Many self-publishers are surprised to learn that authors are almost never responsible for writing the back cover copy for their own books. Back cover copy is a hardworking marketing tool, and in traditional houses, it’s drafted by the editor in conjunction with the marketing team. Now, back cover copy needs to do double duty as book description copy on Amazon, making keywords a consideration as well. If you’re self-publishing your book and working on writing your own back cover copy, here are our tips for you.
1. Match the tone and mood of your book. The back cover copy (BCC) should give your reader a taste of what they can expect to find inside the book, so you want to make sure the tone and mood of the writing is similar. If your book is a thriller, your BCC should feel fast-paced and exciting. If your book is a romance, the BCC should exhibit a hint of steaminess. If your book is horror, use diction that reflects the level of gore found in the story. (But don’t be too graphic. You want to tempt the reader—not shock them.)
2. Grab the reader’s attention in the first sixty to ninety words. This isn’t just another book on the shelf; this is your masterpiece! What’s interesting or special about your book? Lay it out here, but leave some mystery. Make the reader want to read on. Not only is setting a good hook important to the buyer’s purchase decision, but it’s also critical for optimizing your Amazon book page: only the first ninety words of the description are visible before the reader must click “Read More.” So, make sure you cram enough into those ninety words to make people want to read more!
3. Tell them the Who, What, Where, When, but not necessarily the Why or How. After setting the hook, introduce a bit of backstory or context (the Who/Where/When), but get to the conflict (the What) quickly. This is the driving force of your story. The Why or How are the interesting details and should thus only be hinted at.
4. Don’t summarize! This is marketing copy—not a book report. The reader needs to know only enough information to get a feel for the book’s conflict. Let them know what kind of story they’re getting into without focusing too much on the mundane details. But . . .
5. Don’t give away too much. Your goal is to give the reader just enough information to entice them. You know when you watch a movie trailer that looks hilarious, only to watch the movie and discover that you’ve already seen all the funny scenes in the trailer? What a letdown! Don’t offer that kind of BCC.
6. End the text with a question/mystery. So you’ve given the story some context and laid out the conflict—now you have to give readers a reason not to click away and continue browsing elsewhere. Compel them to want to read more (i.e., buy your book!) by either directly or indirectly leaving them with a question. If your main character’s sister goes missing after a series of strange encounters, what does he think might have happened to her? Could her encounters have been something more, something . . . supernatural?
For more on how to choose the right words, check out our Promo Text Party post.