Six Tips to Optimize Your Book and Drive Sales

Optimise your book and drive sales

When we think of ways to promote or market a book, what comes to mind are always the external ways of doing it, like posting on social media or engaging with potential readers on a personal website or blog. Most authors often forget that what needs to be marketed contains tremendous marketing opportunities itself! We’re talking about the book’s metadata or the supporting information that goes on the book and behaves like a sales magnet drawing in readers and literary buffs hungry for their next big life-changing read! In this piece, you’ll learn about some tips and tricks of the trade that can help every self-publishing author drive better sales for their book.

Without further ado, here are six ways to enhance your book’s metadata and bring in those much-needed sales!

  1. Writing a catchy back cover blurb: 

Let’s start with this one as it’s possibly the most critical piece of the bookselling puzzle, after the cover design! A back blurb or a back cover blurb is a short description of a book written to convey the idea behind your book to its audience. Once a reader is intrigued by how a book appears, they tend to flip it over and take in the gist of the story as described in the back blurb. A simple yet outstanding blurb would encourage them to make a purchase and give the novel a read, whereas an ordinary, uninspired one will force your book back to the stand or out of the cart if it were being sold online. So, it is crucial to get the description right, considering the modern publishing landscape, where more books are being purchased online, and thousands of blurbs are encountered in the vast expanse of the marketplace. 

The trick is to arrive at a concise blurb that is the written form of a minute-long elevator pitch. It shouldn’t disclose too little information such that your readers don’t find anything valuable to take away; neither should it befuddle them with an overwhelming amount of details. We’ve put together four simple steps for you to write an attention-grabbing blurb:

  • Identify the part of your novel that would make a great hook. Use this as an opening statement to reel the reader in. 
  • Introduce the primary character(s). Give the readers a feel of who they will be vouching for and how these actors might factor into the story’s central premise.
  • Throw some light on the conflict, for without this, there is no story! Remember, only give away the bare minimum but do it in a way that arouses the reader’s curiosity and makes them want to find out what happens next. This works well for story-oriented non-fiction books like memoirs, autobiographies or even some self-help ones. For instance, take a look at this blurb excerpt from The Secret, by Rhoda Byrne:

A number of exceptional men and women discovered The Secret, and went on to become known as the greatest people who ever lived. Among them: Plato, Leonardo, Galileo, Napoleon, Hugo, Beethoven, Lincoln, Edison, Einstein, and Carnegie, to name but a few.

Now for the first time in history, all the pieces of The Secret come together in a revelation that is life transforming for all who experience it.

This is The Secret to life.

This throws sufficient light on the scope, tone and general direction of the book, and gives readers a reason to pick it up. 

  • Make some portion of it sound a little familiar so that the readers can identify with certain elements that they’re already excited about. It will help people who already want a book like yours realise that this one’s meant for them. For a work of fiction, this means teasing common yet exciting themes like a murder taking place or a shocking discovery. For non-fiction it could state a very relatable problem, agitate it a little further and then provide a solution which is essentially the content of the book. Remember, every single word has the potential to create a lasting impression, proven by this poignant blurb for poet Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey :

This is the journey of

surviving through poetry

this is the blood sweat tears

of twenty-one years

this is my heart

in your hands

this is

the hurting

the loving

the breaking

the healing

Once you have put together 100-200 words of an intriguing description based on the above steps, fine-tune it further by making sure it’s ideal for a quick scan, i.e. even if readers skim through it, they should be able to pick up on the crux of the novel. Also, ensure that the tonality and context of the blurb are appropriate for your book genre. For instance, if it’s a self-help book, it needs to be conversational rather than preachy. Similarly, for a high-octane thriller, the blurb must convey urgency or suspense. You could also consider including testimonial blurbs, which are a bunch of short stand-up quotes from a testimonial or review. We will be discussing reviews in detail, in another section of this post.

