Isn’t it fun to write about yourself? Wouldn’t you love to make a career out of coming up with new ways to talk about how interesting you are? Me neither.
Can author bios sell books? If you believe that a great cover, glowing reviews and a spot-on book description can sell books, then you’ll believe me when I say yes. The author bio is a featured data point all over the web. If a reader loves your bio, then imagine what they can get out of an entire book! Yeah, author bios sell books.
The fact is, author bios are the best way to make yourself compelling to a complete stranger who’s thinking about buying your book. Very few authors over the years have enjoyed crafting bios. But we still need them.
And we need to write more of them! For example, you need to tailor unique bios for your marketing efforts. Blogs, newsletters, deal sites, listings… many of them want a unique bio and book description when you submit. It’s frustrating but it makes sense. They don’t want their audience (or Google) to see them as redundant.
So here are some best practices that I’ve discovered on my journey. They’ve saved me time. They’ve made promotion just a tad bit easier just when I needed it most. And they’ve sold a few books!
Author bio tip 1. Your bio isn’t about you. It’s about your audience. Okay, technically that’s not true, but think about it. You’ve caught someone’s attention! That’s a big win! Don’t lose it by taking your eyes off of your goal here.
So make the bio appeal to your target audience. If that means showing off your snappy, friendly and entertaining self to sell your kids book, then cool. If you’re going for insightful, deep and intelligent for your paranormal romance then let it fly.
But please, whatever you do, don’t neglect your bio. It’s not below you. Some readers consider it a key part of their decision to buy, so treat your bio with the respect it deserves.
While all five of these tips will help you make a better bio, tips 2 and 3 are the best advice for how to write an author bio that sells books.
Author bio tip 2. Write the bio for the site where it will live, and mention your reading interests. As I’ve advised before, you should dig into the online store that you’re selling on. Even a smattering of research can yield insights that will help focus your bio.
What kind of books do you enjoy? Mystery? On Amazon you get the following drop-down results when you type that term in the search window:
My advice for this genre is to mention you like “mystery series” on your B&N bio. Mention you enjoy “mystery books” or “mystery and thriller” on your Amazon bio.
See what I’m doing there? I’m leveraging the site’s search engine to tell me what customers search for. All the terms that you see in the drop-down are arranged by popularity, so it’s great info that you can use to connect with readers.
I’ve written on this method of finding your target audience before, so I won’t belabor the point.
But one last thing, don’t get bogged down on this step. Really, what you should do is…
Author bio tip 3. Be passionate. When you write about your passions, your writing gets better. So mention your passions — hobbies, family, travel stories. It will help you connect with the reader.
Author bio tip 4. When you do finally get in the mood to hammer your way through your author bio, don’t just write one! Hey, you’re on a roll, so take advantage. Write five to ten quick and dirty bios that you can adjust later. Keep it in one file, somewhere safe. Then when you run into one of those sites that requires you to give them a unique author bio, you’ll have some fresh ones to choose from. Tighten it up and you’re done.
Author bio tip 5. First or third person? Great question. More independent authors are choosing first person. I think the reason for this is two-fold. One, it’s more comfy. Two, they want to convey their brand in a more casual way.
The counter argument is “first-person is amateurish and third person is professional.” The bios you read on books in the bookstore are rarely in first person, after all.
But I think most bios sound dull. And I’ll bet they’re dull because they’re written by authors who aren’t comfortable writing about themselves in the third person. Or they’re written by a hired hand who doesn’t know the author. Either way I lean toward first person myself because that’s what comes naturally.
How about you? Go ahead and paste your author bio in the comments section. We’d love to hear your thoughts on how to write an author bio that sells books!
By Ben Zackheim
We need to eat. Forget it.
We need to go pee. We won’t.
We need to sleep. Yeah, right.
Writers go from one discomfort and life-draining behavior to another when we work on our stories. But then comes the dreaded moment when we must write a book description.
Suddenly the pain is too much to bear.
Most of us choke. But why? Maybe we feel that explaining the book will make it sound so bad (to us) that we’ll question why we even began writing it in the first place?
The problem with such a bad habit is this.
The fourth most important step to sell books online is the book description.
Fourth, huh? How do I figure that?
