Thoughts,  Writing Notes

Writing The Back Cover

It’s the cover of the book that causes you to pick it up, but for me it’s the back of the book that causes me to keep holding it. The blurb on the back of the book is so important to the reader. They are looking for a quick answer to the questions, “Does this book have want I want, need, or am looking for? Is it interesting?”

To use the analogy of a tourism campaign, if the cover is the billboard advertising a city, the short description on the back is the available attractions sign ahead of the exit. If it doesn’t seem appealing, they won’t stop.

As challenging as it can be, the description needs to tell enough about your story to interest the reader, but not reveal everything. While it’s not always possible to introduce a question into the description it is helpful. It does need to generate enough curiosity to have them to open the book. You want to balance sharing enough of the general idea to interest a reader, without bogging them down. This is why restaurants take such care with their logos, they can convey decades of history with just the image itself.

I would recommend not attempting to introduce too many moving parts in your description. For example, I would suggest either limiting the number of people or characters referenced, or the number of details involving them. Say as much as you can with as little as you can.

For example, Dorothy Gale and her little dog find themselves far from home in a really strange land. They meet a cast of characters who all have their own problems, and share a hope that the man called Oz can help them all. This is of course referencing The Wizard Of Oz, but it doesn’t tell you who everyone is. It can be elaborated on somewhat, however for the purposes of this example, I left out a lot.

For another example, if involving a group of people, such as if telling the story of World War II you could say something like this. The Allies faced an evil that threatened to engulf their entire world, gobbling up their culture, identities, and civilization. The citizens of nations across the globe rose up as one force to stand against the threat. It condenses a lot into a small enough package to give the reader both understanding, and questions.

The understanding should build interest, and the questions curiosity. These two things together are why the back cover can be so important. I’ve spent most of this post talking about the description of the story itself, for a moment let’s look at the paragraph about the author.

The picture should be good, and if there’s more than a decade between you and the time it was taken, it needs to be newer. If you ever meet your readers, and with social media that is very possible, you need to look like you. Filters are wonderful if you never meet the person in real life, or on video.

Concerning the paragraph that describes the author, I believe this has degrees of relevance. First off, please know that if they’ve never read one of your titles before, there’s a good chance they won’t even look at the author’s information. At this point, they’re not reading the book to learn about you, but to learn what they either want to know, need to know, or a combination of the two.

As they start the book, and if they like what they read, they’ll be more curious about you. The author’s paragraph becomes more important if they’ve read one title you’ve written. It means if they save your info, they’ll have an idea of what you have written, a curiosity about what you are writing, and an interest in looking at another book.

If you become an author they have confidence in, they begin to want to know a little more about you. I would caution this, readers who become fans of your story, aren’t necessarily fans of you. I don’t mean this in a bad way either, but in a very simple way.

For example, people may read a lot of what Agatha Christie wrote, but far fewer will watch a movie about her. It’s not that it wouldn’t be good, interesting, or even enjoyable, it’s that many are fans of Miss Marple, or Hercules Poirot more so than the author. This is in no means to slight someone I believe to be one of the greatest mystery writers of all time, but a reality. One that she understood, however there will be a core group that become fans of the author as well as the writing itself.

This may or may not be important, even from a financial standpoint. My mind goes to certain writers who sold their idea, made a fortune from it, and who don’t have to be involved with that particular idea going forward. For them, it served it’s purpose. For other writers, they’ll spend a lifetime writing stories about a particular theme, and readers will continue to enjoy every one of their words.

The important thing is this, it’s a fact that I’ve read twenty books an author wrote, based on the back cover of one book. I may have picked it up for the cover, but I stayed for the back of the book. This is why writing the back cover is so important to your writing career.

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