by Angela Lauria July 14, 2015
Most book descriptions suck! Why? Because authors and not marketers are writing them. You need to take off your author hat and put on your marketer hat before you write your book description or flap copy. This is a specialized skill and requires a lot of attention to nail these 250 or so words.
Here’s what you’ll learn in this episode:
- Why we call book descriptions “flap copy” and why it matters
- The effect the Internet and search engine optimization has had on book descriptions
- The one teeny tiny element that’s missing from almost all book copy that could double or triple your sales.
- How to get your credibility across in your book description without sounding arrogant
- Why other authors can be the key to a successful book description and how to find the right ones
Listen To The Show:
Full Episode Transcript:
You’re listening to page up with Dr. Angela Lauria Episode 15. Flap copy master class.
Welcome to page up a podcast for authors and transformation, featuring advice on the basic fundamentals of selecting a book topic and overcoming writer’s block to advanced techniques for publishing and marketing nonfiction books. Now, get ready to press page up on your book with your host, best selling author and publisher, Dr. Angela Lauria.
Hey everyone. Welcome to our flap copy master class. today’s podcast is all about writing
book descriptions that shine. And this is so important because of course people have not read your book before they buy it. So they don’t have much to go on. They’ve got a title. They have your name and they’ve got the book description. And so it’s really important that you take the time to get this right. I’m going to teach you today exactly how to nail your book description. But first, I want to start with the name of the class. So this class, today’s podcast is actually called flap copy master class. And so I wanted to explain the origin of the term flap copy. So for those of us who have been in marketing, books have been in the publishing industry for a long time. Flap copy is the book description. You guys probably figure that out. But why is it called flap copy? Well, because originally, books were first published as hardcover books with a dust jacket and on the dust jacket, it would fold over inside On the inside left was usually the book description. And on the inside, the right flap copy was usually the author’s bio. And traditionally flap copy was written by the editors, by people at the publishing company. And it was completely never written by authors, it was actually written by a marketer. Because it is, it’s a really different skill than writing a book you’ve got used to a few paragraphs, I don’t know if the word count has changed much, I bet the word count has actually gotten longer. But we’ve got about 250 words to play with here, which is really, you know, a page. It used to be even shorter than that. And you have to capture the whole book in that, you know, to three paragraphs 200 to 150 words. And not only do you have to capture the essence of the book but more importantly, it’s your most important piece of marketing ad copy. And if you write this well you will sell many more books than if you don’t write it well. So not just because it’s in your book description it’s on your you know, on the back cover of your book and on your you know, all your profile pages, your Amazon pages, all those things, but because you end up using this copy many places, when you get asked to speak, you’ll end up grab people say what’s your book about you’ll grab this copy.
So you want to make sure that you are not just winging it on your flap copy. And today, that Flap Copy is used in a way that it really wasn’t before, before the internet. So when I started in publishing back in 1994, only the flap copy was in a database but the only people really searching that database were book buyers who have some different things but searching this copy now that you write is really the entire internet. So it is really important that you understand keywords and that you understand how search works. Because the catalog copy, the flap copy becomes the searchable catalog copy where you are speaking directly to your reader. And what are the words that they’re using? What would they be searching to find you. That’s what I want you to really, really think about that is, makes this so important is it also has to be searchable. Tell people why they would want to read the book and get them excited about reading it. So you don’t want to give it away.
So lots of steps, lots of steps really here. Um, but let’s start off philosophically with the idea of flap copy. Overall, what do we want to do here? So your reader just like with the title, anything they see about your book, they want to know what is in it for me, they want to know what’s in it for me.So you need to answer with your flap copy. Why should someone buy this book?
What will the author help me with? Well, the author actually helped me solve a problem that I need solved. Will the book be interesting? Excuse me. I’m trying to hit the mute button today as I cough because I’ve got a little cold but we’ll try and get through this. With my deeper, sexier voice today, Hi, everyone. Just try and drink a little bit more.
