User reviews not only influence other users to try your app, but they help boost your app’s visibility in an already crowded marketplace. We spoke with app creators and got their tips on encouraging user reviews.

Target Early Adopters

When you’re first launching an app, introduce it to enthusiasts who read up on new apps. “Early adopters, like those found on Product Hunt, Hacker News, etc. are far more likely to leave reviews because they understand the importance of reviews on your business,” said Brandon Wright, who works in marketing for ThoughtLab.

Try a Low-Tech Approach

Brandon offers another, more personal tip: “Surprisingly,” he says, “the very best way to generate reviews and downloads is to hit the street and ask for them. Literally walking up to strangers, telling them about your product, asking them to download your app, and then requesting that they leave a review if they like what you’ve made. People really remember when the person who built an app or owns a company walks up and tells them about it. It makes them feel special.” But, he warns, this technique doesn’t work at conferences, where the internet is slow and everyone’s attention is elsewhere.

Time Your Ask

It’s tempting to request a review every time your app is opened. But this interrupts the user experience, and could even leave a negative impression. Instead, think about when a user is feeling most positive about your app, such as after earning a badge or passing a game level.

Max Page, founder of Lifter, says “awesome support… is your best opportunity to get a 5-star review. If a user emails in with a problem [that] you solve quick and above expectations, ask for a review. Most of the time the user is so happy you helped them they go straight to the store and review your app positively.” He made sure to add, “the trick to this tip is making your Support Email easy to find and contact in your app.”

Integrate a “Soft” Review

Approximately half my life is spent playing Two Dots, a puzzle strategy game. The programmers there have implemented a clever pop-up that I’ve since noticed in other apps as well. It asks, “What do you think of the game?”, and then gives you a thumbs-up or thumbs-down option. If you hit thumbs up, it says, “Great! Would you mind leaving a review?”, but if you hit thumbs down, it says, “Oh no! Is there anything we can help you with?” and directs you to Support. It’s an easy way to get feedback, but also primes a user who likes your app to do a little something to help it out.

A book’s title is its calling card. It’s how a potential reader finds your book. It’s how a satisfied reader talks about it to a friend.

So when it’s time to dream up a book title, what must you consider? We turned to five experts on the topic, who shared these tips:

Word of Mouth

Word of mouth is still the number one reason readers buy books. If you want to maximize your sales and earnings as an author, you need to understand the word of mouth sales process. It all starts with your book title.

Every word of mouth sales process has three simple steps:

1. Memory
Your reader or fan must fall in love with your book and remember the book title so they can…

2. Share It
When a reader shares the title of your book with someone else online or in a conversation, they have to be able to not only remember the title of your book, but also be able to share it with others. After that, your new potential reader must be able to…

3. Find It
This is where a new potential reader goes online and searches for your book so they can buy it.

This whole process sounds really simple, but if any part of the process breaks down, you lose the sale.

If your readers can’t remember the title of your book because it’s long, confusing, or boring, they won’t be able to effectively share it with others.

If your book title is filled with homophones or archaic words, regular folks without a lot of time to waste and an Oxford dictionary on hand won’t be able to understand the title of your book, and they won’t be able to find your book either.

If a new potential reader types in the title of your book in Google or on Amazon and don’t see it in the search results, they won’t be able to find your book.

So, if you want to maximize word of mouth sales, it’s pretty simple: choose a book title that is memorable, repeatable and searchable. Choose a title that doesn’t have homophones, archaic words or confusing language.

tom-corson-knowles-photo-150x150– Tom Corson-Knowles

Tom Corson-Knowles is the internationally bestselling author of The Kindle Publishing Bible.  Tom is also the founder of EBookPublishingSchool.com, a free self-publishing training course for authors, and TCK Publishing, an independent book publisher specializing in publishing and marketing ebooks, print books and audiobooks online.

TCK Publishing

Stand Out

1. Do your research into the title — then stay away from “the pack”
Writing minds often think alike. I recently read a mystery entitled The Black Widow. I was talking about the book to a colleague but couldn’t remember the author’s name, so I went to Amazon.com to prompt me. Well, there are an awful lot of mysteries with some version of “black widow” in the title and many came up in search ahead of the one I’d read, which was by Wendy Corsi Staub. Staub is a bestselling author, and that book took a few minutes to locate — even when I knew what I was looking for. If you’re just starting out as an author or still trying to build an audience, a unique title will help distinguish you.

