When customers look at online retailers they are bombarded by thousands of competing titles. Not even the most dedicated reader could possibly evaluate all of the books in a genre. It is crucial that yours has an eye-catching description to help it stand out.
An example of fiction
Blue Moon by Lee Child is estimated to have sold over 10,000,000 copies. This is, in no small part, because the product description on Amazon is compelling:
Jack Reacher is back in a brand new white-knuckle read from Lee Child.
It’s a random universe, but once in a blue moon things turn out just right.
In a nameless city, two rival criminal gangs are competing for control. But they hadn’t counted on Jack Reacher arriving on their patch.
Reacher is trained to notice things.
He’s on a Greyhound bus, watching an elderly man sleeping in his seat, with a fat envelope of cash hanging out of his pocket. Another passenger is watching too … hoping to get rich quick.
As the mugger makes his move, Reacher steps in.
The old man is grateful, yet he turns down Reacher’s offer to help him home. He’s vulnerable, scared, and clearly in big, big trouble.
What hold could the gangs have on the old guy? Will Reacher be in time to stop bad things happening?
The odds are better with Reacher involved. That’s for damn sure.
What this description does well:
- It doesn’t give away the whole plot
- It does make it clear what genre the book is by using adjectives like ‘white-knuckle’
- It raises questions about what will happen next: ‘What hold could the gangs have on the old guy?’
- The product description tells us some information about the character: ‘Reacher is trained to notice things’
From reading this description his audience know exactly the genre of the book and the intriguing description will appeal to the book’s target audience.
True, it helps to already be successful – this is also a major driver in getting sales. But it’s important to look at successful books and model (not plagiarise) what makes them tick. Notice that this isn’t a short, two-paragraph description. It’s been crafted.
Writing your own description
Using the description above as an example, we can work out some key rules for writing product descriptions. These tips will work well for fiction and non-fiction:
- Use interesting words to appeal to the target audience
- Give hints about the book’s content but do not give it all away
- Make the genre very clear
- For non-fiction say who the book is for
- Sometimes it’s important to say who a book isn’t for – if it’s advanced, you don’t want beginners buying it and getting confused. Conversely, if it’s pitched at beginners, those more experienced will find it useless. Either result leads to bad reviews.
- Briefly explain any necessary background information (define key terms or describe the main characters)
Review your description
Review your book description periodically. Can you relate it to current trends or world events? Does it need to be refreshed? Is it too short? Are there typos you didn’t notice years ago when it was first written? Whether you publish or self-publish, take responsibility for this most important piece of sales copy – and work to make it better. That is, if you want to sell books.
Pack in the keywords, naturally
Readers often find books by entering search terms into the search box. When the site returns results it’s basing it in no small part on matching the words the user enters and the words in a book’s title, sub-title, series title, and, of course, description. The more matches it gets, so it thinks the more likely the book will meet the reader’s expectations.
Amazon permits 4,000 characters fro book descriptions – don’t be afraid to use them. Less isn’t more in this case. More (well-written) words give you an opportunity to name important people places, objects, etc – the very keywords readers might be entering in the search bar. If you don’t put these key features of your book somewhere – how can people find your book in the throng?
Keep it relevant
If you use some ecommerce sites you might notice the tactic that some sellers use of advertising their product with a list of other manufacturers in the title or description. This tactic is designed to get their product listed if someone searches for something like the product they are actually selling. For someone searching for a specific brand or model, this can be irritating, not helpful.
The same applies to book listings. Make sure your listing is correct and about the book itself. Many retailers take a dim view of book descriptions that say, “If you like Author X, you’ll like this book,” or “Better than Book Title Y.” It’s a subjective and biased opinion, not an accurate description. It’s also a good way to get your book de-listed entirely if you are a repeat-offender.