Some might say that writing is its own reward. But once you’ve put your book up for sale, sales can be an even better reward.

Many users turn to PickFu to test book titles and cover designs. But PickFu can help you hone a book’s description, too. Below are tips from self-published authors on what makes a book description sing — and how to get the cash register to ring.

Focus on Value to the Reader

You’ve reeled a potential reader in with a strong title and attractive book design. They’ve clicked on your description page. Now what?

Mihaela Lica Butler, author of the cookbook Vegan Romania and the children’s book Garden Super Hero Tales advises that authors tell the reader what’s in it for them.

“Generally speaking, value should be a strong focus,” she says, “and value comes in different forms.” Various means of conveying value may include the author’s expertise on the subject, the book’s affordability, content exclusivity (not being able to find the information within the book anywhere else), or features like recipes, interactive content, or illustrations and coloring pages.

In her description of Vegan Romania, Butler explains why a vegan diet isn’t traditionally associated with Romania, but how it plays an important part in daily life there.

Romania is little known for its vegan cuisine. In fact, Romanians enjoy meats more than anything else. Their traditional foods are usually rich in fats and spices. But in the countryside, people cannot always afford meat. They substitute animal fats with a wide variety of vegan ingredients. Vegan food is also enjoyed in all its diversity during several fasting seasons, especially during the 40 days of Lent.

In another sentence, Butler emphasizes that the book’s recipes “in their vast majority, are not available in English anywhere else.”

In just a few sentences, she has offered exclusive content and demonstrated her knowledge of the subject matter.

Pose a Question

Alina Adams, author of The Figure Skating Mystery Series, says “the best tip I have for writing strong book descriptions is to pose a question the reader desperately wants answered – but can’t unless they read the book.”

Adams set up her question with this intriguing book description:

At the World Figure Skating Championship, the Ladies’ Gold medal goes to Russia’s dour Xenia Trubin over America’s perky Erin Simpson thanks to the vote of one judge, who then promptly turns up dead.

Who killed Silvana Potenza? A skater? A coach? A fan? An official? A parent?

Emphasize Enhanced Content

Adams’s mystery series also includes professionally made videos of The Ice Theatre of NY as part of the story. “In my book description, I make sure to highlight this unique feature, and – this part is critical – explain exactly what that feature is and how it works. Enhanced ebooks are still so new, customers don’t expect them, and don’t exactly understand what they are. It is my job to make that clear – and enticing – in the book description.”

Think Like a Publisher

Richard Ridley, author of young adult series The Oz Chronicles, advises authors to approach their book description as marketing material, not literature. “You are not writing your book description as the author,” he says. “You are writing it as the publisher.”

“Making an impact on the reader is your principal concern. What will move the reader to want to know more about your book? What will motivate the reader to add your book to his or her cart? Write the book description with your head, not your heart.”

Consider Outsourcing It

The best tip in writing a book description may be not to write it all, but to have an objective third party, someone who isn’t as close to the work, write it for you.

This person might be your editor, a close friend, or you could even host a writing contest. Bryan Hutchinson, author of Writer’s Doubt, wrote that every time he created a version of his book’s description, “I didn’t say enough or I said too much. Alas, this is normal. The reality is the author is not usually the best person to write their own book’s description.”

Run a Test

Mark Edward, co-author of Catch Your Death, spent time meticulously combing over best-selling books and their descriptions. Employing some of the techniques he observed, he managed to double his sales.

Catherine Ryan Howard, self-published author of Distress Signals, added that “the ability to edit your book description… is a huge advantage self-publishers have over traditionally published books, which settle on a blurb quite early on that then gets passed along the lines to catalogues, retailers, etc. and to my knowledge, can’t be changed. But you can change yours as much as you like, and so continually experiment with what works and what doesn’t.”

Get the First Sentence Right

“Fear is contagious…”

This is the first line of Catch Your Death‘s description.

Edward says, “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.”

One way to do accomplish this is to test options on PickFu. See if in just a few words and without much context you can create a reaction. Ask a question such as, “Given these opening sentences of a book blurb, which would you want to know more about?” I ran that very poll:

Book Descriptions

Now that I’ve set the tone and have a better understanding of how audience members react, writing the rest of the description will flow from this first sentence.

What other tips for book descriptions would you include? What worked for your book? Let us know in the comments, or tweet us @PickFu!

As Americans, we often scratch our heads at the legions of international soccer fans who can live with a tie. A score like 2-2 (or even worse, a 0-0 draw) is so inconclusive – we like the clarity of winners and losers. When a game ends tied, how are we supposed to feel?!

