“Sell the sizzle, not the steak”. How to write a brilliant book description for fiction & non-fiction titles.

I spoke to Mark Edwards over Skype a few weeks (months?!) back and I will be posting that interview very soon. It’s a great chat about how Mark used his background in copywriting to study the book descriptions of best-sellers on Amazon.co.uk. When he used what he learned from his research for his own book description, “book sales literally doubled in an hour!”. What a fab story – and Mark and his co-author Louise went on to become Amazon.co.uk No.1 & No.2 best-sellers.

I asked Mark to look at the product description for my new book (77 Ways to Find New Readers for Your Self-Published Book) and give me a professional critique. My book is non-fiction, but product descriptions are the sales copy for fiction as well, and they need to entice a reader into buying your book. It’s really a shame if you manage to get traffic to your Amazon page – or other online retailer – and lose it because your description is blah. I hope you find Mark’s critique as valuable as I did – he gives some wonderful advice.

Oh and look out for a GREAT offer from Mark below this post!


MarkEdwards

 

I’ve spent almost ten years working as a marketing copywriter. I was trained by some of the most experienced direct sales copywriters in the UK and have been to conferences around the world to study the work of them. I’ve written copy for all sorts of books, from guides for runners to books about helping your kids with their spelling.

Last year, when my writing partner and I put our novels on Amazon, I was aware of how important the book description is. And the rules for writing copy for fiction and non-fiction are similar. Some of those golden rules are:

 

1)   You have to hook the reader in immediately. If you don’t grab them with the first line, you’re doomed.

2)   With non-fiction you have to tell them about the benefits to them, not the features. With fiction, you should tell them how they will feel, not just describe the plot. In both cases the old advertising adage applies:

Sell the sizzle, not the steak.

 

3)   The length of the copy is not important. It should be exactly as long as it needs to be to make the sale – but online, where people skim and speed-read, you need to get the message across as succinctly as possible. No waffle.

4)   Testimonials, or blurbs, make a huge difference, but only if they are credible and done in the right way.

5)   The moment you bore somebody, you’ve lost the sale. You need to get them excited.

 

Laura asked me to write a critique of the book description of her new ebook. Now, Laura is a very good copywriter too, and there are many ways to approach a piece of copy. But here are some comments about how I would have done it, based on my experience.

 

Let’s break it down:

 

Confused? Overwhelmed? Running out of ideas for how to promote and sell your book? Read on!

 

It can be dangerous starting with questions because you’re inviting the reader to say ‘No’ and move on.

 

I would have been tempted to start with a line that gives the benefits straight away. Something like: ‘The biggest challenge for any writer is to let people know their book exists. In this concise guide, No.1 bestseller Laura Pepper Wu shares practical tips and secrets that you can use to skyrocket sales of your book.’

 

“…concise, proven tips that save time. Her enthusiasm and genuine concern for self-publishers are evident on every page. Laura shares links, suggests other great books and inspires with her own challenges and triumphs.” – Author Stephen Black

 

It’s a brilliant idea to use testimonials. In tests that I’ve run, we found that putting all your quotes in a block, rather than spreading through the text, works better.

 

Also, say who they are or where they live eg Stephen Black, Author, Alaska. You need to make it clear these are real people, not made-up names!

 

This short but sweet eBook was inspired by an indie author desperate for help. Marianne asked: “The self-published author community is really supportive of each other, but how do we break beyond it and promote to NEW readers?”.   She wasn’t alone in wanting to find new readers. It seems that authors are thirsty for new and unique marketing ideas, and having them curated all in one place enables authors to cut through the noise and take advice for a tried and trusted source.

 

“Laura Pepper Wu is an author’s best friend! With her assistance and always-friendly advice, I was able to laser-focus the platform for my novels, achieve maximum visibility for my books, and plan for my future as a full-time author.” – Author Lauren Clark  


Author Laura Pepper Wu poured onto paper the strategies and ideas she uses to coach self-published authors for over three years, along with actionable tips on how to use them. 77 Ways is designed to inform, inspire and entertain.  


“Laura is one of the most effective and professional people I’ve ever worked with. Her marketing plan and eBook strategy for our book was beyond my wildest dreams.” – Sophia Viklund  


Try one new idea each day for 2-3 months, and you have a creative marketing plan that is both manageable and effective. You’ll break beyond your current network and find ways of connecting with new readers that feels comfortable and enjoyable.  

 

Here we have the ‘meat’ of what Laura offers. I love the fact that it started as an enquiry from a reader. It makes it very real – although I’d like to know her surname and where she lives. Also, the copy is a little confusing. I would spell it out more clearly, using bullet points that allow the reader to see very quickly exactly what this book will do for them.

 

I would also give a couple of examples of the tips you can find inside the book. Pick the best ones! You want people to think ‘That’s a great idea – I bet there are loads more just like inside this book!’ Readers of this book want ‘take home’ value – stuff they can do easily and that will make a difference.

 

Written by Laura Pepper Wu of the award-winning 30 Day Books book studio, self-published author and head of promotions for several Amazon best-sellers.   Get your hands on a copy and discover a NEW approach – and several new ways – to promoting your book now!

 

It’s good to get Laura’s credentials in here. Maybe say a little more about what books she has made successful.

 

“You will be glad you purchased this book!” – Melissa Wenzel  

 

Good idea to end with a testimonial but who is Melissa Wenzel?

 

So, with a few tweaks I think this copy could soon be firing on all cylinders. I certainly want to buy this book!

 

 

Mark Edwards is the co-author of Killing Cupid and Catch Your Death, the first book by a UK indie author to reach No.1 on Amazon.  As well as writing, he also runs IndieIQ, a consultancy that specializes in helping writers find readers. Mark is available to critique your book description – or even write one from scratch. See http://indieiq.com/your-book-description/ for full details, or email mredwards@me.com.

 

Psssst… Wow! Mark is offering a free eBook from his site – Write Great Book Descriptions here. He has also very generously offered to offer ONE free product description critique for one lucky person who downloads the eGuide in the next 24 hours. (Draw will take place in next few days). Run, don’t walk peops, it’s a fab offer! –>  http://indieiq.com/free-ebook-kindle-book-descriptions/

 



Laura Pepper Wu is the co-founder of 30 Day Books: a book studio. She has worked with a variety of authors to successfully promote their books, including many Amazon best-sellers. Laura is the author of wedding non-fiction guides and book marketing guides 77 Ways to Find New Readers for Your Self-Published Book and Fire Up Amazon!

Laura also runs Ladies Who Critique, a critique-partner finding site. When she's not working at the studio, you can find her walking her dog, "yoga-ing" or at a coffee shop in Seattle.