2. Using the right keywords: 

Keywords are like power terms that boost your book’s sales simply by making it more discoverable! To make your work easier to find on online marketplaces or retail outlets, you need keywords that accurately portray your book’s content and reflect the words customers will use when they search. The next time you browse for books on Amazon, try entering search terms and see what comes up. This could give you a fair idea of what people are searching for and what your book must be associated with for it to show up at the right time. Alternatively, you could even go on websites like Answer the Public and see what phrases or searches are trending, especially in the reading space. Here are some best practices when it comes to identifying and selecting the right keywords for your book:

  • Combine keywords in the most logical order, i.e. the order in which the reader searches. Nobody searches for “Horror fiction romance novel”, they would probably search for “horror romance fiction” or “horror romance novel”.
  • Use shorter phrases consisting of six to seven keywords.
  • Cover all your bases by identifying the types of keywords and using as many of them as possible. These are some categories of keywords that Amazon uses to describe novels:

Settings: Historical/Post-war Britain

Character type: Single mother/ Assassin

Character role: Female-centric

Plot theme: Dystopian

While it’s important to note what you must include in your keywords, it’s equally important to understand what to avoid wasting precious space on. These are:

  • Information covered elsewhere in your book’s metadata like the title or subtitle.
  • Unfounded claims about the book’s quality, like “best novel ever”.
  • Statements that convey urgency of some sort like “new,” “on sale,” or “available now”. This ends up sounding very pushy and sales-oriented. 
  • Any misrepresentative data

It’s also worth mentioning that you must avoid keyword stuffing or repeating the same information across multiple spaces. This doesn’t bode well with Amazon and other retailers’ algorithms, and spamming your readers with redundant content is never a good idea. 

3. Choosing the right book title:

Your book’s title is its very identity, so before christening it with a name, do give it enough thought. A good title is one that’s distinct yet easy to remember, which consequently means it’s easy to look for. The process of writing one should involve striking a balance between marketability and crisp, impactful copy. Despite the price tag or the fact that you’re an unknown author, readers will flock to your book because you’ve taken the time to craft the perfect title. In truth, there are many things that an author should consider before they finalise their book title or else risk having a book that just won’t sell. Here are some things to consider while naming your book:

  • Create intrigue with your title, but make sure it ties back to the content or else the reader will be disappointed. 
  • Make it discoverable by making it easy to remember. If your title is too complicated, the chances are that few readers would remember what to search for. At the same time, it needs to be unique and not similar to an existing title. 
  • Keeping it simple doesn’t mean it can’t be extraordinary. The Hunger Games is a relatively straightforward title, yet it creates intrigue and piques the reader’s curiosity about the possibly exciting story that lies inside. Make sure you look at a few hundred titles like these, before picking a name for yours. Also ensure that the title doesn’t sound repetitive or too close to one that already exists.
  • You could even consider using titles that sound poetic or alliterative, like Gone Girl or Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

4. Categorising your book correctly:

Categorising your book right can make all the difference to its sales. If you’ve written a murder-mystery with a dose of romance involved, and if you’re categorising it under romance fiction, it doesn’t make sense. You will lose out on your target audience because the readers of your books are those who read murder-mysteries. Fans of romance novels may find it disappointing, and fans of murder-mystery novels won’t be able to find your book at all. To make your book accessible to your readers, you have to categorise it right. 

For instance, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a historical fiction novel, which also features a remarkable love story and a strong female lead, underscored by the gripping reality of a war-torn, German-occupied English island. It wouldn’t be fair to categorise this only as a historical piece or a romance fiction, as it would probably not be what the readers of either subgenre are looking for. Here’s where you need to be especially cautious about the categories or tags you use to describe your book. Certain retailers like Amazon follow the concept of nodes and subnodes for more accurate positioning of books like these. On Pencil, BISAC Subject Headings also known as BISAC codes are used to categorize books based on topical content. These are 9-character alphanumeric codes, used across the industry, to tell book retailers, distributors, and librarians what categories and subcategories a book belongs in. The more categories your book is listed under, the more opportunities search engines have to send potential buyers your way. Let’s consider the same example to understand this a little better. BISAC subject codes used by The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society are FIC044000(Fiction/Women Books), FIC019000(Fiction/Literary Books) and FIC014050(Fiction / Historical/ World War II Books).

