Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Book description dislikes from an avid reader

Let's talk a little bit about book descriptions. I have come to the point where I am just plain fed up with these. It is actually a joke with my friends whenever I say I'm reading a book, them wondering whether I even bothered to read the description this time. It just seems like, lately, the whole situation has gone from bad to worse. And I can tell you that you are losing sales because of this "misinterpretation" you have when it comes to book descriptions.

Here are the things that I take issue with:
Editing issues: Why would I want to purchase your book when you don't even have a properly written book description? This does not look good to readers, especially ones that are tired of the self-edited books that have not had a proper edit done.

Are longer than the actual story: The book description if FOREVER long and I have grown bored reading it. Have you ever felt that way? I am especially peeved when it is a description of a short story or novella (feeling like it is longer than what it is describing), but five or six … or more … paragraphs is too long.

Way too much description: The idea of a book description is to give a little bit of information about the book, enough to entice the potential reader to WANT to buy your book and read it. NOT to give away the entire story, NOT to give away major parts. When you give away too much, then the reader knows what is coming next and doesn't get that thrill or the sense of mystery that the readers expect (and that you want to give).
I have actually read a few descriptions that have given the whole story away. The one that comes to mind at this moment is a mystery that I reviewed for the author not too long ago. It spoke of the murder, then talked about a second murder that happened, which showed that the person (and it gave the person's name) that they had tried for the first murder was innocent (note: the investigation was over 50% of the book), and even talked about how the real murderer killed this person (and the person who was falsely accused) before he was caught. At the time I received the book, the book was not up on Amazon yet, so I fortunately had not read the description, but it was not the only thing terribly wrong with this book. Why would you do this to your readers? What is the point? Having looked at the description, there was really no point in my reading the book – I could have just looked at the last chapter to find out the killer.

Nothing but reviews OR about the other books the reader may like: This has been something I've noticed more and more of lately. And something I dislike, something that will make me not purchase your book at all. Instead of a book description, the author chooses to use reviews praising the work to get people to buy the book. And most of the time, these reviews tell you nothing about the book, so you are still lost trying to figure out what it is that you are going to be reading about. They choose those reviews that say "absolute best book ever written" or "…you'll ever read," "fabulous characters," "superb…" plot, title, cliff hanger, writing, creativity, whatever.
If I want to read the reviews, Amazon has TWO spots for them: the place at the bottom for Amazon reviews and the place in the middle for Editorial reviews. Please, keep your reviews there. Book description is for that alone. Now, I know you want to show your potential readers that people have loved this book – I understand this – but do it in the right spot. It is especially bad when you choose to put them first, in front of the review (if you are reading it on the Kindle or on the phone app, it actually makes it hard to read and time consuming when you do this). And, a new trend, the big orange writing – not cool at all.
I have also seen (quite a bit actually) a list of books that you "may like if you like" the book that you are looking at (and they are not all done by the same author). But no description. At all. HOW do I know if I'm going to like the book – or any of these other books – if I don't have a book description at all? 

Are misleading: I have never felt like I was lied to in a book description, not really … until today. You see, I have been planning this blog post for some time, but kept putting it off, feeling like I would just come across as a big complainer. But today, today I read the description of a book I just completed and really enjoyed. When I was preparing my review, I read through the book description as I was putting it on my post, and realized that this was a great example of reviews gone wrong. The author gave away a couple of key points in the story, which I felt would have been more impactful had she (or her publisher) not done so. But then I realized that one of those key points was not the truth. It mentions a relationship that did not happen until the end of the story, mentions it as if, in the beginning of the story, it was something more than what it was. It was misleading. Maybe in a small way, but misleading none-the-less. And lying to your readers … let's just say, it is taking everything in me not to delete another star from the rating, but I have mentioned it in my review.

1 comment:

Andrew Leon said...

On the one hand, book descriptions are hard. I mean, they are really hard. It's difficult to boil down an entire book to a couple of enticing paragraphs. It's a completely different skill from writing a novel, which is why traditional publishers generally have someone other than the author write those things.

Which is not an excuse, just a statement of how things are. But, if you're going to do everything yourself, you need to learn how to write those. If you can't write them, make the description as brief as possible. Less is always better than more in those situations.

But speaking of traditional publishers: I have always hated when a book has nothing but quotes about how great the book is and no description of the book. I want to know what it's about without having to read the first chapter in the book store. Also, traditionally published books have always been prone to misleading descriptions. Pisses me off to think a book is about one thing to find out it's about something else.