How to write the perfect Amazon Book Description

Amazon is a powerful tool in the self publishers shed so it’s worth taking the time to learn how to make it work for you. Knowing how to market your work properly in this huge book paradise can get you noticed by your target audience and drive your sales higher. Today we are going to talk about the importance of the Book Description on your Amazon page and how to get your book to sell.

 What It’s NotNo No

The term ‘Book Description’ can be very misleading in what it’s actually asking for. It isn’t meant to be a comprehensive layout of your book, with all your cast of characters and exactly what happens. You don’t want to lay down a full synopsis where you tell the potential reader all of your highlights. Giving away too much of the story will annoy readers and end up turning them off purchasing it.

 What It Is

The best way to think of Amazon Book Descriptions is to consider it in the terms of an enhanced paperback cover blurb. You are writing advertising copy to attract interest and excitement in shoppers. The goal is to intrigue, entice and convince customers that they simply must know more.

Yes

How to Lay Out Your Amazon Book Description

There are many good marketing resources geared towards the perfect Book Description but all agree that the following layout, in genre focused variations, works the most effectively:

  1. Jump onto Amazon’s #100 Best Sellers in your genre and study how their book descriptions have been assembled. Like cover design there will be a distinct difference in how your genre is marketed compared to all the others. Study them, pick up tips and tailor your description to these specifications.
  1.  If you have won any awards or accolades put them first in your description e.g. New York Times Best Seller, No.1 Amazon Best Seller. If you do not have any awards you can always start with a positive quote from a reviewer. NOT YOUR MUM. Someone who is a professional reviewer such as Kirkus Reviews or Self Publishing Review.

A good review can go a long way in establishing your credibility as a writer and publisher.

  1. The first line of your description is the most important. Try to think of it as your sales hook. Don’t be nervous about referencing other well known authors here. If you wrote a book about a young pre-adolescent boy who learns magic it doesn’t do any harm to compare it to J.K.Rowling’s Harry Potter or Diana Wynne Jones’ Chrestomanci.
  1. Your book description should cover these points:
    • Don’t be vague or boring
    • Keep it simple– don’t go into too much detail
    • Don’t give your story or plot lines away
    • Introduce the character in a single line
    • Focus on your characters, and their goals
    • Short, punchy, emotive sentences.
    • Deliver the conflict, make the reader beg to see if it is resolved.
  1.  Always leave the reader wanting more. Closing with particular questions is a good way to leave a description open ended. e.g. “Will Lassie get help in time? Or will little Tommy be left alone in the dark forever?” You can also use this as a tagline on your front cover to catch a reader’s attention.

These are but a few helpful ideas to get your thoughts of your own Book Description flowing. It can be painful and time consuming activity but it’s worth taking the time to get it right as this section is the first example of your writing that readers will encounter. You need to get them interested!

Writing Book Descriptions isn’t an exact science, there is no magic formula that will work every time, but using them as a marketing tool can help attract your readers. The most important thing to remember? You can always rewrite and change it up until you find what works for you and your story!

For more information on crafting Book Descriptions the below is some helpful links and testimonials:

http://catherineryanhoward.com/2012/10/05/the-11-ingredients-of-a-sizzling-book-description/

http://thefutureofink.com/kindle-books-sales-tool/

https://www.createspace.com/en/community/docs/DOC-1462

http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2011/best-practices-for-amazon-ebook-sales/

What have you found works well in a Books Description? As a reader and consumer what turns you off about Book Descriptions when you are shopping?

 

Editors- Why Self- Pubbed Authors Should Have Two

The professional editorial process is key for any writer but as a self-publisher it is a major part of your business that you cannot afford to do shabbily. It may surprise you to learn that less than one percent of books that come to us for an Interior Layout are free of errors! This week we are going to put on our serious self publishing business hats and talk about why you need at least two editing rounds, by separate editors, in order to produce a professional work that meets market standards.

What types of edits/editors are there?

