Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.
When I wrote my first book, I needed tips for writing good copy for the book jacket – the blurb on the back of the book.
It’s a step that’s easy to overlook. But it’s uber-important, especially if you’re self-publishing.
Think about how you choose books to read. You look at the title. Then you flip it over and read the jacket blurb or the “Look Inside” summary on Amazon. After the title, the content on the jacket is the most-read element of your book.
Other readers do the same thing. Since you want potential readers to read your book, you want to invest deliberate thought in this piece of copy.
And even if you’re working with a traditional publisher, write up a book jacket copy and send it to your editor because (1) you never know what the publisher will use (2) it will help you sharpen your own elevator speech when people ask you that all-important question, “What’s your book about?”
I wish I’d had these tips for writing good copy to write a knock-it-out-of-the-park blurb for the back of my first book.
The purpose of your book jacket’s content is to convince the reader to select the book and read it. You’re not writing a synopsis. You’re writing to persuade, which makes this a copywriting project. Your blurb on the back of the book shows the reader what the book will do for her.
By all means, use the copywriting tools in your arsenal to show your reader the benefits of your book. If you’re working with a traditional publisher, your editor may leave this task to its marketing department. However, you can write a draft or two of back copy to offer the team. Or you can ask to review the back jacket copy they’ve put together and provide input.
Hone the copy to 150-200 words. Otherwise, the back of the book gets too crowded. And to be honest, if you can’t summarize your book in 200 words, you may not pass your readers’ sniff test because they’ll think you’re either padding the summary or that you’re not clear on what the book will do. Slice and dice and refine the copy so that you zero in on your book’s main idea and what it will do for your reader. Don’t forget that the word count includes a brief bio of the author (you.)
If you’re self-publishing, keep the copy to 4,000 characters or less because that’s all that’s allowed by Amazon.
Check out this “fill-in-the-blanks” re-usable Book Summary Worksheet that helps you gather the 5 elements and write a book summary that sells your book.
Know your book’s genre and have a list of keywords ready to use in your jacket copy. This is especially important if your book is to be sold online. Readers search for books using keywords, and you want your book to be found.
Ask a question, set the scene, address the reader’s problem head on, quote an expert, make a promise: use headline writing techniques to capture the reader’s attention.
Book jacket copy is formatted and presented differently for works of fiction and works of nonfiction.
A fiction back jacket blurb presents the main characters, the problem they face, and stakes in not solving it. Who is your protagonist? What problem does he face? What other key characters are involved in the conflict? What kind of action takes place to lead to a resolution?
A nonfiction book jacket blurb describes a problem a reader faces and gives a brief list of ways the book helps her solve it, often in a bullet list of 3-7 points. Use it to tell your reader how her life will be better and different after reading the book and give a call to action.
Extra tip: study jacket copy for 3-5 best-selling books in your genre and use that format as a guide.
Keep it brief and to the point. (Get some tips here.) You don’t need to include every detail from your resume on the book jacket – only those relevant to this particular book. Save your complete bio for a page inside the book. This way, you also save word and character counts for persuading your reader to choose your book.
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