So you’re ready to publish the paperback version of your book on Amazon, and you begin going through the steps on the KDP publishing site.* (I won’t comment on each of the steps; some of them are self-explanatory, like “book title,” etc.)
But before you get to the cool part where you upload your manuscript, you encounter two steps that may cause you anxiety, or annoyance, or both. “What’s this about book description and author description? Can’t I skip those tedious things, and get right to publishing my book?” Tempting, yes, but don’t do it. Actually, the KDP system might not let you get away with skipping them anyway, because those paragraphs end up on the back cover of your book. And you definitely want them there, don’t you? How many times have you picked up a book in the bookstore and turned it over to at least skim the description of the book and its author? You want your potential readers to be able to do that as well. And the book’s description will also appear right on the ordering page for you book. Check it out; take a look at several books available on Amazon, and see the description paragraphs for them. It might give you some good ideas for your book’s description.
Which leads me to my next point: What should be in your book’s description, and in your author description?
Here’s what I think: Describe your book in the same way that you would describe it if someone asked you live, and in person. Perhaps this has already happened to you. You announce to your friends and/or family that you’re writing a book, and their first question, obviously, is: “What’s it about?” The gears in your mind start their raspy turning, because you haven’t thought about it. You think: “What do I tell them? How much of the plot do I give away? How do I make it sound appealing?” After my first few times of stumbling through the answer to this question, I came up with something like the following:
“My novel is a fictional story, set in the future. It takes place in a very controlling society, otherwise known as a dystopian society. My main character begins to question things, and ends up taking a journey, meeting friends along the way, and ultimately going up against the bad guy.”
That gives them an idea of the genre (sci-fi, dystopian), lets them know that it has a plot and conflict (therefore fun and excitement), and reveals just enough detail to spark their interest, and gives away absolutely no spoilers.
Of course my actual, written description for Amazon is more sophisticated, but I think it essentially accomplishes the same purposes. Here it is:
The development of a global transportation system has led to profound changes in the world’s culture, including the loss of privacy and the manufacture of a vast working class. One average worker begins to ask questions, which causes unwanted fame and an unplanned journey. The search for inner peace is interrupted by attacks from a mysterious enemy, leading to a conflict that could mean freedom, or further oppression, for the masses of humanity.
That paragraph is deceptively simple. I want you to know that it took a lot of time and effort to write it. I pondered a lot, scribbled and scratched, and wrote and rewrote. But it’s worth the effort, I think. It provides some teasers, includes what I want, and doesn’t include what I don’t want to reveal.
My author description is similar, providing enough information to let the reader know something about me (my variety of life experiences, and my interests other than writing), but without giving too much information (no stalkers, please). Here’s what I came up with:
Brian Dale Pope grew up in California, lived for a time in the Midwest, and now resides again in California. He likes to think this has given him a well-rounded, rather than schizophrenic, life experience. He has also lived in the city, later in a small town, and now in a medium-sized municipality, giving him a rural-and-urban (rurban?) perspective. He enjoys reading and cooking, as well as writing, which makes him fancy himself to be an author. Brian enjoys making complicated things (whether ideas or instructions) understandable to anyone. When he is not working or writing, he enjoys traveling and going on dates with his wonderful wife.
Notice also that there are no hot-buttons, no political statements, no potentially volatile topics. Yes, I have definite personal views about politics and religion (and some of those even come out in my story), but I don’t want to turn off half of my potential readership before they even read the sample pages.
Think of your book description and author description as funnels, meant to draw readers in, who otherwise might “swipe left” and move on. I hope that helps!
*I imagine the steps are the same for the Createspace publishing platform, but having no experience with it, I cannot comment with certainty. Perhaps others can share their experience in the comments?