Most readers buy most books on Amazon, which means that if your Amazon book page is weak, your sales will be too. It doesn’t matter whether you like Amazon or not. Most of your readers prefer to buy on Amazon.
If you want people to land on your Amazon book page, your cover must convince people to click, but your book description blurb will convince them to buy.
You only get a few sentences to capture a potential reader’s attention, so those few sentences are some of the most important and difficult writing you’ll do.
Writing a book description is challenging and frustrating for authors because it’s different than writing a novel. Even writing a compelling nonfiction book description is difficult.
How do you write a compelling book description that will grab potential readers?
How do you make your Amazon page stand out so people will buy and read your book?
Thomas: You rolled out a new feature called the Book Description Generator (Affiliate Link). What on earth is that?
Dave: I created the tool to help authors craft beautiful-looking book descriptions. Some authors don’t realize they can use HTML coding to add bold words, bigger words, bullet points, and numbers to their Amazon book descriptions.
Most authors don’t know how to HTML code. Even those who do sometimes make mistakes in the coding or forget to close out a piece of code. That results in crazy-looking book descriptions.
We designed this free online tool that allows you to format your book description text like in Microsoft Word. You can see exactly how it will look on Amazon. When you’re finished formatting, you click a button to get the HTML code and then copy and paste it into your KDP dashboard when it asks for your book description. It’s been a go-to tool for authors.
Over the years, I’ve shopped for and bought many books, and I’ve frequently seen some really bad book descriptions.
Some authors think a book description is a book report. When I’m done reading those kinds of book descriptions, I don’t feel I even need to buy the book. The trouble is that authors, who are used to long-form writing, find it difficult to describe their book in only 200 words that will entice people to buy.
My team and I have been monitoring Amazon and analyzing customer interactions, and we’ve discovered there’s almost a format to Amazon book descriptions that convert.
Format of an effective Amazon Book Description
The hook is a sentence or two that grabs a reader’s attention. When a shopper visits your Amazon sales page, they’ll only see two sentences of your book description in the preview, and they’ll need to click “read more” to see the rest.
2: Subgenre Developer
The next paragraph or lines reveal the book’s genre. The shopper wants to know if it’s a true post-apocalyptic or dragon post-apocalyptic book.
3: Introduce the Protagonist
In the next paragraph, you introduce your protagonist and why he or she is special. Then you say a bit about the antagonist or the battle your protagonist will be fighting.
4: Mic Drop
The next paragraph is usually a mic drop moment. This is where you ask, “Will he win and save humanity, or is humanity doomed?”
5: Familiarity Paragraph
Next, you’ll tie up your description with a familiarity paragraph that tells your reader that your book is similar to others they’re familiar with.
You might say, “If you love Book A, Book B, and Book C, then you’ll love this book too.”
Finally, add a call to action (CTA) such as, “Get this book now.” Many authors forget to add the call to action.
But be careful with your CTA. Amazon doesn’t like you to say things are “on sale” or a certain price. They get mad about that.
We have found that a great call to action sounds more like, “Get it now before the price changes.” Amazon is okay with that wording, which provides urgency and awareness of an upcoming price change that may motivate the customer to purchase sooner rather than later.
How can AI make a good description better?
Even though I’ve created a PDF that explains the structure and provides examples, some authors still want more help. To help those authors, we added a free AI feature to the Book Description Generator (Affiliate Link).
Now authors can type or paste their book’s description into the tool and then click the AI button. AI will look at your book description and the elements in the book description formula and try to improve it.
AI does a good job, but it’s not perfect and never will be, but it’s helped many authors. You might read the AI improvement and say, “I love that sentence!” or “I didn’t think of that.”
Authors are now using AI as a muse. They’re copying, pasting, and changing to improve their book descriptions. The best part is that you can hit the AI button again to continue to polish that copy.
I was at the Self-Publishing Formula conference in London when an author told me a story. He was skeptical about the tool. To test it, he printed his book description and the AI version our tool produced. He showed both to his wife and asked her which she liked best. She chose the AI version.
With that confirmation in hand, he improved the AI version and saw an increase in sales. He was really jazzed about it.
This AI feature is like an “easy button” that lets AI act as a muse to improve what you’ve created and make a book description you’re more proud of.
