7 | book descriptions
Updated: Mar 1
I receive Wattpad read requests every single day. While I don't usually take requests, I do glance at every novel sent my way. Like most writers, I really enjoy reading and I'm always hunting for my next favorite book.
My biggest problem is that reading keeps me from writing. Video games, television shows, and movies have a tendency to do the same thing. I have no self-control. I will read, play or watch things instead of writing. And I need to write.
So, I am very selective about what I read, especially when looking at requests sent to me.
Many of these messaged requests are from people new to Wattpad, writers who have just set up their account and are looking for feedback. They usually only have a chapter or two, sometimes only a description. Sometimes there is no cover, or the cover they have is a stock photo with no words on it. Many times, there is no description at all. It might say something about the book being a rough draft or about the writer being new.
This is my first story! Please check it out!
Usually, these read requests are followed-up with something like: "Tell me what I can improve on."
This always makes me a little uncomfortable. I'm no expert. For the most part, I can only tell you what works or doesn't work for me. But, there are some easy fixes you can make to your Wattpad book, fixes that might help to get readers engaged with your writing.
If you don't have a description for your book, it will be hard to get people to take time to read it. People naturally want to know what they're getting themselves into. Is this a romance? A fantasy? What does the main character want? If you don't tell a reader, they won't know.
These are all things that will keep me (and perhaps many other people) from clicking that "read" button. This is really unfortunate since many of the novels sent to my inbox are probably awesome and do deserve to be read. Leaving out a cover or a description can really make your novel looked rushed or thrown together. Writing takes time, so does polishing up the presentation of your novel.
I'm not saying that your book won't have typos, because my books certainly do, but the outward appearance of your book----what the average reader sees first----should make it clickable. Convince me to read your book. Tell me why I should stop everything and go read what you've written. What is it about?
While I plan to do a chapter later that talks about the software and websites I use to create my covers, right now, I want to focus on book descriptions and how to write them.
When I first started seriously writing novels, almost six years ago, I didn't know how to write a good blurb. I started out as a NaNoWriMo writer. I lived for a solid word count goal and was highly motivated by impending deadlines. This left me with full drafts, but very long novels.
The idea of trying to compress all of those words into a paragraph seemed impossible. I felt like my novel descriptions always fell short of how cool my actual writing was. People would ask what the book was about and I felt like the information I gave them never made my novel sound interesting. That sucked, especially when I'd worked so hard on a manuscript.
Eventually, my spoken descriptions needed to morph into written words. What could I write that would hint at my plot and make a potential reader interested in hearing more? The first time I wrote out a book description, I just copied and pasted a section of dialogue. That was interesting enough, right? Yes, the dialogue was strong and might work to give a sense of what the book was about, but I'd told my readers absolutely nothing about my novel.
Rather than try to squish my massive novel into a teeny tiny paragraph, I completely forgot about the plot and just chose to include a conversation between two characters.
Whenever I see this blurb tactic used I always think of the "And they were roommates" Vine. While that video is hilarious, overhearing snippets of conversation rarely makes us genuinely care to hear more. We don't have any context. If it weren't for the guy in the glasses repeating what was said, we wouldn't actually even care about the girl talking.
An overheard conversation on its own just isn't enough.
While the dialogue description may work for some writers on Wattpad, it doesn't work for me. I think descriptions can be better----they could pack more punch. Once again, this is just my opinion. Feel free to completely ignore everything I am about to say, I only want to document my own process and give alternatives to new Wattpad writers.
When writing a short book description, you aren't trying to tell the reader everything about your novel. Let me say that again for the people in the back: YOU AREN'T TRYING TO TELL THE READER EVERYTHING ABOUT YOUR NOVEL.
When writing a short book description, you aren't trying to tell the reader everything about your novel. All a description does is present your potential reader with the first (or sometimes the largest) problem your main character will encounter.
I realized this during my senior year of college when I was presented with the task of creating an elevator pitch. While we had the option of writing down and reading our pitches to the class, these novel descriptions were supposed to be spoken like a presentation. We had exactly one day to do this.
