Learn to Self-Publish an eBook
Tim Lewis: I was lucky enough to be asked to appear on the Copy that Pops broadcast, which Laura Petersen runs. She’s both an author and an experienced copywriter, and I thought it would be interested to actually have somebody on to talk about how to write good book descriptions from a copywriting point of view, so this is how I’ve come to have Laura on the show.
I think it’s quite a good episode and we talk about how you should actually spend the time to actually write decent book descriptions. This is something I need to do myself because most of my book descriptions are terrible to be honest, and I think that writing the description of the book should be something that you do before you get to the publication side of things, because it’s all too easy to think, “Oh my God, what do I actually have to write for this book description on either the CreateSpace or the KDP dashboard.”
It would it actually have been better to have given some thought and actually write the book description in beforehand and make sure it’s perfect, because it’s such an important part of the book, front end so to speak.
So anyway, now over to the interview.
Hello, Laura, welcome to the show.
Laura Petersen: Hey Tim, thanks for having me.
How Much Difference Does a Good Book Description Make?
Tim Lewis: Okay. I suppose the first question should be how much difference does a good book description make on Amazon?
Laura Petersen: That’s a good question. I think it makes a big difference because there are so many books out there and more and more every day, so you have to stand out and you have to do two things really. Number one is you have to get found, so people even know you have a book out there, and then number two, you have to convince someone to actually click and want to make the sale. So a good book description can help you do both of those things.
Tim Lewis: Okay, as a copywriter, what do you think is the most important thing for an author to consider when writing book descriptions?
Laura Petersen: I think on that note of trying to get found and get the sale, I think you have to keep two things in mind. Number one is the bots and number one is the human, so in terms of writing your book description to be found by bots, by Amazon’s algorithms and the search and keywords and things, you need to keep in mind keyword research.
What are people actually typing in, so that if they found your book, it would be really relevant to that and they would be like, “Oh perfect, this is what I was looking for.”
So it’s the ways I recommend doing some of this keyword search to kind of figure out what are some good keywords to keep in mind for your particular book, is I would actually try to get inside of the reader’s head, your ideal audience, your ideal reader, and what would they be typing into Amazon and be perfect for your book to pop up.
So try to get into their head and see what are they typing, and another thing that you could do is actually go and look at some categories that you do want to be found in, and see what the top-ranking folks are doing for their descriptions. Go in and type in, let’s say you’re writing a thriller or a mystery.
Go into those categories and see what the top books currently are doing. Read their description, look at different ones, and look and see are there any keywords or phrasing that they’re using that you didn’t think of, but would be really relevant for you, and take some notes and be considerate about what you could incorporate into your own.
Another thing you can do is go to Google’s keyword planner tool. I know Google is different from Amazon, but if people are doing a lot of searching in Google for a certain topic or phrase, it could be also relevant in Amazon and maybe give you ideas that you didn’t think of. I think those are really good strategies for approaching the bots.
Now, in terms of human, I’ve got, let me see, four things for you to keep in mind around writing for a human because it’s great if you’re number one, and you’re found in the search, but then you also have to convince the person to actually care to want to click and read your description and then maybe check out a summary or the preview of your book and actually buy it.
The first thing is around psychology. I’m a big nerd for psychology. I talk about on my own podcast all about writing and psychology combined, so I would think about your reader again and think of the types of stories or imagery that’s going to really hook the reader and capture their attention the most.
So really try to get in their mind and think if they’re searching for this type of a book, what’s going to really grab their attention and make them go, “Oh, this sounds really intriguing.”
The second thing I recommend doing is while you’re doing this keyword research, you can also see what the top authors in the category are doing in terms of their book description, not just in keywords, but also in style.
So look at examples of others that you admire, other people who are ranking really well, and see what you can integrate into your own style of things that you think is working really well or you can also go completely opposite and if everyone’s kind of doing the same sort of approach, how can you be completely different to really stand apart. That’s another thing you can do.
The third thing I would recommend in terms of the human side is include some social proof in your book description. You could include some testimonials or reviews actually inside of the description. Especially if you can get a review or a testimonial from a big name that your readers would really recognise and respect.
You could also for social, reference past books or accolades that you’ve accomplished to show the reader that you’re someone worth reading. Let’s say you have another book that did really well, you could say, “From author of the best-selling Sci-Fi book XYZ, she’s done it again with this XYZ” you know, so you can reference past successes to instil in the readers mind hey, this is someone really worth checking out.
The fourth thing I recommend is I personally like to write my book descriptions in the third person so that it feels to the reader like my “publisher” is writing this about me, even though I’m self-publishing, it just kind of makes it feel a little more professional and it can sometimes be easier to kind of brag about yourself if you’re not writing it in the first person, like “I did this, I did that”, so those are my tips.
Tim Lewis: Okay, so you’ve obviously had best sellers, I think you wrote a book about podcasting.
Laura Petersen: Yeah, I did Copywriting for Podcasters.
