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Writing Back Cover Copy that Sells - Part 2, by Jennifer Neal

This post is a continuation of our recommendations for back cover copy. If you haven’t already, check out Part One!

Now that we’ve walked you through the Do’s and Don’t’s of a good back cover blurb, it’s time to sit down and start writing.

HOW to do it

Establish the premise and conflict. Readers want to know what your book is about, but they don’t want to be spoiled. A cover blurb isn’t a summary: it should give only enough details to intrigue readers and end in a cliffhanger that will make readers want to find out more! This is true even in a genre where endings are assumed--most romance readers want and expect the couple to end up together, but stating that they will is a bad idea. Instead, talk about the obstacles that stand in their way and make the reader wonder how those challenges could be overcome. This will compel them to turn to the first page.

Character, setting, and conflict: there is no exact formula for a perfect blurb, but there are some outlines that are pretty common across fiction. Although they may look different, they address several of the same questions for the reader: Who is the main character(s)? What do they most deeply desire, and what stands in the way? What can the reader expect to get out of this book? Getting these ideas across in a clear and compelling way is more important than how you outline your blurb, but if you prefer to follow a template, we’ve got you covered.

Sample outline to get you started:

(Main character) is a (age and gender) who wants (insert driving motivation). But (antagonist or obstacle) prevents them from getting (what they want). (Main character) must choose between (getting what they want) and (getting what they need). If they don’t, (insert the most dire consequences of failing).

Once you’ve filled in the blanks, you will know what elements are important to keep in your blurb. Then start again, adding in your voice and showcasing your writing style. After that you can add keywords, then turn to someone you trust and get some feedback!

Interesting characters drive stories—so the reader needs to learn enough about the main character to find them interesting. The setting is important for your genre cues--it’s how you tell the reader the genre without spelling it out. Cues like “take to the stars” for a space opera, magical creatures for a fantasy, small towns for a coming of age story, a specific city name to place you firmly in the urban subgenres. The conflict is the part where you get the reader really hooked--wondering how such a story could play out. It’s what grabs their imagination! Your character, your setting, and your conflict all play crucial roles in hooking the reader through your blurb.

See what others in your genre are doing. The rules we’ve talked about are a good starting point. Ultimately, however, trends will change. So keep an eye on what’s going on with other books like yours and consider what about them is making readers pick them up.

Edit, edit, edit: Read your blurb out loud. Choose each word specifically; don’t over inflate your vocabulary, but choose strong words that say exactly what you mean (as a bonus, this also helps keep it short). Strive for accessibility and simplicity, without compromising powerful, emotion-driving language.

Whether you love it or hate it, review and revise as many times as you can convince yourself to. The time is well spent; remember, this is your most powerful marketing tool. Get people you trust to look over it and give you feedback:

  • Does it make them want to read the book? How strong is that feeling, and how could it be made stronger?

  • Was there anything that tripped them up or confused them?

  • What kind of book are they expecting from this blurb, and does that match what you, the author, want to get across?

Don’t walk away until you believe your blurb is perfect.

So here’s our call to action: Go back to your project and write a mock cover blurb--or if you have one you are already working on, revisit it with these notes in mind. Since readers rarely ever get into the book without reading this blurb, you should revise it a lot, maybe even more than the book itself! Give your draft to your friends and family, and ask them if anything was confusing, or bothersome, and if it got them excited to keep reading. If it didn’t, find out why. You can even ask others who have read your book what most appealed to them early on, and include those tidbits in the blurb!

When you’re done, you can be confident that what you’ve put together makes your book stand out from the rest of the crowded bookshelf.

Meet the Author

Jennifer Neal is a lifelong fantasy quaffer and aspiring editor/agent. She has loved stories since her mom read Harry Potter to her as a kid, but it took her until after she graduated from college to fully embrace it and discover the incredible writing community she hadn't realized was right in front of her. She currently serves as a marketing intern for Immortal Works, helping with copywriting, editing, and helping with their social media pages.

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