2. Use keywords, if possible
There are many factors involved in naming a book, but for non-fiction, having your important keywords in the title makes for better SEO.

3. “Front-load” the unique title
There’s a character limit on book inventory management systems, which sometimes truncates the book title. If your book is one of a series, make sure to put the title first. For example, say you’re writing a “men in uniform” romance series. You want Foot Soldier of Passion: Book 1 of The Heartfelt Uniform Trilogy vs. The Heartfelt Uniform Trilogy Book 1: Foot Soldier of Passion. In the latter case, the last part of the title might be cut off, making it harder for the store clerk to figure it out if, say, your potential buyer only remembers “foot soldier.”

4. Make it easy to pronounce
If at all possible, stay away from foreign words that aren’t already in the vernacular. Many people are shy about saying words they can’t pronounce and you really want to limit or eliminate any barrier to a potential reader asking for — or talking up — your book.

Valerie Peterson - blue jacket2– Valerie Peterson
The author of four books (and counting), for fifteen years, Valerie directed marketing departments for major book publishers. Over the course of her career, she has managed, touched and/or had a front-row-seat to nearly every part of the book publishing process — she understands the business side of book publishing and its “peculiarities.”
ValeriePeterson.net

Be Inclusive

Don’t try to be clever and come up with a title that has meaning that is hidden until the book is read. The title is not for someone who has already read the book – it’s there to entice someone to buy. It should speak clearly about the genre, preferably one of the words in the title (maybe the only word) should clearly identify its subject matter. So using words like ‘assassin’, ‘murder’, ‘love’, ‘conspiracy’, ‘countdown’ etc can instantly convey the book’s content. The title then starts to work as a sales tool. It’s hard of course, because you’ve poured your heart and soul into the book and you want a brilliant title that uses a clever play on words to subtly hint at the exciting denouement…however the reality is that a clunky title that screams ‘THRILLER’ is better for you. After all the reader will only appreciate the clever play on words AFTER they’ve bought and read the book.

speaking-engagement– Mark Dawson
Mark Dawson is an Amazon, US Today and Barnes & Noble best-selling author. He writes two thriller series, John Milton and Beatrix Rose as well as a Soho Noir series.  In addition Mark has developed best-selling online courses for independent authors, Facebook Ads for Authors and Self Publishing 101.
SelfPublishingFormula.com

 

Use Keywords

You can either write the book title based on keywords, or on branding and creativity.  It’s really up to you.

I do recommend putting keywords in your main book title when it is a natural fit.  Otherwise, you can put keywords in your subtitle.

What are keywords?  Keywords are phrases people use to search on Google or Amazon for your topic.  Therefore, I recommend doing keyword research on both Google and Amazon.

For Google, you can use their keyword planner tool. It is free to use, and a good way to see which keywords people are searching for the most on Google.  You will need to sign up for a free Google Adwords account to use it:  https://adwords.google.com/KeywordPlanner 

For Amazon, I recommend using the paid tool, Kindle Samurai.  It will give you a lot of helpful information on keywords potential readers are using on Amazon.  You can also use Amazon’s search bar to manually find keywords. 

My husband is the resident “branding expert,” and he helped me come up many of my creative book titles. However, when I use a creative title, I usually include keywords in my subtitle. 

For my book, Self-Publishing Books 101, I decided to put my keyword phrase “self-publishing books” in the main title instead.  If you want to rank well on Amazon and/or Google for a certain keyword, it is best to also include that keyword in your main book title.  It is really up to you. 

shelleyhitzauthor-header-new

– Shelley Hitz

As an author coach, book marketing strategist, and Christian entrepreneur; Shelley Hitz is on a mission to help you reach more people with your message.  She has coached thousands of authors through her books, training programs, online events, seminars, and more.

ShelleyHitz.com

 

Hire a Designer

A great cover can be the secret sauce that gives a book the oomph it needs to get discovered. But how do you get there?

I never recommend authors create their own covers. Never. Your book must look as professional and polished as those created by pros — so hire a graphic designer. It’s worth the effort. If you’re strapped for cash, try 99Designs or Crowdsource. There are plenty of talented designers looking for work.