But a tied game is still hard-fought. The players still put it all out on the field, exert huge amounts of effort, and in the end, are shown to be evenly matched. Alan Jacobs wrote an impassioned defense of ties a few years ago in the Wall Street Journal. In it, he writes,

Since scoring is so rare, many matches end 0-0 or 1-1. And this is something that we soccer fans don’t just accept about the game: we love it. We love that scoring is so darn hard, that, most of the time, many interlocking pieces of game action have to fall into place just so in order for the ball to make its way into the back of the net. We want it that way.

This is a good lesson when your PickFu poll ends in a tie. It’s difficult to score big with an audience. You probably know (or are) someone who will only drink Coke or only drink Pepsi. These are passionate, insistent customers. But you also probably know someone who doesn’t have a cola preference, or even can’t tell the difference. (These people are crazy, by the way, because obviously Coke is superior).

When your PickFu poll ends in a tie, it could mean that the audience saw little discernible difference between the options presented. Or it could mean that equal-sized segments of the audience showed a strong preference for their choice. In either case, a tie is information that in itself can be valuable.

What to Take Away from a Tie

First of all, a tie could mean your options are equally preferable. Hooray for you! You offered good options. You could interpret this to mean that whatever avenue you go down, a segment of your audience will be amenable to it.

One PickFu pollster wanted to know which pricing model customers would prefer for a travel adventure package. The first choice was to pay between $25-35 for the itinerary and pay separately for the activities, and the second choice was an all-inclusive model. In a poll of 50 respondents, 26 preferred the first, and 24 preferred the second. While not a numerical tie, it’s a statistical tie without a clear winner.

tied-poll

A reasonable conclusion might be to offer both options to customers. That way each client can pay according to his or her preferred pricing model. This is similar to what we do here at PickFu – offering both à la carte and subscription options because everyone’s needs are a little different.

Dig deeper

Another way to get insights is to dig deeper into the comments. Are respondents confused about something? Is there an element that consistently causes them to react negatively? See what you can glean from what people said, and use this knowledge to choose the winner or to iterate on a new version — a version that, perhaps, might become a clearer winner.

When Michael Cowden, another PickFu pollster, wanted to name his mobile game, he tested two potential names: Outrun the 80s and Super 80s World. Super 80s World won, but only narrowly – by a margin of six votes. Should those six votes be decisive?, he asked himself. In the end, the decision was yes.

Based on the comments, those who voted for Super 80s World were closer to his game’s intended target. As he wrote on his blog, “I could immediately tell that Super 80s World communicated the game concept much better. The folks that liked that name got what the game was about and, more importantly, wanted to play it!”

tied-poll-2

When should you retest?

While Super 80s World ended in a close result, another game with two potential names ended in a perfect tie. A poll of 50 mobile gamers split right down the middle when choosing between Squid Attack! and Squid Squad.

tied-poll-3

Many respondents liked the alliteration of “Squid Squad” and thought it was fun to say. But respondents repeatedly commented that a “squad” suggests cooperative play (which the game is not), while “attack” sounds more like a player vs. player game (which it is).

So what should this pollster do?

Personally, I would choose the option that reflected the player vs. player game format. But if the decision-maker was still unsure, another idea is to add more respondents. With a larger pool, you’ll receive more comments, and these additional voices may help clarify the road ahead. If a poll is not statistically significant, adding more respondents may also help achieve that significance – which means that the results are likely to be replicated were the poll to be run again. More respondents can also reinforce what the first pool of respondents said, and affirm that many people agree with them.

When to re-examine your options

A tie may also mean that the options you tested were not distinct enough. For instance, one PickFu pollster tested two logos that were identical except for the color. With 100 respondents, 50 chose orange and 50 chose blue. Many comments gave reasons such as “Prefer orange to blue,” or “Blue just looks better in general.”

Back to the Coke/Pepsi analogy, some people just like Pepsi. Others are right and love Coke (just kidding – sorta). However, most people simply don’t feel strongly one way or the other, such as these comments in the orange vs. blue debate:

• “Not very interesting a question, given that they’re the same logo just palette-swapped, but I like the blue more. But it really doesn’t matter. They’re pretty similar.”

• “Not really that different, I slightly prefer B because it’s blue and I like that color better. Everything else looks the same though.”

• “I prefer the color scheme of choice A, however it is not overwhelmingly better”

It may sound harsh to say it’s just a toss-up. Should you really just flip a coin with an important decision like this?

Not necessarily. Respondents in this poll also gave comments about what they read into each color, and you might take some of their ideas into consideration.

“The orange is more aggressive,” wrote one male. A female respondent agreed, writing “I find the orange logo (option A) much more preferable because it feels more action-oriented and looks cooler than a blue logo, which makes me feel calm.”

