Changing book descriptions gives new life

GRAB THE READER BY THE THROAT?

The book is fixed; the advertising is not.

This is difficult for me, because in some ways I love my original book description for Pride’s Children: PURGATORY, but it isn’t doing well in sales to strangers. Without strangers finding your book on Amazon and BUYING it, you are essentially dead in the water.

This spring’s ad campaign on Amazon was a wash. I got a decent number of clicks, but far fewer sales once potential readers hit the product page. They’d already read the ad copy, and had seen the cover, so the culprit has to be the next thing in the click-path: the description. Without the KU borrows, it wouldn’t have even been that successful.

The price is also a potential problem, but setting it to 0.99 (I won’t do free – not a good plan with only one book because the question ‘loss leader to what?’ comes up) was not effective, and I’ve tried that several times, and with several promotional newsletters.

The original book description and back cover copy (minus praise):

Here’s the old description, for comparison purposes:


WHAT YOU DO WITH AN OBSESSION COUNTS

I, KARENNA ELIZABETH Ashe, being of sound mind, do… But that’s it, isn’t it? Being here proves I am not of sound mind…”

So begins Book 1 of the Pride’s Children trilogy: Kary immediately regrets the misplaced sense of noblesse oblige which compels her to appear, live on national television—at exorbitant personal cost.

What she cannot anticipate is an entanglement with Hollywood that may destroy her carefully-constructed solitudinarian life.

A contemporary mainstream love story, in the epic tradition of Jane Eyre, and Dorothy L. Sayers’ four-novel bond between Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, Pride’s Children starts with a very public chance encounter, and will eventually stretch over three separate continents.

Note: no Selling Paragraph, no Call to Action.


A New Hope

So I’ve gritted my teeth, read tons of books and blogs on the ‘blurb’ – or book description, or many other names – and have decided to go for something which might appeal to a wider class of reader.

And hope that it doesn’t discourage the readers who would have been attracted to the original version – I still want those readers if 1) I can find them, and 2) I can persuade them that I know how to tell a story, and 3) they become convinced THIS story is worth a try.

Indies have a tough time. Readers don’t realize that we have to supply what a traditionally-published author gets with the deal: the book description comes from the publisher’s publicist.

I read bunches of descriptions on Amazon, noting which were big publisher creations. Some of these professionals are very, very good. And make bold, sweeping statements that pre-dispose you to be wowed.

My generation doesn’t self-praise very well.

Without further ado, here is the current contender:


IN A WORLD WHERE INSTANT LOVE IS PRIZED, WHAT IS INTEGRITY WORTH?

Reclusive ex-physician Kary Ashe transmutes personal tragedy into beloved best-selling novels. Actor Andrew O’Connell revels in the enviable status of leading man, with a reputation for perfectionism, an Irish temper, and broken hearts in his wake. Reigning Hollywood princess Bianca Doyle fears she’s already past her peak, and schemes to cement her position in the pantheon with Andrew as mate.

When Kary appears on a national talk show to support a cherished cause, and becomes obsessed by Andrew, movie star, she thinks she’s safe because she will never see him again. While Bianca, watching from far-off LA, knows she brings him her coveted insider rank.

But his next movie is filming near Kary’s Sanctuary, with Bianca as costar. Can Kary risk friendship with this intriguing man? Or will Bianca seduce him and meld her star to his? And will either ultimately satisfy Andrew’s twin lusts for fame and love?

Pride’s Children: PURGATORY is powerful from the very first line. You don’t read PURGATORY: you live it. A deeply psychological experience, with no sleights of hand, from the drivers’ seat right behind the eyeballs of three passionate people who can’t all get what they want. The choices, the devastating decisions, the consequences are all presented with the intimacy of a conscience. Ehrhardt conveys to you the gut-wrenching secrets of a disabled writer at the peak of her powers, an actor waiting in the spot where lightning strikes, and a ruthless woman who sees a golden future if she can but stick the Hollywood landing once and for all, as if you were capable of wearing their skin.

Buy in ebook and print; or download from KU.


Comments welcome!

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11 thoughts on “Changing book descriptions gives new life

  1. Janna G. Noelle

    I like where you’re going with the new description. It is more sales-y, as they say, which ultimately is the objective. I’m pretty sure I take more than three seconds to yea or nay a book, but when I read a blurb I do like to get a sense of what the character’s (or characters’) goal, motivation, and conflict are so I know what I’m getting myself into. This new description provides more of that than the original.

    Two notes about the content:
    1) It’s not clear what the risk is in Kary getting to know Andrew. The fact that he’s a known womanizer doesn’t totally explain it, for you can still have a good time with a womanizer if you’re not looking for anything serious. I’m not sure if Kary’s disability plays a role somehow, but knowing more about what’s at stake for her would help the reader decide if they want to root for her (and thus read the book).
    2) This sentence: While Bianca, watching from far-off LA, knows she brings him her coveted insider rank. I’m having trouble understanding this. Part of it is the ambiguity of which “she” and “her” you’re referring to. But I’m also unsure what you mean by “insider rank”. Insider to what?

