Monday, November 7, 2011

How to Sell More eBooks

You've read all the blog posts about price points, editing, and cover art, but do you know how to sell more books by tweaking your book's product description page?

I recently read Dollars & Sense by the writerly trio of Carolyn McCray, Amber Scott, and Rachel Thompson (hitherto called the IBC girls because they are the founders of The Indie Book Collective), and I wanted to share a portion of the book with you.

One of the sections that really grabbed me was the part about the Amazon product description page.

McCray, Scott and Thompson have discovered some excellent ideas that can help GRAB your potential reader's attention, keep it, win the sale and attract them to your other books.

As the founder of The Kindle Book Review, I see way too many book descriptions that are long-block paragraphs with too many words.

Here's an example of what NOT to do, taken from a random book I found on Amazon. 

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Two novellas, a screenplay and a novel fragment the last two previously unpublished showcase the range of multiple Hugo and Nebula winner Martin (the Song of Fire and Ice trilogy). Black and White and Red All Over, the first 100 or so pages of an ambitious novel, follows three journalists in New York in the early 1890s as they cover a big crime story: the murder of the prostitute known as Old Shakespeare. Meticulously researched, sprawling and based on a real murder, it stunningly evokes place and time, but its leisurely pace means all too little happens. In "Skin Trade," it's up to asthmatic  Willie and his pal Randi to find out who's killing werewolves and removing their skins, but plots within plots collide, leading to a bloody and confusing ending. In StarPort, a never-produced, laugh-out-loud funny sci-fi police procedural, stolen weapons, a dead alien dignitary and an insane alien conspire to keep the cops in a futuristic Chicago busy. The closing fantasy novella, "Blood of the Dragon," the best of the four, tells a taut and moving coming-of-age story about a young princess sold by her brother into marriage to a warlord. Although different in tone, content and genre, all the stories have in common an unerring eye for the human condition and the kind of grand scope and large-scale world-building that make for compulsive page turning.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Although none of the four pieces in this book is new or has been previously published, all are good reading, and they provide valuable insight into what Martin was doing during the years when he apparently disappeared into the black hole of Hollywood. (He emerged at length and also in triumph with the fantasy saga Song of Ice and Fire.) "Black and White and Red All Over" is a take on the Jack the Ripper theme. "Skin Trade" is a werewolf story that draws on Martin's experience as a writer for the TV show The Beauty and the Beast. "StarPort" is a candidate for the Best Unproduced SF Pilot Script Award if ever there was one. Finally, "Blood of the Dragon" is a modest introduction to Song of Ice and Fire's formidable Princess Dany. Add an introduction by Melinda Snodgrass that attributes no virtues to Martin that the stories don't prove he has in full measure, and readers will be informed as well as entertained. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

I don't know about you, but I was done at "Publisher's Weekly". This example may seem extreme, but it's not. I see this ALL the time, and I bet there are a few authors reading this who are saying "Sh••! That's what my book description looks like."

Fear not. With the help of the IBC girls, you can fix your page and start attracting more readers faster than you can say, "Make me a bestseller." 

The IBC girls suggest a layout that is ideal for securing the sale. 
  • To do this, your description should start with two or three quality "blurbs".
  • Followed by a brief description of your book. 
  • Followed by more blurbs, mini reviews and maybe a bit more about the book, all in short, concise lines no longer than one or two sentences. 
  • Finally, they recommend that you end your product description by mentioning your book and/or other indie authors that you want to support.

To see an example of what I'm talking about, and to discover the details of their concept, go to the DOLLARS & SENSE Amazon kindle page, read the product description and then buy the book. This is just one of many great ideas that are in there. Then, come back and tell me what you learned from Dollars & Sense. BOOM!


  1. Setting aside Amazon's crap interface (seriously, who designed this? Why does such a huge company have such a bad website? or is it just me that thinks this? I HATE using Amazon). Anyway, setting that aside, the thing I hate MOST about product descriptions is FINDING THEM. even this example you provided - I had to wade through editorial reviews to find the bit that told me what the book is about. When I have to do that, I am a lot less likely to buy the book.

    the best advice I can give is make the bit that tells the reader what your book is actually about really easy to find. I HATE reading editorial reviews first. Why should I care if someone else thought it was brilliant? I don't yet know what it's about. Maybe it's about restoring old tractors and it may be a brilliant example of that but I don't care two figs for restoring old tractors. In this case the reviews do give some idea of what the book is about but for fiction that will be less obvious. really I think the bit entitled 'Overview' should come first.

    Tell me what it's about first. IF I'm interested in what your book's about THEN I may care about other people's views.

    That's the opinion of a frustrated reader tired of trying to find out what the hell a book is about on Amazon.

  2. @ Ciara ~ Hi Ciara, Thanks for your input. I agree; too much of anything before the actual description is frustrating. I'm truly amazed at how difficult many writers and publishers can't get this right. Maybe things will improve. Thanks for visiting.

  3. I agree with Ciara. I want to know what the book's about and judge for myself. Critics may have hated something I'll love and vice versa.

  4. Sorry. I'm chiming in here as well. I agree with the above comments. I didn't appreciate all the mumbo-jumbo reviews.

    TELL me what the book is about. Sell me on that FIRST, then pour on the reviews and other readers comments.

    That aside, the book, from all it's reviews including the 3 star (which I ALWAYS read first--five stars don't sell me) said it had a lot of useful information. So I may just check it out.

    Despite their example, you do make some valid points.

  5. @ A.R. ~> I'm seeing a pattern here. From what the book says, there system is based on what has worked and not worked through their experience. Whatever works, I know the above example is too wordy and the long paragraph is enough to shoo me away because I'm afraid the writing will look like that...I've learned to like white space on my pages. Thanks for visiting. Come back soon.

    @ Angela ~ Thanks for chiming in. Clearly there is a reader perspective here and an author perspective. The readers seem to be saying...just tell me about the book and the author is saying...tell me what will help me sell more books.

    In the end, I think there is a long list of things that sell books. Some techniques will help, and perhaps this method works. But it certainly takes more than just good writing, good editing and cover art. Selling requires many uncontrollable variables as well, such as timing, luck, marketing, advertising, word of mouth and market trends.These cannot always be quantified. Therefore, an author/publisher will have to work on the techniques that have been shown to be more helprful than not.

    I'm still waiting for Amazon to publish my changes that I made a couple of weeks ago, so I'll find out if it makes a difference. Thanks for visiting!

  6. Very interesting. I learned about what you've pointed out a while back and I tweaked my Amazon book pages. I do have a couple of reviews before the book description, but they are very short, so as not to distract the reader too much. And I keep my book description extremely short as well. Just enough to intrigue the reader. I see so many book descriptions that are long, boring and so on - why do these authors think this will sell a book?


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