Monday, 24 July 2017

How to write a book description (and avoid your head exploding)

By Phillip Cook

It's really simple, isn't it? The potential buyer looks. Nice cover, wonder what the book is about? Nibble. They turn their attention to the description. Hooked? Well, maybe not.

I've just published my third book and at this stage of my writing and publishing journey two important book marketing strategies have become crystal clear to me: cover design and book description.

Cover design is simple. A good cover will attract people. Get a graphic artist to do it, unless you're one, Photoshop can be time consuming and energy sapping. Once attracted by the cover, the reader will then read . . . the description.

Now book description.

This really gave me a headache and still does. How do I reduce my 80,000 plus book down to a few words? You'll hear reference made to the elevator pitch. You know, famous publishes walks into lift at a writer's conference and realizes you're a writer and asks, 'What's your book about?' Your response, 'Umm . . . umm'.

I've tried for each of my books to write a description. At times I thought my head was going to explode (extreme headache) as I forced it to do something it seemed incapable of doing. Help! So I surfed the net, but I wasn't sure what you called people who wrote book descriptions.

CreateSpace offered a service called Marketing Copy Essentials. So this had me exploring 'marketing copy services'. But all this time the service I was looking for was right under my nose.

In my previous endeavours to write my own book descriptions I purchased a book called How to Write a Sizzling Synopsis by Byran Cohen. It helped and guided but I just couldn't get it to the point where I felt it worked for me, so I put it in the too hard basket until next time. I decided it was a gift or talent I just didn't have and the brain was resisting any tampering, so I published books with so-so descriptions which ended up with so-so sales.

I pondered. Byran did state in his book "But it's the synopsis that sells your book." I just forgot or maybe I just didn't absorb that statement (but a new dawning had now come upon me). He also backed it up with some research findings, and made it clear why writing descriptions are so important.

He also clarified what it was called: copywriting.

To keep the story short, I ended up using the book description service provided by Bryan. And it only confirmed I just did not have the talent to do what he does. Here's proof.

Enter 'ho-hum'. I provided Bryan with the required background on the books. After writing and sending me the descriptions, I noticed a few inaccuracies due to one not having an intimate knowledge (which is understandable) of the story, so I modified the description slightly to make it more accurate and sent it back to Bryan for sign off. 

His response was that I just took some high-stakes lines and rendered them ho-hum. And all I did was make some minor changes—this was frightening stuff! He had a different mind to me. One more attuned to writing description. This pleased me.

So after we rectified the ho-hums (I just needed to point out the inaccuracies), I ended up with sizzling descriptions that I believe will help sell my books, and any future book description will be done by a copywriter. But don't be deterred. Some of you may have that talent, but if your head feels like it's going to explode . . .

Here’s the copy:

One woman’s encounter with a demonic priestess could end in human sacrifice… her own…

Ruby Fischer has a world full of possibilities but no sense of direction. The twenty-something hopes a pagan festival will give her life new meaning. But she never expected it to end with her buried alive…

When Ruby miraculously survives her ordeal, a demon-influenced Wiccan priestess and her partner refuse to stop until the sacrificial ritual reaches its bitter conclusion. With the help of two detectives and a demon seer, Ruby learns she can no longer deny the existence of an invisible world shrouded in darkness.

And to uphold the balance between worlds, she may just need the help of a supernatural deity…

Under a Blue Moon is the third book in an electrifying series of Christian supernatural mysteries. If you like explorations of things unseen, breakneck pacing, and crime dramas with a dash of spirituality, then you’ll love Phillip Cook’s entrancing series.

About Phillip Cook

Phillip Cook lives and writes in sunny Queensland, Australia, but sadly his writings do not take place in a writer's den overlooking the ocean, but he dreams of such things. His mind is also on things unseen: angels, demons, thoughts.

He has always had an interest in the supernatural and occult themes starting from his early teens. He was searching, looking for answers, driven by some innate understanding. There is more than meets the eye. He found God in his early thirties. His writings reflect his journey and to help and challenge others.

His first book, Dead Man's Journey, gets the reader thinking about what happens at death—who your escorts may be. His second, Demons Whispers, has the reader thinking about the things that can influence the mind, affect our thinking—the whispers in our head. And his latest, Under a Blue Moon, explores the world of the occult, where light exposes the darkness.

Click here to find his books on Amazon.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Best of the ACW Archives ~ Let's Talk About Book Covers...

