A Book Description Is A Marketing Tool
A book description on retailer product pages impacts both readers’ purchasing decisions and the book’s discoverability. Not only does it inform potential readers about the book’s content and entice them to buy, but it also helps retailers and search engines like Google know how to index the book. When potential readers search for something relevant online, you want to make sure your book will appear in the search results, and the description can help. (via BookBub)
Your book description on retailer sites like Amazon is one of the most important ebook marketing elements at your disposal. Your cover and title will catch potential readers’ attention, but your description is what will make the sale. The strongest part of your description should be the first 150 words. (via BookBub)
Know Your Book’s Audience
When first crafting a book description, it’s important to think about your audience. While the description should capture primarily elements of your book’s plot, it’s also necessary to target your description, meaning primarily that you should try to incorporate keywords that your audience may search. Create a list of 5–7 important keywords you want to target. The keywords you choose depend on the genre, but some types of keywords might include:
- Plot themes (time travel, murder mystery, coming of age)
- Tone (dystopian, steampunk, romantic comedy)
- Setting (Tudor England, French Revolution)
- Character type (shape shifter, strong female protagonist, single mom)
Once you’ve created a list of keywords, try to include them on the book’s retailer product pages in the following locations:
- Description headline. When adding a description for the book, you can use header styling (see other resources #1). Search engines give headers more weight when determining what a web page is all about, so be sure to include your top keyword term in this space.
- Don’t simply stuff your description with keywords. Instead, weave these terms into the book’s pitch, or include blurbs and endorsements you’ve received that include these terms.
- This is separate from the description, but certain retailers also let you enter keywords you want to target. For example, Amazon allows you to enter seven keywords at the Target Your Book to Customers step in the Search Keywords text field, and Google Play allows you to add multiple “subjects” on the Settings tab.
3rd Party Validation
After identifying your target audience, consider other ways you can entice readers with your description. For example, testimonials from publications like well-known newspapers (New York Times) or magazines (Publishers Weekly) will always boost sales. Here are some other ideas via BookBub:
- Include testimonials. BookBub tests showed that book descriptions with testimonials got an average of 22.6% higher click-through rates than those without.
- Choose quotes from authors instead of publications. While quotes from both authors and publications increased engagement, descriptions that included a quote from an author got an average 30.4% higher click-through rate than descriptions including a blurb from a publication. Note that in many cases, the authors quoted were big names in the specific genre of the book, so your results will depend on how recognizable the author or publication is in your particular genre. But BookBub data shows that all else being equal, showcasing a quote from an author is a better bet.
- Include high numbers of reviews. When a book has at least 150 five-star reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, including the number of five-star reviews in the copy increased clicks by an average of 14.1%.
- Choose the highest number of reviews. If a book had more reviews on Goodreads than Amazon, for example, including the Goodreads reviews resulted in an average 5.1 percent higher click-through rate than including the Amazon reviews.
- Include author awards. If the author has won an award in the past for any book, including this fact would increase clicks an average of 6.7%, especially if the award signified the genre of the book (for example, the Shamus Award for mysteries).
Strategic Book Description
When writing the description, make sure you include the most important information at the top, and don’t waste the space you have with large font. Most ebook retailers show a limited amount of your description before cutting it off with a “Read more” button. The unexpanded space above “Read more” for Kindle books fits about 600 characters if you don’t have any paragraph breaks, and around 400 characters if you start with two short paragraphs.
Also be sure to clean up your formatting. Many book descriptions have extra line breaks between paragraphs, leading to wasted empty space at the beginning of the description. This causes the important text to be pushed down under the “Read more” link.
Amazon Bestseller Tips
While your description will vary based on your individual book’s plot and genre, here are a few tips from an Amazon bestselling author:
- Make it clear. Your potential reader needs to know with a quick skim read what kind of book this is, what it’s about and what the story is. The story is the most important element here – if you’ve written an erotic romance that will give Fifty Shades a run for its money, make sure people know that. Though remember, it’s the relationship at the heart of Fifty Shades that made it such a smash. You need to get that across in a very lucid way.
- Write in your genre. There are certain rules that apply to every genre. Find some popular books in your genre and study the description. The backs of paperbacks can be better to study than self-published books, and first novels that were big hits are the best of all.
- Don’t be afraid to reference other books or writers. Your potential readers are looking for hooks that will tell them quickly what kind of book this is. If you’ve written a grown-up vampire novel you could do a lot worse than say that it’s for fans of Anne Rice.
- The book is more important than you. There can be a temptation to boast about your own achievements or credentials. Unless you’re an Olympic coach and you’ve written a guide to strength training, readers won’t care. Most of them won’t even notice or remember who wrote it.
- The first line is the most important. If you don’t get the first line right, they won’t read on (this applies to the book itself too). Your first line needs to encapsulate the whole book. It needs to draw people in, hit them where it feels good and make the hairs on the back of their neck stand up. Not easy – but worth spending time on.
- Don’t be boring. The moment your potential reader feels bored, they’re gone, clicking on to the next book on the also-bought bar. Every line has to be compelling and move the story on. Just like your book, in fact.
- Make them laugh, cry, cower. It’s all about emotions. How is your book going to make people feel? Is it heartbreaking or hilarious? Chilling or hotter than Angelina Jolie sunbathing in Death Valley? Again, look at the words most used in your genre. They are clichés for a reason. They work.
- Make your characters live. As well as the story, it’s vital to get a good sense of your characters across – and, most importantly, their big problem. What terrible dilemma do they have to resolve? What personal demon do they need to conquer? You need characters and problems people will identify with – but they have to be big problems. Having a broken dishwasher just isn’t exciting enough.
- Make the reader desperate to know what happens. You have to end your description with a cliffhanger. You need to lead the reader to the point where they are so curious that, were they a cat, it would kill them. Make sure you don’t give too much away. Be intriguing. Make them feel like Anastasia when Christian tells her he’s about to show her something really new and exciting. Make them go ‘Holy crap!’
After writing your description, use sales statistics offered by your retailers as a way to get feedback from your readers. If you market your book through Amazon Marketing Services (AMS), take advantage of the data Amazon offers you about how your promotion is doing. If many people are clicking on your book’s ad but not many are buying the book, that’s telling you something.
Book Covers Are Key
Consider a fresh cover or an updated description. Experiment with changes to see what works for your audience and what doesn’t. While changes can be scary, they will almost never result in a fewer number of sales. Check out your competition before and after writing your description for ideas on what works. Look at the bestsellers in your genre or talk to your readers at events. Feedback never hurts, and neither does a strong book description.
- Notes on styling your description on Amazon, including bold, italics, and enlarged font
- Notes from BookBub on identifying your target audience
- Notes from a historical fiction author on making the most of your Amazon description