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!

Pamela Wilson and Jeff Goins host the Zero to Book podcast where Jeff, an established author, walks Pamela, a newer author, through the process of launching a book.

In this episode, the hosts discuss the importance of a book’s title. Jeff calls it a book’s most important marketing asset – more important than the content itself, at least in terms of marketing. A book’s title, after all, is the most succinct way to communicate what it’s about.

The title should be judged on its appeal to new readers. Your existing fan base might already be inclined to purchase your book, no matter what it’s called. But the title is the thing that could potentially entice or dissuade new customers to join the fold.

Jeff guides Pamela through a process for ideating and testing book titles, including using PickFu. He talks about our wide-reaching demographic pool of respondents (no, it’s not a room of interns in Soho – we’re in California, anyway). He also talks about how affordable — and even addictive — testing ideas can be.

“The results are sure to surprise you,” he says. We hope you agree.

Ready to give PickFu a try? Start here.

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!

 

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