By Kara Isaac

It's been a crazy start to 2015 and I wouldn't change it for anything :) In between developmental edits, author photos, trying to draft Book#2, and a whole lot of crazy things that go along with your debut novel, in the last few weeks I've been providing some early thoughts to my publisher for the book cover. I'm one of the least visually creative people on the planet so I'm super excited to see what the team at Howard Books come up with for this story.

Close To You is a contemporary romantic comedy is about a disillusioned academic-turned-tour-guide and an entrepreneur who knows nothing about Tolkien who fall in love on a Tolkien themed tour of New Zealand.

Read more at the following link:

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Book Review - 'Our Mob, God's Story'

Official blurb: Our Mob, God's Story is an art book with a difference, with over 100 works in an exciting variety of styles and stories by 65 established and emerging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. 

All proceeds from the sale of the book will go towards the publishing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Scriptures, as currently there is only one complete Bible. 

Published as part of the celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the foundation of Bible Society in Australia in 1817, Australia's longest living organisation. 

I went to the launch of this stunning book in Adelaide not long ago. It's a stunning project which took over five years in the making. Basically, the entire Christian Gospel message is presented through the art of 65 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. From Genesis to Revelation, each double page has a fantastic colour painting or work or art in some other medium such as silk screen printing. There is a short bio of each creator, and a passage explaining in their own words why the scriptures that inspired them are so meaningful.

It's a moving experience just to slowly make our way through the book, turning the pages and pondering each image and the words that go with them. The introductory pages explain how the artists come from right across Australia, making it all the more impacting that their story telling, creative gifts and passion to share the Good News of Jesus have been integrated into this one book. It's a credit to the Bible Society of Australia for facilitating it.

The book is researched and edited by Christabel Mattingley, a prolific Australian author who has worked for over 40 years with Aboriginal people; and Louise Sherman, from the Bible Society, who delves deeply into research, discovering and touching base with the Aboriginal communities.

Because each of the artists still retain copyright of their images, although they've gifted them to this volume for free, I'll refrain from sharing any examples from within the pages. I'll just finish by repeating that taken separately and all together, they are a thing of beauty and it's one of the heaviest books I've purchased. Very well worth having a copy. I'm sure I'll be in the mood to take it out of the shelf several times in years to come, just for the sake of reflection.

Paula Vince is a South Australian author of contemporary, inspirational fiction. She lives in the beautiful Adelaide Hills, with its four distinct seasons, and loves to use her environment as settings for her stories. Her novel, 'Picking up the Pieces' won the religious fiction section of the International Book Awards in 2011, and 'Best Forgotten' was winner of the CALEB prize the same year. She is also one of the four authors of 'The Greenfield Legacy', Australia's first and only collaborated Christian novel. Her most recent novel, 'Imogen's Chance' was published April 2014. For more of Paula's reflections, you may like to visit her book review blog, The Vince Review.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

How's Your MIDDLE?

By Rita Stella Galieh

Well, forget your particular middle, (unless it really needs attention,) I'm referring to the middle of your novel.

Many of us find the beginnings and endings are not too much trouble, but those troublesome parts in the middle can cause us some major problems.

Are we padding it out too much? Making it sluggish? Stretching out superfluous dialogue?
Overly long descriptions? And all to get a word count? Oh dear. That's enough to make your reader start 'ho-humming'. Worse still, pitch it aside.

Gotta confess I almost did that to the last novel by a well known author. I didn't care about a multitude of details she added just when I wanted to know what was happening between the main characters. Could it be she hoped for suspense? It didn't work as I simply felt annoyed. She did redeem herself with a great ending, but even good authors struggle with their overweight middles it seems.

This is what I am struggling with at the moment. I'm inclined toward more action where my characters have a hard time and their goals seem unattainable.

Easy to say...but difficult to fix. Actually I have come to a grinding halt, waiting for my characters to give me a clue. However, I think I'll just keep writing as it's a first draft and see what eventuates. Staring at my middle without feeding it with good words can cause starvation and eventually its demise.

Currently Rita co-presents a 5 min. Christian radio program with her husband, George. ‘Vantage Point’ is broadcast Australia-wide on local FM stations.
She has written six inspirational historical novels & contributed to several US anthologies. She belongs to writers’ organizations such as: Australasian Christian Writers, Christian Writers Down Under, International Christian Fiction Writers and Omega Writers. Besides her blog, she can be found on Facebook and

Do any of you writers out there experience similar difficulties with your middles? If so, how do you fix your problem? Take a break or turn to chocolate?