Thomas: AI helps you by giving you new ideas about how to write your description.
As James L. Rubart says, “It’s hard to read the label when you’re standing inside of the bottle.” As the author, you know too much about your book to write the description. You’re too close to it. The characters are like your children, so cutting one from the description seems like a tragedy.
AI has none of those qualms and doesn’t know as much about your book as you do. AI’s lack of knowledge about your book is bad for writing your book but good for helping you describe it to a stranger.
Getting that outside perspective is helpful. It helps you “read the label.” Maybe it hasn’t read the label with 100% accuracy, but you might see a cool phrase you could use.
How does the AI build out that formula you started with?
Dave: My programming team did an insane amount of queries and programming that told AI what to do, where to focus, and how to break it down.
Giving AI the ability to automatically apply the formula has improved a lot of book descriptions out there.
I’ve seen authors write one giant block of text with too many things in there, and they don’t break it out. They don’t have a hook or a call to action, so it looks like a 300-word book report.
If you put that kind of book description into our AI tool, it will break it out into something that is so much more marketable than what you gave it.
And the best part is that you don’t have to study these things. You just enter your description, let the AI roll with it, and then add your personal touch to make it a book description you’re proud of.
Thomas: There’s very little risk for authors. At the worst, the AI version is worse, or you don’t like it as much, but it’s not automatically added to your Amazon page. You’ll add it manually, but only if it’s better.
You might as well try it because if you can increase the conversion rate of your Amazon page, you will increase the conversion rate of all your other marketing efforts that point people to your Amazon book sales page.
Even when you’re doing in-person marketing, some people will come to your booth at an event and use their phones to buy your book on Amazon.
If your Amazon page is strong, even your in-person marketing will be more effective.
Does a landing page increase your sales?
Dave: I like to call my Amazon book sales page my landing page because that’s what it is. That’s where I want to send my customer. If I can improve that page to convert at 2% instead of 1%, I’ve just doubled my income from that page.
All your other marketing tactics, such as Facebook ads, Amazon ads, and your email list, bring people to your landing page, AKA your Amazon book sales page.
If all those tactics bring 100 people to your Amazon sales landing page and your page converts at 1%, that means you made one sale. If you improve that page and increase your conversion rate to 3%, you’ve just tripled your sales. You will make three sales for every 100 people that come to your landing page.
Improvements on your landing page will improve your marketing efforts across the board. Many authors leave money on the table because they don’t do these things.
Why don’t my Facebook ads work?
Thomas: Along those same lines, if you’ve tried advertising and determined it doesn’t work, the problem might have been your landing page, not your ads.
If your ads got lots of clicks, that means people saw your book cover and the ad headline, and they clicked. If you get ad clicks but not sales, the problem isn’t the ad. It’s the landing page.
If something on your landing page makes people feel even a little uneasy, they won’t buy. Internet marketers have known this for decades. There’s a whole science called “landing page optimization,” and millions of dollars of research have gone into it.
We know what makes a landing page work because of rigorous scientific studies that track eye movement. Amazon has already used that research to optimize its landing pages (sales pages).
Amazon’s ugly orange “add to cart” button is ugly and orange for a reason.
It clashes and draws attention to itself on purpose. So, the optimized framework is in place. You just need to optimize the elements you add to your book’s sales page so that your page will convert and not make people uneasy.
Dave: Years ago, somebody wrote an article about that orange button. Amazon spent millions of dollars researching what button color would improve sales. If that orange color could increase their conversion rate by 0.02%, Amazon would make tens of millions of dollars more every year just because they changed the color to a slightly different orange.
And that’s how important these things can be.
Why don’t my Amazon ads work?
When I started running Amazon ads, I could see the customer behavior. I knew how many people saw my cover and title and liked it enough to click on my ad. These people already had an Amazon account, knew what I was about, were interested, and were ready to buy.
But I could also see the number of people who clicked and didn’t buy. Something about the landing page made them uneasy, and they clicked out of it.
Many authors will draw 400 people from their Amazon ad, but only make one sale. That tells me the ads are working, but the landing page is failing.
Book Cover Images
Thomas: A good book cover is even more important than a good blurb. People won’t read your blurb until you’ve dazzled them with your cover.
