Ah, yes. The infamous back cover blurb. Something that tends to lurk out of sight in the very back of our minds until we’re done with our book. It always seems to come as an afterthought, and always seems to be one of the more dreaded tasks for writers.
There’s a fine line between writing copy that sells and sounding completely cheesy and over the top. A quick Google search reveals hundreds of articles about writing back cover blurb, but there some common threads found in many of them.
- Don’t wait until you’ve finished the manuscript to write your synopsis.
Don’t get me wrong. Things that you’re looking to put on your back cover copy, like testimonials from other authors or reviewers, can’t be obtained until your manuscript is totally, completely polished (which I’m now offering editing services here!). But writing your teaser blurb may just help you finish your manuscript.
What we’re talking about here is the synopsis of your story–that tantalizing teaser that should make potential readers want to invest their time in it. You should be able to pitch your story in a paragraph or two* (no more than three at the very most) without giving away the entire plot, using this fairly basic, boiled down formula:
It should be noted that not every blurb will fit neatly into an exact formula. Romance is one of those genres that, generally, won’t fit into this type of formula. Women’s Literature is another that may not always fit.
According to Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn, the back cover blurb should fall right around 150, and should be spaced out–not squashed together. It’s visually easier on the eyes to have more space in between paragraphs.
*(I just want to note here that by paragraphs, we’re looking anywhere between 4-6 lines of text that fit on the back cover of a book. Many times you’ll see big chunks of text broken up into smaller lines, simply for aesthetic purposes. I’ll touch more on that shortly.)
The hook should be able to tell potential readers four main bullet points:
- Who is your protagonist?
- What is it they want/What is their goal?
- When/where does the story take place? (i.e. What’s your setting?)
The meat is made up of what obstacles stand in your protagonist’s way of whatever it is they want.
- What obstacles stand in the way of what they want?
- What is the main conflict?
The payoff is the reason potential readers should care. The stakes should be high enough that potential readers want to know what happens.
- What are the stakes?
- What happens if your protagonist fails to meet their goal?
Many synopses end with some type of teaser question. Next time you’re in your local bookshop, browse your genre of choice and peruse the back cover copy of the bestsellers. According to Jane Friedman, “ .”
Typically found beneath the synopsis are testimonials or quotes from reviewers (besides Mom). If you don’t have either, don’t fret. You can always update your cover down the road. I won’t get into testimonials here.
In general, try to:
- Limit the amount of text. If you’ve whittled down your synopsis but still have a lot of text, consider not having reviews or testimonials. Perhaps, instead, move them to an interior page just inside the front cover.
- Avoid clichés and overly hyperbolic vocabulary.
- Research back cover blurbs of bestsellers in your genre.
- Include a small, brief author bio (and don’t forget your headshot!)
What tips or tricks have you used on your back cover copy?