  1. The Structure Edit
    Like a building, your story needs a strong structure in order for it to not fall over in the storm of the marketplace. Structure deals with the important questions such as does your plot make sense, what are the themes explored within your work, is the Point of View consistent and what is your characterization like. Structural editors look at the overall flow of your story breaking it down to study the actual content. It is a time consuming process which is why the general cost of good Structural Editor can be high. Structural Editors make sure that your storylines are resolved so that you don’t have plot holes. It is important to note that Structural Editors make no physical changes to your manuscript, they will not tell you how to fix the problems that have been found. They have God Vision to point out what’s going wrong and where so that you can go back and fix it before you hand it off to the next stage of editing.
  2. The Copy and Proof Edit
    Copy Editors focus on the mechanics of your writing such as grammar, spelling, formatting so that physical changes can get made. A decent Copy Editor can help to reorganise your story and eliminate the issues pointed out by your Structural Editor. Copy editing will sharpen your prose, refine your style and make sure you’re telling your story in the most cohesive manner. There is some confusion about copy editors and proof readers being the same thing but both have a very separate role to play in manuscript preparation. The main difference is that proof reading is not about revision but correction. Proof readers check your work line by line to make sure that all editorial notes have been completed, all formatting is consistent, that illustrations, graphs, foot notes and page numbers are correct. They look at your work ‘blindly’ to ensure that everything is in its proper order and place as they are the last stop before your work goes to be formatted.

Your Structural Editor and your Copy Editor should be separate people

Why? Because editors are human and they too can make mistakes, things can get over looked easily especially if they are already familiar with the flow of the story. Having a separate Structural and Copy Editor will ensure that what one won’t pick up hopefully the other one will. In traditionally publishing it can take up to 12 months before a writer sees the book in print. This is due to the multiple changing of editing and proof reading hands that it does to ensure the end product reaches that professional standard.

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What to do before sending your manuscript to an Editor

  • Put your manuscript in a draw for a few months before you edit it. You are more likely to see the bigger problems with story lines, sub plots and characters because they aren’t living in your head anymore.
  • Join a writing group or make friends with other helpful writers who can offer valuable feedback. Only take on board the comments that are valid and constructive. They understand the process so they will be able to share their experiences and knowledge.
  • Read books about writing. Learn about structure, grammar, characterization. Read your favorite writers and try to pick out the tricks they have used to create the desired affects. The more you learn the more you can pick up where your own work is falling down.
  • Print your manuscript, two pages to a single page so that it looks like a paperback layout. All the errors that are hidden on screen will start to pop out.
  • Go through your MS backwards, line by line, so that you don’t get involved in the story.

Self Publishers are business owners and you must view your publication as a major project. You are providing a product to a well-established, competitive market and you want to give your product its best chance.

All businesses work on a budget and editing is something that you have to view as an investment to save for. If you have a very small budget try and make friends with editors through your writing group network, maybe barter services with them or ask if they will consider a payment plan but do not DIY your editing. You cannot hope to get it to the standard it needs to be because you’re too close and too biased towards your project. Let the baby go.

A lot of the criticism towards indie writers is focused on the sea of poorly edited work sloshing about the market.

Remember if there are still obvious errors in your manuscript this means it is not ready to be created into a final interior, let alone published.

Ensuring that your work has been edited by at least two separate editors and a proof reader will eliminate mistakes, save you money in the reformatting costs and help cement your reputation as a professional writer and publisher.

Here are some professional editors that I recommend:

SPR

Bev Katz Rosenbaum

Holloway House

Arrowhead Editing

Clio Editing

Katie McCoach

What is the best editing advice you have ever received? What are your processes to eliminate errors?

 

How Audio Books Work for Self-Published Authors

imagesFor thousands of years man has huddled by campfires, bards have recited in halls and children have clustered around grandmothers for the purpose of listening to a good story. It is comforting to know some rituals are so ingrained into the human psyche that even though story telling may change its media it never loses its appeal. In this blog we are going to talk about the audio book resurgence, how to get your book audio, how much it will cost you and how beneficial it can be.

Audio Revolution

An article in the NY Times last year stated, “In the first eight months of this year, (audio book) sales were up 28 percent over the same period last year, far outstripping the growth of e-books, which rose 6 percent, according to the Association of American Publishers.” Audio books aren’t considered an unprofitable extra to print but a medium now standing in its own right. Audio books are not limited in their audiences. People struggling with reading, or have difficulties such as dyslexia, can now take part in the joy of books. Commuters can catch up on their novels on their way home, grab their Kindle when they arrive and pick up where they left off. Author Max Brooks, stated in an interview with the Wall Street journal, “It’s one of the few times in history that technology has reinvigorated an art form rather than crushing it. Now, because there is such demand and the production value is so inexpensive, it opens the door for more creative storytelling.” So how do self-publishers get onboard?

 Where to get it done?