Dave: As we try to set shoppers up for success on our landing pages, another important element is your book cover.
I like to test a book cover to see how it will perform on an Amazon sales page. To test the cover, I’ll remove the subtitle, shrink the cover image to the actual size people will see on Amazon, and then print it out. I give the printed copy to someone unfamiliar with the author and ask them what kind of book they think it is.
It’s a fun little exercise. Give that printout to someone who doesn’t know what you write, and you’ll be surprised to find out what your book cover communicates.
One of my favorite examples of this test was an author who’d used a cool retro typewriter image on their book cover. However, when they shrunk the image, it looked more like a toilet seat. They tried to be cool with this retro typewriter but unintentionally communicated something else entirely.
Another time a semi-famous author’s book cover used an image of the shadow of a cowboy standing on a hill. In the background, there were fireworks.
The title was just one word, but when we shrunk the cover to Amazon sales page size, you couldn’t tell if the fireworks were ramparts and it was a Western novel, or if it was a modern western with fireworks, or if the guy on the hill was a general in the civil war.
Nobody could identify the genre based on the single-word title and the ambiguous cover.
I love that little test, and I highly recommend you try it to see what people say.
Thomas: The cover must communicate the genre because people only read in certain genres. Nobody reads every genre. Communicating your genre will help increase the effectiveness of your ads and click-through rates, but it will also improve the quality of your book reviews.
If your book cover looks like a cozy romance but turns out to be erotica, readers will be mad.
Dave: For romance book covers, it matters how the character on the cover is dressed and where their eyes are focused. Both communicate how steamy the book will be. If the cover communicates hot and steamy, but readers get schoolmarm, they’ll be mad and leave bad reviews.
Print a small image of your book cover without the subtitle and see what people perceive. You might be surprised at what sticks out or what they interpret from the cover.
Learn more about creating a good book cover:
- Effective Book Cover Design
- How to Create a Design Brief for Your Book Cover
- Book Cover Mistakes That Sabotage Sales
Does Amazon’s A+ content help or hurt sales?
Thomas: Indie authors are excited to have access to Amazon’s A+ content feature. Some have no idea what A+ content is, and others won’t shut up about it.
Dave: I don’t love A+ content as much as some people because I’ve seen authors use unprofessional-looking content there. Some people just use their cover image again or create something that looks bad. In those instances, A+ content can hurt your sales.
However, if you have a graphic designer who can create graphics with scenes from your book or provide a graphic of your cover image from a different angle, then your page will look more professional.
One author used a star map as part of the A+ content. If you’re a fantasy author, a map of your fictional land makes you look even cooler. It shows me the world-building inside your book. These things cause people to believe your book is professionally done and it’s the kind of book they’ll love.
A+ content is excellent if you have the ability to design something new, unique, and professional-looking. If you don’t and you’re throwing things together in Canva, it can hurt you because it lowers your professionalism.
Thomas: That’s what we call the MySpace effect. A+ content allows you to add a rich graphics section to your book page called “From the Publisher.” As the indie publisher, you can use that section to add whatever you want, as long as it falls within the guidelines.
But just because you can put dancing unicorns behind the text doesn’t mean you should. That kind of freedom killed MySpace. They gave their teenage users too much control over the look and feel of their MySpace pages. Some MySpace pages had pink text on a purple background and were completely unreadable. It was a terrible user experience.
Facebook saw that and didn’t allow users to change anything, and that’s how they beat MySpace.
If you have unprofessional, poorly designed A+ content, it may be worse for sales than if you left that section blank. At least with the text alone, you look like all the other book descriptions.
On the other hand, if you have professionally designed A+ content, you’ll have an advantage over other authors.
One way to determine whether A+ content is helping or hurting is to test it with ads. Find out your current conversion rates and see how well your ads are working. Then add your A+ content to see if your ads become more or less effective. That data will tell you whether your A+ content was helping.
Dave: Amazon ads will show how many people Amazon sent to your page and how many converted. If I change something on my page, I can see whether it affects conversions.
The Most Underused Section of Your Amazon Sales Page
Nobody touches the Editorial Review section, but it’s a huge opportunity. It’s your blank canvas to write almost anything. Back in the day, Amazon’s FAQs said that even your mom could write something about your book.
