Product Description (Books)

From my experiences over the last year or so, it seems that there are a few critical things that need to be right if you want to give your book a good chance to compete effectively amongst the tidal wave of new releases and other publications.  As usual this is not an exhaustive guide, it’s just a short list of a few of the things that seem to have worked for me…

Firebird Front Cover1. Cover

Remember that this is your book’s first impression.  It needs to really stand out when it’s stuck on a webpage with everyone else’s.  Get this wrong and it probably doesn’t matter how brilliant your writing might be because few will make the effort to find out.  For more soundbites on how I created Firebird’s cover check out my 2D and 3D Text guides.

2. Title

Unfortunately, if you’re anything like me, the title will have been locked down sometime early in the writing process.  But it’s still worth looking long and hard at it.  Does it create interest?  Interest can be dramatic or mysterious or, as commonly used, provide a cross-selling link to other titles (e.g. Book Two of the Fred Bloggs mysteries).

3. Blurb (or Product Description)

Most of the more successful indie authors recommend that you develop your product description as an iterative process i.e. be prepared to experiment, adapt and improve it over time.  If your cover and title have tempted a potential reader to click through and get to these words then this is the ‘big one’ and the next few seconds will need to be compelling enough to convince your visitor to take the next step.  Make sure that the wording lures them in, that it oozes quality and that the tone (writing style) hints at the the way the book will read.  It took more than twenty complete rewrites before Firebird’s blurb settled into its current form and it still gets tweaked occasionally, along with the supporting text on its Product Description page.

4. Sample Chapters (and, on Amazon, Look Inside)

Amazon’s Look Inside feature or a sample chapter download will likely be the next step for potential readers.  Let’s face it, the previous three stages can be successfully completed by a graphics artist with a half decent ability to pull together a two hundred word piece of flash fiction.  They don’t, on their own, mean that there’s actually going to be a comprehensive piece of storytelling hidden behind them.  There are surprising amounts of pulp and/or short stories masquerading amongst the rash of new ebooks but readers are not slow learners and, once they realise that they need to do some of the filtering that the publishing houses used to do for them, they’ll very quickly start to lean on sampling as the next step of the purchasing process.  This is a benefit as well as a curse. For me, it provided motivation to really work on my opening chapters but, a word of caution, this honing skill needs to extend beyond the sample length – hard as it was, I tried to carry what I learnt during the creation of the opening right through to the conclusion.  Another important element to have spot on at this stage is layout.  A professional looking document won’t guarantee a sale but trashy layout or poor formatting will almost certainly undermine one.

5. Price

This is a tricky area.  To be honest, I think book pricing is much more elastic than many writers seem to think.  When I’ve experimented with changing my prices I’ve seen very little direct impact on download figures. The only obvious exceptions that I can see to this are giveaways (where most of the above rules will be abandoned) and overpricing.  How might I know if I’m overpriced?  Good question.  Possibly the answer is that you’re not seeing any sales at all?  My only suggestion here is that you set your price where you feel comfortable and so that it’s broadly in line with similar products.  One personal insight: I won’t touch an ebook which is priced the same as or more than a hardcopy version because I think it’s unrealistic given that there are no print, distribution or retail costs being incurred.

These then seem to be the cornerstones: Cover, Title, Blurb, Sample, Price.  There are a myriad of complementary marketing activities including Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, Promotions, Giveaways and even (strangely!) Video clips that authors can embark on to drive sales but, in the end, all of these marketing devices will probably only serve to bring readers to the beginning of this selection cycle.

Most importantly, don’t hold back on making changes and improving your ‘pitch’.  It takes a huge amount of effort, time and sometimes experimentation to write a novel and, from what I’ve experienced, it seems to be just as difficult to get the ‘front end’ to work as well…


Firebird was first published in May 2011 and more than 10,000 copies have been downloaded.

(May 2012)

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