A framework to write your condition notes Amazon that made one of my students an extra $1,000 in two days
Full confession: I was totally wrong about the impact of a book’s Amazon condition notes on sales.
It took one of my students making an extra $1k in 48 hours for me to realize it, but your condition description makes a HUGE impact on sales.
Here it is, my complete guide to optimizing your Amazon book condition descriptions for maximum profits…
Video: The Condition Note Formula To Explode Your Amazon Sales
For people who prefer video over text, here’s the video version of this article:
How I had to admit I was wrong about Amazon condition notes
For a long time, I downplayed the role of Amazon condition descriptions in getting sales. My mantra was always the same:
“Amazon sales comes down to three things: The demand of your inventory, intelligent pricing, and regular repricing.”
And that’s it.
I’ve beat that drum for years – in my articles, courses, everywhere. And I’m here to tell the story of how I was wrong.
From the beginning, I got Amazon condition descriptions mostly right
Because I never did my condition descriptions really badly, I never knew how much doing them badly can affect sales.
I always understood the role of a book’s condition description was one giant thing:
To instill trust in the buyer.
Trust that the book they want is the book they’re getting, and that you’re the Amazon seller who can be trusted to deliver.
For Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) sellers, most of the trust is taken care of. Amazon is fulfilling the order, and everyone trusts Amazon.
There remains some lingering concerns for buyers:
- Did they grade this book accurately?
- Did they inspect the book at all?
- Is the book I’m ordering the one I’m getting?
No Amazon buyer is pulling out a whiteboard and charting out all their options. Instead, they are sizing up available Amazon offers in a split-second, based on the condition description notes (or the first 10 words, as I’ll get to in a second).
In a moment, they want to size up the best option among the offers priced what they are willing to pay.
But back to my story…
I had a bookselling student with a weird problem
He had invested a lot of money in used textbooks to resell on Amazon. Like, thousands of dollars.
After sinking all his capital to get these textbooks into Amazon in time for textbook season, something weird happened…
He was several days into the January textbook sales rush, without a single sale.
I get a lot of SOS messages like this, and they’re almost always really obvious rookie mistakes.
But with him, I couldn’t figure it out. His books were in super high demand (he had multiple copies of one textbook ranked 3,000, for example), and even in the peak of the textbook season sales rush, he hadn’t gotten a single sale.
Totally out of ideas, I asked him to send me a link to one of his books for sale on Amazon so I could see what his customers were seeing (to be honest, I suspected he wasn’t being totally honest about his feedback score or something).
Behold: The world’s worst Amazon book description note
I noticed one thing right away: His condition notes were terrible. My memory is a little fuzzy, but I think they read something like “Free second day shipping for Prime members. Shipped by Amazon.” And that’s it.
That’s about as bad as you can get. You may as well leave your condition description blank.
What’s so offensive about it? It doesn’t communicate any useful information about the book. Of course you get free 2nd day shipping. If you’re selling to Amazon Prime members, they already know this. No kidding the shipping is free. Why does this need to be written?
You get one shot at communicating with your Amazon buyer, and that’s what you say? Pretty bad.
I told him to go through and change all his book condition descriptions immediately. I didn’t think that was his issue (I still didn’t know what it was), but as long as he was desperate for sales, he may as well update those.
Remember: My belief at this point was that book condition descriptions were in that “last 5%” of tiny details that may influence your sales, but not much. I had no faith that editing them was going to move the needle on his textbook season sales.
(If you’re curious, here is the whole text message exchange).
(I’m not sure why I said “on mobile” in that last text. It’s the same on a desktop.)
To recap, here’s essentially what I told him:
- Put the condition of the book front and center.
- Make it very short (first 7-ish words).
- Emphasize the absence of highlighting or writing (these were textbooks).
Nothing too genius here, but way better than his current descriptions.
He sent me this text message 48 hours later
That’s $1,000 in under 48 hours.
And that’s when I had to admit I was totally wrong about Amazon condition descriptions
Before this, I knew they mattered a little. But going from no sales to $1,000 in sales in 48 hours was pretty major evidence that they mattered a lot.
I started to take condition notes a lot more seriously…
Since then the framework that follows with lots of students (and used it to improve my own), and gotten some pretty crazy results.
Understanding the Amazon customer
Here’s a few things we know about Amazon buyers that will shape the condition description strategy I’m going to explain in a minute:
- Amazon buyers don’t trust third party sellers. Most buyers have been burned at some point. Their guard is up and they are looking to limit their risk as much as possible.
- Amazon buyers examine their options. They may not spend 5 minutes reviewing everything, but they’re definitely not blindly buying the cheapest offer most of the time.
- Amazon buyers are willing to pay more for an offer they trust. Maybe not a lot more (although some might, an example of that in a second), but what’s 50 cents to insure you’re getting the book you want? That’s a fair trade for most Amazon customers.
Why Amazon buyers buy
The #1 factor for most Amazon customers is price. Most of the time they aren’t going to be willing to pay insane amounts more just to get an offer they “trust.” So when it comes to sales, pricing is still #1.
Next on most buyers list is trust. Within the offers they can afford, which one do they trust the most?