And once you’ve settled on a designer, learn to speak her language. In my experience, you can talk to a designer all day, but unless you show her samples of what you like, she will seem deaf as a post. Designers are right-brain people: they understand images. So go onto Amazon and find some covers you like. Use an app such as Grab to take a digital picture of your favorites, and prepare a creative brief for your designer, explaining what you like about each cover.

Here are some things you might discuss:

1. Show your designer the color palettes you like. Note: I didn’t say “colors”; I said “color palettes.” You want to choose a palette with several colors that go together and that capture the mood of your book. You’ve written a thriller? Maybe dark colors. A business book? Maybe jewel tones. Stay away from white covers, which look terrific in a busy bookstore, but which disappear into the background on the Amazon page.

2. Decide whether you want the dominant element on your cover to be type (common for business books) or images (photos or graphics). Even when creating a cover that’s primarily type, look for small spot images or graphics you can use to suggest something about the content of your book.

3. Often, an image that captures your book is hard to find. Check what your competitors have done. Then peruse iStockphoto or another stock house to see what’s possible. For a fee, your designer will do a photo search for you, and frequently she will come up with a better idea than yours. She also knows how to manipulate photos, which can produce powerful and unique covers.

4. Find fonts you love and show them to your designer, but let her choose the fonts to use. Poor font choice is the most common error I see in self-published books.

5. Make your title big, because it’s going to appear postage-stamp size on the Amazon page, your primary selling location. Check to make sure it’s still readable in that small size.

6. Pay attention to the back cover, too. It should have a short descriptive paragraph about your book, a bio, and your (professionally produced) photo. People want to see who wrote this book. Also, a barcode is necessary, and your publishing imprint with the city, state, and website are helpful.

7. If you have testimonials, add a few at the top of the back cover. If you have a great one from a crackerjack reviewer, put that one at the top of your front cover. All the rest can go on the very first page of the book.

– Holly Brady

Holly Brady, former director of the Stanford University Publishing Course, works with serious writers who want to self-publish their books.

HollyBrady.com

Check out these posts for more tips on titling your book:

• From Working Title to Title That Works
• You’re Not Always Right: How to Succeed on Amazon
• How a Book Title Impacted Performance by 400%

Exactly who likes your product or design should never be a mystery to you. Knowing your audience means understanding their needs and desires, and knowing how best to address them.

On PickFu, you always know who answers your polls – each result includes a demographic breakdown of gender, age, income, ethnicity, and education level. But you can also target certain demographic groups so that only certain subsets of the population respond to your poll.

“Your audience gives you everything you need. They tell you. There is no director who can direct you like an audience.” – Fanny Brice

Mobile Device Platform

One of the most practical demographic segments PickFu offers is targeting iOS or Android users. If your app is only available on one platform, why poll those who couldn’t download it if they wanted to? This Android game wanted to see what users thought of a new mobile app icon. The poll encompassed Android users between the ages of 18 and 34:

app-icon-testing

PickFu also offers the ability to target Mobile Gamers.

Reading Preferences

Authors use PickFu extensively to test book titles, subtitles, cover designs, and blurbs. Knowing this, we created several categories on PickFu so that authors could better target readers. You can poll based on the type of reading (fiction or non-fiction) readers prefer, and the number of books they tend to read per month.

When writing effective book descriptions, a top tip is to use the first sentences of your blurb to hook a reader in. One author used PickFu to poll females who preferred fiction to gauge which opening sentences were more intriguing.

reader-poll

Vegetarianism

If your book is aimed at a niche market, why poll those outside that niche? One author whose cookbook included kosher vegetarian recipes polled 50 vegans and vegetarians. They overwhelmingly preferred the colorful, more poetic option over the straightforward title.

demographic-targeting-vegetarians

It would have even been possible to target only vegetarians of the Jewish faith on PickFu, though it would have taken longer to complete the poll. This author decided not to keep the focus that narrow. After all, the kosher recipes could still be enjoyed regardless of religious beliefs.

