Writing a good book summary for a cover, online bookstore, or query letter is both challenging and frustrating. After all, summarizing your book in 150-200 words seems like an impossible feat. We all spend countless hours perfecting our book summaries because first impressions count, and you can easily lose a reader or agent in just two short sentences. Without a hook, a reader will pass your book by.
That’s why we’ve added a new event to this year’s conference. Hook Your Book is a free thirty-minute opportunity to run your book summary by two experts in your genre.
How does Hook Your Book work? During conference registration, you’ll have the option to sign up for both a Free Pitch and a Hook Your Book session. When you check in at conference, your envelope will contain appointments for the free events you chose.
Show up at your scheduled time with your already-prepared book summary on paper, a mobile device, or off the tip of your tongue. This is where Hook Your Book is a little like speed-dating for your book. You’ll have approximately 12 minutes with each of the two experts in your genre to discuss the description for your book (or story portion of your query letter). When you’re done, you’ll leave with valuable tips to perfect your book summary.
Get ready! There’s six months before conference to revisit the description of one of your books and get it ready for this new event. In case you need a few tips, we asked RMFW PAL and IPAL members for advice on writing book descriptions. Here’s some valuable advice to get you started:
Get a punchy log line. Just a few words to attract the reader.
Tell what the story is about. Your goal is to hook the reader into grabbing a sample. Use present tense and lay out just enough bait to convince them.
Let the sample sell the story.
Just the facts comes to mind when I think of blurb writing. Not in the strict sense for that would be one boring blurb, but keeping to the main problem your book solves, whether that’s a relationship between two people, man against wild, or how to get blood stains out of murder weapons. Then, of course, make sure the blurb keeps to the voice of the book. Otherwise, as a reader, I am disappointed when I start reading the book that doesn’t live up to the blurb voice or saddened that I missed out because the blurb didn’t do it justice.
J.A. (Julie) Kazimer
The Lady in Pink
I’m fairly formulaic and specific in my queries, and it must work okay because the approach has sold three novellas and five novels. I start with the protagonist’s name and position in their world before the precipitating crisis. This is the most important sentence because it also sets motivation, gives a taste of the world, and introduces a bit of voice. Then comes the “But when” statement that describes the event that Changes Everything and introduces the antagonist. After that things get a little looser, but I use specific plot events that I think are particularly interesting and powerful rather than giving an overarching explanation. The rest of the paragraph includes the protagonist’s reaction, which includes some motivation; how the antagonist makes it worse; another reaction; and I wrap on how the antagonist makes things much, much worse. In other words, I end on a cliffhanger. I love writing queries!
Books of the Seven Eyes Trilogy
The book blurb and the query letter each serve as an introduction to your writing. They are your first and best opportunities to whet the appetite. Brevity, a well-turned phrase, and a soupcon of humor all signal to the reader that more of the same awaits her. A bread basket is nice, but serve the reader caviar and she'll stick around for the main course.
C. Joseph Greaves
Tom & Lucky and George & Cokey Flo (Bloomsbury)
In addition, one of the best ways to learn to write an irresistible book description is to browse online bookstores. Look for stories in your genre. What attracts your attention? What makes you cringe? Don’t start with a brag about book sales and bestseller status right off the bat.
Remember that some mobile devices show four or five lines of an abbreviated description. Readers only want insight into your story. They won’t tap to reveal the remainder of the summary unless you capture their attention at a glance.
It is our hope that this new event will help you improve your book summary, agent response rate, and book sales. No matter who your audience, your goal is to get your book noticed, and a reader or agent won’t read your description twice.