The strongest audio platform on the market is ACX, a subsidiary of Amazon. ACX is not restricted to Amazon’s Audible store so it can be sold through other avenues such as iTunes.

acxLogoNarrating Yourself

Like other self publishing platforms ACX gives you the option of narrating your own book. Doing the narration yourself provides the opportunity to tell your book in your own voice. You have the added benefit of not having to hire a narrator, or share royalties. ACX provides free Video Lessons and Resources detailing what equipment and software you will need in order to produce an appropriate submission. This equipment, if you don’t already own it, can be an expensive and time-consuming endeavor. The risk is you might not end up with something professional sounding at the end of it and its important to remember like ebooks and print books, audio books have a high set of standards.

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Hire a Producer or a Narrator

  • Create a Profile including a description of your book and the type of narrator you would think best suits it. You will also post a small excerpt of your book so potential narrators can use it as audition script.
  • Post your book profile so narrators and producers can view your work to see if they are interested. Alternatively you can do your own casting call, listen to sample narrations posted by actors and then send them an invite to audition. Audio artist Elizabeth Klett shares some great advice here on what to look for in a good narrator.
  • Decide on a producer and make an Offer. The first way you can make a deal on ACX, is to send a producer a Production Offer Page where you have the option to pay a fee (the minimum you can offer is $300 per finished hour) or you can agree to a Royalty Share deal.

Sell your Rights to a Producer

Producers can buy your rights from you for a royalty share or outright depending on the details of the offer and how you choose to negotiate.

Read the Offer and Acceptance Procedures before you make any offers as it is an official and binding agreement.  

Royalties

  • Depending on distribution deals made, the Rights Holders earn 40% royalties of all books sold through Audible, Amazon and iTunes. ACX also have a Bounty Program so every time some one joins Audible and purchases your book first you will receive an extra $50 on top of royalties.

Pricing

  • You can’t choose your pricing on ACX. Prices are calculated based on the length of your book, please click here for a price per hours breakdown.

Territories

  • Currently ACX is only available to UK and US writers but you can email ACX about the terms and conditions of becoming an International Partner . You can use a service such as Ebookit who will distribute through ACX for you for a fee. The good news is with the Australian Audible Store going live in January this year, ACX is bound to follow to maximise their demand for local authors.

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Other Options

Infinity Publishing– audio book service but will only do books up to 11,000 words.

CD Baby– a subsidiary of Book Baby. You need your own recording to load up however and it is a more music focused site.

As with book publishing it’s vital to know what you want and how much you are willing to spend when creating your audio book. The audio book market is expanding, providing indie authors a chance to deliver their works and reach audiences in creative and engaging ways.

 

Do you listen to Audio Books? Are they here to stay or just another fad?

ISBNs – What Are They And Why Do I Need One?

jack_sparrowOne of the more ambiguous problems that Self Published authors face in their adventure to publication is the debate of the ISBN, more specifically what they are and why do you need one?

 

 

What do all the numbers mean?

ISBN’s, or International Standard Book Numbers, are a thirteen digit number that is often printed as a part of a books barcode. This unique number system was invented in 1965 and is used to identify your book across the world. It is a combination of codes breaking down your regional group, publisher and title and if you want your book printed you will need to register an ISBN for it.

2000px-ISBN_Details.svg

 Why is having an ISBN number so important?

The main reason is that it identifies your book and book like products internationally so that booksellers, libraries, universities, wholesalers and distributors can not only find your book but also market it more efficiently. There is always a strong possibility that some one else in the sea of authors will have the same title as yours, with multiple editions, so your ISBN is essential for customers to differentiate between your book and all the others when ordering. It’s important to note that while it’s a specific number for your work, ISBN’s are not a part of copy write. Unless you live in Australia, where you automatically own the copy write to your artistic endeavours, you will still need to register your works through the Copywrite Office (U.S) or the Intellectual Property Office (UK).

 How do you get one?

The good news is that there are a few options out there. If you plan on releasing one title or a thousand Thorpe-Bowker has multiple packages at whole sale prices as does Nielsen in the UK. Prices can start from $42$125 for just one, but the more you buy the cheaper they end up each.

Can you get free ones?

There are publishing houses like CreateSpace and Lulu that give you the option of using one of their free ISBNs or you can still provide your own. However be aware, if you use one of their free ISBN’s they will be listed as the publisher of record, even though you will still retain all your rights.

How many am I going to need? Can’t I just use the same one?

ISBNs, while handy for people to find your book, are also limited to their single book format i.e. Ebooks, audiobooks, hardcovers, soft covers are all separate formats. You cannot use the same ISBN for your paperback and your ebook and for the moment there is no such thing as an e-ISBN.

What about E-Books? 