Income

When you’re launching a boutique product, it makes sense to ask opinions of those in your target market. This line of organic skincare products polled women who made over $60,000 to see which logo they preferred:

logo-poll

Age

Perhaps your product is aimed at the youth market. This upcoming line of streetwear wanted to see what males under the age of 50 thought of its logo design:

poll-young-males

These are just some of the ways the ability to laser-focus polls has helped our customers. Who is your main audience? Do they share certain traits? Are there even more segments that would be useful to you? Send your thoughts to us @PickFu!

When Steve Jobs talked to Fortune in 2000 about the Mac OS X’s Aqua interface, he delivered a classic line:

“We made the buttons on the screen look so good you’ll want to lick them.”

Today, an app’s icon needs to meet that standard if it’s going to gain traction with users. We reached out to app creators and UX designers to understand how to think about your app’s icon. Here’s what they shared:

Keep it simple, stupid

Like all good design, simplicity is key. “Your icon occupies invaluable real estate on your customer’s phone screen and as a developer, you need to treat every pixel like gold,” said Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal.

“The best app icons out there are easily recognizable, consist of few design elements and use a limited color palette that is consistent with the brand,” adds Victoria Gerchinhoren, Head of Design & UX at Thingthing, an iOS keyboard app.

Simplicity Part II: Remember you’ll use it elsewhere

Thingthing's app icon

Thingthing’s app icon

“Simplicity is also important for scalability,” Gerchinhoren says. “Your app icon will be shown in several places across different platforms and in various sizes. It must be clear and recognizable in all cases, large and small.”

Simplicity Part III: Familiarity = Freedom

Infiltr's app icon

infiltr’s app icon

When your app is new, it needs to convey more. It must clearly communicate how it meets a user’s needs. Philippe LeVieux, co-founder of infltr, said, “We currently use a camera icon with an infinity sign inside because we offer an infinite number of filters in our photo editor and camera app. With time, we want to evolve and drop the camera, and simply use the infinity sign. When you launch a new app, you want users to understand as much as possible from the icon. When you are established, you can start to simplify!”

Use color wisely

“In my experience, the most effective approach is to use the brand’s iconic mark or logo as the app icon, with the background color of the icon being the brand’s primary color,” said Nick Saporito, a freelance graphic designer. “Users tend to identify apps by color while scanning through their catalog of apps, and the background color is what’s most visible, so it makes sense to use your brand’s prominent shade.”

Tell a story

Petter's App Icon

Petter’s app icon

A clean, minimalist logo should still be able to say something about your brand and evoke emotion. “I went through multiple designs for the app icon, and finally settled on one that tells a story,” said Jeanie Galbreath, creator of The Petter App. “The turquoise in the icon is actually a hand that pets the animal.”

Continue to iterate

Adam Davis, Thingthing’s CMO, said that “although [our icon is] professional, easily recognizable and connects to what the app is about, we’re in the process of taking it further to more effectively communicate what makes [our] keyboard unique and better connect it to people’s productivity needs.”

A new icon helps convey a major update to users, like the addition of new levels in a game, or the introduction of more features.

When iterating icons, many developers turn to app icon testing on PickFu. For just a few dollars and in only minutes, companies can test versions of app icons to gauge audience reaction. Best of all, testing takes place before a live update in the App Store, saving approval time should multiple design revisions be needed. Simon Newstead, CEO of Frenzoo said, “When we created our unique 3D Fashion Game for iOS and Android, we used PickFu extensively to poll different icons, section names, and even the name of our game itself! It’s a cost-effective, fast, and very helpful service.”

app-icon-testing

See more examples of App Icon tests, and then give it a try yourself!

It started with an idea. Then it turned into a manuscript. Maybe you used one of the eight tools we highlighted to write and edit that manuscript. Now it’s time to publish. How can you transform and format your text into an attractive, sellable e-book? Whether you’re a design pro or a design no, these five tools will help you create a stunning, professional layout for ePub and Kindle formats.

Pages

pages-epub-template

If you’re an iWork user, you’ve already got Pages on your Mac. The good folks at Apple provided a digital book template that exports to ePub. Simply open the template, adjust the typefaces for titles, subtitles, headers, subheads, and copy in paragraph styles, and export.

Jutoh

jutoh

Jutoh is more robust than a word processor such as Word or Pages, with a cover designer feature and a table of contents wizard. It also offers more formats to export your book, and you can add viewer applications to preview what your book will look like on various devices. There is a one-time fee for purchase, but Jutoh offers a demo version to try before you buy.

