Your book description will make or break your sales.
Your book’s description (sometimes called a blurb) is probably the most crucial step in the sales funnel. From a customer’s perspective, the book buying process is fairly simple: first they check out the cover. If the cover is professional, they’ll glance at the reviews. (We’ll talk about reviews next) As long as you’ve got decent reviews, the customer will read through your sales description.
To recap: the cover is crucial for getting the customer’s attention and good reviews are necessary to build trust, but the description is make or break. Most of the writers I know put ample time and effort, or money, into their cover and stress out about reviews, but very few spend much time at all on book blurbs.
For a reader forced to choose between two books with similar cover quality and reviews, the book’s sales description is the tie breaker.
If you read my previous post on the importance of cover art, You’ll remember I paid for a professional cover and it took my book from selling a dozen copies a month, to hundreds of copies a day. I left out the fact that I updated my sales description at the same time. Which begs the question, was it a better cover or better description that resulted in all those sales?
My answer: Both!
If your sales suck, what have you got to loose? Update both. Focus on the cover first, because that is the first thing people see. But updating your sales description should be the very next item on your to-do list.
Unfortunately, authors struggle heroically with writing blurbs for their own books. In fact, if you are an indie author reading this, you might be in a cold sweat thinking, William, I hate writing sales description!
Join the club.
Let’s face it, the #1 problem writers have writing good sales description is that we hate-hate-hate writing sales description. We spend all our time carefully plotting our novels, teasing out the story threads, wringing every last ounce of emotional juice from the character’s lives and building on the smallest details in order to tell the story—trying to condense all that into a few sentences feels impossible.
Not only is it possible (and I’ll show you how), it is necessary.
First let’s take a look at the two biggest mistakes writers make when crafting their book description:
- Many authors write descriptions that are too darn looooooooooong!
The online market is a busy place with lots of books vying for the reader’s attention. Don’t make the mistake of thinking if you write a really in depth account of the complicated plot it will keep the customer engaged. If the sales description drags on too long, the customer will get bored and move on to the next book. Speaking as a voluminous reader myself, the longer the book description is, the longer I assume the book is. Gone are the days of sweeping 800 page epics. Brevity is the soul of wit.
- Authors write descriptions that focus on the story question instead of the story characters.
Don’t fall into the trap of describing the race to find the nuke before it blows up Manhattan and forget to introduce the customer to the main character. Who is trying to find that nuke and what’s he got to lose? Other than his life? Authors spend far too much time spoon feeding the customer the exact story set-up. The most intricately plotted mystery, without a likeable hero, is pretty boring. Readers want to connect with characters, so give them someone they can relate to and introduce that character early in the description.
The Harry Potter series is a great example. Check out the description for the first book and keep in mind who the stories are aimed at.
Harry Potter thinks he’s a normal boy (what child can’t relate to being ordinary—even abused—when it comes right down to it? ) until he is whisked off to a school where he learns magic!
Notice, there is nothing in the book description about the mystery that Harry must solve. As a mystery reader, I can tell you, Rowling crafts some of the most intricately plotted mysteries I’ve had the pleasure of reading. She’s not on the same level as Agatha Christie or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but she’s damn close. Why then, is there nothing in the book description about the fiendish mystery at the heart of the narrative? Because the professional copywriter who wrote the book blurb understood readers don’t care about the plot until they can identify with the character.
So what makes a good blurb?
Start by introducing the main character. Put the hero’s name front and center and include a personal detail or two. For Noble Man, I started with Jake Noble, the fact that he is former Special Forces, living on his boat, and trying to raise money for his sick mother.
It’s easy to go overboard here. Most writers love our characters. We birthed these people from our imagination and, let’s face it, they are real to us. We want the reader to know all about our friend. But the book description is not the place to go into detail about the character’s backstory. That’s what the book is for.
Set the stakes. Let the reader know what the main character is after and why. For Noble Man, the CIA offers him 150k dollars to find a missing girl. I’ve already established Noble has money problems. And he’s trying to raise money for mom. This gives the reader something to which they can relate. Everybody loves their mother, after all.
Up the ante. Take the hero’s problems and make them bigger. For Noble Man this comes in the form of a ticking clock… “With the clock ticking on the girl’s life, Noble will need all of his old skills to survive.” The idea of a ticking clock puts a time crunch on our protagonist’s efforts. In addition to upping the ante in the book description, it’s also an incredibly useful tool in story-telling.
Leave them on a cliffhanger. Once you have established the main character, spelled out the stakes and then upped the ante, leave the reader with a question that makes them wonder how or if the main character can succeed. My description for Noble Man ends with, “Every move he makes unravels another deadly conspiracy and what he finds goes deeper than a random kidnapping…” Without actually asking a question, I have implied action and several riddles. Every move he makes… tells the reader there will be danger. Goes deeper than a random kidnapping… lets the reader know there is a twist. There’s a puzzle to figure out. A question to be answered. Humans in general, readers especially, hate not knowing the answer to a question. Leave them with a cliffhanger and people will click Buy Now to figure out the answer to the question.
That’s it. Follow those four steps and you are well on your way to writing a great blurb that will increase sales of your book.
Important Note: There is no limit to the amount of times you can change your description on Amazon. Write a new sales description, upload it, and watch your sales for a week or two. If they go up, great. If they stay flat, keep tinkering with your description until you see positive movement. I changed my blurb for Noble Man a dozen times until I was satisfied with my conversion rate.
Next week, I’ll talk about the Holy Grail of Amazon sales, REVIEWS and how to get them!
Did this article help you out? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
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