At BookBub, we connect books to readers, and readers to books. One of the components that drives this connection is the blurb we write for each book featured in our Featured Deals email. A successful blurb caters to the settings, characters, and tropes our readers love — so to write such a blurb, we need to learn as much as possible about our readers’ tastes.
To do this, we A/B test many of our blurbs, which lets us evaluate the performance of certain words, phrases, punctuation, or other blurb elements. Through this analysis, we can see what our readers engage with — and what turns them away. This post will highlight some recent A/B test results that you may find useful as you write and improve your own book descriptions.
Our book blurb A/B test methodology
We run A/B tests by creating two different versions of a blurb: the A version is the control, and the B version has a slight variation. Most users see the A version, but a randomly selected group gets the B version instead. By comparing each blurb’s click-through rate (CTR, or how likely users were to click on the book), we measure the impact of the change we’re testing.
Before we dive into the results, here are a few caveats to keep in mind:
- This data comes from BookBub’s readers only. Your readers may have very different tastes, so understanding your target audience and running your own tests can help you figure out what will work with them.
- For some tests, the results weren’t definitive. Test results are not always clear-cut, and even when they are, we continue to test these conclusions over time. We’ve noted below where the preliminary results may need additional testing.
- Readers’ tastes change over time. Trends are constantly shifting, and so are readers’ preferences. It’s possible that some of the results in this article won’t hold true a few months from now.
- BookBub blurbs have a very specific format. Our writing techniques are designed to get right to the point, engage readers quickly, and make each book stand out, so they’re generally under 50 words. The results here may or may not be applicable to other copy formats, like book descriptions on retailer sites.
That said, we found some interesting and surprising results. We hope you’ll find them as helpful as we have!
8 book description test results
1. Call out authors’ accolades
Readers respond well to mentions of an author’s accolades, including awards the author has won. Blurbs that named prestigious, genre-specific awards boosted CTRs by up to 25%, with an average increase of 5%. Here’s one example:
Calling out awards like the Bram Stoker Award in horror, the Edgar Award for mysteries, and the James Beard Award in cooking consistently helped performance.
2. Avoid including too many characters’ names
It seems intuitive that one great way to help readers connect with a book is to introduce them to characters, calling out the main characters by name. However, test results show that this may not be the case. Especially in books with several main characters, names in the blurb hurt its performance. The example below seems drastic, but the trend is consistent across all of our tests. On average, blurbs with 3 or more names saw a 10% lower CTR than the nameless variations.
3. Call out subgenres
We’ve noted in past tests that mentioning a book’s genre can help appeal to readers (e.g. “Fans of science fiction will love this book!”). This is also the case with subgenres, like psychological thrillers or police procedurals. Mentioning a book’s subgenre drove an average 4% CTR increase, although the CTR impact varied a good deal by genre. Here’s one example:
Mentioning subgenres that are popular with BookBub members, like psychological thrillers, military thrillers, police procedurals, and legal thrillers, drove higher CTRs. However, other blurbs suffered from mentions of subgenres that don’t resonate quite as well with BookBub members. This is why it’s crucial for our editors to run these tests and be in tune with our readers’ interests!
4. Don’t rely on punctuation for emphasis
When writing blurbs, authors often use grammar or punctuation to make them more dramatic, engaging, or eye-catching. But does this actually drive better performance with readers? The answer, pretty conclusively, is no. We tested em dashes, exclamation points, and question marks, and in none of these tests did the additional punctuation win. However, there was one exception to this rule: ellipses. Including ellipses in a blurb increased CTRs by an average of 5%. Here’s one example:
Ellipses effectively boosted CTRs in genres where suspense is key: Horror, Crime Fiction, and Romantic Suspense. However, tests in Fantasy, LGBT, and Teen & YA saw no significant impact.
5. Mention the number of recipes in cookbooks
Mentioning specific recipes in cookbook blurbs (e.g. “Featuring spice-rubbed pork chops, stuffed French toast, and more”) tends to hurt readers’ engagement. However, calling out the number of recipes included in the book improved reader engagement, driving CTRs that were an average of 9% higher. Here’s an example:
6. Don’t call business books “accessible”
Many book descriptions call books “accessible” in an effort to make them more appealing to a broader base of readers — but this doesn’t always work. In each of our Business blurb tests, including the word “accessible” lowered the CTR by 20%. That’s a huge impact! Other categories like Cooking and Science saw almost no change in CTR due to “accessible” — it’s possible that our Business readers just don’t respond well to the term. This kind of information helps our editors find other ways to customize these blurbs for readers. Here’s one example:
7. Call out characters’ ages in Chick Lit
If blurbs shouldn’t mention too many characters’ names, what kind of information should they include? The performance of certain character attributes can be hard to predict. Furthermore, readers’ engagement with these attributes often varies by genre — which is why running your own tests with your own readers is so important! Here’s a great example of this: in Chick Lit, mentioning a character’s age consistently helps drive engagement. Including the heroine’s age boosted CTR by an average of 9% in this genre. Here’s one example:
This isn’t the case in other categories: mentioning age in Erotic Romance didn’t yield a significant impact. Character age, then, may be a draw specifically for Chick Lit readers.
8. Mention aristocratic titles in Historical Romance
Historical Romance readers are drawn to aristocratic heroes, another genre-specific character trait. We tested calling out aristocratic titles, including lord, earl, duke, and lady, in Historical Romance blurbs. In every case, mentioning these titles boosted CTRs, driving an average 10% increase. Here’s one example:
These results were specific to aristocratic titles. Including other titles, such as military positions like “captain,” didn’t perform as well with readers, though more testing is needed to draw conclusive results.
More info on book blurb A/B tests
A/B tests help us learn more about our readers’ tastes so that we can write better blurbs to help them connect with our books. If you’re interested in learning more about our A/B test process or past results, check out these articles:
- The Anatomy of a BookBub Blurb & Ebook Description Copy Tips
- How to Improve Your Description Copy to Sell More Ebooks
- 5 Test Results to Help You Market Your Ebook
Have you run any A/B tests on your book descriptions? What are some results you’ve seen? Tell us in the comments!
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