There’s only two ways Amazon sellers can instill trust.
One, your feedback score.
Two, your condition description.
We’re here to go deep into the second one…
The Four Part Amazon Condition Note Optimization Framework
- Instill trust.
- Defeat the buyer’s objections.
- Include information that is specific to that book / communicate the book has been individually inspected.
- Do all of this in the first 10 words.
(Yes, #3 is a subset of the first two, but since I made this framework I can write it however I want.)
First, we must understand the importance of the first 10 words.
Amazon buyers only see the first 10 words
Look at this example:
Anything past the first 10 words, they have to click to view.
To be really specific, the Amazon buyer only sees the first 65 characters (I counted).
How many Amazon customers seeing your book do you think take the time to click and read the full description?
I have no data to back this up, but I bet its under 10%.
That means you have to stand out above all the offers you’re competing against in the first 65 characters.
What matters most: Amazon condition notes “above the fold”
“Above the fold” means the part they can read without clicking “read more.”
This is where you cover all three of the bullet points above: Instill trust, defeat objections, convey the book was individually inspected.
Remember the main concerns of the Amazon buyer as they’re look at your listing:
- Did they grade this book accurately?
- Did they inspect the book at all?
- Is the book I’m ordering the one I’m getting?
Sample text for “above the fold”:
- “No writing or highlighting” (how I describe textbooks)
- “Clean copy” (super concise and gets right to the heart of what most buyers want to hear).
- “Light shelving wear, otherwise flawless.”
These get right to the heart of what the buyer cares about. Using phrases like these easily puts you in the top 10% of condition descriptions.
- “Hassle-free returns.” (Amazon handles returns for FBA sellers, but not all Prime members know this so its a good reminder).
- “Email with any questions” (Mostly pointless / redundant, but conveys transparency and your commitment to customer satisfaction).
Amazon condition notes “below the fold”
This is where you stack on obvious and/or extraneous details, in the hopes you occasionally convert a buyer with info that theoretically shouldn’t matter much.
- “Free second day shipping.”
- “Small family business.”
- “Shipped with love.”
None of these things should make a big impact on sales, but they can’t hurt.
These seem small, but they are powerful
I’m not exactly giving you some voodoo hypnosis script that will put buyers under a spell and compel them to throw money at you. But even though this framework is subtle, it is powerful.
Check most book condition descriptions on Amazon and see how bad most of them are, and how few people do what I’m explaining here.
Comedic interlude: What the heck?!
I almost did a “Hall of Shame” for this article, with all the terrible descriptions I found while researching.
This one was my favorite, because its just so pointlessly ambiguous and weird.
Back to business…
How much more are Amazon buyers willing to pay for trust?
With a good condition description, you can get sales on Amazon without being the lowest priced offer. Amazon buyers will pay more for an offer they trust.
Obviously there’s no firm number and every Amazon customer is different. But most buyers are willing to pay more for our books if they can be confident they are reducing their risks.
Time is expensive. Returns are annoying. And buyers may not have any room for error, needing a book by a certain date (this is especially true or textbooks).
All this bears out one fact: buyers are willing to pay more to reduce risk, but how much?
How about $25 more?
Again the average number is unanswerable, but I got this text message from a Zen Arbitrage member who was on a live webinar where I talked about this. He edited his condition descriptions applying my framework, and got some interesting results:
(Update, February 2022: I’m no longer involved in the day-to-day operations of Zen Arbitrage)
- He was competing with a bunch of poorly-described books.
- He was the 6th FBA offer down the page (NOT including Acceptable condition).
- He edited his Amazon condition notes based on what I’m explaining in this article.
- He got a sale $25 above the lowest FBA offer.
That means the buyer leapfrogged over more than six other offers, and paid $25 more, with seemingly the only variable being the Amazon condition notes.
(Sidenote: “Community Call” in the screenshot refers the the live webinars I do for Zen Arbitrage members).
Now I’m not saying this is normal, but it demonstrates that some buyers are willing to pay a LOT more to buy from a seller they trust.
Amazon condition notes: how we crush megasellers
Our Amazon megaseller competition really have all the advantages over small sellers like us: They can deal in higher volume, smaller margins, and have deeper pockets.
The one way we can defeat them is through our condition description.
One of the liabilities of the megaseller model is that they are unable to invest in individually inspecting every book. It’s just not possible.
Their descriptions usually read like this:
Yikes. Hard to do worse than this – and very easy to do better.
The easiest way to beat Amazon megasellers in the condition description game is to convey that we’ve individually inspected the book. This is huge for that ever-important principle of “instilling trust in the buyer.”
Condition descriptions are really the #1 way we can get an advantage over Amazon megasellers.
Recap: Condition Notes Framework
- Instilling trust is the #1 guiding principle in writing condition descriptions.
- Instill that trust in the first 10 words / 65 characters.
- Amazon customers will pay more for an offer they trust.
Any tips to share with the Amazon bookselling community? Leave a comment below.
PS: Minutes after this article went live, a member of my private Facebook group posted this email she received from an Amazon customer:
PPS: If you missed my recent email about this, I have three brand new, 100% free webclasses out now.
My brand new, free on-demand webclasses (book sourcing, more)