Another person surveyed wrote, “The blue seems cooler, more masculine,” while yet another wrote, “The orange makes it stand out a little more. It also seems like it would be a little more gender neutral.” “Blue is a cooling, calming color,” one male said. “It hints at ‘newer tech’, and makes the user feel like theyve made a sound decision.”

The feedback may be contradictory, but taken together, it may also add confidence to the direction you were already heading, or open up new questions you hadn’t considered. The ultimate tie-breaker in a decision like this is you. You can use your own discretion about which points reinforce your position, and those that make you think a bit differently.

How do you feel about ties? Have you been torn between two options before?
Let us know in the comments!

Naming your app is like naming your baby and can be equally gut-wrenching. You want your name to be unique, but not so unique that no one can pronounce it or spell it. Your name ideally says something about your product’s personality, but also conveys its usefulness. Some apps that balance the two goals well are TravelZoo, BookBub, and Parking Panda; the names allude to the app’s main function, but are memorable and “brand”-able.

If only it were as easy as combining your app’s category with a fun-sounding noun, though. There’s much more to it than that. Here’s a quick rundown of 10 tips to consider when naming your mobile app:Continue reading

Mike Fishbein has self-published twelve books. “I used to think that I could just write a great book and publish it and then the sales would roll in,” he wrote in a blog post. “I was wrong.”

Mike’s most recent book, Your First Bestseller: How to Self-Publish a Successful Book on Amazon, became the top-seller in Direct Marketing.

So what changed?

Mike learned that it’s not enough to write a compelling book. The book has to be designed in such a way that readers will want to buy it. And that means having a well-crafted title and a stand-out cover.

For that, he turned to PickFu.

“I had a radical idea to use a 1970s-style motif for the title and cover,” Mike told us. After brainstorming many ideas, he was most excited to title his book Pimp Your Book: How to Self-Publish a Bestseller on Amazon. “I thought it would add character and be attention-grabbing, [but] when I tested it on PickFu, I learned that readers found it unappealing and tacky.”

testing-book-titles

Here are some actual responses:

  • I feel like “Pimp your…” is over done and a little bit dated now. It also implies a cheap way to do something, not a money saving or independent way to get something done.
  • Don’t think the title “Pimp my Book” is appropriate or appealing! Makes me think of hookers not book publishing!
  • I dont think using the word pimp in a book will attract people who are serious
  • I do not like option A’s use of the word “pimp” as it’s juvenile and offensive.

“The unfortunate truth,” Mike said, “is that my opinion is not always right. Fortunately, PickFu told me what my readers think, which is the most important opinion at the end of the day. Had I used my personal favorite title idea, instead of the one that tested better on PickFu, I’m not sure I would have had the same results.”

With his title decided on, Mike went to work with a graphic designer to create the book’s cover.

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“People see your cover in places like the ‘Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought’ of related book pages, category bestseller lists, and search results,” he wrote. “Your cover, in addition to your title, will in part determine whether or not they click through to your book page.”

In the past, Mike made what he called the “rookie mistake” of hiring a designer on Fiverr and expecting great results. It took trial and error before finding a designer with whom he’s got a great working relationship. Today, Mike recommends designing at least two versions to split test. “Designers will likely charge more for that, but I believe it’s worth it.”

testing-book-covers

Mike discovered another benefit to using PickFu. “Previously I relied on my email list for feedback. I get great feedback from my email subscribers, but it’s hard to get a high volume of responses in a short amount of time. In addition, I’m limited to my existing subscribers as testers. PickFu enables me to get a large volume of feedback in a short amount of time from people that aren’t already on my email list.”

Mike’s book sold over 400 copies in the first ten days of its launch, and attributes some of his success with the tests he ran before publishing. “I would recommend PickFu because it’s easy to use and provides actionable feedback that’s both quantitative and qualitative. It enables you to see not only what cover or title is favored, but why it is favored.”

Have you had similar success as an author using PickFu? Tell us about it in the comments!

PS – We used PickFu to test the title of this article. See the results!

 

An attractive photo, a great layout, a memorable logo or app icon – these elements are often touted as the keys to optimization. Indeed, a well-converting site, ebook, or app will need them all. But sometimes we tend to underplay or altogether overlook the importance of copy testing – and to our peril. Whether it’s description copy of an e-commerce product, the subhead of a new book, or the elevator pitch of a growing startup, words matter.

Recently, PickFu increased the number of characters you can include in your test text block to 1,000. That’s the equivalent of roughly 200-250 words. Here are some great ways to use this feature for copy testing to improve your business: Continue reading