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The description of your cookbook is the last chance you have to convince a potential reader that your book is exactly what they are looking for. A great cookbook cover will get their attention and a winning title will draw them in but your book description is what will really sell new readers on your cookbook. Descriptions for cookbooks can vary but the successful ones have a few key similarities.
I highly recommend going to the Amazon Best Sellers for cooking and read through their descriptions to get a good idea of what is currently working in the industry. You can also view a list of my books to get a feel for the type of descriptions I use.
Much like a good blog post, you want the first line or two of your book description to intrigue the reader and make them want to read more. This hook often takes the form of an appeal to the reader or a question they want to get the answer to. Here's some examples from the top 20 cooksbooks on Amazon.
"Lose weight and feel better one tablespoon of olive oil at a time."
"One pan + fresh ingredients = dinner for two!"
"Cooking a wide variety of Japanese meals doesn't have to require a lot of effort, multiple cookbooks, and guesswork."
The hook can also be in the form of a short summary of what you'll find in the book. Here's some more examples from the top 20 cooksbooks on Amazon.
"A complete meat- and brisket-cooking education from the country's most celebrated pitmaster and owner of the wildly popular Austin restaurant Franklin Barbecue--winner of Texas Monthly's coveted Best Barbecue Joint in Texas award."
"Here from the celebrated California restaurant Big Sur Bakery is a stunningly photographed cookbook showcasing seasonal ingredients, local vintners, fishermen, and farmers--and the food that makes the Big Sur Bakery unique."
"Chris Chamberlain, author of the popular The Southern Foodie Cookbook, takes you back to the South for a tour of the restaurants that make the best pig dishes."
"Nearly 1,000 crowd-pleasing and award-winning recipes presented in an easy, step-by-step format to ensure success for anyone-even beginners."
"Filled with classic pie recipes such as apple and pecan, yet bolstered with modern pie innovations like pie pops, Thanksgiving Pie, and pies-in-a-jar, this is a collection of simple, straightforward recipes and stories of Amish life that will help bakers bring their families together around the table."
The key that all of them have in common is that they make you want to read more about the book.
Following the hook, the description usually will focus on what information the book will provide and what the user will get out of it. This often takes the form of a story and often speaks directly to the reader.
Sometimes the book description is very straightforward, like Japanese Cooking Made Simple and Me, Myself and Pie. Other times they are stories to the reader like The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook and Franklin Barbecue
Regardless of the writing style you use for your description there are several facts you want to convey.
When writing your description, it's helpful to keep in mind the differences between features and benefits. Features are the facts about your book such as the page count, number of recipes, the list of chapters and what they cover. Benefits show the reader what the features will help them accomplish.
For example, a feature would be "Step by step look at the bread baking process" and the benefit would be "bake bread at home".
I like to think of the features as the "what", as in "what does the book contain", and the benefits as the "why", as in "why does the reader care about this". The reader doesn't care that the book has a "Step by step look at the bread baking process", they care that it will let them "bake bread at home".
Most marketing is more effective when the benefits are focused on instead of the features. For book descriptions a combination of features and benefits is usually very effective and a common practice is to state the feature then the benefit.
"[A step by step look at the bread baking process] will let you easily [bake bread at home]."
"Containing [more than 100 cocktail recipes], this book will give you the knowledge to [wow your friends with your drink making skills]."
"With the [easy to follow weekly meal plans] you can [get dinner ready quickly and easily]."
For more on features vs benefits we recommend this article from Printwand.
It's important to use the words from your keywords list in your book description. Both Amazon and Google will index your description and your book will be more likely to show up if you sprinkle the keywords throughout it. Try to use the keywords in a similar manner that you would when writing a blog post. You don't want to keyword stuff your description, but you should try to get them all in there at least once or twice.
A great way to show that your book has merit is by including testimonials in your description. These testimonials can come from Amazon reviews or comments of your testers or early reviewers. A one or two sentence blurb is a good length to use.
On Amazon and Kindle descriptions you can use limited HTML. This allows you to call out headers or specific phrases you want to highlight. This is a great way to make your description look more professional and be more effective.
It can be tempting to gloss over any issues with your cookbook but it is much better to be fully honest in your description. If you don't cover something, let people know. Only have black and white photos? Tell them.
Being honest might lead to less sales in the short term, but if you mislead people about what your book covers you will start to get many negative reviews from people who feel misled. This will lead to much lower overall sales, as well as hurting your credibility.