Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Do book descriptions matter?

I've been thinking about book descriptions as they relate to sales (and sales rankings) and I've stumbled into a conundrum.

We all know what a 'book description' is. It's information meant to convey to a reader what a book is about. In its simplest form, the book description is what's on the back of a print book. You see this being used "as is" by a lot of books at online retailers. It's pretty standard, straightforward, and safe. In more elaborate fashion, though, the book description can become much more as it's embellished with editorial quotes, bolded lines meant to intrigue and catch the attention of the reader, and a short, to-the-point synopsis that tells the reader what it's all about much more concisely than a typical, back-of-the-book summary. Therein lies the conundrum for me as there seems no rhyme or reason to the effectiveness of one approach over another.

Without naming names, I've seen books with basic descriptions (and horrible covers, but that's a topic for another day) with very high rankings. I've also seen more dynamic descriptions associated with books that are also high ranking. Then I've seen the complete opposite: either basic descriptions or more elaborate ones, but in both cases relatively low sales rankings.

All of this makes me wonder which methodology is more successful and if readers are really looking at the descriptions at all.

There's really no answer to that other than to ask if readers prefer a basic, straightforward description or one that starts out with a bang and keeps them interested right up until they hit the 'buy' button.

It also might be that the description is only one piece of the puzzle, so looking at it in isolation is kind of pointless. It's the cover, description, reviews, ratings, and word-of-mouth that ultimately help a reader make the buy decision.

Whatever it is, it's a mystery to me.