Published: September 15, 2017
Back cover text should be written in a way that advertises the book to a potential reader, so in that sense, it’s more like marketing writing than prose writing. While the details of your characters origin story might be compelling and imperative for the reader to understand, the back cover is no place to tell that story – it’s the place to summarize the plot in a way that will grab the reader’s attention and make them want to buy/read the book.
Back cover text is often the hardest text for an author to write. Authors are so close to their plot and to their characters that they have difficulty writing in broad strokes. Back cover text is not intended to be a synopsis of the book, nor does it need to be detailed. This text stands as a promise to the reader: In these pages you will find…
It’s hard for me to put my finger on exactly what elements comprise a successful back cover – it’s more like I know it when I see it – but here are some things to consider:
- A headline, styled a little differently than the main text, is attention grabbing.
- Keep following paragraphs short, and use simple, clear language.
- Write in third person. Remember, this is not the place for “why I wrote this book”. You want the reader to be intrigued by the story, not bogged down by your motivation.
- For non-fiction, in particular, consider breaking up text by using bullet points or different styles – you want the reader to be able to scan quickly for the main points of your book.
- Resist exclamation points. They can work sometimes, but you’re probably better off without them.
- Same with bold or underlined text. It just looks wrong.
- Show, don’t tell, with text that will make the reader want to open the book.
- DO NOT tell the reader in the back cover text that they won’t be able to put the book down, or that it’s a page-turner. (see previous point.) It’s much better to let a third party, in a blurb, say these things.