Book Description Epic Fail

One of the neat things about Indies Unlimited is that we get to become acquainted with the books of a whole lot of authors.

Not all those books make it onto the site. Sometimes this is because the subject matter is outside our wheelhouse. Other times, it is related to problems with the book. K.S. Brooks wrote a piece that covers a lot of the mistakes we see.

I don’t want to rehash her entire article, but I do want to focus on book descriptions. When I vet books, this is about as far as I ever have to go. Occasionally, I will read the preview of a book only because I can’t believe the book itself could possibly be as bad as the description. In many instances, the book is WAY better than the book description.

That’s too bad, because you really can’t expect a prospective buyer to take that extra step. Writing book descriptions is hard for authors. Kat wrote an article on how to write a book description. That article is chock full of good advice. Read it. Learn it. Live it.

I tend to organize information into categories. Here are a few of the error categories I have found in looking at book descriptions:

The Grand Inquisition
This is the type of book description that consists exclusively of questions. As you read one of these, you begin to wonder how many of these questions will be on the test. You may decide to drop the course.

Can a poor boy from the Sagittarius quadrant be the key to saving the galaxy from the Star-Eaters? Can Doctor Mooke complete his formula in time to transform Jubu into a passable version of the chosen one? Will Thraxis acknowledge the true heir to the Bollonian throne? Who will step forward to wield the pop-gun of prophesy? Where is the gem of consternation? What is the secret agenda of the Dark Council? Who cares? Why are you still reading this?

Why did the author do that? Do you see the problem there? Is there a way to fix it? BLURGH. I mean – BLURGH?

The Long and Winding Road
This is a book description that consists of one, really long and tortured sentence.

When Mimsy and Dave give up their jobs as accountants for the new York mob to open a bed and breakfast in the serenity of the tiny upstate town of Obscott, neither knew the travails they would face as the town marshal, whose nephew had ties to a mysterious dance troupe, suddenly dies while eating a pastry prepared by a chef who Mimsy unknowingly hired away from a rival B&B run by her husband’s ex-wife’s evil twin sister, who will stop at nothing to retrieve the antique dresser she lost in her divorce settlement—a dresser that just may hold a secret that will blow the community wide open.

This kind of description shows that the author has no cognizance of the fact that unless a reader is in a happy relationship with someone who actually talks this way, there is little chance that attempting to dump every facet of the plotline and introducing every character in the book will have the desired effect of encouraging interest in the story itself—a story which might actually be otherwise remotely interesting.

This is a type of book description which uses an abundance of words created by the author. These words exist only in the book and have no meaning outside it.

As the Horgun approaches the vork-nur of Sebbalia, a Splendix must step forward to make the Kra’an-spur. Reesis is the dabbala of Nobus. It falls to him to take up the swoggle and meet the Horgun Lankarra. Will one Gyredooble be enough to stop the Horgun?

I can see how this might stiripote some paladinks, but it just makes me want to stabble my koobies out.

The Generic
This kind of book description only tells you where the book should be placed on the library shelves.

An action-adventure novel set in the near future.

So it is a book of some sort after all, eh?

The Hard Sell
This isn’t really a description of the book at all, but a collection of reasons why you should buy the book. I guess the author doesn’t see any reason to waste valuable ad space.

If you’re looking for action, adventure, romance, mystery, intrigue, and edge-of-your-seat financial advice, this is the book for you!

So close. I was looking for something combining character-driven mysticism, political suspense, horror, western, and thrilling nutritional-based algebra.

The Formula
These descriptions don’t tell you about the book per se, but about the time-honored formula used to write the book.

Danica and Wally meet as rivals, but cannot deny an instant and powerful attraction. Can they overcome their secret pasts to let true love prevail?

I’m gonna bet they can.

I don’t point these out to be mean. I’ll do a mea culpa here and admit I have a book that was the inspiration for one of these categories. Of course, one of the great things about modern digital publishing is that you can go fix those kinds of problems. I’m going to attend to that just as soon as I finish my book on procrastination.

Have you seen a book description lately that left the description out? I’m sure there are many more categories. Tell me about your faves.

Author: Stephen Hise

Stephen Hise is the Evil Mastermind and founder of Indies Unlimited. Hise is an independent author and an avid supporter of the indie author movement. Learn more about Stephen at his website or his Amazon author page.

23 thoughts on “Book Description Epic Fail”

  1. I have seen examples of most of these. Especially the questions and the hard sell. Other advice – don’t have a book description full of typos. Do not bode .

  2. My favourite was one where there was no book description at al. Nothing. Zilch. Funnily enough I didn’t the book. By the way great post. Loved it

  3. I don’t know about anyone else, but these examples made me want to stabble out MY koobies. Rushing over to check out my own! Hopefully, my koobies are long gone.

  4. Some pretty funny examples here.

    The blurb is, next to the cover, or maybe even ahead of the cover, the most important lure to the reader/buyer. That said, it is also one of the most difficult bits to write well.

  5. I’ve been shocked at the number of bad book descriptions out there. The one liners make me wonder it the author thought they’d be billed by the word or purchased all their vowels.

    It seems a simple enough concept to me: write a description of your book that gives readers a reason to pick it up. Hook me so I can’t resist buying the book and reading it right now. Oh and if its part of a series mention that and include series order…

  6. Laughing too hard to say much except, ‘excellent post and follow up comments to set me in the right mood for the rest of the day.’

  7. My pet peeve is the ‘dilemma.’ Actual quote from a book blurb: “Now she must choose between two men, one whom she loves and the other who can destroy her life.”

    Gosh. Tough choice!

    Often the ‘dilemma’ gets phrased as a question: “Will Ashley allow herself to find true love, or will her past insecurities ruin her perfect relationship?” “Will Blake Savage find the formula in time, or will ruthless villains destroy the entire world?”

    I’m on the edge of my seat to find out.

  8. this is great, haha. Recently I read a copy of My name is Asher Lev–the book discribed his love for art, his artsiness, his longing to create art. Fine. It completely ignored the fact his Dad worked to get Jews out of the USSR, which to me is a FAR more interesting factor!

  9. Just found you. You are something! Am going to try to follow you, but as I’m a klutz around digital technology (I still wake up hoping it’s gone away – but I know it won’t) I might not pull it off.

Comments are closed.