Your copy needs to be well written because it will tell them whether or not the book is going to be well written. Now that’s not necessarily true. Because like I said, flap copy used to be written by marketing people and not the authors. But that’s still a message. It’s still a message that your readers will get is if the flap copy is interesting. They will go into the book Thinking gets interested. And they want to know Do I need this? You know, in today’s day and age, they’re asking Could I just read an article on Wikipedia and get the same information. So I’m really looking at it from that perspective of how to set up the reader experience you want them to have. What I want to do today is walk you through 10 steps that I think are going to lead to the best possible book description you could write.
So I’m going to start where I always start for people who are listening to this episode who haven’t listened to past episodes. One of the most important things that you can do as an author and you owe this to your future readers to do is to understand the keywords That your readers are currently searching for right now. What are the keywords that they are using to solve the problem that your book solves? And until you get this, you are always going to be at a disadvantage in the marketplace. So one of the things that I do to find a book description to find the right keywords is look at book descriptions for other books like yours. So where do I look for keywords? Well, certainly I look at the title. I look at the subtitle, and I look for any keywords there. And then I look at their description, and I’m looking for keywords. And when I find things that I think might be keywords, I type those keywords into Amazon and I see what books come up. So I want to know that the keywords that I’m picking when I put them in that those books are delivering solutions to the same problem that I am addressing. And so that’s really important to know.
The other thing I look at is the reviews. So reviews are really powerful, right? Because they are written by readers. So sometimes there’s a book that’s like yours, but when you read the comments of, of or the, you know, the Amazon reviews, as they’re called, they’re not called comments. But when you read those reviews, you see the jargon or the language that the readers of those books are using. So if you want to say, fat loss, but you notice that in the comments, everybody’s saying diet, I would go with the word diet. Even if your subtitle or your description includes the phrase, this is not a diet, you’re still getting that keyword diet. Got it. So let’s get the right keywords for your description. You can have two or three keywords. And I’d like you to repeat them two or three times, no more than once every 50 words and ideally one of those keywords will be in your title or subtitle.
Okay, step number two. Now most people skip this step and it is unfortunate because it is a big opportunity. Step number two is to write a headline for your book description. So if we were to give kind of a, like an article title, if you instead of a book, instead of instead of a book description, if you were writing a review of your book, what is the title the journalist might put on that review.
So that is the next thing I want you to write. It’s one sentence that really characterizes the full promise of the book. It’s not the title of the book, but it’s like a title of a review or the title of a description. Okay, in the actual description, you need to be super clear about the problem you’re solving. If you’re not really solving a problem, then you need to be very specific about what is in it for the reader. Why would they read it? What problem might they have that would make them enjoy reading it? Or what situation might they be in find themselves in I’m thinking now about like, let’s say you had a book about living overseas, well, you’re not necessarily going to solve some of the dramas that occur when one lives overseas. But you could certainly identify the unique challenges of being outside of your country. So we want that the reader, your ideal reader to really know that you get them you get where they are right now.
Then what you want to do is make a promise. Now your title probably already makes a promise, but you want to make it bigger, better and clearer. But you want to do it in a way that leaves the silver bullet option on the table. So your reader is hoping that the solution to his problem or her problem is External. It is something that if they knew the right script to say, or they had the right switch to flip, their problem would be solved. You don’t want to take that silver bullet off the table. And in fact, in many cases, your solution will be even better than their solution. but different. Don’t give away the way it’s different. Don’t give them a reason not to buy the book. Step number five, you do want to include your credibility. I always like to caution people here because sometimes they get a little braggy.