5. Writing a memorable author bio: 

The author bio is a critical marketing tool as who you are is often as important as what your book is about. This is especially true if you’re a non-fiction writer looking to impart advice through a self-help book or reveal lesser-known facts through an expository account of harrowing incidents, individuals or entities. For your reader to truly believe in what you have to say, it’s important that they get a sense of you as an author and why you have the authority to write about a particular topic. “Author reputation” is consistently cited as one of the main factors influencing a book buying decision, and an exciting author bio contributes to this reputation. Here are some details that you could include in this section:

  • Start with a powerful opening line that summarises your profile in a short sentence. 
  • Establish your credentials in your book’s subject area without supplying an avalanche of information for the readers to digest. For example, if you’re writing a diet book, mention things like professional degrees, nutrition training or accomplishments in brief. Include any credential that indicates your expertise and know-how on that particular topic. Throwing in some humour or quips can sometimes get readers to relate better and even help make light of otherwise dense details like professional qualifications. 
  • Give your bio some character, as it is a description of a person, after all! While it’s not recommended to delve into too many details and make the bio long and wordy, don’t rob it of a personality. Something relatively straightforward like where you live, or the place you’ve grown up at and how it has been a source of inspiration for your books can be meaningful and even forge an instant connection with some readers. 

And it goes without saying, KISS (Keep It Short and Simple)!

6. Seeking reviews for your book:

Book reviews are essential for social proof, and a few positive remarks about your volume can go a long way in persuading readers to give your book a chance. But for a first-time writer, getting reviews can seem to pose a chicken or egg situation! How do you get reviews for a book that hasn’t been released? Or one penned by an author who is writing for the first time? That’s what book bloggers and reviewers are for! Start by looking up bloggers or reviewers who fit your genre and are accepting books for review. You could even refer to curated lists like this one by Reedsy and find a credible reviewer who specialises in your genre.

Once you’ve shortlisted a few, determine how frequently they’re posting reviews, and find one that gives your book’s review a real chance to be sighted. If they publish reviews too often, your book will get lost in the sea, and if they do it too seldom, they’re likely to lose readers and do more harm than good to your book. Also, carefully read the review policy or review requirement for each book blogger or reviewer, and make sure you adhere to the stipulated conditions before sending your book out. Some want you to send the book, but many ask for a query along with it. Some review e-books, many do not. There are some reviewers who don’t accept manuscripts by self-published authors or indie publishers at all. So, save both of you time by understanding their requirements well in advance. 

Another critical activity that needs to be kept in mind before taking your book to a reader is editing and formatting it to perfection. To a reader, what matters is getting a quality novel and not whether it’s a traditionally published author or a self-published one that’s giving one to them. While it’s necessary to perform a round of self-editing and proofreading to catch any inconsistencies or awkward typos, we certainly recommend getting an expert pair of eyes to go over your work and refine it. On Pencil, we help our registered writers avail all kinds of ancillary services, like editing and design, by connecting them to our network of expert editors. 

If your novel is accepted, the blogger will often review it on their own site, plus Amazon and GoodReads. You could also provide access to a select group of beta readers, who may be friends, family members or other authors, and ask for some positive reviews from them. Finally, once you’ve got a reasonably sized collection of reviews, pick the most noteworthy, positive ones of the lot and flaunt them on the back cover and inside pages of your book!

The next time you’ve got a completed manuscript that’s ready to start selling, do use these six ways to get better results simply by optimising your book information. What you may consider as a trivial activity that requires less than an hour to accomplish, can actually go a long way in helping your book get discovered by the right people and get the readership it deserves!

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