There are some critical book fundamentals that you need to have in place so your book stands a chance on the crowded stores. In today's article, Lori Culwell, author and book marketing expert, shares her insights around book description meta-data.
This year I've been working more and more with authors, agents, and publishers, all of whom pretty much share the same goal: sell more books!
I am a “trial and error” kind of internet marketing person who also happens to be an author (seriously- I've written six books), so I am probably more willing than most to change/ test/ try new things. Here is a method I have been using successfully with my own books and with client books.
This method involves your book description, and if you're anything like the countless publishers and authors I've worked with (as well as myself), you are not using all the space you've been given in the description.
How much space, you might ask?
Well, that varies by bookseller. Here are the character limits (as of late November 2013):
Amazon – 5000 character limit, 7 keywords
B&T – no character limit, no option for keywords at this time
iTunes – 2000 character limit, no option for keywords (at least not with our current software – will need to be investigated)
Ingram – 4000 character limit, no option for keywords at this time
Overdrive – 3750 character limit, keywords accepted
Kobo – Never got back to me about this, and it's not clear in their “Writer's Life” interface. I'd say try doing a copy/ paste of your 5,000 character description from Amazon, then cut back to see how many will fit.
B&N – 5,000 character limit through Nook Press (their online self-publishing platform), possibly less through their physical publication arm, though I never did hear back from multiple inquiries to Barnes & Noble.
So–what can you do with all this space? This is where most authors/ publishers miss the boat, in my opinion, because this space is for much more than your book jacket copy. We need to start seeing this description section more like a landing page, where we have ten seconds to sell people on ourselves and our books.
Here are some ideas on how to fill up that space:
Book description, extended
This is where you would describe your book using the actual name of the genre, like Young Adult/ Romance/ Mystery if you write fiction, or whatever sort of non-fiction the book happens to be, like a cookbook or self-help. It will seem weird at first to put something that feels like a category into your description, but it works! If you need some ideas for similar words or phrases to your genre, use Google's Keyword Suggestion tool (you'll need a free AdWords account), or if you're super motivated, go with a paid tool like Market Samurai or Wordtracker.
This is especially helpful for self publishers, who don't always have access to the “editorial reviews” section that is available to most publishers. Right now, go over to your book listing and pull out two or three great reviews to quote in the listing.
I'm not talking about the “look inside” function here; I'm talking about actually putting an excerpt of your book inside the description. As you can probably see, we're getting down into a place where somebody would have to scroll and open up the rest of description to see it, so it's not necessarily that people are going to go down there and read this. This is more for Amazon's internal algorithm, so that Amazon will know what the book is about, categorize it properly, and show up when show it when people are searching for books.
Space still not full? Write a little about yourself and what you write, and even WHY you write what you write. Every little bit helps.
As I mentioned, I am an internet marketing/ Search Engine Optimization person, so I'm sure you can see where I'm going with all of these words. We can probably all agree that Amazon is a powerful search engine. In fact, depending on who you ask, some would say that it is the fourth or fifth most popular search engine in the world. My hope for you is that filling up the book description field with great, contextually relevant words gives your book description (and your book!) the push of discovery that it might need to get it seen by new fans.
And with that, I will leave you to gather more things to put into your book description.
My best advice?
Use all the space any bookseller will give you even if it means having to do a Q&A with yourself about the genre in which you write. Obviously, you will have better access to your book description if you are self-publishing, but if you're working with a traditional publisher, there is no reason you can't deliver a keyword-packed 5,000 character description to them along with your manuscript. They will probably thank you!
All this work on your description might seem silly now, but statistics say that the more you write in this field, the more books you will sell. The more you sell, the more you will be free to write, and so on and so on. Sow the seeds in that book description now, and reap the rewards for years to come!
You might like to check out ‘Million Dollar Website: Simple steps to help you compete with the big boys‘ and ‘How To Market A Book'
Do you have a question or comment on book descriptions? Please do leave it below.