It’s always a good thing when you can pitch your story well. But so many indie or self-published authors settle for lame Amazon descriptions, making their books a hard sell. You may have even looked at your description and thought it could be better, but you haven’t known where to start.
The good news is that you don’t have to have a bad Amazon description. Just a little bit of work will give you a great description that piques a reader’s interest. Today, let’s look at what goes into an incredible Amazon description and how you can make it yours.
Do Your Research
If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you probably know that I’m a big advocate of researching the way successful titles are doing things. The process of writing an Amazon description is no exception. You can learn a lot by spending half an hour looking at the descriptions of other titles on Amazon that are selling well.
Here’s how to get started: First, find your book’s category or categories in the Top 100 section of the Kindle store and click the category link to see that Top 100 list. Look at the list for the Top 100 Paid books in that category and choose some books to research. I’d recommend checking out at least the top ten titles on the first page, then maybe two or three that look interesting on the remaining four pages of results. (That means you’ll be looking at around twenty books.)
Take a moment to read through the descriptions of these books. Take note of what elements you see. Also, look at what displays as the description before the Read more link—often called “above the fold.” This may be the only text the reader sees, so it’s very important to make sure your key description points are included in this section.
You’ll want to do the exercise for yourself with your own categories. Different genres will often have different strategies that work to sell books. But to give you an example, here’s a list of some of the things I saw when I did this exercise with books in the Science Fiction Adventure category.
- Bold teaser text with an eye-grabbing tagline. (A vague statement like “humanity might not survive” doesn’t say much about the story details, but it sets the mood draws the reader’s eye to the description area.)
- Simple formatting, but a very compelling description in brief paragraphs.
- A sentence near the top of the description that offers an interesting idea. (This is probably most common in the science fiction/fantasy genre. In this genre, saying that somebody “uncovers a mystery that could prove Einstein’s theory of relativity” is exactly what your niche readers want to hear. But you’re probably not going to get many romance readers that way.)
Your list will probably look a little bit different from mine due to different genre conventions, but some of the elements should be similar. With a list like this, you can get started crafting a description that fills these parameters, which makes the job less daunting. Instead of approaching the task with the goal of, “I’m going to make a great Amazon description,” you can say, “I need a tagline, a compelling summary, and an interesting idea.” It’s much more manageable to take it one piece at a time.
Let’s take a moment to look at two keys that are important for any Amazon description: An intriguing summary and an attention-grabbing tagline.
Write a Clear, Intriguing Summary
Remember I said I would talk more about a clear summary in the next section? Here’s the next section, so let’s look at it!
While I was doing research into successful books’ Amazon descriptions, I found The Martian on the Top 100 list for Science Fiction Adventure. Its description is a fantastic example of a very clear, very compelling summary, and yet the description doesn’t have any fancy formatting!
What makes it work so well? The entire premise of the story is given in two brief sentences that grab the reader from the start: There’s a guy on Mars and he’s stuck. That’s all above the fold, before the reader clicks Read more. The rest of the description fills in a few more details in case you needed a bit more to get you to read the book, but the work of selling you on the story is pretty much all done with those first two sentences.
It’s up to you to figure out how to boil your story down to something that simple, yet so compelling. There’s unfortunately no formula I can give you for this. I can, however, point you to my book Finding the Core of Your Story, which is designed to give you the tools you need to communicate your story’s most reader-grabbing elements in a clear, intriguing way. The free sample on my site gives you a quick-start chapter to get you off and running—please download and make use of that chapter with my compliments.
Now, once you’ve put together your summary, it’s time to move on to the tagline or attention-grabber.
Write an Attention-Grabber
Many book descriptions use a bolded tagline that’s designed to stand out. It catches the reader’s eye and directs their attention to rest of the description. Get someone reading the tagline, and their eyes will often continue to the description on autopilot.
There are two ways to make an attention-grabber: Pull a quote from your book, or write a really great tagline.
The Book Quote
Have you ever opened a novel and found a short paragraph from the book on the first page? That’s the idea here. Find an iconic, amazing section from your book, put it in bold or italics, and you’re done. Since every book is unique, I can’t tell you what to pick, but I can tell you that you may get some good suggestions by asking your readers what part of the book stood out to them visually or emotionally.
A tagline is just one sentence. It’s typically something vague that sets a mood or tone for the description that follows. Again, I can’t tell you what would make a good tagline for your book, but if you’ve done your research into similar titles in your categories, you should already have a wealth of inspiration.
One more question to consider before we wrap up:
Should I Include Reviews in My Description?
This is a question of much debate. You’ll find many authors using pull-quotes from reader reviews in their descriptions, and I even used to highly recommend doing so as social proof that your book is great. Unfortunately, including reviews in a description is prohibited by Amazon’s guidelines.
Instead, you might want to put some reviews in the Editorial Reviews section. It’s not readily obvious, but you can add editorial review quotes to your book’s Amazon page from your Author Central account.
Make It Look Awesome
Now that you have an incredible description, you might want to think about making it even better by applying some basic formatting. My article about formatting your Amazon description will help you there, and it even includes a free template for you to fill in.
There you have it! You are now equipped to create an incredible Amazon description for your book. It’s completely worth the couple of hours you might spend doing research and crafting your description. You’ll stand out from the crowd of inept descriptions and make your book look like a worthy buy.