1) Write a great (professionally edited) book.
2) Have a great cover.
3) Put a few glowing reviews directly above the…
wait for it…
4) Yup. The book description.
The reader will know they’re on to something special when they spot a cool cover and enthusiastic responses from real readers. But the book description is where you’ll either close the sale or lose them. That means you need to treat it with the same respect you showed your story.
I want to talk about some critical steps we can all take to craft the best possible book description. And at the end of the post I want to share a new idea I had. I’m trying it out now and I think you should too.
Why is a great book description important?
Let’s first define what I mean by a “great book description.”
A great book description will help you sell books.
That’s why it’s so important. So for this post we’ll be honing in on the actual sale like a (super-friendly!) sniper.
Be warned. Part of what I’m talking about is number-crunching. Part is craft. There may even be some art to it. But the goal here is to give you all the info you need to produce an effective book description that sells books.
So. Rubber, meet Road.
How to write a book description that sells books
Get reviews before you launch your book. What do reviews have to do with a good book description? We’ll get to that in a sec.
Reviews should live right above your product description. Don’t rely on the retailer’s reviews section to sell books. They build their product pages to sell a variety of products, not just books. Book pages need testimonials in a clear and obvious place — just like the back cover and flaps of real books.
Using the reviews, craft your description. Show the potential buyer just how right the reviewers are! Act as a mirror to a couple of the key terms/phrases that your reviews use. If a review calls your book “an enlightening romp through one man’s middle life” then you can verify that in the book description by using words like “enlighten” and “middle life.” It’s a great way to subtly say, “That reviewer is so right!”
The first sentence should be as good as your book’s first sentence. Remember how you pounded on the first sentence of your book until it was just right? Do that with your description too.
Use terms that the online retailer’s search engine will love. Yes, we’re getting into uncomfortable territory here. Where’s the art in all of this, Ben? That’s up to you to find. But I’m obligated to tell you that Amazon scans your book description for terms that help its search engine find your product.
So be sure to include terms that reflect the genre you’ll be placing the book in. If your book is the story of a reporter investigating the death of her cousin at the hand of a serial killer at the start of World War II, then be sure you include terms like investigative journalism, World War II and serial killer in your description.
By the way, that’s my mom’s book, The Last Train to Paris. Go Mom!
There’s a cool way to check on what terms Amazon readers like to search for. Just use Amazon search! Enter a term that applies to your book. You’ll see a whole bunch of suggestions. Amazon is essentially telling you that these terms are what their readers are searching for. Use that to your advantage and find a word or term that’s a good fit. Choose a couple and put them in your book description.
So I should advise my mother to include the terms World War 2 historical fiction in her description. It’s appropriate to her book and it ranks high when people begin to type “Word War 2”. Of course, being my mother, she will ignore my advice.
Target the shopper, not the reader.
Aren’t they the same? Probably, but not necessarily. I learned as a writer of books for young people that the book description must appeal to the adult who’s buying the book. Not the kid who’ll read it. A cousin of mine, Nerissa Nields, wrote a book that has “gift” written all over it, titled How to be an Adult. Yeah college graduates’ parents might want to jump on that one.
Test! Post the description to your favorite online hangouts and ask for feedback. Send an email to trusted resources. Yes, that includes family and friends, as long as they have a good track record for giving constructive criticism.
I’ve found the community for BookGoodies on Facebook and the Createspace forums to be packed with people who love to give useful feedback.
If you’ve read this far then you might want me to cut to the chase and just get to this “new idea” I mentioned earlier.
Here it is…
Don’t write an excellent book description. Write two excellent book descriptions.
The first will be for your launch audience. The second will be for the long-run.
What’s a launch audience? It’s the audience you know you have access to from the get-go. It can include your email list, your Facebook followers, etc. Did you read my post about Twitter analytics that help you identify your target audience? In a nutshell you can use Twitter to find out the specific interests of your followers. If you can identify specific interests of your followers then you can use words and terms that resonate with them.
Yup. That’s a breakdown of my Twitter follower’s interests.
Go read the post. It lays out just how incredible this data is. It’s key to our never-ending quest to reach people who might be interested in our books. I wish Facebook offered the same robust insights, but they took the opportunity to charge us for targeted marketing.
