There are many, many steps in writing a book. Understanding Back Cover Copy and how to write it is one of these steps.
What is Back Cover Copy:
Simply put, back cover copy is an incredibly important marketing tool for your book. It includes a hook to grab the reader’s attention. It then hits the core elements of the plot in the most enticing manner possible.
This copy is the second thing a potential reader will use to judge whether or not the book is for them (first is the cover). Just like a teaser from a television show or a movie trailer, the back cover copy in a book gives the potential audience enough about the story to pique their interest. It is what draws them in and gets them to commit to reading the first page (which is the third step in a reader’s decision-making process).
What should Back Cover Copy Include?
Your back cover copy should include some specific elements:
- Introduce the main character(s)
- What does is the main character’s goal?
- What is the conflict preventing him/her from achieving this goal?
- What is at stake for the main character?
What is its Purpose?
The main purpose of your story’s back cover copy is to communicate the exciting premise of the story.
This may seem like an easy task; it’s not.
To make it easier, do your research.
- Read the back cover copy of many (many!) books in the same genre as your book. Look at:
- the structure
- the hook
- the point of view (in a romance, for example, there will likely be two—one paragraph for the heroine and one for the hero)
- how the goal and conflict are presented
- and the length
Here is the copy for Murder in Devil’s Cove, the first in my Book Magic mystery series:
After twenty years, Pippin Lane Hawthorne and her twin brother, Grey, return to their birth place—the Outer Banks island of Devil’s Cove. But what was supposed to be a chance at a new life turns sinister when their father’s old fishing boat reveals a dark secret.
Now Pippin must embrace her fate as a bibliomancer and learn how to ‘read’ the books she’s always shied away from. Only then will she be able to discover the truth about what really happened to her parents and continue their efforts to break the curse that has haunted the Lane family for two thousand years.
You can see how this hits all the elements.
Hook: A second chance turning sinister with dark secrets
Setting: Outer Banks island of Devil’s Cove
Character and point of view: Pippin Lane Hawthorne
Goal: to learn the truth about her father’s death
Conflict: a curse
Here is the back cover copy for the second book in the series, Murder at Sea Captain’s Inn:
Generation after generation of Lane women die in childbirth, while the sea claims the men.
Pippin Lane Hawthorne’s grand opening of Sea Captain’s Inn is tainted when a scholar studying the Lost Colony of Roanoke is brutally murdered. Like the black crow that hangs around the old house, could the untimely death be a harbinger of dark things to come?
When her twin brother, Grey, begins bucking the curse by risking his life in the waters of the Outer Banks, Pippin lives in terror that he’ll be the next Lane male to be swallowed by the sea. Now she must use her gift of bibliomancy to save her brother, solve the murder, and end a two thousand year old pact.
Hook: Generation after generation of Lane women die in childbirth, while the sea claims the men.
Setting: Sea Captain’s Inn
Character and point of view: Pippin Lane Hawthorne
Goal: Pippin must save Grey and solve a murder
Conflict: a curse, and a murderer
Let’s take a look at one more example, this one from Kneaded to Death, the first in the Bread Shop mystery series.
When an artisanal baker is accused of murder, her sleuthing student rises to the occasion . . .
Everyone swears by Yeast of Eden, the Mexican bread shop in town. But tonight, the only thing on the menu is la muerte . . .
Struggling photographer Ivy Culpepper has lots of soul-searching to do since returning to seaside Santa Sofia, California. That is, until the thirty-six-year-old enters a bread making class at Yeast of Eden. Whether it’s the aroma of fresh conchas in the oven, or her instant connection with owner Olaya Solis, Ivy just knows the missing ingredients in her life are hidden among the secrets of Olaya’s bakery . . .
But Ivy’s spirits crumble when a missing classmate is suddenly discovered dead in her car. Even more devastating, the prime suspect is Olaya Solis herself. Doubting the woman could commit such a crime, Ivy embarks on a murder investigation of her own to prove her innocence and seize the real killer. As she follows a deadly trail of crumbs around town, Ivy must trust her gut like never before—or someone else could be toast!
Hook (in a cozy, as well as in other types of book, the hook is often presented as a teaser above the copy; in a cozy, it is also often punny): Everyone swears by Yeast of Eden, the Mexican bread shop in town. But tonight, the only thing on the menu is la muerte . . .
Setting: Santa Sofia, California and Yeast of Eden, an artisan bread shop
Character and point of view: Ivy Culpepper
Goal: To deal with her mother’s death, and then track down a killer
Conflict: Solve the murder before another happens
So, take time to write great back cover copy.
Eventually, it will be used for pitches to agents, as a marketing tool on online websites and retailers, for press releases, and any number of other things.
Finally, one last thing to note is that there is never only one way of doing things. There also isn’t a single right way of doing things.
Publishers have their methods, editors have theirs, and writers have their own approach.
Next time I will share my method and approach to writing back cover copy .
Until then, happy writing!
I go into this concept in depth in the Field Guide to Writing a Cozy Mystery course. If you’re writing a cozy, this course is for you!
Did you read about understanding the building blocks of a scene? Read it HERE!
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