Writing a Good Non-fiction Book Description
Tim Lewis: What kind of thing did you use? I’m interested in as much as you’ve got your keywords that you’ve obviously identified, or key phrases. How do you kind of weave them into your copy without sounding like you’re just trying the keyword stuff your copy with things?
Laura Petersen: I feel like I might be a little easier in that regard for a non-fiction book versus a fiction book in terms of the keywords, so it doesn’t feel like stuffing. For my book, it was very easy to say, “Here are some of the key topics that this book covers. If you want to learn more about show notes descriptions and book descriptions and copy for Facebook ads”, it was easy to list it out in a nice list, so the reader could come and say, “Oh, I want to learn about those things, awesome, this book is for me”. That’s probably a little easier for the non-fiction side. For the fiction side, I feel like people have an advantage around story.
You guys are already amazing at writing really compelling stories, otherwise you wouldn’t be writing creative books, so maybe have the advantage on that side of things is writing for the humans. If you just keep in mind some of those keyword phrases as you’re doing the research and you don’t have to stuff them in, but be more conscious about it, a little more conscientious about it then you would have otherwise, then you can make sure to get them in.
Maybe the top part is more story and it’s more catchy for the reader to entice them to want to actually click and read the book or read the description ’cause you know, you click more and then it opens up and you can see more. Then underneath that, maybe have a bit of a hook, like a story-type hook in your description and then underneath that, that’s where you can get a little more focused on the keywords, this sort of third person, being written about you and about your book description.
The second part, when it’s a bit more from the publisher’s point of view type of thing, that’s where you get more into those keywords and phrases, where it’s like, “This author is the expert in this genre. If you’re interested in reading books in this genre, then this is the person to listen to.” You can kind of hit the psychology and the humans in the top part and then transition to more of a publisher-written third person type of a description, and that could be where you hit more of those keywords and it will feel more natural and make more sense in that area.
Biggest Mistakes with Book Descriptions
Tim Lewis: Okay. What’s the biggest mistake that you see authors making in their book descriptions?
Laura Petersen: I think the first thing is maybe just doing it last minute, writing it off the top of their head without really thoughtfulness behind it or a plan or doing any revision. I know for me, sometimes the first thing I sit down to write is good, but it could be better if I put a little bit more thought and plan into it. I would just say don’t wait to the very last second when you’re like, “Oh my gosh, I’ve just got to get this up and be over with it.” Put a little thought and plan into it ahead of time just to give it more consideration around the keywords and around writing it to really hook somebody. Don’t just scribble down a sentence and be done.
The other thing I would say is I personally don’t like reading long solid blobs of text. I feel like in today’s world where we have so much text and we’re looking at so many different websites and things that it feels a little daunting to just see this giant blob of text, so I personally like bulletting things out, writing shorter paragraphs, strategically bolding things, which you actually can do in Amazon description if you know very simple HTML code, you can get some stuff bolded. Maybe even put in some dialogue. Pretend like two of your characters are talking, just use something to break it up so it’s not such a daunting, long-feeling blob of text to read in your description.
Tim Lewis: Okay. If an author decides to pay someone to help with their book description, what should they be looking for in terms of who to hire?
Laura Petersen: I would look for somebody who has done this type of thing in the past, or at least is willing to study up and learn maybe on their own time to prove that they really can serve what you need, and maybe ask them about their experience with keywords and writing for bots. Maybe if they’ve never written a book description, but they’re very good at SEO on a blog post, and they understand meta descriptions and alt tags on images, and understand the value of being thoughtful with keywords, but then also they’re conscientious about writing for humans and not just keyword stuff, I think that’s unnatural, no one cares to read that. I would ask them if they’ve done it before, and even if not, maybe for samples of previous work that demonstrates their ability to keep both the bots and the humans in mind.
Fiction Book Descriptions
Tim Lewis: Okay, well I’ve put in a nasty question here given that you’ve never written any fiction book descriptions-
Laura Petersen: Yeah.
Tim Lewis: … but how would you reckon, how do you write effective fiction book descriptions and how are these different from non-fiction ones?
Laura Petersen: I really feel like people who are writing fiction have that advantage over non-fiction writers around the psychology and the human side of really hooking their reader because you guys are already amazing storytellers, so if you’re able to do that right at the top, at the few little lines that are showing before someone has to click more to read more, I feel like that’s a great advantage that you should really leverage, that you should really take advantage of as a fiction book writer in your description.
I think too that you can kind of take that approach of kind of maybe mixing both worlds, where we started to allude to earlier where the top part, maybe write a more story-like, hooking imagery, pulling someone into the story, giving them a little taste and pulling them and hooking them into the world that you’re going to be painting and then you could even put some lines to kind of separate it visually, and then underneath, you could do the third person from the publisher type of a description of you with the social proof and kind of pull in maybe some of what a non-fiction writer might naturally be more inclined to do. Kind of mix both of the worlds together, I think that that would be a good approach.