The Editorial Review section is your chance to include almost anything. If you’ve won an award or been nominated, put that right at the top.
But here’s the best part that so few authors know about. Everybody thinks they need big-name authors in the Editorial Review section, but they don’t know any big-name authors, so they leave that section blank.
Here’s the secret: It’s not about the name.
Most of the time, people don’t recognize the names of editorial reviewers, but they do recognize the qualifiers behind the name.
We did a heat map test where paid participants shopped for books on Amazon. We tracked their mouse and eye movements and discovered that most people would look at the editorial review section, but few actually read the reviews.
They did, however, pay attention to what made the editorial reviewer special.
Every novelist probably knows at least one other author in their genre who has hit bestseller status on Amazon. Maybe nobody recognizes the author’s name because they’re not famous, but that’s not the point. The name’s not the qualifier; the multi-bestselling status is what matters.
Readers will see the qualifier and say, “Oh wow, other big authors in this genre talk about this book or author.” That gives the customer confidence that it’s probably a good buy.
I tell novelists to find five authors in their genre who have a qualifier. I tell nonfiction authors to find a doctor or professional expert who has something to say about their topic. Qualifiers such as Ph.D. and MD make a difference.
People might not know the doctor or professor, but they understand the person’s title.
Thomas: If you want help to get good endorsements, check out our episode on How to Get Endorsements for Your Book, which includes a free tracking spreadsheet to help you track who you’ve contacted and where you are in the process. Staying organized makes a big difference.
Controlling the Seemingly Uncontrollable Also-Boughts
Another section of your sales page that may evoke that uneasy feeling for customers is the also-boughts section. Many indie authors get nervous about the also-boughts because they can’t control what people buy.
What techniques keep the also-boughts clean?
Dave: An author may be tempted to pay a foreign company to gather a bunch of people to buy the book. While that strategy may temporarily jack up your Amazon bestseller rank, it will also make your also-boughts section crazy, which can hurt your sales. You’ll start seeing completely unrelated or low-quality books listed in your also-boughts section, and that will make potential customers bounce.
If you’re considering paid reviews or sales, just know that it will hurt you in that section.
How to Clean Up Also-Boughts Section
Tip 1: Add an Also By Page
Always include an “Also by this author” page in your book’s backmatter.
Every book you publish should have a page that lists all the other books you’ve published.
One of my buddies wrote a bunch of nonfiction books, and neither the first nor the second books had many sales. But his seventh book took off. Thanks to his “Also by this author” page in his backmatter, sales of his previous six books took off too.
Many people will look for their next read after they finish your book, and that’s an opportunity for you to show them your catalog. Eventually, your own books start showing up in your also-boughts section.
Tip #2: Author Collaboration
I love working with other authors in my genre or topic. Most authors don’t publish a new book every month, but most have an email list. They’re always looking for some way to engage their readers.
Some authors will recommend another author’s book in their email newsletter. Other authors write their email newsletter on a topic, but at the end of the newsletter, they include a section called “What I’m reading now.”
That’s a cool way to stay engaged and provide input. It also allows you to promote other authors while you’re working on your book. When your book comes out, the other author will be more inclined to promote it to their readers. Working with other authors is a great way to increase your sales, build your network, and have a great also-boughts section on your sales page.
Thomas: If you’re unpublished, it also gives you something to write about in your email newsletter. Maybe your book progress has been slow, and you don’t necessarily want to report to your readers that you’ve progressed from 15% to 25%. Instead of reporting mild progress, recommend some great books and establish yourself as somebody who has good taste in books and hangs out with good authors.
When your book finally launches, your also-boughts will populate with the kinds of books you’ve been recommending and maybe the exact books you’ve been recommending.
That strategy solves many problems and sets you up for long-term success. Eventually, it will help pull your own books into your also-boughts section.
Dave: I love to create a blog post that lists my favorite books in a genre. I even include that list in my email autoresponder. That email has a high open rate because people are very interested in what I like and which books they have and haven’t read.
Since I publish the list on my website, I can use my Amazon Associate links to earn a small percentage of those sales. On top of that, the Amazon Associates dashboard shows me what customers actually bought, so I can see other books my shoppers are buying on Amazon. That data informs my own reading list, guides me in developing relationships with other authors, and gives me information about the shopper.
