Optimizing your Online Book Description

online-book-pinEffective online book descriptions are more than just the words. The internet is a visual medium, much like a magazine. Readers expect content to be presented in a visually interesting way. This means thinking about your description as a web design project, including visual arts elements, like white space, and formatting your text using HTML. Even if you are not a programmer, simple tags for bold, italic, H1, H2 are easy enough for the novice. (If you still need help, use a WYSIWYG HTML generator. Then, cut and paste the results in your Amazon description.)

Here is a book description that needs revision. Notice how the large block of text is unappealing, even daunting. Readers are conditioned to expect efficient content online, smaller chunks of text, and variety.

bad hook
Giant blocks of text turn readers off

When designing your book descriptions, consider how all the elements of the page will work together. You will have three elements: the cover, the short hook, and the full description.

The Cover

The cover is your number 1 sales tool. It will be the reason a prospective reader will click on your description. If your cover looks bad or does not accurately reflect your genre/content, a reader will never see your written description. A solid, professional cover is money well spent.

The Short Hook

The short hook is the first 40-60 words of your description (depending on how you format it) that Amazon shows on your book’s landing page. At the end of the short hook, readers have the option to click on “read more.” The primary function of the short hook is to entice readers to click on that link. No click=no sale.

Think of the short hook as your “above the fold content” (content a reader will see without performing any actions). Many writers will use this space for a meaningful review, or a tagline.

short hook ex 1.png

In this example, the short hook leads with bestseller achievements, follows with reviews, and then manipulates the break to only show the tagline ending with the ellipsis. Notice how this all comes before the “read more” link. This is a carefully crafted sales pitch.

The Full Hook

The third element is the full hook. This will only be revealed if your first two elements have been a success. It’s the third act of your story. Just like you can’t wait until the end of your book to make the story interesting, you can’t put all your best information at the end of your hook. The full hook must deliver on the promise created in the first two elements. It must expand on what has already been created and deliver a satisfying message. In this case, a compelling reason to read your story.

full hook ex2

Notice, in this example, how the blurb doesn’t even begin until the “read more’ has been clicked. This is one option. Another option is to create a mystery in your short hook to compel the reader forward.

Once you have your description written, you must create a layout with visual interest.

good online book description

An effective layout will have plenty of white space, giving the eyes an opportunity to rest. Too much text creates an uncomfortable experience for the reader.

good online book description

Now let’s create yours

Begin with a great tagline, or meaningful review (and change the text with tags or bold/italic text)

The short hook-, use 50-60 words or less engage your reader. This means making a promise that intrigues the reader. By the end of his paragraph, your reader must want to click on the “read more” to find out the answer.

The second paragraph (Below the “read more” link-Now that the reader has clicked “read more”, we don’t want them to regret it. In the second paragraph, you must expand on the original hook, creating more depth. Add your complicating factor. You do not have to use all the allotted space for your hook. Giant blocks of text turn readers off.

Have lots of text? Consider breaking things up with subheadings

The Close- the final paragraph. Congratulations you’ve hooked your reader. They clicked on ‘read more’ and made it to the end. It’s time to reel them in with a great close.

If you did not lead with a positive review, you can use the extra space here to quote it, and be sure to use italics to distinguish it from the rest of your hook.

Taking the time to optimize your online hook will give your description a more professional appearance, convince your readers that your content is higher quality, and ultimately help you achieve stronger sales.

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M.L. Keller is a freelance writer and editor. Her blog "The Manuscript Shredder" is focused on helping emerging writers hone their craft.


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