How I Wrote the Book Description for a Famous Book

A while back, I got an email from Galaxy Press asking if I could help them with the marketing of one of his most famous books, Battlefield Earth.

Now, if you don’t know me well, I’m a HUGE sci-fi nerd and list Battlefield Earth as one of my all-time favorite books – not the movie.

So, needless to say, I was truly honored…and maybe geeking out a little bit.

And wow! Was it ever a fun book marketing exercise.

Immediately upon acceptance, I looked at their Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) statistics and results.  What I saw was that they were doing a great job at getting their book in front of the right customers (as I teach in my free AMS video course:

However, they weren't getting enough people to purchase.  Their conversion rate was very low.

When this occurs, 99% of the time, its because the book description isn't good enough. With this particular book, this was definitely the case.  It was more like a book report and failed to drive curiosity, and depth to the story.

So, I got to work, rebuilding a book description that would sell, and chronicled everything I did below.

And the results? We 3x their conversion rate…all because of some simple changes to the book description.

In this article, I’ll show you exactly what I did, my mistakes, and even the final product.

  1. How to write a top-notch book description
  2. Tools to use to improve your overall success
  3. What I did right (and wrong) in my process

How to Prepare for Your Book Description

Well, when we are writing our book descriptions, we can’t just dive right in. Instead, there are a couple of things we can do that will really help get those descriptive juices going.

1. Review Some Top Resources

Before I start digging into book description writing, it’s best to get back to the basics and remember what exactly a good book description needs. And, I’ll be the first to tell you I haven’t memorized everything.  So, I broke out some of my favorite resources on book descriptions:

A. Bryan Cohen’s book How to Write a Sizzling Synopsis. This is definitely my go-to source every time I write my descriptions.

B. Podcast Episode on Constructing a Book DescriptionMy interview with Bryan Cohen on the Book Marketing Show podcast.


C. Kindlepreneur’s guest post on Back Book Cover Blurbs, written by Kelly Exeter. I especially loved the fiction book description formula she describes, and I went to work applying it.

2. Gather Data on the Book and What the Fans Think

After refreshing what goes into a good book description, it’s time to gather useful data and building blocks to create a description that turns shoppers into buyers.

Since I read the book back when I was 12, I knew what the book was about.

12 year old me…oy!

However, I needed more than just my own memory. The best strategy for writing a description that makes people buy is not only knowing the book, but also finding out what people say was their favorite part of the book, and expanding on that.

In my example, I looked at the following:

  • Reviews from All Markets: This included Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and iTunes. The best part about this is that after reading a couple of cherry reviews, you’ll start to see patterns and themes. This is SUPER valuable information for a compelling description.
  • Blog Reviews of the Book:  There are professional reviewers who do amazing jobs of describing these books. So, why reinvent the wheel? Check out what they say and write down anything that catches your attention.
Getting to work on a book I've loved since I was a kid! #NerdPoints #BookMarketingClick To Tweet

Learn Market Data and the Words People Use

One of the best ways to convince a shopper that this IS the book they are looking for is to make sure you use their own words to describe the book.

For instance, if the buyer searched Amazon using the term “swashbuckling adventure” and your book description says “this swashbuckling adventure…” somewhere in it, then you've now proven to the shopper that they found the kind of book they were looking for.

Therefore, knowing what words shoppers use to describe the kind of book they are looking for can help you write better and engaging book descriptions.

Using a software that I designed myself, Publisher Rocket, I was able to quickly find the below information.  I not only know what words shoppers use, but I know how many people actually type those words into Amazon when shopping and how much those books actually make.  Here are my findings and some target words to use:

-Apocalypse Book
-Earth Destroyed
-Alien attacks Earth

Also, this information will help get the book in front of more shoppers because as Amazon's A9 algorithm used to publicly states (until Amazon shut down their own website), they look at the words we use in the description and choose where to show books. So, doing this research and using the words in your description will als0  help your book show up more on Amazon.

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Battlefield Earth’s Book Descriptions Broken Down

Once I had a plan for creating an excellent book description, and an idea of what others were saying about the book, it was time to start writing.

Here’s the original book description:

In the year A.D. 3000, Earth is a barren wasteland, plundered of its natural resources by the millennium-long regime of taloned, gas-breathing, nine-foot alien conquerors from the planet Psychlo. Fewer than thirty-five thousand humans survive in a handful of communities scattered across the face of a post-apocalyptic Earth.

From a desolate village, in the Rocky Mountains near what once was Denver, Colorado, a courageous young man named Jonnie Goodboy Tyler embarks on a hero's journey to challenge the fearful myths of his people.

Enslaved by the sadistic Terl, the Psychlo Security Chief of Earth, Jonnie and a small band of survivors pit their quest for freedom against Terl's ruthless ambition for personal wealth and power in a rebellion that erupts across the continents of Earth and the cosmic sprawl of the Psychlo empire, with the fate of the world, of mankind and of the galaxies beyond, in the balance.

Looking at the original, I felt it did the following:

  1. It gave away too much information and lavished in details – this is a sales page book description, not a book report.
  2. This description makes it sound like the book is more about Jonnie and Terl fighting against each other. As a reader, however, I know it’s about more. There is much more at stake, and the focus on and description of Terl is a little too drawn out.
  3. The sentences ran on and weren’t engaging enough.

