Book Design: What is Cover Copy? - article

When you pick up a book, turn it over, and decide whether or not to open it up, how do you make that decision? For most readers, that little blurb on the back tells us whether or not the book might transport us to a world we want to explore. Are these characters a reader will want to meet? Do they have problems the reader will care to see solved? The cover copy answers these questions for the prospective book buyer.

A reader does not have time to meet seven people on the back of one book. Cover copy should introduce one or two main characters with enough depth for the reader to feel either a connection, or a sense of distance that spurs his curiosity. The main character's biggest flaw and brightest talent often find their way into the cover blurb as well. On the cover, the reader isn’t generally seeking to find out what the character looks like, but rather how the character feels or interact with others. So good cover copy will generally not include much physical description, unless the character's looks play an important role in the plot. A character's problem generally relates in some way to his flaws and/or his talents.

The reader of the cover blurbs will not have the time (or inclination) to digest the detailed politics of Hirentanland, such as the elves battle against the dragons' three factions. Tell the reader exactly what they need to know about the world of your novel, and what makes your setting special. Otherwise, stick to the main character and his or her problems.

Some cover copy primarily lists quotes that praise the book. If you have a quote from the New York Times' Book Review or President Obama or Ronald Reagan, you probably should include it. Do think carefully about whether your reader really wants to see a slew of quotes, or if he would prefer a reason to read your book based on its own merits. If you have a particularly interesting little passage from your book that will set up the problem better than a summary can, you can include that passage as well.

Cover copy boils down to concise marketing. Even if you're already a published author, a quick look at others' cover copy will keep your mind fresh and up-to-date about what's on the market.

Happy writing!

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