Writing Sales Copy (Book Descriptions)

Hey folks,

Note: This post appeared in slightly different form on my Journal.

If your books aren’t selling as well as you’d like, here’s the three-step process to more sales:

1. Write the next story or novel. The more work you have out there, the more discoverable you are and the more readers will take you seriously as an author.

2. Create (or have created) a genre- appropriate cover.

3. Write intriguing sales copy that hints at the genre, introduces the main character, gives away NONE of the plot and entices the reader to buy the book. (See almost any book description by Dean Wesley Smith or Kristine Kathryn Rusch.)

To clarify, when I say “sales copy,” I’m talking about the book description that goes on the cover of your print book and/or that accompanies your cover on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Smashwords and anyplace else where your book is for sale.

We all know how important it is to write strong sales copy, right? Copy that is enticing enough to make the reader want to buy the story.

In a rare error, Kris Rusch has revealed a tiny bit of her thought process in writing sales copy.

Visit “Free Fiction Monday: Loop” at https://kriswrites.com/2019/12/09/free-fiction-monday-loop/ and read the first three paragraphs. (In case she’s taken the story down by the time you see this, I’ve posted the second and third paragraphs below.)

The second and third paragraph are almost identical. Here they are:

1. But time travel poses risks. And complications. It also holds more surprises than Amelia ever imagined.

2, Only time travel isn’t easy. Nor is it straightforward. And it holds more surprises than Amelia ever imagined.

Obviously she meant to keep one and omit the other. Which do you think works better?

(You can see which one she chose at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B004E9U96S/.)

While you’re there, I strongly recommend picking up a copy of Dean’s How to Write Fiction Sales Copy.

In a related note, in the Journal I think I mentioned awhile back a new novel release by Steven Pressfield titled 36 Righteous Men.

I’d been looking very forward to reading this novel, but I made the mistake of reading the sales copy (description) first. It’s what you’re supposed to do, right? You’re supposed to look at the cover, which makes you want to read the description, which entices you to buy the book, right?

Right. That’s how it’s supposed to work. Only it didn’t.

The cover is great, in my opinion. The sales copy, which probably was put together by the editor at his publishing company, not so much. In fact, it gave away so much of the plot that I no longer felt the need to buy the book.

Not that I wasn’t intrigued by the plot. But now that I knew how everything was going to unfold, why bother read the actual book?

The point is, the sales copy read like a book report. It was so filled with spoilers that I flat didn’t want to buy the book.

Here’s the sales copy, copied directly from the Amazon listing for 36 Righteous Men (note also the boring, incredibly long paragraphs):

When James Manning and Covina “Dewey” Duwai are called in to investigate a string of murders, their investigations take them from the headquarters of the Russian mafia in Brighton Beach to a sweltering maze of shops in Little Hong Kong, with scant leads on the killer. But when Manning and Dewey apprehend a woman―a disgraced but brilliant rabbinical scholar―fleeing one of the crime scenes, they’re brought face-to-face with the shocking truth: the Jewish legend of the hidden Righteous Men, the 36 who protect the world from destruction, is no legend at all. They are real, and they are being murdered.

As the bodies pile up and the world tilts further into chaos, Manning and Dewey must protect the last of the Righteous Men from a ruthless killer able to beguile his victims and command them against their will. Plunged into a deadly game of cat and mouse, the detectives find their arsenal of bullets and blades of little use against a foe who knows their every move.

Joining forces with the rabbinical scholar and a renowned anthropologist, Manning and Dewey set off on a perilous quest from New York to Gehenna in Israel to confront a murderer who won’t stop until he’s killed every one.

Now, do you want to spend money to find out what happens? I didn’t. I already know what happens. The description tells me what happens.

(You can see the listing for yourself at https://www.amazon.com/dp/1324002891/.)

Again, folks, if you haven’t bought Dean’s How to Write Fiction Sales Copy, please do. The paperback version is a slim volume, but it’s only $9.99. (The ebook is only $5.99.) But it’s literally filled with gems. And learning what it offers can earn you literally thousands of sales.

Disclaimer: The sales copy for a lot of my own work completely sucks. I’m in the process of going back and changing my book descriptions, but with over 50 major publications (not counting short story collections) and 200 short stories, it’s going to take awhile.

Dean’s book contains a host of genre-specific formulas for writing sales copy, and the guy’s been a professional fiction writer for over four decades. Don’t make the same mistake I made for years. Go buy Dean’s book already!


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2 thoughts on “Writing Sales Copy (Book Descriptions)”

  1. I printed out Dean’s instructions for writing fiction sales copy when they appeared on his blog in 2015. I still refer to those pages when writing a new book description.

    • So did I. Extremely helpful. But later on I bought the took, too. He’s so supportive of me, I figure it’s the least I can do. 🙂

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