Today’s makeover is for Steve Lee’s fiction thriller, What If …? Trying to sell a novel direct is a daunting task, and frankly few will sell enough copies to be profitable. (Those that did usually had a tremendous ‘hook’ and lucked into the right place, right time, right message astral alignment to generate a lot of buzz.) When he wrote me last month, he was seeing a 1% conversion. His desire is to double, perhaps even triple the rate.
He’s happy with his page design, I’m not. The copy – and there’s a lot of it – is all over the place and lacks focus, simplicity and clarity. I don’t read much fiction (although one of my guilty pleasures are vampire novels), but Steve has written a clever mash-up of fast-paced thriller with a Christian/Islamic/Buddhist message designed for the secular market. Now that’s a triple-threat of the first order. So let’s see what we can do for Stevens eco-conscious, spiritually-themed thriller.
Here’s the background:
- The Goal
Increase book sale conversions from 1% to as much as 3%.
- The Problem
Site is receiving traffic, though not enough of the book-buying kind.
- The Current Landing Page
- Page/Ad that Generates the Click-Through
Nothing specific at this time.
- Book cost
The Maven’s 10-Point Critique
#1 – Your book needs a landing page of its own, even if it’s steve-n-lee.com/book and hangs off your main site.
As I’ve noted in most of the makeovers, your landing page needs to be stripped of all non-selling components, including navigation, that distract your reader from moving through your copy. If it doesn’t help sell, it shouldn’t be there.
#2 – You’re an unknown author, so try to link your kind of story with a better known story in the same genre so your prospects know what to expect.
You do this several paragraphs in. I suggest you drag the DaVinci Code reference and make it a strong subhead toward the top of the page. “If you were one of the 60 million readers who were mesmerized by the “DaVinci Code”, you’re going to love “What if …” Then kick out with a particularly juicy excerpt (not a link) and then continue building your case with more excepts, testimonials/reviews, etc.
#3 – Create a specific “3-D” profile of the target reader in your head and craft your copy to that one person.
60 million people may have read DaVinci Code, but who was the “perfect” DaVinci Code reader. Male or female? Religious or just spiritual? Old or young? Conspiracy theorists? Anti-church folks? (I found the premise intriguing and had actually read its source material, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, several years ago. I thought the actual writing of DVC was really quite awful.) By writing specifically to that one target reader, your copy will almost magically be more on-point, more exciting and persuasive. Remember, you’re looking to get folks to buy your book, not just keep it in mind next time they’re at the store or trolling Amazon.
#4 – You’re selling a story … DON’T LEAD WITH THE PRICE, especially a discounted price. So start telling me your story right off the bat.
Leading with a price discount is a fine offer when you’re selling commodities or when you’re looking to sell to customers who don’t need a lot of explanation. Otherwise, you need to connect with your prospects at a completely different level. If no one needs your story, then you need to make the case why a reader would want your story — and want it enough to pay for it from an unknown author. You’ve done this, but too far down. Open up your landing page with your questions: “Have you ever thought you were special? Ever dreamed of changing the world? Ever been sure you were destined for great things? What if… you were?” Now that’s a compelling opening!
#5 – You’ve written a thriller, so show me a robust, thriller-type, visual style.
Thrillers by their very nature are beasts of the dark. (Look at other sites selling books in the thriller genre.) Lots of shadow, high contrast, blacks and reds and grays. Perhaps a Patterson or Baldacci could get away with a landing page that takes a contrarian approach because their name brand is highly recognized. Otherwise make it look like what it is. Instead of a banner strip of photos that forces the reader to wonder what the connection is, let your book cover be the highlight of the page and use the smaller photos as accents along side applicable copy.
#6 – Don’t write to be clever, write to be clear.
Writing clever is all about drawing attention to the writer. Writing for clarity, on the other hand, is all about respecting your reader. Clever in small doses in an excerpt or pull-quote can add a nice zestiness to ad copy, but your reader can’t and won’t digest a whole meal of it. Satisfy your prospect’s curiosity with something tasty and solid to chew on. I promise they’ll keep reading.
#7 – The overall look of the page is confusing and overwrought.
I know you like your page layout but, to my eye at least, it immediately pegs you as a ‘do-it-yourself-er’ and it’s probably hurting your sales. At first glance, I wasn’t sure where to look or at what. Your visitors will have an immediate, visceral feeling when they first come to your page. I’m talking 1-3 seconds. If your page looks amateurish there’s no question they’ll make the same judgment – rightly or wrongly – about your book.
You want a crisp, clean look that supports your copy, makes it easy for your prospect to move through the page, and uses familiar web page conventions. So, if you’re selling a book, show me the book and put it in the hero position, above the fold, preferably flush left. Add the first BUY BUTTOM near it, perhaps in the caption area. Show me a picture of you before you show me a picture of your testimonial guy. (I thought testimonial guy was you at first glance.)
Speaking of testimonials, they’re great but the current visual treatment causes them to overwhelm the rest of the page. Strip the goth borders from the testimonials as well as the navigation. (You’ll be limiting the navigation and outbound links anyway.) Keep the photo, pastel background and copy blocks.
The Arial font is used too large, uses too much italic, too many colors, and screams “look at me!” but not “read more of me.” Verdana and Georgia are fonts developed specifically for the web. Use them for body copy, augment with Arial or something complementary for headlines and subheads. Subheads should be no more than 2 points bigger than the body copy, headline no more than 2 points larger than the subhead.
#8 – Put your “Preview the First Two Chapters” links early on the page. Dump the book jacket info link.
Your instincts are good about providing chapters. Let’s call them that and make sure the links say that, too. Simplify the copy and the process, too. Too much clicking to get to something else. Also, eliminate the flash version. I couldn’t make it work in Firefox 2.x so I’m just going to guess that folks are having trouble, getting frustrated and leaving your site. (Remember, they don’t absolutely NEED what you’re selling.) Go with the simple chapter replication.
#9 – Don’t offer a freebie NOT DIRECTLY CONNECTED to the product you’re selling.
By offering your readers An Inconvenient Doofus on the same selling space as What If … you’ve given them a reason to click away for free. Better to use this as a bonus for buying your main book.
#10 – Eliminate the guarantee and highlight the charity angle.
Don’t get me wrong, I love guarantees. But for a fiction offer it feels forced and a bit trite. However, offering to donate a portion of your sales to charity is a good one. Better to be specific with the names of the charities, as well, to make your effort seem more credible. I might even have a little gauge showing how much money has been raised thus far.
Here’s your chance to be the Copywriting Maven’s next landing page makeover!
Got a landing page that’s more poop than pop? Willing to share with Copyblogger readers? Prepared to put a little of your own “skin in the game” for a Maven Makeover? Then follow your click to Maven’s Landing Page Makeover page for all the details. (Please note that I’m booked for gratis critiques until 1/15/08. If you’re interested in a private critique/makeover [5 business day turnaround], please email me directly.)