Thursday, May 11, 2017

Baby Makes Her Back Cover Talk (With Apologies to Dr. Hook)

What sells books? Covers? Yes. Big advertising budgets? Well, most likely you don't have access to that. What sells you a book in a bookstore or online when the cover has already caught your attention? That's right... The back cover blurb. 

What makes a back cover blurb effective?

Perry Constantine: You have to approach it as a sales pitch, not a description. Entice the reader just enough to want to find out more about the book.

Amy Leigh Strickland: What would entice you to pick up this book? You’ll want to make a list of the essential plot elements, the core bits of the conflict. I don’t want to hear every twist and turn. I’ll read the book for that. Those twists are only interesting in the context of the story when I’ve gotten to know the characters. I don’t want to know every subplot at this phase of the purchasing process... If you’re rambling on about multiple characters, telling me every twist and turn of your plot, you’re doing it wrong. If you’re giving me the entire history of your world, you’re doing it wrong. If I hear the phrase, “but it turns out, she’s the chosen one,” you’re definitely doing it wrong.

Looking for a few good... examples of back cover copy.
Bobby Nash: The back cover copy is important because it is the 2nd look a person has at the book to decide if he or she wants to pick it up. In a bookstore, a potential customer sees the cover, it grabs their attention. The reader picks it up, turns it over, and reads the back cover. If that grabs them, they might open it up and read a few lines. In on-line sales, the same is true, except that information is all on the screen.

L. Andrew Cooper: A back cover blurb is one of a book’s most important pitches -- the pitch to the audience who doesn’t know what they might be getting and needs help to decide. It has to have a hook, a sense of character and story (or subject and thesis, for nonfiction) in a short enough sound bite to grab attention and say, “This is the kind of book you like to read, but not so much like those books you’ve read that it’ll be too familiar!” It’s also got to say something about the author, something to make the reader think the author has what it takes to sustain interest for however hefty a time the weight of the book suggests. A snippet from a bio or a review to go along with the tempting sound bite… everything short, neat, packaged, glittering and beautiful. Good blurbs are hard work!

Bill Craig: The back cover blurb has to work in conjunction with the cover to grab the reader's interest and imagination.

Kristi Morgan: What makes a back cover blurb effective? Keywords that explain the genre and content effectively. Short, engaging. Not a long blocky paragraph with too much description. Just enough info to tell what the book is about, build some interest and intrigue but don't give away any spoilers.

For the changing, highly ebook-driven market, is back-cover copy as important as it used to be?

Kristi Morgan:  I think so. Most people use the back cover blurb as the Amazon listing description, so it's important.

L. Andrew Cooper: Blurbs are as important as ever, if not moreso, because the copy from the back of the book usually ends up being the copy that sells the book on Amazon and other sites, too, so it’s going to support the “product” across formats. For e-books, buyers might not be able to hold the book and do a flip test, but they can read whatever blurb information the authors and/or publishers have provided, so a lot of pressure falls on a small amount of text.

Bobby Nash: Absolutely. It may not be on the back cover in this scenario, but that information is still relevant and helpful to the reader so it becomes part of the description on the page.

Bill Craig: I would say the back cover copy or description is even more essential in the field of e-books because there are so many out there. That copy is an essential hook to grab a reader and get them to buy the book.

Perry Constantine: If by the text you put on the back cover of a paperback, then no, that's not important because most of us won't be in bookstores to begin with. But if you're talking about the description on your book page, then that is crucial. The first thing that will get someone to click on your book is the cover. If the cover gets them to click on it, the very next thing they'll look at is the description. It's the second most important tool in your marketing arsenal.

The back cover of The Ruby Files Vol. 1. 
What advice do you have for those writers asked to help create back cover copy or self-publishers looking to improve their blurbs?

Bobby Nash: Look at the type of books you like to read. Look at how those publishers handle back cover copy and blurbs. Use that as your starting base. Remember, tease the readers so they want to buy the book. Don't spoil your secrets or get bogged down in details on back cover copy. Just give it the pitch. Blurbs may or may not help. I don't have any real data there. If the reader trusts the opinion of the person giving the blurb, then it probably helps.

Kristi Morgan: It's not just the content that matters. The layout is important, too. I have seen some really great front covers with poorly designed back covers. Don't skimp on the back or the spine. Choose a color scheme and font that looks professional.

Perry Constantine: Approach it as a copywriter, not an author. Look at other successful books in your genre and see what they're doing with their descriptions. Compare them to yours to see what you're doing wrong. Libbie Hawker's Gotta Read It! is a great resource for writing effective descriptions.

Bill Craig: Lead with action! You want a hook to grab potential readers and make them want to read it!

Amy Leigh Strickland: If you’re at a loss for how to write a book description, get your butt to the DVD section at Target and walk around reading the backs of movie boxes. What catches your attention? What drives you away? What tense are they writing in? What tone? How long are the blurbs?

L. Andrew Cooper: A big mistake is confusing a blurb with a synopsis—you’re not summarizing the story, or even giving a rough overview of how the story gets going. Some story orientation might be part of a blurb, but a blurb might also be a snippet from a scene followed by very brief commentary about how the qualified author has opened up a new world of adventure/horror/romance/whatever. A blurb is not what the author wants to see shown off about what’s inside the book. It’s whatever you can say about the book that makes sense on its own and still grabs a reader to say, “Let’s go.” Also, publishers will (in this writer’s experience) often ask you to write potential blurb copy and then use it as one of several sources for the final blurb. Use the opportunity: find something genuinely fetching about your book, highlight it with your best prose, and turn in the best blurb you can. Your good work is likely to give you more control of what your marketing (your blurb and everything related to it) looks like.