ISBN’s are necessary for printed editions of your book but ebooks are another more shadowy story. At the moment you don’t need an ISBN number to publish with Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, Nook, Apple, Kobo or Google. In fact according to the most recent study by Author Earnings at least 30% of the ebooks being purchased in the U.S alone do not use ISBN’s, making all of the industry marketing surveys carried out by Bowker, Nielsen, AAP and BISG grossly inaccurate.

shutterstock_171423347The beauty of the self publishing world is that there are so many different choices you can make while managing your project and ISBNs are no different, only you will ultimately know what’s best for your book. Knowledge is power in this industry and with the torrent of information out there staying well educated and knowing what is required in all aspects of publishing is essential for your success.

Check out the below links if you want more info on:

As Writers what are your thoughts on ISBNS? If they are mandatory should they be free? Or like much in the rapidly changing Publishing Industry is it time to search for another option? 

 

 

 

 

My top 10 favourite book covers

I want to share with you my top 10 favourite book covers. This list always changes but there are a few which have remained on there for a long time.

No deep explanation.

Just simply look, and stare, at their grace and beauty.

Imagine how they would feel between your palms, how they would smell, their weight. Feel the grain of the paper, the gloss of the gold foil. Be in this moment with the beauty of books.

  in_defense_of_thomas_jefferson.large 15786792  disguise.large  gloryofheaven lovely-package-rolling-words1-e1340505690378goretzky-my-name-is-memory  maes1  pale_fire.large the_crows_vow.large

What font or type faces should I use on my book cover?

The font face choice is where so many book covers are let down. You may have a lot of experience with Photoshop or Gimp, and your image might beat the pants of other book cover images but the wrong choice can make your cover turn from professional to amateur in a swift punch. You might have read my past article about what images to put on your cover, and if you decide to stick with typography so this is the next natural step in the process of design.

Type is just as important as the imagery.  

Don’t underestimate the impact of the right type face. And you know what? Not even I get it right every time. Type is tricky and you have to have patience, play with it, experiment.

Follow through and put as much time in to your font choices and placement as you do with your design.

Guidelines for using type and fonts:

  • Do not stretch your font face. If you want a tall font face, find a condensed font. If you want a stretched font face, find a wide font. These fonts are made for this look, and if you stretch a font you will make it a) pixelated and b) distorted and c) horrible.
  • Play with different weights of a font. Font faces often come in more than just bold and italic. Weights of a font face means it could be thin and light all the way down to heavy and bold.
  • Choosing the right font for your book cover has just as much to do with the font face as it does with placement and application. Consider where your putting your title and your author, and if you don’t know where it should go then use other covers in your genre as an example. Learn by example, draw on inspiration by the books on your bookshelf.


    So what fonts should I use on my cover?

    These are the basics. They’re not display fonts, or distorted decorative fonts.  These are font faces I am suggesting through professional experience and you can rest back on as a classic choice, and these fonts- if overused- will definitely gain a ‘Papyrus’ curse. So in the future this advice might not bode well. But design is just like fashion; Crocs were cool one time, so was Comic Sans.

     BY GENRE

    Font faces that can be used on any genre (also mostly applicable for non-fiction):

    Futura

    Trajan Pro

    ITC New Baskerville

    Adobe Garamond

    DIN

     

     

    Akzidenz Grotesk

     

     

    Bodoni

     

     

    Frutiger

     

    Gill Sans

     

    Avenir


    Examples of fonts and typefaces on a book cover:

    The following three categories are chosen because there’s a good chance your genre is connected to one of these, or is close:

     

    Romance and Chick-Lit:

    Edwardian

    Scriptina

    Chopin

    Bodoni

    Garamond

    Zapfino

     

    Examples of fonts and typefaces on romance and chick-lit book covers:



     Thriller/Sci Fi/Mystery/Crime:

    Futura

    Century Gothic

    DIN

     

    Akzidenz Grotesk

     

    Univers

     

    Metro

     

    Rockwell


    Examples of fonts on thriller, sci fi, and crime book covers:


    Historical/Literary:

    Garamond

     

    Baskerville

    Trajan

     

    Avant Garde

     

    Didot

     

    Examples of fonts on historical and literary book covers:


    Remember- these are the fonts I recommend for your book cover, not the interior. The interior will come in a later blog post.

    As always I recommend: learn by example. Look at other books, and not just one or two. Look at twenty or thirty. The more influence you receive the more you have to work with.

    What font faces do you recommend for a book cover? Have you seen some really great, or really bad, choices?

