Book Description, Annotation and Publisher Marketing

When you publish a new book, you get a chance to describe the contents in various book industry catalogs. Some publishers see these descriptions or annotations as absolutely critical for book sales. I have typos in a couple of book descriptions that I never quite got around to fixing, so you can guess which side of the argument I come down on. On the other hand, it certainly can't hurt to have an intelligent and accurate description of your book showing up in all the online catalogs, so you may as well try to get it right. That makes this one of those "Do as I say and not as I do" posts.

The first chance to get the catalog description for your book correct is when you enter the ISBN information on the Bowkerlink site. It really does pay to get the Bowkerlink info correct the first time because the software is balky and doesn't allow some fields to be changed without manual intervention from a Bowker employee. On top of that, some retailers and distributors regularly update their catalog info from Bowker, so if you get one of these downstream catalogs to fix a mistake, it may go back to being wrong the next time they do an update. The best way to get it right the first time is to type all of the information in a wordprocessor, spell check it, have a friend read it, and then cut and paste the info into Bowkerlink fields.

Amazon is the most important online retailer and perhaps the most important book catalog in the world. Amazon allows the publisher to send them changes and corrections directly, but again, those corrections may revert to the initial errors if Amazon updates their catalog from an upstream source, like Bowkerlink or Ingram. I corrected an error on Amazon a couple of times for one of my titles, only to have it reappear, I believe from the Bowkerlink listing where I never got around to making them correct it. Amazon does not automatically pick up the Publisher Marketing blurb from Ingram. The book description Amazon does show is sometimes called an annotation on Ingram. The annoying thing about the Amazon catalog is they often double list the book description, calling the second copy a download description, if the title was ever available as an ebook.

I've been thing about the book description for the non-book I'll be publishing, a printed collection from this blog. I think I'll start it off "Don't buy this book unless you're a reader of the self publishing blog at and want to catch up on old posts without burning through an inkjet cartridge." Heck, I may even leave it at that since it pretty much says it all. Or, maybe I'll throw in something about the limited printing being made possible by print-on-demand, and readers interested in that subject should buy my Print-on-Demand Book Publishing title instead. Would it be derivative to work "Don't Buy This Book" into the cover design?

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