The dreaded novel description. It can make or break your novel. Not only does it give potential readers enough information about your book to entice them to click sample or buy, if you wrote it yourself it gives them some insight into your writing style. For those of us self-publishing, chances are you had no choice but to write your own description.
When I originally started on the path toward publication with The Goblin Market, I submitted through a small press publisher first. The submission process required a short elevator pitch in which the editors could learn everything they needed to know about my novel before reading the first 15 pages. If that pitch fell flat, they probably wouldn't even want to read that first 15 pages at all, so I struggled while putting it together.
I wound up self-publishing before I even heard back from the small press publisher, and when putting together the information about The Goblin Market on Amazon, Smashwords and B&N, I grabbed that elevator pitch and0 started to dissect it.
Could it be used in my product description? Was it too formulaic and dense? Would it be enough to draw interested readers to check out the sample?
There was only one way to find out: get some feedback. I passed my elevator pitch around to a few trusted friends and readers, and the overall response was positive. After a few tweaks and alterations, I added it, and there it was.
Since I published the novel, I've gotten some feedback and have since considered doing a few more minor tweaks, but I know that just like a novel sometimes we have to let go and let our readers decide. I think a good way to judge is to see how your sales go.
If after publishing and promoting for a few weeks, you aren't seeing a few sales trickle in, give it time, but don't be afraid to ask around. Cross-compare your own description to other popular novels in your genre and see how it stands up. Are the details juicy enough to pique curiosity without revealing too much story? Do you have misspellings? Are you missing a comma or a word somewhere? I know that might sound like I'm being a little mean, but we do it all the time and because we read and reread and reread, we miss them until someone else spots it.
You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Your novel description, along with your cover art, are the first impression a reader will get of your book. If those two key items are enticing enough for them to click and sample, or even buy, it's going to make promotional efforts so much easier on your end.
J. R. sez: Thanks, Jenny. Excellent advice.
Addendum To make it easier to find Jenny and her excellent novel:
Jennifer Hudock is an author, podcaster and freelance editor from Pennsylvania. Her first full-length novel, The Goblin Market, is currently available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. For more information about Jennifer Hudock, including updates on upcoming fiction, visit her official website: The Inner Bean.