HTML in Amazon’s Author Central

HTML in Amazon’s Author Central from 2013 and some guidance settings are now different

As I briefly blogged yesterday I have been playing or more accurately trying to play with my book descriptions on Amazon. This follows several GoodReads forum discussions on marketing and how we as authors, can persuade you as readers, to buy our books. The flat nature of a typical Amazon book description does not help to catch the eye of a passing potential buyer. On one particular forum, here, it lead to the author of a new book on the subject both promoting his book but also talking about how it was done. I even became a test case for him and he has kindly shown on his blog where I ran into trouble, which we both then spent some detective work trying to sort out.

My experience shows up in screen shots on Marcus’ blog here. You can get the full down and dirty in his book here (no longer available) which discusses the how to and gives practical examples. This though is about the problems we overcame initially.

Problem One

I didn’t have the same lay out on my Amazon Author Central account as discussed in the book. Following an exchange of Goodreads messages with Marcus I approached Amazon support and received a completely unhelpful response which told me what I already knew. I had an Author Central Account not an one. What they didn’t tell me was that I could get a .com one just as easily. Marcus told me that follwing an alternative suggestion, which I also couldn’t do, about noms de plume.

Problem One was then solved by creating an Author Central Account and claiming my books on sale in

Problem Two

Each version of the book has its own details section, which are not pre-populated. I was horrified to see for example that the hardback description for my first book An Agent’s Demise had no description despite the editions being linked. Likewise my author profile for each edition was missing. Several frustrating hours later all were populated. There is also another section to fill in for Shelfari which also needs to be filled in but only on their site and again it doesn’t copy from editions so I haven’t finished doing that yet. The screen shot below show the unfilled in sections but you have to go to Shelfari and open an account (you can use your Amazon author account) to fill this in and then it backfills – what a pain.

shelfProblem solved with a lot of copying and pasting

Problem Three

Now I can actually get round to doing the thing I went on Author Central to do, namely use some of the clever stuff to enhance my book description. Now I’m not an HTML genius and my eyes aren’t as good as I wished they were, especially when I forget to wear my reading glasses. Some parts seemed to work fine. The formatting of text is fine. My main problem was the more advanced elements like video and Amazon widgets. I managed to get both working at one point but not formatted position wise. When I adjusted they all stopped. After some further action I have managed to get it all working, but you do have to be very careful and precise. If you visit To The Survivors on, you can see all the elements working.

Problem solved after some fiddling and correcting my errors

Problem Four

Not really a problem but the process does take a lot of time, copying, editing, pasting, checking and then waiting for Amazon’s servers to deliver the new code because the Author Central platform doesn’t show you what it actually looks like. You have to wait about 30 minutes for it to upgrade, then find out that something isn’t right, then check the sales site, then re-edit and start again. If you think this will be a quick process then think again especially to do several books then get all the descriptions sorted. Then there is the author profile which can also be adjusted…


The techniques do work although they could be overdone if you are not careful. From my personal design perspective the Amazon page is already crowded with Amazon stuff like recommendations OneClick and so on. I’ll be experimenting further if I have time to get other changes made like font colours and so on. I know it’s my errors, but I’m supposed to be working, or writing my next book, not playing with HTML code. If Amazon were a little more forthcoming on the formatting of Product Descriptions then maybe we wouldn’t have to bother in the meantime give it a try. Marcus’ book is not cheap but it is worth it.

What Is Persuasion? The Persuasive Man

What is Persuasion from 2013

Since I launched my third book The Persuasive Man, I have been contemplating the reality of persuasion rather than my fictional account.  This is also prompted by my experiences so far of marketing the book. Quoted in my book are the three types of Persuasion

Ethos: The credibility of the speaker or author, their authority, reliability, integrity.  It makes the reader or listener believe what is said or written.
Logos: The logic that is used to support a claim by induction and deduction or the facts and statistics used to help support the argument.
Pathos: An emotional or motivational appeal by the use of vivid language, emotional language, and sensory details.

We all use all of these things to get our own way, whether it’s a teacher trying to persuade a class to be quiet or, in this modern age, advertisers and marketeers persuading us to buy their products or subscribe to their viewpoint.

Now as a new independent author I have to persuade as well. I want you the reader to read my book, to do that I need to get the book in front of you and preferably have you pay for the experience so that I receive a reward for my efforts.  Of course my reward can also come in the form of a nice review (or not), a following on this blog, a comment from a friend or a relative but it all starts with persuading you dear reader to pick up/download my latest missive.

So lets look at each of the three types of persuasion.


My credibility as a writer needs to be clear, this is fine when dealing with something that I have direct experience of, an auto-biography literally comes form the horses mouth, but if I write fiction it is by its very nature not true.  Of course I can ground my story in facts, places, technology, and so on.  I can use my experience of ife and perhaps direct professional experience.  An ex-policeman may have the technical background to write a police procedural, but doe an ex traffic cop know how a murder investigation operates, maybe, but would the ex-traffic cop knowledge devalue the writer’s ability to persuade you.  What if the Police Procedural is written by a former refuse collector.  Credibility down – maybe.  As a voice in the persuasion stakes I have to convince the reader that my story is worth their time.  For an example of how not to do it try any Political Party Broadcast in fact many advertisements work purely by brain washing repetition, not by convincing people of the value of the product.


Lets get to the facts, the Number One Best Seller moniker is shown on brand new, newly launched books all the time.  A best seller where?  I have the Number One Best Selling Book in the Henley household, can I legitimately claim that in my marketing and accidentally neglect to mention “in the Henley household.” I was Number One on Amazon’s list for my first book for a couple of days as I persuaded, by financial inducement, thousands to download my free book.  I could claim that my books provide unrivalled story telling but I doubt you would be convinced.  I have plenty of rivals, 9,000 new books per month apparently.  So for my first book An Agent’s Demise, I can claim that there are real facts mixed into the fictional story, although one of my reviewers thought it was far fetched.  I did say it was fiction.  My facts for my second book, To The Survivors, were in the research into viruses and several other bits that I used to make the story of surviving a catastrophe more realistic.  Judging by it’s sales I was persuasive, or I just wrote a better story.


Finally we get to the heart of the matter an emotional plea, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE buy my books.  Did that work?  If you buy my book, world peace will break out, all starving children will be fed and a cure for cancer will be discovered – working yet.  It will change your life or just like TV adverts get you that incredibly non-airbrushed attractive partner, fast car, holiday, jewellery or just a nice meal.   Of course I could quietly mention that you might just enjoy my spy thriller, dystopian catastrophe or fictional memoir, but would that persuade you because after all…

“No one can withstand the charm of such a mystery.”
Jane Austen, “Persuasion”