Writing the Blurb for your Amazon E-Book

Don't tell me that you don't have time. Write, or don't

Are you writing your cover blurbs the right way? Is anyone? The world has changed, you know?

So, if you have been following me closely on twitter @spottedgeckgo, then you might be aware that for the past week I have been reading this big, clunky marketing book. I won’t point out the name, because my overall feelings on it were kind of “meh.” It would be much better if all of the information in there was compiled together and distilled, cutting about 70% of the word count (maybe a future project when I figure out what I’m doing).

Despite my lack of enjoyment for the book itself, it did accomplish one thing fairly well. Every time I picked it up, my mind went into marketing mode. I contemplated mistakes that I’ve made, am still making, and will make in the future. Marketing is a tricky animal, and sometimes even the best marketers and salespeople don’t get it write. Markets change fast, and often, the return on investment, or ROI, from a marketing strategy makes the whole business look like a waste of time, but when it works, it works well.

To the Point

One of the things that I’ve been considering, while revamping the strategy for Finish the Damn Book, is that my understanding of blurbs for marketing purposes is intrinsically flawed. Not only that, but this is a problem that persists through the world of books, because we are all holding on to some outdated strategy that started losing steam about fifteen years ago.

The strategy comes from the idea is a book is something that sits on a shelf in the book store. The cover (or more commonly the back spine) grabs the reader’s attention, and they pick it up. At this point, I’ve spent hours sitting in book stores watching people rifle through copy after copy until they find something close to what they are looking for. BTW, if you work as a travel agent, then you need to start hanging out at B+N 😉

The potential reader flips through the book. I don’t think they know why, but this might be some kind of psychological “sizing up” of the text. Perhaps to get a general idea of how long it is, and how long it will take to finish vs the cost. I dunno, but I do the same thing. At some point, if their attention is truly grabbed, they will scan over the back blurb. The idea is to get them interested, so they will look inside. The first page is the decision maker, and they will either keep the book with them for later checkout, or put it back.

This strategy follows the very common AIDA strategy that salespeople use. Sales come in four steps: grab their attention, intrigue or interest them, facilitate a decision-making process in favor of a sale, and help them take action, either buying or signing.

This is a great strategy, and various permutations of AIDA have evolved over the years, usually with slight substitutions for some of the words. But there’s a problem with the blurp strategy when you are trying to sell books online.

Online Purchases are Different

Online shops like Amazon are NOT bookstores. They are shopping galleries with millions of potential products. While they can try to sort the material well, the huge selection means that the already-made-it bestsellers are going to get all the airtime, and everyone else is going to be filtered into the slush.

A bookstore blurb needs to focus heavily on INTEREST (from the AIDA strategy). The cover grabs their attention, and the blurb (and overall feel of the book) gets them interested.

But people don’t browse Amazon the same way that they browse bookstores! In fact, I would venture that by the time someone finds your book on Amazon, they’re already interested, and they are just checking the price, maybe the reviews, and a reading sample. In other words, the blurb is useless for getting them interested. This is possibly why it’s so hard to market ebooks. For lesser known-books, the amount of work it usually takes to get them to the purchase page means they’re already interested by the time they look you up.

Wait a minute Marty. They click an ad and it goes to my Amazon page. That doesn’t make them interested, it only grabs their attention.

You’re right, but if you are driving that much traffic from ad clicks to live on, then you probably don’t need to be taking advice from me. On the other hand, you might consider (and some of you do) directing your ad to a landing page instead of an Amazon link. This does several things.

Number one, if they are coming to a page that you control, then you can also control what they are seeing. First impressions matter, and if their first impression is a sales rank of 2+ million, that might hurt you. It also gives you a chance to get them interested. They already liked the cover, so if you have other artwork, splash it around. THIS is your moment to hook them, and get them interested in your book. If you accomplish that, then when they follow your ‘buy’ link from the landing page, they are in the decision-making phase. Your blurb is a last chance to really stick the buying decision and drive the sale. Instead of AI, your blurb should be focused on DA.

What’s the difference?

It’s probably easier to describe the difference between the interest and decision pages by talking about non-fiction, but the point is the same for fiction. Interest informs, Decision speaks to the viewer directly, and lets them know how a product can benefit them, and make their life better.

On a nonfiction novel, interest would be glossing over the topics the book covers, the big picture ideas, and only it’s finest points. Decision speaks to the audience directly, and says “I know you are having this problem, and this book is going to help you fix it.” For fiction, that might be a generic “good story” vibe that you want to imprint, or delivering what the book is about concisely.

The good news for fiction, is that you are already doing this many times, but there are so many that spend the first paragraph trying to hook the reader, or have a third paragraph comparing it to other stories. Do all that on your landing page, while you are building interest. On your amazon page, there should be a short, simple hook for anyone who happens to stumble in, and then focus on the story itself. That’s all they care about if they’ve made it that far. For non-fiction, answer the audiences questions directly. If you don’t know what their questions are, then you should re-evaluate why you wrote that non-fiction book. Bibliographical books should be their own category, really, and focus on the “story” aspect, like fiction does, maybe with some of the most interesting parts of the opening chapters.

Does this sound like gibberish? I’m trying to explain a concept here the best that I can, but to sum it up, don’t try to make the back cover do everything. If your focus is going to be linking them to the Amazon page directly, then assume they already like something about the concept, and get them to read the sample pages. If you have a landing page, drive home how the book helps them with their life. For Viral Spark, my best performing ads focused on the concept of the book, rather than the characters. It spoke to the “what if” line I used to write the book in the first place. For FTDB, my focus is helping people cure writers block, distractions, and time management issues, so my upcoming revamp of the entire marketing system for that book is going to speak directly to the people that need help in those areas, rather than talking “about” my book.

If this sounds familiar, it should be. It’s “show” vs “tell” all over again. Probably why it’s so hard to conceptualize.

I know this may have come out a little scatterbrained, but if it seeded the idea for you to ponder, then the post was a success. Think about your marketing strategy, and how hooking random readers in a bookstore differs wildly with how they find your book online.

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Author: spottedgeckgo

Writer. Making my living on my pen, and working to turn a raw chunk of land into a future homestead.

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