If you want to sell your book online, you must have a strong book description.
When you make self-publishing a business, you’re in charge of all the components for hooking in buyers: marketing, publicity, keywords, metadata . . . and even a stellar book cover.
Even then, you need your book’s product page to describe what your book is about and persuade people to buy. Often called online descriptive copy in marketing parlance, your book’s online copy is like the description on a physical book’s back cover.
However, online copy does a lot more lifting, as, unlike an in-person bookstore, the buyer can’t pick up a tangible object. On the internet, what you have are many pixels and a whole bunch of words.
It’s a daunting task to write copy that sells your book, especially if you aren’t used to putting your work out there. Still, I have some advice on how to craft your book’s store pages so that you can do good business and give justice to your book.
It’s All about Reciprocity
If you feel skeevy about selling your book, I have some words of reassurance. As long as you focus on reciprocity, you will maintain your integrity as an author and a seller.
As a self-published author, you want people to buy and read your book. As a reader, your buyers want to find a book they’ll enjoy. Therefore, it’s in both of your interests to make the sell on a book your reader wants.
To this end, look at your book and think: what do you love most about your writing? What do you think and hope readers will enjoy when reading? Finally, what are some comps (short for comparable titles) that you can mention in your description that will guide your readers quickly to understand your book concerning the market?
In all cases, don’t misread the reader. Be honest about your book’s content. For example, you might be able to make some sales if you describe your edgy romantic thriller as a cozy happily-ever-after read, but that misrepresentation will bite you back. Misread readers are more likely to return your book (and with an eBook, returns can be done with a few clicks) and leave the dreaded one-star review.
Now let’s get to writing a description!
Guidelines for Writing a Store Description
There are many components for assembling a book’s product description: here are some of the important ones.
Pitch your book with a short, sharp summary. I recommend you study your comps’ descriptions to get the hang of how to summarize your book in a way that interests buyers.
The core of your description will be the elevator pitch, a 150–200-word rundown of what your book’s about and why they should read it. If you have experience querying your book to agents and editors, you may know how it goes.
The standard is to start with your main characters, the internal and external conflicts they’re grappling with, and the state of the story’s setting before the action begins. Then, give that inciting incident. Next, tell readers what kick-starts the story. After that, give readers an impression of how the middle act goes.
Importantly, hint at how the story resolves but don’t give away the ending. Instead, present your book’s main themes and suggest what lengths the book’s characters must go to find a resolution.
Finally, capstone your pitch with a 25–50-word closer that wraps up the core of your book. Again, make the genre and main themes clear, then include a little call to action for the buyer to purchase and read your book.
With your pitch set, you can frame it and incorporate it within the other components.
Incorporate blurbs and praise into your description. Ideally, you’d have sent advance copies to reviewers and authors so that they can hype up your book. Then if you get a shining article from a review blog, excerpt that praise.
Even better is if you secure praise from an author of one of your book’s comps, preferably someone trendy in your niche. If the author’s name alone will hook in readers, I suggest including that blurb at the very top of your description.
However, if you have neither, you can still solicit blurbs from readers you gave advance copies to. A testimonial can reassure buyers that other people have already read the book and enjoyed it, even if it’s from a random reader.
Introduce yourself with a short author’s bio. I have an article in the works that goes more in-depth on how to write an author’s bio.
For now, my advice is to give the reader a basic idea of who you are and how your experience informs the book. Remember that your biographical information serves the descriptive copy, so tailor it to sell your book.
Put to good use your retailer’s formatting. Most major retailers can elevate your description beyond plain text.
Judiciously apply bold, italics, and subheadings to your description whenever possible. Subheadings can help guide readers, and emphasizing the keywords is an effective way of showcasing the words that may hook future fans.
Some storefronts even give sellers the tools to craft extremely fancy product pages. If they allow images, put that to use, whether you need to hire a graphic designer or use Canva to prettify that one blurb from a bestselling author who loved your book.
There’s so much more you can play with and consider with online description copy, and that’s one of the joys of cheerleading your book. So I hope with what I’ve taught you today, you’ll find the joy in description copy and match your book with some soon-to-be-delighted readers.
Over to you: What’s your description like for your book? What questions or advice do you have for describing your book?
ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.