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Best of the ACW Archives ~ Called or an Offering?

Photo courtesy of foto76/

By Ian Acheson

I’ve always found the topic of “one’s calling” fascinating. We all wonder at times in our lives what our specific calling is and it’s a topic that has consumed many pages of books, blog posts, conference notes and so on. It’s often used in discussions around vocations and careers.

When I started to meet writers I was at times surprised and, often intimidated, by the fact that so many mentioned they were called to write. Because I didn’t and, still don’t, consider myself called to write. So thoughts of wondering I was less of an author quickly came to mind.

Read more at the following link:

Monday, 17 July 2017

Best of the ACW Archives ~ Let's Talk About Sex, Baby! (Part 2)

(Image courtesy of smarnad 

By Andrea Grigg

It’s almost two months since I wrote my first post on the, ahem, touchy subject of sex in Christian novels. If you haven’t read it or would like to refresh your memory, you can find it here. Thank you to everyone who commented on my question: When is realistic too much? Your thoughts were both insightful and intriguing.

Every fortnight, a group of us from a local church get together at Zarraffas (a Queensland coffee chain). These ‘Ladies of Reedy Creek’, as I’ve dubbed them, range in age from 30 to 70+, and are very accommodating when I ask them questions concerning writing. All I have to do is bring out my pen and little black notebook and they’re like meerkats on alert.

This week, I asked them what they thought about sex issues being addressed in Christian novels. (Picture a group of extremely alert meerkats). Not only were their responses unanimous (except for one who left to attend a doctor’s appointment – or so she said) but they were strongly felt.

Read more at the following link:

Friday, 14 July 2017

So you want to write a bestseller?

Photo courtesy of bplanet/
Yes? Of course you do. I know I do.
Now, there’s an algorithm that’s been created that can help de-mystify what it takes to produce one. Why did Fifty Shades of Grey sell so well when by all accounts it has many issues from a writing craft perspective? (That’s what I’ve been led to believe not having read it myself)
Well, a couple of people in the publishing/academic biz decided to find out if there was a DNA to what makes a bestseller. I stumbled across this book, aptly titled “The BestSeller Code”, the other week when I was reading the review section of Saturday’s paper. So I decided to investigate a little further.
The book was released September last year and the data used was taken exclusively from the New York Times bestseller list, which is as good a list as any I guess. The model has data supporting 20,000 titles captured over a five-year period. I presume the NYT picks up Christian fiction bestsellers, well those that compare in sales numbers to all other fiction. Do let me know if this is a poor assumption.
I read a number of reviews of the book both from Amazon and others in overseas papers and was a little surprised there wasn’t a nice little summary of what the key attributes were. I’m very happy playing in data (hey, I’m a Chartered Accountant by trade!) and hence the left side of my brain went looking for that nice summary that I could share with you.
A winning formula?
Judging from the various reviews I’ve read the book does not arrive at a formula. Which is no real surprise. If there was one the whole concept of bestseller would have to be redefined, however, by all accounts it does provide some interesting insights into some key commonalities that are typically found in those novels that top the charts. Here are a few that I’ve been able to discern:
  • A well-paced plot and engaging characters do matter, while the setting is less relevant,
  • A compelling inner struggle and closeness between the main characters are important,
  • Characters presented in unexpected and non-traditional ways who “make things” happen,
  • The use of everyday language and active verbs,
  • Consist of “shorter, cleaner sentences, without unneeded words”.

Nothing startling. I like how the review in The New Yorker sums the book up: “… there’s an awkward charm in watching an algorithm discern the things that humans appreciate instinctively.”
Oh well, back to what we know: write the best novel you can utilizing the “key tenets of craft and style.”
By the way, apparently our own Liane Moriarty and Graeme Simsion both rate exceptionally well according to the model.  
Anyone read a good bestseller recently?

Ian Acheson is an author and strategy consultant based in Sydney. Ian's first novel of speculative fiction, Angelguard, is available in the US, UK, Canada and Australia. Angelguard was recognised with the 2014 Selah Award for Speculative Fiction.You can find more about Angelguard at Ian's website, on his author Facebook page and Twitter