By: Sara Matz | A four-minute read.
What is the first thing you look at on a new book to decide if it is going to be your next read? As much as a dazzling cover catches our eyes or a catchy title can draw us in, we all naturally flip right to the back cover and read the write-up to get an idea of what the book is about. This is your reader’s first time getting a glimpse of the setting of your book, the first introduction to your characters, and your main chance to hook ‘em in. This also applies for online listings; when scrolling through a sea of covers what really sets everything apart is the those few choice, powerful words describing the content of your novel.
Have You Been Taking Notes?
If you’re anything like me, you need a book of its own to keep your thoughts in order, but for some people a simple diagram outlining the story arc is enough to get the juices flowing. When it comes to writing your book summary, having notes on important plot points will make condensing your plot points and character growth into 2 short but meaningful paragraphs. Personally, I love the sticky note feature on my computer for taking notes as I work and they’re incredibly easy to keep organized. I would make sure to jot down important concepts as they happen chronologically, as well as pivotal points for the characters and their growth.
Some authors prefer to collect their thoughts during the editing process since you’re about to read your work a few times anyway. No matter if it’s your first bullet point or you’re bulking up the details along the way, this is a crucial time for work. Taking notes will also help follow your story arc and make sure you didn’t go too far off the beaten path in any one section.
Protip: Fill your summary with keywords that will trigger search engines
Use a keyword optimization program or set an appointment with us to help you pick your best buzz words! This will help you show up on a Google or Amazon search, especially if you can pick unique words that will stand out from other books of its genre.
Break It Up
Every good story has a clear beginning, middle and end… and so should your summary. Lucky for you, you took chronological notes through the writing and editing process, right? The beginning of a summary will be introducing the world your book is set in as well as the first chance your reader to connect to your characters. Your opening line is crucial on an online listing, it’s the first thing a shopper reads and will guide them into clicking that “read more” button. Spice up this content with colorful, descriptive verbiage painting a clear picture of the content of your book. Once you have a strong introduction, your summary should begin to allude to the rising action leading up to the main conflict. As your protagonist begins to face challenges, details about both the plot and their character growth become pivotal to hooking your reader, and we don’t want to skimp out on the details that could sway someone to your book over another of a similar genre.
Where does it all end? Well, at the climax of the story obviously! Unlike in the synopsis for your novel you need to leave them hanging on this one, not every book can be “John Dies at the End”.
Pro Tip: Don’t use clichés to sell your book.
Saying your book is a “must read” or “the best thing I read all year!” not only get’s a HUGE eye roll, but readers are likely to put a book down and walk away with a different book that only needed to rely on great content to be a selling point.
When publishing with AnewPress we ask for a short and a long summary, the short summary is 350 bytes (each byte is about 1 character) and the long one is 4000 bytes. This would turn out to be on average 2 short paragraphs and about a page respectively. We follow industry standard requirements from distributors and publicists.
On the back cover of your book, you need to fit both the summary and your bio, which affects the length of both sections. Aesthetically, I prefer when both sections are about the same length, some authors choose to have a slimmer bio and add a few more sentences to their summary. Do what feels right for the back of your book. Whereas it’s recommended to have the same content on your back cover as we send to distributors, do what is right for your book’s content.
Establish your Target Reader
We all want our books to be for everyone, but that just is not realistic. Even on more educational topics, the content might not be for all ages or lifestyles. Your word choice and content are crucial here; there is (almost) nothing worse than reading the back of a book that seems consumable for the average reader or young adult, then opening the cover to find you need a college degree on the topic to get past the first chapter. (The reverse is just as discouraging!) I mentioned above to embellish your summary to grab attention but be sure not to use verbiage you would not have put in your manuscript in the first place.