So, I took these observations and my notes from other sites to create an updated book description.

Here's the new book description:

In the year A.D. 3000, Earth is a barren wasteland, plundered of its natural resources by alien conquerors known as Psychlos. Fewer than thirty-five thousand humans survive in a handful of communities scattered across the face of a post-apocalyptic Earth.

From the ashes of humanity rises a young hero, Jonnie Goodboy Tyler. Setting off on an initial quest to discover a hidden evil, Jonnie unlocks the mystery of humanity’s demise and unearths a crucial weakness in their oppressors.

Spreading the seeds of revolt, Jonnie and a small band of survivors pit their quest for freedom in an all-out rebellion that erupts across the continents of Earth and the cosmic sprawl of the Psychlo empire.

For the fate of the Galaxy lies on the Battlefield of Earth.

So, What did I do? 

  1. I shortened up the first sentence because it was too detailed and drew on.  However, it was important to let the shopper know this is a post-apocalyptic book.
  2. Gave away less details so as to not mire the description.  Much to the chagrin of fans I'm sure, I removed the mention of the main antagonist, Terl and instead made it about the alien race. But remember, this is not for fans…this is for potential customers
  3. Ended the description with a heavier statement that impresses upon the reader the importance of this single battlefield.  This isn't just about mankind versus the Psychlos…it's about more and you need to purchase and read this to find out.

Now the question was: Did I really write a better book description?

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How I Used PickFu to Test My Theory

As you guys know, I don’t like to make decisions by guessing. That’s why I used PickFu to get real feedback.

PickFu is a service that will conduct surveys to help you test just about anything, such as your book covers, book descriptions, and even website designs.

In this case, I tested the two book descriptions in front of 100 people who were between the ages of 24-36 and are listed as avid fiction readers.

And the results proved my theory: My description was better received.

67% of people who took the survey chose mine, and you can see their comments and demographic breakdown here.

But here is where I made a mistake.

When I created the survey question, I wrote:

Which book description do you like better for the book Battlefield Earth?

And as you can see from some of the comments, people took the survey reading into that question and chose the description they thought best described the book.

Like these:

–”It's a more detailed synopsis”

–”It gives a more detailed account of the book”

–”It includes more of what the book is about.”

A better question for this test would have been:

Which book blurb would make you want to buy the book if you read it on an Amazon book sales page?

This way, the question wasn't about which better described the book; instead, the question would be about which description would make you want to buy and read the book.

I have a feeling if I had phrased my question better, I would have had even better results.

Find out how I won an Epic Sci-Fi Book Description Battle #SciFiChatClick To Tweet

One Final Step

After you are sure you have a better book description, it’s time to make the description looks good on Amazon.

Placing the book description into Amazon, I made sure to highlight the best features, accolades, and other pertinent information by using my Amazon Book Description Generator.

Check out the final product.

Now doesn’t that look nice?  Well, at least it’s better than just a large block of text.

The Results from a Change of the Description

There are three major things that came from this change in the book description:

  1. The book converts 3x better.  That means 3x more people who come to the book's sales page on Amazon choose to buy the book.  That's an INSANE difference by itself.
  2. They loved the book description so much, that in the next edition of the print book, they will be using mine on the back book cover.
  3. The last sentence is now used as a slogan for the book:  “The Fate of the Galaxy Lies on Battlefield Earth” with the words Battlefield Earth being the title.

That's some serious improvements and nerd points scored.  So, you need to ask yourself:

Is my book description holding my book sales back? 

Am I missing out on the perfect customer because after all my marketing efforts, they come to my sales page and aren't convinced that this IS the book for them? 

If so, then perform what I just did and find the right description for your book.

To help authors truly master these principles that I use here, I put together a complete description formula for BOTH fiction and non-fiction.

If you want to follow the same path that I took, get this formula today!

Get the PDF

Nerd Points Scored!

And that's how I wrote the book description for a super famous book (that I happen to love).  This uber nerd got to work on one of his favorite books and help so it will sell better. Curious to know another total nerd secret about me? Check out which MasterClass I took after checking out all the courses from top-notch authors.

So, before you look to improve your book description or someone else’s, make sure to:

Review pertinent book description resources and plan

Collect data on the book

Write the book description

Test it with your target demographic

Spruce it up with a little HTML


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26 thoughts on “How I Wrote the Book Description for a Famous Book

  1. David Rothwell

    Fascinating and really useful. I particularly like the before and after comparison. I first read it in 1992 and I still love the story!

    1. Dave Chesson

      Thanks and glad you liked it. Yeah, big difference in the way the story is presented. One was more of a book report, while the other entices and is more like a movie trailer narration.

  2. D. Takara Shelor

    As always, I SO appreciate the details and “how tos” you offer authors. My son is writing a sci-fi novel and we were recently working on the description. After reading this, I think we’ll go back and make some revisions. Thanks again!

  3. Vatsala Shukla

    I’d read this post earlier and had made a mental note to try it when I wrote my next Kindle book which I did yesterday and used the description maker.It worked like a dream! Thank you, David. You rock!

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