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Authors spend months and even years writing their manuscript, but often give little thought to what may be the some of the most important words in selling the book: the back cover copy. Think about it: before a potential book buyer reads a word of the book, he or she will likely pick up the book, look at the cover, and flip it over to read the description on the back. So what can you do to make sure your back cover helps convert browsers to customers?
The ideal length for back cover text is 150 to 200 words. Think of this copy as a movie trailer or commercial—provide highlights, tease your audience, but don’t give away the ending!
Use the book title, set in italics. Avoid underlining words and using all caps. Do not refer to your audience as “the reader” or “readers". Write the copy in a manner that incites the reader to take action. For example, instead of “Readers will learn how to improve relationships with their pets," write, "Learn how to improve your relationships with your pets.” Or “Learn how to improve your relationship with your dog, cat, or even parakeet.”
One long paragraph is very difficult to read. Bulleted lists help to tell the reader what’s included at a glance. If you include a bullet list, make sure that you have a lead-in sentence followed by a colon, and that each item in the list has parallel construction.
The back cover copy is not a book review. This is your chance to make them feel like they must read your book, not to simply tell them that they should.
Reading other book descriptions will give you a sense of what yours should sound and look like. Pay attention to what words, phrases, or ideas excite you or make you want to know more, and incorporate them into your back cover copy.
If you have advance praise (quotes, endorsements), you can include short excerpts with a credit line giving the name and title of the person who gave you the endorsement. It’s best to use endorsements from people or periodicals that relate to your book in some way.
The last paragraph of the copy should compel the reader to take action; it’s the “take-away promise” of the book. Don't give away the ending, but tease it just enough that readers need to read to find out what happens.
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