I dreaded writing my first back cover copy. How on earth was I going to summarize an almost 90k novel into just 75-100 words? At first, I was thinking that this makes the synopsis look like a cake walk, but now that I’ve figured out a formula, I rather enjoy the challenge…and the synopsis still reigns king for the hardest part of the novel writing process.
To get started with my back cover copy, I ask myself the following questions:
1. Who is the story about? Introduce your heroine/hero.
2. What’s something special about them? Give a little detail about their passion, their calling or a characteristic etc.
3. What’s their problem or what poses a threat? This will lead into the main conflict, which we can barely graze with our limited word count.
4. Finally, what’s at stake for our heroine/hero? Make it juicy. Leave the reader wanting to know how it is resolved. Make them want to take your book from the shelf and buy it right away!
Now, I know that these are some big questions, so it’s important not to get bogged down and I always have way too much information to start.
How my writing process for the back cover copy usually goes:
Pound it out. Write down a solid paragraph of what you think the back cover copy should be. Now, take a step back and make sure that it answers the above questions. If the answer is yes, you’re ready for the next step.
Check the word count. Normally, I end up with 200 “essential” words that I feel like capture my story, but sadly, 100-125 of them have to get burned.
Light the match and start burning. Don’t get too caught up in the little details like the heroine’s hair color. The description of the terrain can wait for the book, unless it’s vital or you can just describe it in one word like “Texas” or “mountains” or “sea,” but not “the fiery sunset kissed the tops of the waving, golden harvest.”
Once you have gotten rid of the super fluffy stuff that should only be in the book and not the back cover copy, take a step back and check the word count again. (I usually only chop out 30-50 words at this point, so I have to try a different way of killing off needless words.)
Read it out loud and listen for superfluous words. Chop them and if that doesn’t work, re-arrange some sentence structures. If you used 10 words where 5 will do, re-arrange your sentence until it makes sense and is exactly how you want it.
Next, call your critique partner and read it to them. If they love it, great! If not, ask them what information they feel like it’s missing. Do they understand the basic premise of the story you’re trying to sell? Does the ending leave them wanting to buy the book?
Don’t stop until you are proud of it. It is absolutely delicious when a book cover sings to you! Don’t stop until it captures the heart of your story and your reader!
Do you have any helpful tips on composing a back cover copy?
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