At the same time, it’s influencing my also-boughts. Somebody who has signed up for my email list and reads my emails is somebody who’s probably bought my book. If I’m recommending good books and those books populate my also-boughts, new shoppers on my book sales page will see that people who love Starship Troopers also really like this book. That’s how they’ll know they’re in the right spot.
Thomas: Just remember, while it’s nice to swap promotions with other authors, the most important aspect of your promotion is to only recommend good books. You don’t want to undermine your reputation by recommending bad books.
It’s tempting to partner with every author who wants to swap promotions without taking the time to read their books, but that’s a mistake. That puts you in the author community where people are doing the minimum amount of work.
You don’t want to be around lazy authors looking for shortcuts. You want to be with the hardworking, winning authors, and you want to demonstrate your good taste, so you must read the books you want to promote.
Do your homework. If you do newsletter swaps and cross promotions without reading the book or researching the author, you’ll look desperate.
Desperation is unattractive. If readers sense your desperation, they get that weird feeling and don’t buy.
Using the Subtitle to Communicate Subgenre
Dave: I encourage authors to use their fiction subtitles to help people understand the subgenre of your book.
For example, I’m a huge LitRPG cultivation fan, but I can’t tell by looking at a book cover whether a book is LitRPG cultivation. There’s no element that communicates that genre. I feel more comfortable and ready to read the rest of the book description if the subtitle communicates the LitRPG cultivation genre.
By contrast, everybody knows what Nora Roberts and Stephen King write, so they don’t need subtitles to communicate the genre.
But new authors need to give readers a nudge so that they know. Customers will be far more likely to click if they know what to expect.
Thomas: You can learn more about titles in our episode on How to Pick a Strong Book Title. We talk about choosing keywords for your title, especially for a micro genre that may not have a category.
Dave: The best way to sell something to someone is to use their own words. So if I’m looking for the LitRPG cultivation dungeon and those words are clearly in your subtitle, then I’ve found what I’m looking for.
Thomas: How do you get more reviews from the right kind of readers?
Dave: Amazon recently said they will start using AI systems to crawl through book reviews and start to predevelop the good and bad things reviewers say about a product. That way, shoppers won’t have to read individual reviews. They’ll read the overall summaries of what people liked and disliked in AI-generated paragraphs.
As a shopper, I’m excited about that development. Our data shows that most of the time, people typically read three-star and two-star reviews over one-star and five-star reviews.
A three-star review usually has positives and negatives about the product, which provides the most value when I’m looking for a product on Amazon.
As a shopper, I’m excited about Amazon using AI to figure out the general good and bad of products.
As an author, I’m hesitant and worried about how they’ll handle it. For example, if my book has a 4.9 stars out of a five-star rating scale, that might mean one person didn’t like or understand the book.
I want to know whether Amazon will leave the “bad” paragraph blank or if they’ll use the words of one person who didn’t understand the book. Depending on how they handle it, that one-star ridiculousness may be in the forefront as if it’s equal to all the five-star reviews.
As an author, I worry that shoppers will read that one bad review summary and decide to move on, even though the AI-generated paragraph was based on the reviews of a couple of jackwagons who got it wrong or didn’t even read the book.
Thomas: Amazon will likely pull reviews from Goodreads as well. So as you’re encouraging launch team members to leave reviews, make sure you’re sending some people to review on Goodreads.
If your fans review on Amazon and your haters review on Goodreads, you’ll have very different scoring between the two sites.
Thomas: You also want to place your book in the correct Amazon categories and use the right keywords. Dave’s Publisher Rocket tool will help you choose the best keywords and categories for your book.
As I like to say, Publisher Rocket (Affiliate Link) is like your left eye, and K-lytics (Affiliate Link) is your right eye. Either one can take you from blindness to sight, but both of them together give you the full perspective.
But you don’t need Publisher Rocket in order to use the Book Description Generator (Affiliate Link). Try it out. The worst thing that could happen is that you waste five minutes pasting your book description. But if it improves your book description, you may increase your conversion rate, and that could change the trajectory of your whole career.
Do you have questions or comments about your book description or anything we’ve discussed? Post your questions and comments in this episode’s discussion post at AuthorMedia.com.