When you have a brilliant, gripping book idea, it’s easy to sum up. That’s good, because there are some essential book descriptions that will factor into your chances for success.
Think of any of your favorite books. You can likely explain the gist in a few words. It’s the “story of an orphan.” It’s a hero story. It’s a story of “man against nature.” Given a bit more time, you can add more details. The point is, any good book is easily describable in brief.
Can you describe your book’s story in a few words? If you can’t, you have work to do to find your true book idea. Often it is in there, it’s just mixed in with lots of others. Take time to sift it out. That can just be part of the natural progression of refining your idea. You might start out thinking you are writing “Book A,” but once the characters start talking to you, you realize you are writing “Book B.”
The only issue with this kind of path is the time it takes. You might write only to re-write numerous times. This can be extremely productive for those who get to the desired end. For others, the length of the walk, especially if it never develops into a run, can prove to be too much. If the path is too long, you might give up before reaching the finish line.
So, it pays to take time to make sure you have one big enough idea from which to spin a book-length tale.
Now, with one idea at its heart, you should easily be able to craft your book descriptions.
It might help to write short summaries of your book long before you finish it. You don’t need to, but it’s a good test of where you are on the path. Many people insist on being able to do this from the start.
Having the big picture handy is essential if you want to sell your idea before you even write the book. Think of the famous movie bigwigs sitting in an office, with their feet up, talking to a potential investor.
“So, I want to make a movie about this topic…”, and the investor rips off her glasses, smacks her palms onto the table and screams, “Yes! I’ll give you the money. We have to make this movie!”
That’s the response you want to your summary concept.
If you are writing a book, you’ll have to express the gist of it in several different forms. If you are to succeed in getting your book distributed, you will have to think in shorter formats, which all require you to condense a big message to the bare minimum of words – AKA, your book descriptions.
Your book’s title
The first – often the hardest – and very important summary of your book will be the one on the front page. Coming up with a title is notoriously hard. You’re way ahead if you already have a great one.
Elevator pitch, or logline
The next, longer summary that might prove equally (or more) important than your title is your logline. It’s the short sentence or phrase that sums up the story. It’s what you say in the elevator when you only have a few seconds between floors in which to explain your book.
While your title should reach to the core of your story, it is often a subtle reference to the true content of your book, designed to entice. The logline should sum up the conflict within.
Now for the longer summaries.
What will the back flap of your book look like? What few sentences can you use to draw your readers in? How much will you need to give away to corral them? What will you save for when they are deep into the story?
Going beyond the tease for your book, what does the synopsis look like? This is the kind of “spoiler” view of your book that you’d want to send to an agent. She will want to see how the story turns out.
Do you deliver not only a great tease but the real goods? The back flap is the former, and the synopsis the latter, with your climax and resolution.
This is optional, but even if you never make one before putting pen to paper, a solid outline can be extracted from any great book with a clear logical structure.
Many writers sell books before writing them based on the strength of their outline. But more often, authors use outlines to guide their writing (if you create and use one, you are more plotter than pantser).
Either way, an outline is a shortened form of all the best action points of your book. It reveals the internal structure of your story, and it must be airtight. The outline alone should make you excited to write your book and make a potential reader excited to get their hands on it.
Selected quotes or reading passages
These are descriptions that fewer people talk about, but they are exceedingly important. If you get to the point of publishing your book and marketing it, you will hopefully find yourself at the podium delivering a reading. The question is, what sections do you read? Picking them out in advance can be a helpful way to take a new look at your story. If you don’t have any sections that make suitable reading, perhaps you have more work to do.
The best books deliver great quotes as well. Are you proud of any passages in your book that you think are good enough to be quoted?