Tom Morkes recently published The Perfect Book sales Page on his blog. I’m usually the first person to reject formulaic approaches to book marketing. Many well-written books are horrible products. But what I like about Tom’s template is that it forces you to ask important questions that can help determine whether your book is a marketable commodity. And it adds basic sales elements that communicate value to the prospective reader. Even if you haven’t written your book yet, consider how filling in the various sections in Tom’s template might change the way you write and publish.
Like this? Learn how to sell more books with Tom Morkes.
The Perfect Book Sales Page: Section 1 – The Big Picture
The Perfect Book Sales Page: Product Summary
At the top of the Perfect Book Sales Page, the title and cover that you’re selling a book, along with some bullet points that illuminate its key selling points. Stop! As simple and obvious as these may seem:
- Does your title convey what your book is about?
- Is your cover engaging?
- Can you name at least three compelling reasons why a reader should buy your book?
So many authors never ask these basic questions. Smart publishers use them to determine what manuscripts to acquire and invest in. Writers who want to sell books ask these questions to help determine what to write. Yes, your book has to be good—but it also has to be a marketable product.
The Perfect Book Sales Page: Buy Now!
Right below the title, cover, and selling points, Tom suggests you place a “BUY NOW!” button. Why here? Because some readers may decide they need your book based on the simple information at the top of your page. Don’t make them scroll through the rest of the page to find the purchase link. This is why retail catalog publishers put the toll-free order number on every page. Once a consumer has resolved to spend money, anything—a phone call, a knock on the door, a spontaneous impulse to think about something else, a sudden realization that you were supposed to pick your kid up 5 minutes ago—can vaporize that intention. Keeping a “BUY NOW!” button on-screen allows the viewer to follow through on the purchase decision before something else eclipses it. This is merchandising 101.
The Perfect Book Sales Page: Section 2 – Adding Value
The Perfect Book Sales Page: Book Reviews, What?, and Who?
The first section was set up for impulse buyers. Below the “Buy” button is a section intended for low-level skeptics. After reading the top part of the page, they’re interested but they want to know more. This part of the page tells the reader what the book is about and who it’s for—and this information is sandwiched between two reviews.
Book Reviews add credibility because they tell the viewer that some other person invested the time to read the book, and that they realized a good return on their investment—to the point where they’re willing to invest additional time in writing a review. Nobody wants to be the first person to try a new product, but they’ll happily buy it once others approve of it. Book reviews add credibility you can’t get by vouching for yourself. Multiple reviews multiply that credibility by letting readers know that more than one person loved your book.
Under the first review is a section entitled “What You Will Learn.” Tom’s wording is interesting and provocative. He could have written something like “How the Reader Will Benefit” or “The Takeaway,” but he focuses specifically on learning. Tom says:
“… Address your target reader’s PAIN + SOLUTION. Great book sales pages always focus on the dichotomy between what is and what could be. …”
If storytelling is all about conflict and transformation, this approach could apply to a novel or a programming tutorial. Whether you’re following characters down the road of life or learning about recursive functions, what new perspectives or skills will you gain by doing so? What will you learn?
Who Should Read It is also valuable. If your book is for railroad fans or newly divorced women or lovers of romance novels or PHP scripters, say so. Readers want books you wrote for them—not for “everybody.” If the reader knows you are part of her tribe and understand her needs, she’ll be more likely to buy your book. Bookstores are divided into interest categories. Publishers know that readers of self-help books are looking on one set of shelves while sci-fi/fantasy fans are browsing in another part of the store (and if I wasn’t a sci-fi fan, I’d make a joke here).
From a selling perspective, is your book’s value proposition something you can state in a ten-second elevator pitch? “My book is called W. It’s about X and it empowers readers in category Y to accomplish Z.” Define this formula for your book. Editors and literary agents will love you—even if they reject your manuscript—because they’ll know you understand the publishing business. A simple selling statement makes it clear that you developed a product calculated to meet the needs of a market. Smart publishers want to sell books; compelling information about supply and demand will pique their curiosity.
The Perfect Book Sales Page: Section 3 – Details
The lower third of the page is where you stop talking about how great your book is and start showing how great it is.
Start with a free chapter download. Tom says:
Offering a free chapter … is optional, but … encouraged. While a free chapter won’t sell books immediately, it will help you build your platform and sell more books later on by getting the reader’s email address.
In other words, the page isn’t all about selling your book now, today. It’s about developing a relationship with your readers where you get them to opt in to your newsletter in exchange for receiving something valuable from you. It may be that you sell a book to a reader after you send them useful information every week for a year.
The Take a Look Inside is a feature that’s worked well for Amazon.com. This offers readers a chance to skip through various sections of your book. When I’m considering a book purchase in a store, I like to open the book to random pages to sample the prose? Is the text well written? Is the typography comfortable to read or is the type small and packed together? Take a Look Inside offers online readers similar sampling options. Showing is better than telling.
The caveat is that nobody has developed a technology that emulates Amazon’s, and Amazon’s “Take a Look Inside” is not embeddable. Numerous flipbook options exist, but these are mostly flash based (which won’t work on mobile platforms). FlipHTML5 offers a non-flash alternative, but the text is not searchable; all the content gets converted to images. You can embed a PubML eBook containing sample chapters in your website as George Walther and Barbie Taylor did, but though this allows for better on-screen presentation, it doesn’t duplicate the look and feel of the original typesetting on paper.
About the Author is best used as a place to tell readers why you’re a trustworthy source of information. What experiences have made you a subject matter expert? What awards and credentials reinforce your credibility? If you write sea stories, tell readers how long you lived aboard boats. Readers don’t care about your children, your blood type, or what hospital you were born in. Focus on reinforcing why you are the ideal author for your book.
The Perfect Book Sales Page: Section 4 – Sign Off
Think of the repeated cover image and the second “Buy Now!” button as the concluding paragraph of a “visual essay “about your book. They’re simple reminders that after all the details and samples and biographies have been presented, you have a book to sell and an easy way to buy it.
The last thing on the page is a Guarantee. Most self-publishers don’t want to hassle with returns, but a guarantee doesn’t necessarily have to be a satisfaction guarantee. If you’re accepting e-commerce payments, let people know their credit card information will be encrypted and managed by a trusted third party. If you refer sales to a bookstore for fulfillment, let buyers know they’ll be purchasing from a trusted source like Amazon instead of from “Bubba’s books.”
Whether or not you build a book sales page, consider using Tom Morkes’s template as a foundation for a publishing business plan. Consider how you will establish credibility and build relationships with prospective readers. Identify your target market and its needs. Clarify how your book will solve their problems. Successful writing is all about wordcraft. Successful publishing is all about positioning books to sell in the marketplace. Figure out where your book lies on the spectrum between art and business and make a plan.