The last words that you write for your book will be the first that your audience reads. You’ve finished writing your book, it’s edited, designed and is just about ready to go to press. You’ve just put your feet up when you get a reminder from the designer that they still need text for the back cover. Another small decision at the end of a long line of decisions, you knock something together in a few minutes and send it off.
You may have just doomed your 75,000 word masterpiece. That back cover blurb (or an online version of it) will be read by every potential buyer, book reviewer, media professional or person who may wish to hire you for your expertise. Your book’s cover has to communicate directly to your audience: You will find this book interesting/entertaining/informative/useful and here is why …
Consolidating your book into a couple of paragraphs isn’t easy. Here are some tips for doing it well.
- 10 Second Elevator Pitch: If you only had 10 seconds to tell potential readers why they should buy your book, what would you include? Your goal is to give readers enough information to intrigue them into buying it without wasting any time.
- Be Concise: Less is more. Go over your text again and again and again to cut out every unnecessary word. Blurbs are like poetry – every word matters.
- Fiction: Detailing every character and plot twist is unnecessary and can be overwhelming to the buyer. Read the back cover copy of the most popular authors in your genre to see examples of how to entice readers without giving away the entire plot. Your goal is to make an emotional connection with the reader so they will want to be transported into your world. They do not need to know what happens in the book, they just need to know what makes it interesting.
- Non-fiction: Tell the readers what they will learn, what problems your book will solve, and why your book is different. The goal of a non-fiction book may be to inform, inspire, educate or entertain. Make sure the reader understands what is inside your book and why you are qualified to write it. Bullet points can work well with non-fiction books.
- Author Biography: If you include any biographical detail only include relevant information and resist the temptation to be cute or clever.
- For fiction writers, your biography is usually best inside the book, but you will need a brief biography in any case for online listings and information databases. Consider including where or how you grew up, professional experience, writing awards or training, acclaims, past books or information explaining how you came to write your book.
- For non-fiction authors, make your credentials clear by listing education, work experience, professional memberships, past books and awards. Your goal is to be authoritative and confident.
- Author Photo: If you chose include one, use a professional, uncluttered, current headshot. Most non-fiction books should consider having one to make you a real person to the reader. For novels, like the biography blurb, don’t include one on or in your book if you don’t honestly feel that it is going to help build your brand.
- Review Quotes: Only use review quotes from known, respected sources, credentialed people or celebrities. Professional colleagues in your field are especially helpful for non-fiction books. On the other hand it can actually hurt you if you include, “Thrilling page turner! by an Amazon reviewer.” It’s better to leave this out and use the space for something else. Someone once sent a book to us with, “…this is a wonderful book. — Author’s Mother”. This would have been funny if it was not intended to be serious!
- Proofread: Although it seems obvious, proofread your text several times. In the rush to complete what is often the final stage of a book, back cover copy can be neglected. We’ve seen outstanding books marred by typos and book reviewers are particularly attuned to them. An error on a cover will damn your book as the work of an amateur.
Finally, if you are working with a publicist or sales team early enough in the publishing process, run the copy past them for feedback on content. Back cover copy is crucial for transforming the browser into a buyer and they are well-positioned to help.