You already know how true it is that a good book description sells books, and a bad one sells fewer…or none at all. You probably also know a few of the pieces and parts that make a book description stand out both to casual browsers and to the algorithms Amazon uses to introduce potential readers to your books.
But what you (and most of us) need is a single, checklist-style resource to help make each and every one of our book descriptions the best we can possibly make it.
So…here’s your checklist.
The Most Important Features of a Profitable Book Description
1. Keyword Research
The first feature of your book description happens before you make it, and is invisible to the people who see it. This is where you find the keywords that work best to bring your work to the attention of potential readers via the search algorithms within Amazon.
We go into detail about how to find and apply the best keywords for your work in this article here. The key thing to remember is that keywords are what Amazon’s search associates with certain types of reader. If it associates your book with that kind of reader (and your book is appropriate for those keywords), your description is more likely to get in front of the right eyes.
2. Book Cover
We’ve said it before. We’ll say it again. Very smart people across the industry have said it: The Better Your Book Cover Is, The Better Your Sales Will Be.
It’s that simple. For details, see our training here on book covers that sell. Or this one here about professional cover design strategies. (Or even this Book Design Quick Course). Just keep in mind that a cover is worth investing money and time to make as right as you can make it.
3. Title and Subtitle
You want two things from a fiction title: it should follow the conventions of your genre, and give some hint about the main themes or topic of the book. If it’s missing either, it won’t grab the readers your careful keyword research brought to the page.
For non-fiction, you want to evoke the problem your book is meant to solve. Think about why somebody might read your book, and put it there in your title.
Your subtitle, which doesn’t always appear in search and should almost never be on the cover, is your opportunity to apply that keyword research. Without hurting the readability of the subtitle, put as many high-value, relevant keywords in there as you can.
4. The Headline/Hook
The headline is hugely important for two reasons:
- It’s the only part of your product description body that shows up in the search results. The rest only appear when somebody clicks on your book.
- If you don’t hook your potential reader with it, they won’t read the rest of the description even if they do click through.
One of the most effective ways to hook readers with your headline is to use a wildly complimentary and descriptive pull quote from a review. This puts social proof front-and-center, which sells more books.
If you don’t have that, find ways to pack information that will help readers know what the book is about, and why they want to read it. Genre details, major themes, and comparable authors or titles are a great place to start. They’re a kind of shorthand that carries lots of information. And, of course, if you can work a few keywords in there so much the better.
Read here for an article about making great hooks and headlines.
5. First Paragraph
After the hook, your first paragraph explains in more detail what your book is about. Think about the first paragraph on the back cover copy of the last book you bought from the description alone. That kind of teasing but detailed information, balancing informing a prospective reader with keeping all the best surprises between the covers, is what you’re aiming for.
This is also where you go wild with your keywords. Insert all of the keywords you identified, while keeping the paragraph concise and the text readable. You’re communicating to readers what the book is, and to Amazon what readers will like it. Simple enough?
Don’t worry. It’s pretty complex. Here’s an article that goes into this even more deeply.
6. Detail Paragraphs
One or two paragraphs, maximum, giving any further details about the book you think will entice readers to buy it. These might expand on the teasers in the first paragraph, or tell a little about the protagonist’s journey, or suggest the thrilling twist you introduce in act two. For nonfiction, a bullet list of the chapter names doesn’t go amiss.
Whatever you do, the final paragraph (even if it’s the only detail paragraph) should clearly tell readers why they want to buy your book. Draw similarities between this book and popular books, describe the problems it will solve, and hit the emotional beats your readers are most fervently seeking.
Its an art and a science. Click here to learn about how they mix.
7. Editorial Reviews
These reviews add social proof to your description. If you can get them, positive pulls from reviews by established professionals are best. But if you’re not there yet, there’s nothing wrong with getting something from one of your beta readers or reviewers you gave an ARC to. If all else fails, wait a month after release and pull in the shiniest, friendliest lines from the reviews left by writers.
For an advanced trick, circle back to any reviewers you know personally. Ask them to reword their review to include a keyword. That gives the reviews double-duty to really help your search mojo soar.
8. Optimized Formatting
Just like with any other kind of reading, people viewing your Amazon book description will like it better the more readable and easy to navigate it is. Consider using the following simple formatting to make it exactly that:
- Line breaks between paragraphs, and on either side of review blurbs and other text you want to emphasize
- Bold and italics to emphasize title, author, keywords, comp titles, and other “bites” of information you want readers to be sure to see
- Bullet lists and numbered lists when you need to deliver lots of information in a reader-friendly format. These are usually more appropriate for non-fiction titles than for fiction.
- Text styles as headlines or at least made bold to be used for your headlines and major section breaks
Each of these differentiates one block of text from another, so readers can scan it quickly and get a strong sense for the book. It also looks more professional, which sets you up as more professional in their eyes.
The bad news is Amazon doesn’t make this easy. You have to know basic HTML code to insert this formatting. But don’t worry. There are two pieces of good news.
First, the HTML is pretty easy. Go to this article for an HTML formatting guide for book descriptions that will take you five minutes to master. Second, because Amazon makes it hard, using formatting sets you ahead of most authors. Your descriptions will shine by comparison.
9. Call to Action
We’ve mentioned this in other places, but it truly astounds us how many people don’t follow this advice. If you want people to buy your book, ask them to buy your book. Either at the end of your detail paragraphs, or in a short line by itself, simply ask people to buy the book.
This doesn’t have to be pushy, but it does have to be there.
Now, Let’s Get to Work
The good thing about checklists is they make it easy to know what to do now, and what to do next. The bad news about them is, once you have one, there’s very little in the way of excuses for not getting started right away.
Now let's go polish that description…
Featured Image by mohamed Hassan.