CreateSpace

createspace

CreateSpace is Amazon’s foray into publishing software. It offers free tools like Cover Creator, with access to 2,000 stock images, and Preview, where your friends and family can download an excerpt of your book in order to provide feedback. CreateSpace works for both printed and digital book formats. Amazon also offers file conversion, editing, and layout for a fee.

Blurb

blurb-plug-in

If you want to create your layout in Adobe InDesign, then Blurb is a plug-in to help you create both print and digital books and magazines. Templates are created automatically based on your book size and page count, including appropriate bleed, trim, and safety areas. Blurb offers a print-on-demand service and enables authors to sell books on the Blurb website.

Wordzworth

wordzworth

Not interested in designing or formatting your book yourself? Outsource it to Wordzworth, a team of designers who will create a cover (not from a template), typeset your text, and format your images to produce in print or on screen correctly. Each book receives a quote, which is payable in two installments — one at the beginning of the project, and the other at the end.

At its most basic, writing only requires a pen and paper. But these eight tools will help you take your writing further – from composition to grammar checking, from workshop groups to professional editing.

Google Docs

google-docs

Google Docs just might replace Microsoft Word, especially if you’re collaborating with co-authors or an editor. Everyone can access and edit a document in real-time, and there are chat features and comments to hammer out any sticking points. The real-time nature of Google Docs spares you the confusing process of emailing different versions back and forth, keeping everything centralized. Your work is stored in the cloud, meaning you can work on your book from any device when you’re on the go. Best of all, it’s free.

Scrivener

scrivintrolarge

For a more robust composition software, try Scrivener. It’s made specifically for writers, with features that break your manuscript into chapters or scenes and enables you to navigate between them easily. You can also import research, notes, and images. Once you’re finished, Scrivener can export your work into an e-book. Scrivener is $45, and offers a free 30-day trial.

Grammarly

grammarly

Grammarly is a browser extension that goes beyond simple spell-check. Whatever you’re writing (be it your book, a Facebook promotional post, an email), Grammarly examines it for grammar, punctuation, proper sentence structure, and word choice. It even checks for plagiarism. Grammarly is free with a paid option.

Inked Voices

inked-voices

Looking for critiques on your book? Inked Voices is a membership site where small writing groups gather to workshop and improve one another’s work. Founder Brooke McIntyre explains, “Writers can also get critiques from professional editors and writing teachers via the site. Once a writer launches his or her book, we support them by announcing their latest books in our newsletter and on social media.” Membership is $10 a month or $75 a year.

Hiring an Editor

If you’re looking for a freelance book editor or ghostwriter, you might look at sites including Upwork, Fiverr, iFreelance, and FreelanceWritingGigs.com. Your experience will vary based on the person or people you hire, but these boards are a good way to connect you to lots of available talent. They’re also a good place to shop for graphic designers for your book cover.

Next up: Tools to help you format your book! Stay tuned…

Self-publishing is a learn-as-you-go process. Authors must constantly adapt and try new tactics in order to get their books in front of the right audience. We asked experienced authors if there was a single thing they did that helped boost sales. Here’s their helpful advice.

Advertise to the right list, even if that list doesn’t look like it accepts advertising

When Naresh Vissa released his book Podcastnomics, he was disappointed with initial sales. “I did a couple of Reddit AMAs, was interviewed by some small print and broadcast media, and used social media to spread the word,” he said, but “my book still couldn’t crack 100 books sold. Fortunately, I found a targeted blog geared towards podcasters, contacted the administrator, and asked him if I could advertise to his mailing list for nearly $300. He said very few people contacted him to advertise and that he never even thought of accepting advertising.”

The blogger agreed to Naresh’s request and sent an e-mail to his list, teasing the book and recommending it as required reading for all podcasters. “Within 24 hours,” Naresh said, “I sold more than 90 copies of the book, and later that week, it climbed all the way to #1 in its primary category on Amazon’s bestseller list. I recouped my advertising expense with that one quick and simple send. And because it rose the charts, Amazon then started pushing my book out because they thought it would sell well moving forward… and it has. I’ve sold more than 4,000 copies of the book to date.”