Tweak! Never stop adjusting the book description of your books. The beautiful thing about self publishing is that it allows you to make fast adjustments based on good data. If your book is suddenly newsworthy because of world events, then by all means head in and edit it! If a new term starts catching on that applies to your book, use it! You get the idea.
A book description isn’t some alchemical element that could blow up in your face if you call forth the wrong incantation. It also won’t work if you just write, “Me book be gooder than your thinking it could of!” Find a process that works for you. Use your talent to write and use your curiosity about your audience to dig into what will make them more likely to click the Buy button.
By Ben Zackheim
Note: This post contains two affiliate links (in Tips 4 and 5), both of which are links to books on Amazon. One book is by my cousin, the other book is my mother’s. They’d better be fine with this, or Thanksgiving is going to be very uncomfortable this year.
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You hear the one about the two authors who walk into a bar? One has a mailing list. The other one has zip. Nada.
Mailing List: “I saw that tweet about your book sale the other day.”
Zip Nada: “Yeah. I got two whole sales after a week of prep, a $50 ad spend on Goodreads and 28 tweets.”
Mailing List: “Wow. That sucks.”
Zip Nada: “Thanks. That’s really helpful. I got your newsletter about your book last month. Looked nice.”
Mailing List: “50 copies sold. Not too bad. Why don’t you use your email list to promote sales?”
Zip Nada: “I don’t have one.”
Mailing List: “Oh man! It took me seven years to build mine! You’d better get started, like yesterday!”
What’s the punchline of the joke? Zip Nada punches Mailing List in the face.
If a writer doesn’t have an email list, does he make a sound when he falls in the forest?
Many writers experience dismal sales from Twitter/Facebook/[enter social network name here]. A common complaint is, “My followers are family, friends or fellow writers who don’t buy other writer’s books.”
We’re told that we should have an email list. That way we can reach the highest quality, most targeted audience possible.
Uh. I’m afraid all the above is true.
Here’s some great (and little-discussed) news. If you use Twitter then you can reach your target audience. No matter what the “quality” is of your followers!
Twitter Analytics, is a spectacular tool for finding people to buy your book.
You could say, “but that assumes my social network followers care about my books and they demonstrably do not.” This is a big misconception,and probably one of the most damaging to authors who blog, tweet and share online. We’re told by a lot of smart people out there that people who follow us, Like our posts or share our tweets aren’t necessarily fans, or even readers.
That’s a glass half empty (and incomplete) perspective.
The Twitter connections we’ve made online with non-fans and even non-readers are valuable enough to sell books.
How can that be? Because Twitter has learned so much about them!
Here’s what I mean. This is a breakdown of my Twitter following.
Is that a marketer’s ten thousand dollar breakdown of potential audience?
No, it’s Twitter’s free report on my followers.
Yup. They actually tell me what interests my followers have, even broken down by favorite genres! So for all my Twitter struggles and misses and successes over the years, in the final analysis it was my mere presence that gave Twitter the data it needed to say, “Hey, good job reaching out. Here’s who you have. Now go have fun selling your book to them!”
How does this help you? If you look at your own follower breakdown you’ll spot interests and terms that you can tweet about. For instance, using the data above, I just brainstormed a new tweet that I’m going to try:
Tweet: How do teenagers learn #leadership skills? Shirley gets crash course in #mystery Shirley Link & The Treasure Chest http://ctt.ec/n4z2o+
In that book, my heroine (Shirley Link) gets a lesson in leadership when she tries to get her two best (and bickering) friends to work together. All while dragging her dad around so he can help with the case.
So I’ve used two terms that I know (from solid Twitter data) will resonate with a huge part of my Twitter following: “mystery” and “leadership”.
But it doesn’t end there. You could apply this data to find terms for your book description, your book metadata and even blog posts about your book. Then when your audience clicks on the tweet they’ll see their favorite subject brought up again and again as they decide if they want to buy or not.
Conclusion: Get signed up for Twitter Analytics to find your target audience
So the lesson here is, you might not have a big enough mailing list yet. But as you build that up, don’t fret. Use Twitter and some common sense and you’ll find your readers.
Sign up for Twitter analytics here.
by Ben Zackheim
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