    All in all though, I think is an improvement. I hope you’ll post updates on how it performs.

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Thanks for giving me your feedback, Janna. It is most appreciated. Your comments are pure, since you haven’t (?) read PC; any new reader considering it will be in the same position.

      The description is definitely more aimed at sales quickly – the ad copy that precedes it will be a tiny complementary couple of lines. And the followup to a click on the book’s page needs to continue the ‘feel’ of the ad that gets someone there. When potential readers click to the book page, they will automatically get the first few lines (‘above the fold’ is the newspaper term, and here it is what you see without clicking on ‘More’ and scrolling further.

      The real estate has to pay off quickly – and let someone know what they’re looking at so they can make a decision whether to continue reading, and ultimately decide whether they might borrow or buy. By the time you are trying to decide, you’ve already skimmed those lines, so they have to be indicative of the kind of fiction the book is.

      With a love story in any form, the traditional Romance gives you TWO characters. Putting the third right up there immediately should preclude the assumption that this is a Romance, because it isn’t. Each character hits you twice, once in the first paragraph and again in the selling paragraph. Bianca, for example, is the ‘Reigning Hollywood princess’ and can confer on Andrew her ‘insider rank [in Hollywood].’ I prefer ‘status’ to ‘rank,’ but it doesn’t have the same strength at the end of the sentence, even though the meaning is a tiny bit clearer. Andrew, actor, Irish, is an outsider. And Kary doesn’t belong at all – and is trying to pretend she didn’t get obsessed because it isn’t suitable, but she keeps running into him.

      It’s just supposed to give you enough of a taste to continue rather than click out.

      I checked. Rank and status are practically the same – and there isn’t a better synonym. Darn. When read out loud by the robot voice on the Mac, rank is better. So many things to take into account.

      So, less ‘splainin’ as Desi Arnaz would say, and more kick. Once I get this stuff off the list, I can go back to writing, an outcome devoutly to be desired.

      I see what you mean about pronouns – I think this would work better:
      ‘When Kary appears on a NY talk show to support a cherished cause, and becomes obsessed by fellow guest Andrew, movie star, she thinks she’s safe because she will never see him again. While Bianca, watching the show from far-off LA, is confident she can offer Andrew her own coveted insider rank.’
      Better? I’ll keep thinking about that part – and the whole.

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      The first book took me fifteen years, but included the time necessary to learn to write properly and develop a voice. I’m pretty sure this one won’t take nearly as long.

      I just wish I could have found all the people like you and me – that first description is heart-felt.

      I promise you 1) I’m working as hard as I’m physically able to do, and 2) Pride’s Children: NETHERWORLD is my #1 priority every day of my life, and I don’t resent that at all.

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  2. Liz

    I always tweak my descriptions no matter how attached I am to certain ones. What matters is the customer and I have to grab their attention in less than 3 seconds before they move on to the next book that does. I like your new descriptions, Alicia!

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      You’ve been pushing me to make them more like this for years, Liz. Genteel doesn’t grab fast enough. THREE SECONDS? Thanks for the heads up. Maybe I’ll make more headway with the rewrite of the ad material – I have plans. But it still has to be true to the book.

      There is a wide range. I think I’m going to leave the needle pegged toward the sensational side as much as reasonable.

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      1. Liz

        I like to test and Brian actually made me rethink the way I used to write my blurbs.I now use first sentence to hook the reader, and then go from there. It will take time. You’ll also need to do what works for you, that’s why I mix and match them. I may have my hooky lines at the top but I default to the old way I write my blurbs after the fold in the book description page, just after the reader clicke “More.”

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        1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          I have to look at the kind of books big publishers put out, the ones which are ‘literary’ and they sell ebooks of for prices like 11.99 or 14.99, and see what kinds of descriptions they have, because those are the books I want as competitors. I pulled a large number of them, and made a list of the kinds of words and phrases they use, and then I did my own thing in the selling paragraph because it’s my greatest strength – and the thing I put the most effort into. Other publicists make claims for the writer – but I’ve read the books, or their beginnings, and I’m comfortable with what I wrote. More than comfortable – that’s the way I write.

          If it doesn’t improve sales, I’ll change it again. Test, as you said. See what works.

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I want more readers! But I also got burned early when some readers grabbed it who didn’t understand (or maybe didn’t read) the description, and left very negative reviews. I’m over being scared of negative reviews, but there’s no point in attracting them on purpose.

      However, I have been chatting online with a NYTimes and USA Today bestselling author, and was startled to find her reviews on Amazon are almost 50% critical (note that Amazon considers 3* to be a negative review, whereas Goodreads considers it to be a postive review – both places out of 5*). I read the reviews to see WHY people give negative ratings, and learn a lot.

      The thing I learn the most is that you can’t please everyone!

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