The purpose of back cover copy is to sell your book. It’s essentially ad copy, a pitch to entice people to read your book. You must hook the reader, telling them enough to intrigue them without revealing too much.
If your book will be self-published, you need to write the back cover copy yourself. If you’re going with a traditional publisher, then they’ll do it for you, right? Usually, but who knows your book better than you? Who has the most at stake? You.
That’s why you should write your back cover copy. But writing it for your own book is hard. Although it’s only a couple hundred words, it takes hours to do a good job; don’t rush it. It is an art.
Here are five steps to writing back cover copy:
- Start at a bookstore or library. Focusing on either fiction or nonfiction, according to what type of book you wrote, study the back cover blurb on lots of books. Note what you like and don’t like. What causes you to want to read the book? What turns you off? Also notice layouts. Some back covers have an author photo or graphic. Others include short endorsements. These elements leave less space for your blurb, resulting in 150 to 300 words to pitch your book.
- Next, analyze back cover copy of books you’ve read. Compare what the back cover proclaims to what’s in the book. This provides insight into honing your message and hooking the reader.
- Then, consider back cover copy of books that will compete against yours, especially the successful ones. This will help you home in on what you need to include in yours.
2) Brainstorm: With your research in hand block out time to brainstorm. Record every idea. Don’t evaluate; just write. For nonfiction, you may get ideas from your thesis sentence, introduction, or conclusion. For all books, consider your elevator pitch.
3) Write and Rewrite: Pick the best ideas and write your first draft. Work on a couple of different angles. Over time, rework these ideas, polishing them into back cover gems.
4) Seek Input: Ask trusted friends (who will give you honest feedback) what they think. How do they react? Would your pitch entice them to read your book? Don’t apply everything everyone tells you; discern which advice to follow.
5) Test Your Results: After applying their input, take the best two blurbs and ask people which one they prefer. This will be your back cover copy. (Save the other versions, content you didn’t use, and your brainstorming session. You will need it later for something else.)
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.