Sources of inspiration for book cover design

The Inspiration of Saint MatthewThat’s it! You’re taking the plunge! You’re going to design your very own book cover! But where in Freddie and Fanny’s fantastic flummox do you start? You start with being inspired.

This part is fun.

Step 1 in getting inspired: 

Lay back and have a bit of a daydream about what you want your book to look like. How you want your audience to feel when they see it on the shelf, or online? It could be a mixture of awe, and curiosity. Or perhaps suspense and a bit of adrenaline? Do you want to stop them in their tracks by something that is confronting and makes them a little uncomfortable? Or is there a caressing quality, a sweet whispering sense that draws them in to buying your book?

You need to know this so you can recognize it when you’re window-shopping for ideas.

 

Step 2 in getting inspired:

Create a folder on your computer titled ‘book cover inspiration‘. In that folder save all the images of book covers you love. This includes covers you see in RL, and if possible can take a photo of it on your phone. I know this isn’t a possibility for everyone, but if you know the book go online, find the version with the book cover you like, save the image of the cover in the folder, like this:

But WHERE do I find inspiration for design?

 

Your library

Your personal library at home.

Start with books you love, start with your own book shelves. There’s a good chance you write in the same genre you read so it’s the first logical step.

 

The books of your favourite authors.

If you have a favourite author, follow through on their other books to see the style that carries through their design. You’ll find a lot of the time, especially with chick-lit and romantic comedy, that an author’s name transforms in to a type of branding or logo with the font face and placement on each book like  Sophie Kinsella, Jeffrey Archer or Terry Goodkind. This might be something you want to consider if you plan to publish a lot of work in the same genre, because it means you’re more easily identifiable when readers are browsing.

Your bookstore/local library.

Design for an eBook vs design of a paperback are two different things. You can include a lot of small, suggestive details in a paperback that you might not want in an eBook. A thumbnail image is what stops the finer details in design when it comes to eBooks. It’s a shame and it’s one of the reasons I love paperbacks so much more than eBooks, but hey that’s what the electronic reader generation has reaped. We shop for things 180px high.

So get your hands on some paperbacks and take note at the details that go in to them.

 

The Book Cover ArchiveGoodreads

Book websites

Goodreads and The Book Cover Archive are two vital links I always graze. Goodreads gives you the chance to search in genres, and more refined lists, and The Book Cover Archive is a fantastic collection of the best book cover design across the board. This can inspire you if you want to break barriers, and go against your genre standard. Don’t stop there, search other book sites like Barnes & Noble or Amazon. Finding out who designed a book you love (often on the inside of the book) will lead you to the website of the graphic designer who may have other books on display you can get inspiration from.

 

Alternate sources of inspiration: 

Movie posters, CD covers, photographs, illustrations, deviantart, pinterest, tumblr, and anything that strikes a light in your brain!

 

Don’t forget the designs you DON’T like.

Know where you want to stay away from, recognize the territory that you plan to stay out of. Know why it doesn’t work for you so you can spot these issues in your own cover.

 

Open up your mind and have fun with it. You’re limited by nothing. You can design your book cover however you want, no matter what anyone else says. This is YOUR book, have what you want. 

 

 

Resource: List of stock image websites: Photo, vector and footage. Free and paid.

I decided to organize my stock website collection! It was a long time coming. It’s a bit rough but at least it’s up for now.

List of over 100 stock image websites

The stock image list covers:

  • Free
  • Paid
  • High Resolution
  • Low Resolution
  • Photos
  • Vectors
  • Illustrations
  • Footage

Each stock website listed has:

  • The URL
  • Selection available (photo, vector, footage, niche)
  • Keywords (so you can ctl + F for easy search)
  • Price
  • Website size
  • My own ranking out of 5 stars

How my ranking is applied:

  • How easy it is to access the sock
  • How easy it is to browse the stock
  • How easy it is to find the price of stock
  • The quality of the stock on the website
  • The quality of the website design (making it easy to browse vs making it near impossible)
  • My own personal experience using the website

What “Unknown” means under price:

Unknown usually means you have to contact the photographer/site admin to request a quote, instead of dealing with credits or points. Sometimes it means I simply couldn’t find out how to access the prices!

What to do with free images:

ALWAYS check the licence and rights, and necessary actions to take in order to use the stock (like a link back to the photographer/website). Just because they’re free doesn’t mean you can use them willy nilly. They will have their own rules and rights. If you want more information you can read up on my article about who owns the copyright and when.

Don’t know what sort of image to go for?

The article: What images do I put on my book cover? can guide you.

 

Please feel free to link this resource to others who you think will find it valuable.