By Emily Evans-Miller
Last week we talked about how to design a great front cover, but the dust jacket and back cover are some of the most important real estate on a book.
Back cover copy (also called flap copy) is the text that goes on the back cover of a book or on the back cover and flaps of a dust jacket. Your cover copy doesn’t just tell potential readers what your book is about–it’s a critical marketing tool. Just think, how many times have you picked up a book and read the description to see if it interests you? Your book’s cover copy is the first–and sometimes only–opportunity you have to sell your book to your reader. It provides the first impression of the writing inside, a sneak peak of the content, and a teaser that should be thoughtfully designed to attract not only your ideal reader and primary audience, but as many potential readers as possible.
Our blog editor, Emily, asked our resident fiction and nonfiction experts to create a guide on how to make your back cover shine.
Our Senior Production Manager, Nina, gave the following tips for crafting effective summary copy:
- Know the heart of the book. Boil your book down to its central topics, themes, and purpose. This knowledge should inform every external copy decision and will help you make sure you do the book justice. Emphasize the right themes and find your audience.
- Don’t over-explain. Give your readers a teaser, not the full plot. You want them to be intrigued enough to purchase a copy and dive right in, but not so informed that they can predict the plot line or content as a whole.
- Choose words that evoke feeling or images. The more purposeful and vivid with you are with your language, the better. . When writing back cover or flap copy, you should make sure every word lands and creates impact.
Kristin, Director of Author Services, shared her wisdom:
- Be catchy. Start with a sentence or two that will grab attention. Pack the rest of your information in the middle, then end on a high note that leaves potential readers wanting more. Let them know not only what the book is about but why they should read it.
- Match style. Did you write a children’s book featuring rhymes? Then your back cover should, too. Is the book fiction? Don’t write it like you’re selling a textbook. This is your opportunity to set your reader’s expectations.
- Don’t assume. Write out your author’s name and book title fully. This is probably readers’ first introduction to you–don’t assume they know you already!
- Keep it simple. Don’t over-inflate your vocabulary so much that your flap copy is hard to follow. This is the first place readers look, and you want the book to feel accessible…even if the content is complicated.
- Find what fits. Choose words that fit and say exactly what you mean. Don’t leave room for guessing what the book is trying to say.
- Length matters. Adult books should feature back cover copies between 175-225 words. Children’s books should be no longer than 100 words.
- What’s the takeaway? What will bring readers back to read your book, rather than set it back down?
Senior Marketing Manager Michelle added these points as well:
- Market the book. Your job here isn’t just to describe, but to prove to a person picking the book up why they should read it. Be concise, use active language, and avoid generalizations.
- Use the right tense and POV. Unless you’re talking about a memoir, past tense doesn’t get the job done. Neither does first person writing and “to be” verbs. As book professionals, we always use present tense when describing the action of a book, and your back cover copy should, too.
- Get specific. Find strong adjective and noun that pairings. For example, “A searing expose…” gives the reader more than something like “This book is about…” That old writing advice of “show, don’t tell” definitely applies here!
- Write with key words and buzz words in mind. This is especially important for books geared towards specific industries such as business or finance books–you want to give a sense of the topics you’re covering. A good test is to think about what words people searching for this book might use.
Now that we’ve heard from the experts, let’s put it into practice. If we were to write an imaginary book about the Mascot Books office, what would bad back cover copy look like?
Mascot Books is a great office. I like working there, and this book is about all of the fun people who work here with me. From Naren to Andy to Kristin to Abby to Emily to JQ to Debbie to Michelle, there are nice people at Mascot Books. Read this book to learn about the adventures that are had in this office
Obviously, there’s a better way to sell this imaginary title. Let’s take a look:
There’s never a dull moment at Mascot Books. Full of bright, hilarious characters, this slice-of-life tale explores the real-world practical side of this creative field. Explore the adventurous world of publishing in Emily Evans-Miller’s Unwritten.
More enticing, right?
Here’s some other examples of good back cover copy:
The outcry surrounding CTE is missing something critical: the science to justify it.
When post-concussion syndrome forced star NFL running back Merril Hoge into early retirement in 1994, research on football-related head injuries wasn’t a priority. At the time, football was heavily influenced by a tough guy culture, and little was known about concussions and their potentially dangerous effects.
Then the tragic death of Hoge’s ex-teammate Mike Webster in 2002 launched a wave of fear after an autopsy determined he suffered from an obscure brain disease—chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The media pounced. Concern over player safety soon became a war on football at every level, with one scientist even declaring youth football “child abuse.”
In an effort to set the record straight, Hoge and board-certified forensic neuropathologist Dr. Peter Cummings explore the hidden agendas and misinformation fueling the CTE hysteria machine. Armed with extensive research, critical insight, and expert interviews, they address some of the common myths surrounding the disease, examining significant flaws in the often-cited studies and exposing the sensationalistic reporting that dominates today’s CTE dialogue.
Compelling, accessible, and ultimately revelatory, Brainwashed exposes the biases and unsubstantiated claims crippling true scientific advancement in the area of CTE research. This is a must-read for anyone who cares about the future of youth sports and the survival of our nation’s most beloved game.
Inebriated Cover-Up. Revenge Bedlam. Lewd Felon. Vomit Comet. These sound like stories from your last night out—not ones that took place during your regular 9 to 5. Most jobs entail attending meetings, hitting deadlines, and collaborating with coworkers. If all goes well, you’ll forget the HR department even exists. But what happens when the sales team gets drunk at lunch and destroys property? Or when two employees are caught sexting through company messages?
After four decades as an HR executive in corporate America, Denise Messineo has seen it all. She’s mediated conflicts, terminated employments, and bailed people out of jail. In this book, she’s collected her most off-the-wall tales to share. Though she’s changed names and companies to protect the guilty, everything in this collection is real. After all, you can’t make this sh*t up!
Mylo has just arrived in Washington, D.C. to learn all about how America became the colorful culture it’s known for today. But in an age of arguing and bullying, will this international traveler be able to see what truly makes it the land of the free and the home of the brave?