Question: How do I write a great back cover blurb and book description?



We all know first impressions matter. When it comes to books, the first impression will often determine whether a book browser will be converted into a book buyer. The book’s front cover has the important role of grabbing a potential reader’s attention, enticing them to pick up the book and turn it over to learn more. The back cover then has the challenging task of “closing the deal”. If the back cover copy on your book is unable to compel the browser to buy it – in ten seconds or less – you’ll lose the sale.

Sound hard?

That’s because it is! How in the world do you take 50,000+ words and effectively strip it down to 200 words or less??? 

Most authors find the task of writing book summaries, blurbs, and descriptions daunting, so please know you are not alone. However, do not despair; there are tips and tricks that can make the process easier! When written well, your back cover copy will hook browsers and convince them they need to buy your book and go on a journey with you.

Book Blurb vs Book Description

The terms “book blurb” and “book description” are often used interchangeably, but they are two different pieces of marketing copy. The book blurb is the compelling summary that goes on the back cover of a book and is typically 200-words or less. The book description is the expanded version of the back cover blurb that generally goes on any online sales page or on the author’s website. For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on the book blurb.

Your Book’s Back Cover

As noted above, your back cover serves a very specific purpose, and that’s to introduce your book in the most intriguing way possible. This can include a tagline or hook, the blurb, an author bio, and a testimonial or quote from an advance review.

Whether you’re writing nonfiction or fiction, here are best practices for a strong back cover:

Authors must write a compelling book blurb to convert book browsers into book buyers.Know your target audience and how to appeal to them – what type of reader is most likely to read your book, and how can you make your book stand out on a crowded shelf?

Keep the blurb short and interesting
– a blurb isn’t a complete book synopsis, rather, it should give only enough details to intrigue potential readers and leave them wanting more.

Make it clear how readers will benefit from reading your book
– will they be entertained, informed, inspired, or solve a problem?

Keep the author bio relevant
– the bio on your back cover should focus only on the information that establishes you as an authority or accomplished writer. (Very important for nonfiction authors). For example, if your credentials establish you as an expert on the topic or if you’ve won any related awards, include that information.

Match the
tone of your book and the look and feel of the front cover – the colors, fonts, and design elements from the front cover should carry over to the back. Just make sure it’s not too busy.

Keep the layout readable
- Potential readers need to be able to skim the content in ten seconds or less! Keep your sentences short and break the copy into multiple paragraphs. Consider bolding, underlining, or increasing the font size to emphasize key words or phrases.

If this is your first book, we recommend visiting your local bookstore and reviewing the back covers of other books in your genre. Take note of what draws you in and what you think works well.

Nonfiction Book Blurb Tips

You’ve likely written your nonfiction book to inform, inspire, or educate others on an area of expertise or a topic you are passionate about. Your back cover blurb should immediately make it clear whom the book is intended for and the benefits to this reader. Your first statement or tagline should “hook” the potential reader with something unique or interesting about your topic. Consider the subject you’re exploring or problem you’re trying to solve with your book. You can even start with an intriguing question to your potential reader.

The most effective nonfiction book blurbs will answer three key questions:

1. For whom is the book intended?
2. What is the problem, challenge, or question being explored?
3. What will the reader gain or learn from reading this book?

Nonfiction authors can also use bullet points or lists to highlight the key topics in their book. You’ll want to share the “what” of your book, but not reveal too much on the “how”.  

Here are some nonfiction back cover examples from our network of Author Learning Center presenters and experts:

Nonfiction book cover blurbs must let readers know what the book it explores and questions it answers.

Click here for some additional nonfiction blurb examples to inspire you.

Fiction Book Blurb Tips

As with nonfiction, fiction authors need to “hook” browsers with the first statement or tagline in their book blurb. Start by identifying what is most unique or interesting about your plot or characters. This aspect serves as the irresistible invite for the browser to continue reading to find out more. Your blurb should allude to the main character’s conflict and what is at stake in the story. This will allow you to tap into the emotions of the potential reader.

The most effective fiction book blurbs will include:

•  The premise of your story – what are your overarching themes or messages?
•  The setting – time and place should be clear.
•  The main character/s – provide a sentence or two that reveals personality or lifestyle traits to get readers invested.
•  A hint at the conflict and what’s at stake – every good story centers on conflict and the stakes are what makes readers care.

Don’t include the resolution or bring up too many plot points and specifics—this blurb is only a snapshot of your story to entice the reader to find out more by purchasing and reading your book! 

NOTE: The back cover blurbs for creative nonfiction books, such as memoir, should follow the same tips above for fiction. Your true story has a plot, setting, conflict, and characters, just like any good fiction story. Think about what is most intriguing about your personal story, and focus on this aspect.

Here are some fiction and memoir back cover examples from our network of Author Learning Center presenters and experts:

Fiction authors must include key story elements in the cover blurbs to hook readers.

Click here for some additional fiction blurb examples to inspire you.

Your book’s cover design is one of the first, and most important marketing decisions you will make as an author. The front cover artwork and title need to grab a potential reader’s attention and fit the genre and story. The back cover needs to provide an irresistible reason to buy your book. When all of these elements work well together, you will greatly increase your chances of success!

Photo credit: Malik Evren via Getty Images