If you are purely a fiction writer, go and check out some non-fiction books that are also doing really well and see what you can learn from that genre, and incorporate into yours.
How Long Should a Book Description Be?
Tim Lewis: Okay, something that occurred to me is how long do you reckon a book description should be on Amazon and just in general? Can a short book description work or does it have to be like paragraphs and paragraphs of fake words?
Laura Petersen: That’s a great question, and I feel like a lot of people ask me that around not just book descriptions, but anything, and my answer is always the same. I think it should be as long as it needs to be in order to accomplish your goals. If you’re amazing at writing really short stuff that just catches people, and people are like, “Oh my gosh, I have to read more.” Then go for it, you’re not going to have much of an opportunity to hit on the keyword side of things, but when you do publish on Amazon, you also are able to select keywords inside of KDP and there are other places for the keywords to be pulled from, so it’s not the only place that you’ve got going.
I would say as long as it needs to be in order to accomplish your goal, specifically around the human side, maybe put that at the forefront of really capturing someone because if they come and find your book, they still need to be convinced to buy it, and still need to be convinced to turn into a customer. But don’t be too afraid of it being too long, as long as it’s not maybe a solid blob of text that’s a little bit daunting and people are like, “No, I don’t even want to read this”, but see how you can break it up and keep it interesting and fresh and enticing.
Should you change your Book Description every few months?
Tim Lewis: Do you think there’s any merit in periodically refreshing your book description and rewriting it or reviewing how your book description is going? Even if you’ve go one that was performing well, do you think it makes sense to change your description every year or so?
Laura Petersen: Yeah, absolutely. I definitely do that myself. We all get so entrenched in our own writing that sometimes you miss errors or you don’t convey something as perfectly as you could, and after you go away from it for a while and come back and read it with completely fresh eyes, it can give you a new perspective, like ooh, if I just tweak this or that, that’ll make this more compelling and communicate better what I wanted to communicate. Also, as you progress in your writing career, in your business career, whatever you’re doing, you’re going to be accumulating more accolades or accomplishments or successes or testimonials. You could start to incorporate more of those into that second section as your accumulating them. As you get more reviews on Amazon, you could actually copy and paste those in and shout out some of your readers in actual book description. So yeah, 100% recommend updating the book description as well as your social media profile or the “About You” author profile in Amazon. Keep it fresh and updated for sure.
Tim Lewis: We’ve got a little bit of time I think. In terms of just general copywriting, are there any new trends coming around or any sort of new copywriting tricks that people are starting to use now that they weren’t using maybe 10, 15 years ago are interesting and maybe make their way into book descriptions?
Laura Petersen: Yeah, I think the first thing that comes to mind is I’m seeing a lot of emails and even blog articles that are very enticing and compelling, where they’re one line dot dot dot, one line, dot dot dot, and there’s breaks in between, to really kind of take my advice to the extreme of not having big blobs of paragraphs. Often some of these really enticing emails are just one liners, one after the next, and they’re just a series of one liners, but each line is so interesting and compelling that you’re just dying to read the next one, and those dot dot dots kind of help lead the mind to going, “Oh well there’s more, let me check out the next line.”
I know that that to some people is almost sacrilegious because if you’re a writer, you often maybe have an academic background and you really believe “no, don’t write with contractions or slang or dot dot dots” or this crazy one line paragraphs constantly. It might feel a little bit against the grain, but I think that with all of us doing more texting and more Twitter and more short-form things, that to entice someone, oftentimes to kind of break it up really in those little short one-liners and lead them from one line to the next can be effective if you’re willing to give it a try.
Tim Lewis: Okay. So I think that just about rounds up the interview. How can people find out about Laura Petersen and the things you do.
Laura Petersen: Yeah, so the main place on the web that you can find me is my website CopyThatPops.com, and there you can find a blog where I’m currently writing a ton of stuff about self-publishing specifically about non-fiction, but I’m sure there is amazing advice that you could also translate to fiction, so even if you’re not interested in non-fiction, then I think some of the blogs could still really be helpful. Then I have a podcast with the same name, Copy That Pops, which you can also find from the website, and then on social media, you can find me at LaptopLaura.
Tim Lewis: And that’s because you use your laptop a lot.
Laura Petersen: I know, I’m a digital nomad. Part of the reason I went in to being an entrepreneur is that I could just work from anywhere in the world and my name, Laura Peterson was already taken on social platforms, so I wanted to find something else and I love alliteration, so I was thinking about L words and I literally always have my laptop with me everywhere, so I thought that was the perfect one.
Tim Lewis: Okay, well it was great to have you on the show today, Laura.
Laura Petersen: Yeah, thank you so much for having me, Tim.
If you liked this show then you might like Writing and Pitching Screenplays with Charles Harris, Fiction Editing with Louise Harnby and How to Write Short Stories with James Scott-Bell
Learn to Self-Publish an eBook