Get smart with email drip marketing

David Brown, author of The PFB Diet book, managed to triple his sales by setting up a drip marketing sequence. “Instead of directing my readers directly to the book sales page,” he said, “I started directing them to my subscribe page, where they can instantly download a free sample chapter from my book. After downloading the sample chapter, they receive five follow-up emails over the next 5 days, and these emails offer further insight into how my diet works.” David remarked that even though “I have done a ton of things to optimize my sales figures,… this one change really stands out in terms of how little work it took to gain such a major boost.”

Repackage what has sold successfully before

Carey Heywood is a best-selling romance author, and has had success by bundling her already-published material into a boxset. “The investment is low since the material already exists,” she says. “The cost to create a bundle is mainly formatting, cover design, and advertising.” Simple as that!

Redesign the cover

Carey also recommends redesigning a book’s cover, a strategy she calls “a cost-effective way to bring new attention to an older book.” She is currently designing a new cover for her book Better. “Once I have my new cover,” she says, “I plan to promote it with a paid cover re-reveal blitz and a sale,” a strategy that worked well for her in the past.

cover-design-poll

Many authors also use PickFu to test cover designs and find the one that audiences find most appealing. Author Dennis J. Coughlin said, “I loved my PickFu experience. I used it for my book [Rain Down‘s] cover design and I found the results were extremely helpful. I was impressed by the speed of the voting and the fact that everyone left a detailed comment in addition to their vote.”

Have you found a simple trick that boosted your book’s sales? Let us know!

Launching in the App Store means being at the mercy of Apple and Google, a nerve-racking prospect. Rejections can sometimes seem arbitrary, and unforeseen bumps in the road can delay a launch.

We asked experienced app developers what they wish they had known before releasing their first app. Here’s what they said:

Be conscientious with data

“Many times, we’ve seen our customers wanting to collect a wide array of user data for their analysis and marketing purposes,” said Mark Pedersen, app developer at Nodes Agency in London. “But if the app is not using these data for anything particular, odds are your app will be rejected due to collecting information not related to core functionality of the app.”

One suggestion: “Don’t ask users to subscribe to push notifications upon first opening the app without providing context for why you’re requesting permission,” adds Jonathan Levey, Digital Marketing Manager for Skyjet. “It’s better to prompt the user to opt in at some key experience point when they’re likely to be interested in receiving notifications.”

Why is this important? The next tip explains.

Make sure your app has staying power

“Ever download an app and try it out and realize it was a waste of your time and then immediately delete it? Well, in doing so, that negatively affects that app’s rankings in the store you got it from,” said Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal. Both the Apple App Store and Google Play measure how long an app stays on a user’s phone after it has been downloaded. “This is one of the best metrics for these platforms to understand if the app is quality enough to be solving the user’s problem, need, or desire. To move the needle on this metric, app developers simply must have a clean, concise, easy-to-understand user interface that satisfies the user’s intent.”

Add video

A great way to showcase your app is by adding video. “This will make it stand out from the other two million apps in the App Store and make consumers far more likely to engage and eventually download your app,” says Bob Bentz, president of ATS Mobile. “Many new apps simply don’t take advantage of it.” However, it’s important that your preview video focuses on functionality only.

Make sure it’s release-ready

“If you update your app straight away, the reviews you received from Day 1 users will move from Current Version to All Versions,” warns Ashley Burnett, 18-year-old creator of Type In Time and Motor Math. “You want as many Current Version reviews as possible, as you will get an average star rating under your app’s listing, which looks nice. Therefore, you should ensure 100% there are no bugs and give it a week or two before releasing any non-urgent updates.”

Remember the basics

One of the most common issues is forgetting meta-data. “The meta-data should always be double-checked for containing correct information and no broken links, since the moderators in the App Store are particularly keen on having correct meta-data,” says Pedersen. In addition, he warns, “the App Store moderators are intent on all apps having proper privacy policies in place. Apple takes this item very seriously, and even a few minor spelling errors in the privacy policy can result in rejections.”

More helpful hints

• Visit AppReviewTimes.com to get a crowdsourced idea of how long the review process will take.
• Email appstorepromotion@apple.com and appoftheweek@apple.com to increase your chances of being featured.
• Use PickFu to test app names, icons, descriptions, and more so that you have data before entering the review queue.

Got more advice for aspiring apps? Comment below!

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.