And a little bit it’s actually insecure. How did I want to describe it, people wi’ll go off and start listing off their accomplishments but in a way that makes me trust them less. So put your credibility into a context that relates to your reader. So for instance, instead of saying this is one that I do, so instead of saying I’ve published 100 bestsellers in the last year, I will often when I’m giving my credentials, state how, in my first two years of coaching, only one of my clients finished their book. And since pivoting to this new format every client has finished. Now it’s my it’s my bio, but I’m telling it in terms of the outcome that my readers get. So you know, Kim has helped over 400 jewelry entrepreneurs get, you know, make more than $50,000 with a jewelry business. So you’re giving that credential in reference to how you’ve helped people instead of just rattling off how awesome you are. So think about that as you add that in. Step number six is what we always call this the authority description with my clients. And that is comparing your book to other books, ideally, bestsellers, or books that are selling well right now that are similar. So we have a little formula that we teach, which is this book is like x mixed with y with a dash of z. And so that might be you know, it’s like Eat, Pray Love meats. Ya ya sisterhood with a dash of the Time Traveler’s Wife actually do think I have a book that matches that description. Um, so you want to get a couple other books in there. Do you know why this is a fun one? Because those are keywords that are being searched. So people are looking for the desire map and they’re looking for, you know, other books that are doing well that the tidying up book that everybody’s into right now. People are looking for those books. So if your book is like them, that’s great news. include it in the description. The next thing that you want to include is a warning.
This is step number seven, a warning about why they need to buy the book now and why they don’t want to wait any longer. So how Having a sentence or two here that basically says, you know, most people dream about building their first home. And one of the reasons they never get it done is they don’t take concrete forward action. And so buying this book today, even if you are not ready to start building your first home will get you closer to your goal. So you want to give them some reason why should they buy now and not wait? And immediately after you do that, I want you to give them specific steps. This is gonna sound crazy to you guys, but include specific steps for how to buy the book. Now I know they are most likely on a page where they can buy the book, but because your flap copy is now used in online Book descriptions, I would literally provide a call to action now if you’re printing your book, I would leave this off the back cover for sure. But what I would say in your book descriptions that are online is something like so here’s what to do. Scroll to the Add to Cart button button, click the Add to Cart button and enjoy the benefit of your book whenever that benefit statement was that you had right and be on your way to enjoying you know, gluten free, delicious gluten free meals. So actually put that in there. Now after the call to action, I will often add some stars or align and then I will add a few things.
Step nine is if you have advanced praise or reviews, or testimonials from clients that are relevant. Or if you’ve been written up in the media or if you have another book, let’s say that’s a best seller. I would put any reviews, testimonials, press mentions, third party accolades, anything that you have won, or any, you know, any award anything you can add here for credibility and just make it look like defacto, just like put it in a list without an explanation. Like Of course, this is where I always list my accolades.
And finally, step number 10 is just to think about formatting So including lots of whitespace including subtitles sub subheads within the description so we already talked about doing the headline but also having subheads if it makes sense to have different colors or bullet points, especially as it’s laid out on the back cover, look at the presentation and make sure that it is appealing to to read and that you can kind of wrap your mind around it. So I like to encourage you for the actual description, so not including that step number nine with the reviews, the testimonials, the press mentions, the third party accolades, any of that. I like it to be around the 250 word mark. And the reviews can be extra there. In different databases, there are limits but I take up the full amount of those limits with anything you can include there. But try and keep your actual description to around 250 words and really focus on what’s important and relating to what’s in it for your ideal reader.
So do not make this about you be very clear about who your ideal reader is, and make your entire description focused on them. Keywords are essential, and the right keywords are essential. And using that authority, description technique of getting a few names of other books in there, also really key putting your credibility in the context of your reader. Really And including that call to action for your online profiles again, not on your print book. But in your online profile, including that call to action step that most people skip, skip. Sometimes people need to be told to do that.
So that’s what I have for you this week in terms of writing fantastic book descriptions that make your book shine. This was our flap copy master class, I will tell you, most people just don’t give this the attention that their book deserves. And what I’m going to encourage you is, if you already have a book that’s out there, go ahead and work on this now and go and fix it because you really owe it to your book and to the people that you were born to have. help with your book. And if they cannot find your book, it will not make a difference. That’s what we’re all about here changing the world, one book at a time.
This has been another episode of Page Up, where we help nonfiction authors want to book that makes the difference. If you like the show today, be sure to tell a friend and leave us a review on iTunes. Check out houses to show book Johnny’s also on iTunes. And don’t forget to sign up for our mailing list at WWW dot the author incubator.com where you can learn more about how you can get your book written
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