by Stephanie Morrill
The back cover copy is one of the most important things you’ll write.
It’s a tool for selling your book – to agents and editors, sure, but also to readers. When people are at Barnes & Noble, they flip the book over to read what your book is about. Or when you’re being interviewed on blogs or in magazines, they’ll often print the backcover copy. Or when you’re on TV, they use your back cover copy to explain your book to the audience.
What are the qualities of a good book blurb? It should include:
Character – Who is this story about? Who is the main character?
Setting – Where and when does it take place?
Conflict – What are they trying to achieve? Why are they on this journey?
Action – How do they go about doing this?
Uniqueness – Why is this book different? Why should I invest the time in reading it?
Mystery – Often phrased in a question at the end, this is the part of the back cover copy that triggers and “itch” in the reader’s brain, that makes them “scratch” by starting to read.
And you need to do it as concisely as possible. But how do you boil your huge, beautiful masterpiece into just 150 to 200 words? These authors did it:
So Not Happening by Jenny B. Jones
Isabella Kirkwood(CHARACTER) had it all: popularity at a prestigious private school in Manhattan, the latest fashions, and a life of privilege and luxury. Then her father, a plastic surgeon to the stars, decided to trade her mother in for a newer model. (CONFLICT)
When her mother starts over with her new husband, Bella is forced to pack up (ACTION also CONFLICT) and leave all she knows to live with her new family in Oklahoma. (SETTING) Before her mother can even say “I do,” Bella’s life becomes a major “don’t.”
Can Bella survive her crazy new family? Will the school survive Bella? How can a girl go on when her charmed life is gone and God gives her the total smackdown? (MYSTERY)
The ”uniqueness” of a story isn’t so easy to label, but for this book I would say there are lots of books about wealthy, snooty Manahattan-ite teens. This one just got dropped into smalltown Oklahoma, though.
The Peculiars by Maureen McQuerry
On her 18th birthday, Lena Mattacascar (CHARACTER) decides to search for her father, who disappeared into the northern wilderness of Scree when Lena was young. Scree (SETTING) is inhabited by Peculiars, people whose unusual characteristics make them unacceptable to modern society. Lena wonders if her father is the source of her own extraordinary characteristics and if she, too, is Peculiar.
On the train she meets a young librarian, Jimson Quiggley, who is traveling to a town on the edge of Scree to work in the home and library of the inventor Mr. Beasley. The train is stopped by men being chased by the handsome young marshal Thomas Saltre. When Saltre learns who Lena’s father is, he convinces her to spy (ACTION also CONFLICT) on Mr. Beasley and the strange folk who disappear into his home, Zephyr House. A daring escape in an aerocopter leads Lena into the wilds of Scree to confront her deepest fears. (MYSTERY)
Uniqueness: A child searching for a lost parent has certainly been done in stories before, but the wilderness of Scree with those Peculiars running around sounds rather interesting.
What if your book is about multiple people, though? Like in a romance where you often hear from the point of view of both the male and female?
Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland by Roseanna M. White
In 1784 (SETTING) peace has been declared, but war still rages in the heart of Lark Benton. (CHARACTER) Never did Lark think she’d want to escape Emerson Fielding, the man she’s loved all her life, but then he betrays her with her cousin. (CONFLICT) She flees (ACTION) to Annapolis, Maryland, the country’s capital, and throws herself into a new circle of friends who force her to examine all she believes. (MYSTERY)
(NEW PARAGRAPH FOR THE OTHER PRIMARY CHARACTER) Emerson follows, (ACTION) determined to reclaim his bride. Surprised when she refuses to return with him, (CONFLICT) he realizes that in this new country he has come to call his own, duty is no longer enough. He must learn to open his heart and soul to something greater… before he loses all he should have been fighting to hold. (MYSTERY)
Uniqueness: There are tons of romances out there, this romance however takes place after the couple is already engaged.
If you're registered for the NextGen Writer's Conference - a free, on-line conference for those 19 and under - we're running a backcover copy contest. You can win cool prizes, but more importantly you'll get feedback from professional writers about your story description. Make sure you check it out!
Which element do you think is hardest to include? I struggle most with action and uniqueness. What about you?