Imagine that you take a trip to your favorite bookstore. Maybe it’s that indie store on the corner in your community, Barnes and Noble, or Half Price Books. If you’re really lucky, it’s Powell’s, the Strand, or McKay’s.
(I know this is a really painful thing I’m asking you to do.)
So, you walk through the door, and that book smell we all love hits you in the face. What section are you immediately heading for? Do you have a routine when you go book shopping? For me, that usually means hitting the fiction/literature section because it takes the most time to go through, then proceeding through the other favorite genres accordingly.
Now, to the next question—how do you decide what books to buy? Obviously, there are certain authors where you’ll buy anything they create . . . but what about books you’ve never heard of before?
If you’re like most readers in this situation, all attention goes to the back cover.
The back cover contains everything you need to know about the book. The summary of its content. The endorsements from established writers. The author’s bio.
If the author (or their marketing team) has done it right, you’ll snap it up right then.
If they’ve bombed out on the back-cover copy, it won’t be enough to persuade you to take it home.
The back-cover blurb is the most crucial element of your book’s design. This piece of copy gives your readers a taste of what to expect from the book, from an enticing plot to an inspiring memoir to a self-help or productivity manual.
It’s like looking at show descriptions on Netflix. There are thousands of titles on the app to choose from. How often have you read one of those descriptions and immediately thought, Yeah. Definitely watching that!
Book cover blurbs are the same thing. If you give your possible readers the right combination of details, they won’t be able to resist buying a copy.
This becomes even more critical if you’re a self-published author because, in most cases, you will be the one writing it!
But how do you do that?
In this blog post, I will give you some expert tips on how to write back cover copy that will help sell your book. We’ll cover everything from creating an attention-grabbing headline to crafting a back-cover blurb that accurately summarizes the content of your book.
The Importance of a Back Cover Blurb
The book blurb is a concise summary that plays a key role in capturing the attention of potential readers and enticing them to purchase your book. The blurb should convey the essence of your story, pique the reader's curiosity, and create a sense of urgency to dive into the pages of your book. It serves as a glimpse into the story, giving readers an idea of what they can expect and why they should be excited about it.
Just a note . . . please, please, please don’t leave your back cover blank. I’ve seen people do this. It’s not good. You’re basically saying, “I’m an amateur, this book was published purely for vanity, and I don’t care who knows it.”
Here’s a brief formula I like to give clients:
The hook: Have a catchy, attention-grabbing opening line (see below)
The necessary plot details: Expand on this opening to give the most important elements of the story.
The closer: Wrap up with a final thought about the book and what your reader will gain from the experience.
Another note on structure: while publishing experts peg the length of back cover blurbs at around 100 to 200 words, I suggest staying within 150. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is that your reader has a short attention span, especially if they’re in Barnes and Noble with thousands of books competing for it.
The second, though, is that you’ll be making life extremely difficult for your graphic designer, who must keep in mind printing margins and other visual elements. Erring on the side of fewer words is always the best option.
Crafting an Attention-Grabbing Opening Line
When crafting an attention-grabbing opening line for your back cover blurb, you want to hook your readers from the very first sentence. The first sentence has one purpose and one purpose only: to make your prospective audience read the following sentence.
Consider what makes your story unique and compelling, and find a way to capture that essence in just a few words. Whether it's a provocative question, a shocking statement, or a powerful quote, your opening line should ignite curiosity and create a sense of urgency in your readers.
Remember, this is your chance to make a solid first impression, so make it count.
One piece of advice I give clients is to put this attention-grabbing line in a larger size of type (or tell your graphic designer to do this). Make it the first thing readers see and make it jump off the cover.
Identifying Key Elements of Your Book to Highlight
So, how do you go about writing this fabled blurb? It's important to identify the key elements of your story that will resonate with readers. These elements are what make your book unique and will capture the attention of potential readers.
Start by considering the main plot points, the central conflict, and the key themes of your book. Think about what sets your story apart from others in your genre. Is it a gripping mystery? A heartwarming romance? A thought-provoking exploration of human nature? By highlighting these essential elements, you'll give readers a taste of what they can expect and make them eager to dive into your book.
Showcasing Your Unique Voice and Style
Your back cover blurb is an opportunity to showcase your unique voice and writing style, captivate readers, and give them a taste of what to expect.
Whether your writing is witty and humorous or poetic and lyrical, let your voice shine through in the blurb. Consider the tone of your book and find a way to convey that in your writing. Use vivid and descriptive language that reflects the mood and atmosphere of your story. This is important for making connections with readers and—you guessed it!—setting expectations for what the book will be like.
However . . . keep in mind that it’s possible to overdo this. Don’t forget that your primary purpose is to inform readers about the kind of book they’re going to read.
Blurbs should be written in the third person, and even if you use elements of your book’s voice, they still need to carry an air of professionalism.
Emphasizing the Benefits to the Reader
In the last sentence, one of the key goals of your back cover blurb is to emphasize the benefits readers will gain from reading your book. By highlighting your book’s unique insights, knowledge, or entertainment, you can attract potential readers and convince them that your book is worth their time and money.
Emphasizing the benefits could mean mentioning how your book can provide practical solutions to common problems, transport readers to exciting new worlds, or offer emotional catharsis and relatable characters. Whatever the specific benefits, communicate them in your back cover copy to create a compelling reason for readers to pick up your book.
Want to learn more about how to write a back cover blurb?
Schedule a free consultation with me to talk about self-publishing, marketing, and all that other stuff that comes after you’ve written THE END in your manuscript.
We’ll discuss whatever pressing questions you’re facing and come up with some solutions so you can confidently move into the next stage of the process.
Click here to find out more and get scheduled in!