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A book description often decides whether someone buys a book or puts it back on the shelf. This means that it’s crucial for authors to test their book descriptions, which is easy to do using PickFu.

Recently, one author split-tested two book descriptions by asking respondents, “Which book description sounds more appealing?”

Option A switches uneasily between tenses and sounds somewhat distant, but it’s short and easy for the eye to digest.

Tips on writing book descriptions

Option B begins with a more urgent first line, but it’s longer.

Tips on writing book descriptions - Option B

Can you guess which one won?

And the winner is…Option B! With a score of 72 to Option A’s 28, Option B is the clear winner. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a strong book description.

Let’s find out why PickFu users preferred Option B — but didn’t entirely love it.

Tips on writing book descriptions: Vagueness vs. detail

While Option A talks about life or death situations, there aren’t many details for the reader’s imagination to latch onto. Option B, on the other hand, provides more information: a group is fleeing from a pandemic and they have to fight “through a collapsing society” in order to make it out alive.

One respondent commented that Option B “gives more information and lets on as to what you can expect when you read the book. The other description didn’t sell the idea enough to keep my interest.”

Another added, “I like the way the story progresses which is something I don’t really get from Option A.”

Option B has more of a narrative structure to it than Option A, and readers noticed.

Even though it’s longer, its cohesiveness is markedly better than Option A’s. Said one respondent, “While this book description is a bit longer for my liking, I actually feel like I get a better understanding of what the book is about much better than Option A.”

Tips on writing book descriptions: A strong start is crucial

Let’s compare first sentences.

Option A: “Vin Tanner and the rest of the community he leads have to flee.” This sentence has some urgency to it, but it’s lost at the end of the sentence. The part about Vin Tanner and the community feels like an info-dump the author is trying to squeeze in before getting to the good part.

Option B: “A pandemic was threatening the City States.” Here, we get into the heart of the story immediately.

Of Option B, a female respondent said, “I was more interested in finishing the paragraph because of the way the first sentence started out.”

But there’s something else…

One astute respondent voted for Option B but bluntly said, “Both options are not written well and have glaring grammatical errors.”

Ouch. But it’s true: in both options, the tenses are jumbled. Punctuation is missing. The author can still go with Option B, but they need to pay attention to that one important comment and run the description through a spell checker.

Key takeaways: Tips on writing book descriptions

When you’re writing a book description, give your readers just enough specific detail to make them want more. Instead of vague, grand lines that could describe a dozen books, figure out what’s unique about yours and tease it in your description.

Also, start with tension from the very first line. Don’t worry about introducing characters right away!

Finally, make sure your description makes syntactical and grammatical sense. You can even run an open-ended poll on PickFu and ask respondents what they’d change about the grammar in your book description!

With PickFu, the possibilities really are endless. Create your own poll to test book descriptions, titles, or covers!

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Laura Melchor

Laura Ojeda Melchor (she/her) is freelance writer whose work has appeared in Parents.com, Mom.com, Gardener’s Path, and of course, PickFu. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her debut middle grade novel, Missing Okalee, comes out from Shadow Mountain Publishing in the fall of 2021. Find her online at lauraojedamelchor.com.

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