Saturday, April 10, 2010

eBook Descriptions Crucial to Sales

I have always believed that novelists can learn a great deal from film script writers, and visa versa; I feel the same way about novelist who have to create a sales pitch to sell their book to an agent, an editor, the publishing house AND now an ebook description to sell an ebook to a customer. That backflap on a paperback or a hardcover we can all learn from--the art of writing good copy.  Same with reading descripts for ebooks. Read enough of them and you will see the good, the bad, the ugly, and the great and effective pitch for the customer's dollar. If it excites, it will sell. Of course cover art, price, title, blurbs, reviews all figure in along with name recongition or lack thereof, but the description on an ebook is hugely important to customers trying to decide.

Compare the two descriptions of my early title below; the first is the copy on the original paperback and used for the ebook sales page on The other comes from my query letter to sell the book, my pitch to agents and editors. You tell me which one would most likely sell the book? Version one or version two?


In a secret laboratory beneath L.A.'s streets, a group of top scientists worked on the ultimate biological weapon... daring to create what humans were never meant to know...


Then the earthquake hit. It's epicenter: downtown L.A., a city now filled with twisted steel and mangled flesh- and terror. Because from it's sterile laboratory, something unspeakable had been freed...


Dr. Mike McCain and lovely Dr. Casey Sterns worked feverishly to save the earthquake survivors mysteriously dying from a new, alien disease. But no disease could account for some of the corpses--mutilated, headless, horrible. And no medicine could stop the thing hiding in the rubble, watching, reaching out with bloodstained claws for the unsuspecting, the injured... or for you.

(This 80,000 word novel was originally published in paperback. It also includes an excerpt of Abaddon by Robert W. Walker, and Origin by J.A. Konrath.)

Version 2 --
AFTERSHOCK  (*now a Kindle ebook title)

An LA earthquake rocks a Level 4 Containment laboratory beneath the city, and a deadly virus attacks all in the lab, killing everyone save two people in biohazard suits, but as the suits are being eaten away and these two are crazed, one becomes a feeding machine, a creature that devours the other. The virus makes a monster out of what little of this human survives, a creature that feeds on human flesh, and as it moves about the city, it spreads its own disease. Our hero and heroine must find a way to destroy the creature and contain the disease.

Now lets try this experiment with another recent eBook title with Version one being the ebook description on and the second version being the core of my query letter years ago to sell it to an agent or editor. Compare and Contrast the two versions here:


A brilliant and determined FBI medical examiner, she was an expert student of the criminal mind who thought she could face anything.

That was before Wisconsin. Before she saw one of his victims...


The FBI agent had a special code name for his unusual method of torture: Tort 9, the draining of the victims blood. The newspapers called him the Vampire-Killer. But his own twisted love letters were signed "Teach"... and were addressed to the one woman he wanted most of all: His hunter, his prey, Dr. Jessica Coran.

(This book is first in Robert W. Walker's Instinct series. It was previously published in paperback. This ebook also features an excerpt of WHISKEY SOUR by J.A. Konrath.)

Now compare the other copy/description for Killer Instinct:
KILLER INSTINCT (*now an ebook on Kindle) introduces Dr. Jessica Coran, a newly appointed FBI forensics expert, who has been recruited from the Washington DC Medical Examiner’s office. No neophyte, she is immediately called into the field to investigate a rash of murders in the Midwest, the epicenter being Chicago. She soon learns that the killer has more than a passing acquaintance with blood-letting as he is a Tort 9 level killer who drains his victims of their blood while they are alive. The tool he uses to drain the blood, his method of extraction, and what he does with so much blood is at the heart of the mystery. His reasoning is equally elusive.

 This book introduces Mad Matthew Matisak who survives the weight of four Instinct titles. And who figures heavily in Absolute Instinct, next year’s installment, even though he is long dead. Matisak, for those who read the Instinct series, is the villain we love to hate and is in the vein, so to speak, of Thomas Harris' Hannibal Lechter.

What makes the descripts for the ebooks superior? Simple. In each case the reader is handed the Who, What, Where, Why, and How of the story. We get character names, names of people, places, and things.  We get the name of the setting. Names have power to give us bright images in our heads. The less powerful version lacks focus, detail, names. They fail to take names and kick butt; they have a certain verve but fail to cough up the details so necessay for those Kodak moments in the mind of a reader that go off as a result of specifics.

That said, it also does not hurt to associate my books with Joe Konraths by arranging for a dovetail of his first chapter at the back of my book and visa versa--Joe's idea. He's a marketing genius but this is an old idea taken from paperback publishing.

So you see how damnably important the descriptions on the ebook page are whether you publish with Smashwords or Kindle. Many people are thrashing round now trying to determine what sells ebooks, and according to Joe and I it is the descripts which must be flawless and without the least error as well as compelling--the most compelling short story you will ever write--the story about your story. Difficult to write so it is imperative you read fifty or so backflaps or ebook descripts to get under the hat of the copyeditor so as to pull off excellent descripts for your ebook or ebooks.

Thanks for hanging with me and do leave a comment so I don't feel so lonely.

rob walker


L. Diane Wolfe said...

EBook descriptions are much shorter, so it is important to hook the reader right away.

Dana Fredsti said...

I really want to read the book about the earthquake et al, based on BOTH descriptions!

Dana Fredsti said...

And just found a copy on Amazon! Woot! Can't wait to read it, Robert!

Morgan Mandel said...

You're right. Descriptions are very important to hook the reader.

Morgan Mandel