Generate More Book Sales With a Keyword-Powered Blurb

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

The description of your book in an online store is a vital element of your digital book’s sales strategy. The description (commonly called a blurb) acts like a shop clerk in a digital bookstore. You want that clerk’s pitch to be as convincing as possible.

The blurb, however, plays a second and perhaps even more important role: It helps draw those shoppers to your online sales page in the first place. Thus, seeding your blurb with the right keywords is a powerful way to increase your sales.

What Are Keywords?

Let’s start with some background information on keywords. The content a customer types into an online form is generally called keywords or search terms. When someone wants to buy a book, she types a set of words into a digital bookstore’s search form. The digital bookstore matches the customer’s keywords with the words associated with specific books, which are called metadata.

Your book’s metadata is located in the databases where you purchased your ISBN, and where you created your digital book files. But your book’s blurb is another important place where online stores search for metadata. Your goal is to make sure that the keywords customers type into the search form will match up with the metadata in your book’s description.  

Oh, and by the way, a keyword can be more than one word. Often a book’s most effective keywords are sets of terms, because the phrase makes them more specific and unique to your title.

Step 1: Research Keywords

The first step in creating a blurb powered by keywords is to generate an effective list of keywords. You can do this by using your own lists and analyzing customer behavior.

Your Own Lists

If your book is not yet for sale and you need to generate keywords from scratch, start by writing down all the words you can think of to describe your book. Perhaps you’ve written a mystery novel that takes place in Paris during World War II. Ask friends and family who are familiar with your book to write down the words they’d use if they were looking for your book. Then find some people who like the mystery genre and ask them to provide a list of words they’d put into a search engine to find books in that genre.

Look at all three lists and combine ideas to make the keyword terms unique. For example, a friend may have written down suspense or edge-of-your-seat in her list of terms she uses to search for books in your genre. You can combine that information with your own terms Paris and WWII.

Customer Keywords

If your book is already for sale, you’ve got lots of keyword sources. If you use a keywords-based advertising service such as Google Adwords or Amazon Marketing Services, or if you advertise on Facebook, review your search term lists for the words that convert to the most sales.  

Go through your customer reviews on retailer sites and other book review sites such as Goodreads.com. Copy the text of every review, and then sort that list for the terms found most often. These terms are often very different from the list you and your friends wrote because they include words about the reading experience (page-turner or quick read). If your book doesn’t have any reviews yet, you can perform this exercise by identifying books that are similar to yours and analyzing those reviews.

Step 2:  Write an Awesome Description

Write a powerful description without taking the keywords into consideration. Whether your book is fiction or nonfiction, this four-step formula is a great framework for book descriptions: Situation, Problem, Hopeful Possibility, and Mood. Here’s a quick summary of each.

  • Situation: Every book has to start somewhere, with a person or people in a particular circumstance. Describe the setting, character(s), and situation simply. Where does your main character start? If the book is a how-to, what is the reader’s situation? If the book is a memoir, what was your situation in the beginning of the narrative?
  • Problem: Every story (every interesting one, anyway) has some sort of conflict that either makes that situation untenable or makes change inevitable. This part of the description often starts with the word but, however, or until.
  • Hopeful Possibility: Here’s the potential to overcome the crisis, because without the glimmer of hope, your audience won’t want to invest in your story. What make it intriguing is that the problem may make the situation insurmountable—but this new twist offers the potential for change. Parts One, Two, and Three, if concisely written, together create the drama that propels the story.
  • Mood: In addition to the plot and character facts, readers want to know about the emotional experience they’ll have when they open the book. A book about personal finance could be a humorous take on saving money or a straightforward analysis of investment options. A romance could be suspenseful or bubbly.

Step 3: Combine the Description and Keywords

Now it’s time to combine your keyword list and book description. Wherever you can, substitute the words you used when you wrote the description with the keywords that other people use.

Feel free to add a phrase or sentence if the keyword terms don’t easily fit with what you’ve already written. You may have to restructure parts of the description or rewrite entire sentences.

Step 4:  Add Pizzazz

Now’s the time to add any additional highlights you can think of. If your book has won any awards, list those at the top of your description.

If you want to make your description stand out, use HTML tags. Most online bookstores allow for simple HTML hypertext tags. For example to make a phrase bold, use the tag <b> before the phrase, and then add </b> after the last word you want to format with bold font.

Blurbs Can Drive Customers to Your Book and Increase Sales

A book blurb acts like a sales pitch on behalf of your book, and the best ones entice potential customers to hit the Buy button. However, a blurb has a more basic function: Its keywords can draw customers there in the first place. The stronger the keywords in your blurb, the higher the traffic to your book—and the higher the sales potential.

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