How to Write a Killer Product Description (part 1)

Depositphotos_21863647_xsThis year, more than 25 percent of the books on Amazon’s Kindle Top 100 list have been self-published. Writers now have a shot at the big time without a major publisher to take them there.

If you want to make that Top 100 list, you face stiff competition. Every part of your book needs to work. Your writing needs to be top notch. You need a great cover. You need a competitive price.

And you need a strong product description, similar to the back cover copy of a traditionally printed book.

Less Is More

You have only a few paragraphs to catch a prospective reader. Keep your description short, and pack the good stuff near the top.

If you can summarize your story in a sentence or two, lead with that. Here’s the opening of the product description for Amanda Hocking’s novel Switched:

When Wendy Everly was six years old, her mother was convinced she was a monster and tried to kill her. It isn’t until eleven years later that Wendy discovers her mother might have been right.

The first sentence grabs a reader’s attention. Who wouldn’t empathize with a six-year-old whose mother tried to kill her?

The second sentence offers a jolt. Is Wendy really a monster? How has she lived to age 16 without knowing?

Start Strong

Lead with your strength. If your book is plot-oriented, lead with the plot. If your book is character-oriented, lead with character.

Here’s a plot-oriented lead from the description for John Locke’s novel Lethal Experiment:

What if someone offered you $100,000 with the only stipulation that a murderer would be killed if you accept the money? Would you take it? The people who choose to take it are about to find out the ramifications of their decisions to be part of this Lethal Experiment!

That “what if” tells us nothing about the lead character (Donovan Creed). The story premise is enough.

This product description assumes you’d take the offer. If you wouldn’t, this isn’t your kind of book. Then the description sets the hook: There are ramifications. If you want to discover them, you have to buy the book.

Here’s a longer, character-oriented lead for The Paris Wife, a novel about the first wife of Ernest Hemingway:

Most of us know or think we know who Ernest Hemingway was — a brilliant writer full of macho swagger, driven to take on huge feats of bravery and a pitcher or two of martinis — before lunch. But beneath this man or myth, or some combination of the two, is another Hemingway, one we’ve never seen before. Hadley Richardson, Hemingway’s first wife, is the perfect person to reveal him to us — and also to immerse us in the incredibly exciting and volatile world of Jazz-age Paris.

If you love character-oriented fiction, this is your book. The intro tells you nothing about the plot, everything about the lead character.

Next: Two more principles for your product description.

Randy Ingermanson is the author of six novels and the bestselling Writing Fiction For Dummies. He is known as “the Snowflake Guy” in honor of his Snowflake method of designing a novel. Randy holds a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the University of California at Berkeley and works half-time for a biotechnology company. He publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 32,000 subscribers. Visit his website at

Adapted with permission from an article that appeared in the May 2011 issue of Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine.

At the Writing for the Soul conference, Randy will teach six classes in the promotion & marketing track and the fiction track:

● Platform: The Four Channels of Communication to Your Tribe

● The Website: Foundation of Your Platform

● The Purpose of Blogging and How To Do It

● How To Use Social Media Without Killing Yourself

● How to Launch a Book

● Premise and Three-Act Structure


About CWG

For nearly fifty years, the Christian Writers Guild has trained people to sell their writing.

Explore to learn more about our:

● writing courses

● critique service

● webinars

● Writing for the Soul conference

● Operation First Novel contest

Also, consider publishing your book through Christian Writers Guild Publishing — a unique service that combines:

● quality education

● mentored guidance

● professional production

● effective marketing and sales tools

Finish the course — and we’ll publish your book.

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