Working on writing my elevator pitch challenged me to decide what parts of my novel I needed to showcase right away (in the description), and what parts could be left for a reader to discover later (if they chose to open the book or click read).
The best way to decide what to do with the presentation of your novel is to look at books that are already published. If these books are already on bookshelves, then something about their summary (or query letter----which contains a pitch!) worked. You can easily examine and compare already published novel summaries to help you create your own.
Let's do this together.
I get told that The Culled Crown is the love child of The Hunger Games and The Selection, so let's take a look at those two book overviews and compare them.
Okay, so working through this organically, let's make a list of the similarities:
1) written in third person
2) mentions main character's full name
3) lays out the stakes or risks
4) explains a bit about the world/government system
5) shows the main character's feelings about the first large plot point
Going off this list of five common threads between these two novel descriptions, I can analyze my own Wattpad description for The Culled Crown and see if it is following the same general formula.
Looking back at my list, I can already see that my summary follows a few of the general guidelines seen in both The Hunger Games and The Selection descriptions.
My description is written in third person and I mention the main character by name. I explain a little about the major plot point and showcases the high stakes of the story. While I don't expressly state how Monroe feels about the Culling, I'd like to think that the stakes (death or queendom) would be enough to convey just a hint of what my character may be feeling. The description also explains, just briefly, about the governmental system and the world of Eirden Dow.
I think my description could be strengthened by maybe stating Monroe's age. I liked that the summary for The Hunger Games mentioned how old Katniss is. I also liked how The Selection explained both love interests and set the stage for how important those two people will be in the novel. I could edit my summary to talk a little bit about the prince or maybe one of the other goddess-touched girls, but ultimately, the book is about Monroe and her personal choices. It doesn't feel right to really include those details.
I will say, that I ended up adding a little snippet of dialogue to the end of my description on Wattpad, but it isn't readily visible on the screen. Which leads me to my next point...
Another thing to notice about descriptions specifically on Wattpad, is that the reader will only see a certain amount of text when they are scrolling through lists. If I look at the full cover, title and description for The Culled Crown, I will only see a portion of my description. Because of this, Wattpad writers need to be sure that they pack the first punch within those initial lines.
When I first wrote the description for The Culled Crown, I had the first part (Ten girls. Nine bodies...) coming at the end of the description. I started by introducing Monroe. This was a problem because people scrolling through lists on their phone or desktop would not be able to see what the story was about.
I think the quick, short, to the point questions, help to catch the readers attention. Having those quick, short lines at the beginning helped to aid with the dark, sort of scary vibe I wanted for the story. The stakes are very high and a description that was too light-hearted wouldn't aid the overall look or feel of the novel. Using just the conversation between Monroe and Cohen wouldn't have helped either.
Your cover and description should always be working together to represent the best parts of your novel. I personally really like to write "kingdom lit" (my own fun term). This just means that I like my books to have castles and cute princes and crowns. Since I like to read those kinds of stories, I knew that I wanted readers to know that my novel was going to fit into that category. I've got castles, crowns, and cute boys--all wrapped up in a death trap.
The title, cover, and description are all *hopefully* working to show that.
Notice that the descriptions for both The Selection and The Hunger Games are fairly short. They hit the high notes and then let the novel do the rest.
Don't oversell your book in the description. If you tell me all the plot twists in the description, I probably won't bother reading it. That's like when a movie commercial showcases all the funny parts and leaves nothing for the actually viewing. Readers want to experience your novel, they don't want you to tell them everything.
Make sure the information you're using is accurate and does a good job of portraying what your story is actually about. If your main character has a childhood friend that is a vampire, and that childhood friend does not ever really do anything in the book and is the only vampire, maybe don't mention them. That is information I can learn while reading. Use your limited space wisely!
Remember your vibe. Keep your description concise and direct. Hit the high notes. Don't be afraid to change things up. Treat yourself like a professional. Learn from the books you like.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to chat with me here on Wattpad, Instagram, or Twitter. Let me know if you found any of this helpful and tell me about your novel presentation process. For me, writing is a constant journey and I am always learning and changing. I'm excited to see what the future holds.
🌻 This blog post was rewritten for upload on Wattpad. March 1, 2020.