Writing e-book sales copy — sheesh, it’s harder than you think

I have to trust that my e-book publisher knows more about the business than I do.  They certainly seem to.  They have convinced me to change my title from Portal to The Portal because one-word titles aren’t selling well nowadays, unless you’re James Patterson or Clive Cussler.  OK, fine — they can have the “the.”

Now they have sent me these instructions for the sales copy that will appear online..

Maximum overall word count: 200 words. (this includes sales blurb only)

Ideal length: 150 words

Why the length limits? Readers/people are basically lazy.  Amazon allows for approx 120 words before the reader has to click “read more”.  The incentivizing plot twist (or a strong suggestion of the twist) must appear in the first 120 words.

First Paragraph length max: 250 characters including spaces.  More than that and the number of lines exceeds three on most standard monitors.  More than three lines and the reader tends to “click away” unless the title is highly anticipated.

Apps present a new wrinkle.  200 characters including spaces to incentivize the reader to “click” read more.  Because readers are basically lazy, the buy-now case is best made in the first 200 characters (including spaces).

Copy Structure: Every word in the copy must either introduce the protagonist/antagonist, present the internal or external conflict, or contribute to a  relevant and non-clichéd sub-genre plot twist that sets the book apart. (but not too far apart.  Readers also tend to read in a rut).

OK, then.  The text I came up with here doesn’t fit the guidelines, so there is work to be done.  The limitation on total character count (including spaces) is an interesting modern development.  I’ve just started using Word 2013, and it took a bit of fumbling around before I figured out how to get it to show me the character count.  Sure enough, it will display the number of characters, and the number of characters including spaces, with a single mouse click.  Good job, Microsoft!


1 thought on “Writing e-book sales copy — sheesh, it’s harder than you think

  1. I would start the blurb with your original second paragraph, beginning with the age of our two protagonists (showing it’s a book aimed a middle schoolers, right?) 12-year old Larry Bonds and his best friend X find a secret place in the woods behind Larry’s house — a portal to another world!

    Then stick most of your paragraph in, changing the reference to Mozart to the Beatles, I’d also put in a sentence about our protagonists primary dilemma, that they might be trapped their forever. I know you sort of do this, but your phrasing seems more passive than active.

    That’ll cut the blurb down to size. What do you think?


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