends to make you pick a book up from its descriptions?

I am flailing around here like you wouldn’t believe, and any help would be appreciated.

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