Sunday, October 7, 2012

Chocolate Covered Blurbs: Writing Back Cover Copy That Sells--by Linda Kozar

You sign your first contract and turn in the final manuscript. The copyediting is done! Can you finally sit back, relax and enjoy the promise of your first book release?

But then your editor sends an email: “We need your back cover copy ASAP.” Yikes! Panic sets in. Most writers would rather write another book than come up with a blurb. In fact, most writers would rather fry a whale than write a blurb for their book.
However, the blurb for your book is as important as the book itself.

That old expression, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is all wrong. People definitely do! You may write like Hemingway but if your cover and blurb are lousy, most readers won’t even open it, much less take out their wallet to buy it. Such is the power of marketing.
On the flip side, you may write a fantastic blurb and have a fab cover and book title, but if the writing is sub par, people will not be likely to pick up any future books by you. And word about bad writing gets around.
blurb |blərb|
a short description of a book, movie, or other product written for promotional purposes and appearing on the cover of a book or in an advertisement.
verb [ trans. ] informal
write or contribute such a passage for (a book, movie, or other product).
ORIGIN early 20th cent.: coined by Gelett Burgess (died 1951), American humorist.
After the cover, back cover blurbs are the second most important selling tool you have for your book, so you want it to grab the reader's attention.
The challenge is how to stew hundreds of books pages down into one paragraph that entices people to read it?
The back cover blurb is your sales pitch. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes. What makes your book intriguing? What would pique YOUR interest?
First, look back to your queries and proposals. Most times there is a pretty good starter blurb in the text of one or both. If it originally caught an agent’s attention and then an editor’s attention, chances are good it will catch the readers as well!
Second, study back cover blurbs on the bookshelves. Here are some examples:
Authors are the best and most obvious choice to write the blurb for their own book. They are the most familiar with the book after all. But sometimes, a professional blurb writer can do a better job mainly because they have their focus in the right place—marketing the best features of the book.
Third, note words and phrases with certain appeal. There is no formula to doing it. It’s bringing the individual story to life in Twitter parsing of words.
Some people trivialize blurbs. The author's comments below include endorsements as well, which are oftentimes included on the back cover with the blurb. 
Books that self-consciously make fun of the blurbing tradition (from Dave Eggers' A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius):
"This is a blurb. It conveys no information about the book whatsoever, no useful account of its contents, nor any serious comment as to its qualities. Authors like getting blurbs because they indicate that the author is an amiable and well-connected fellow; other authors like giving blurbs because it's free advertising for their own work. Editors and publicists like blurbs because blurbs help legitimize their own generally rather timid publishing decisions. You, the reader, are not exactly ill-served by this process - it is, at worst, a harmless display of vanity and insecurity - but if you're looking for a reason to buy and read this book, you're better off relying on the advice of other readers whose taste you share, or what minimal sense of the writing herein you can glean by standing here and skimming through the pages." - Jim Lewis
These are some questions to ask yourself:
  • What makes your book special or different?
  • What is the purpose of the book? 
  • Blurbs are NOT summaries! Don’t tell the whole story. Tease the reader with part of it.
  • Don’t exaggerate or candy-coat the story.
  • Use questions to leave the reader intrigued.
  • Ellipsis to leave the reader asking questions.
  • Use action verbs
  • No spelling or grammatical errors.
  • Non-fiction books may have pictures or diagrams.
  • Introduce hero and heroine
  • Simple plot setup
  • What is the internal conflict? (emotional)
  • What is the exterior conflict? (physical)
  • What do they have to overcome or lose in the process? Plot, villain intro. 
Use post-it notes to mark suitable quotes. You can go back and forth more easily that way.
Scribble Notes as you go along.
Free write—a lot of what you write down may turn out to be useful. Like a puzzle, try to fit phrases and words together until you come up with something that sounds right.
Think about your target market.
Leave your drafts overnight and look at them again in the morning. A fresh look will help you reassess. What you thought was great yesterday might be garbage today and sometimes what you thought was garbage yesterday might be great today.
Did you write about 80 words?
Enticing, accurate and entertaining!
Check it for accuracy. There’s nothing worse than a blurb that either has nothing to do with the actual story or is somehow inaccurate.
Is it a true reflection of the writing inside? Will the reader be disappointed?
Finally, try to enjoy writing your blurb. The goal is to sell your book to potential readers. And if you plan on continuing a career in writing, you'll have to write A LOT of blurbs. Learn to enjoy them. Blurbs are part of the publishing process.

When I was a little girl and didn't like something my mom served for dinner, she'd say, "You're gonna eat it and you're gonna like it." Works for blurbs too. "You're gonna write it and you're gonna like it."

1 comment:

  1. Good advice Linda!
    Deborah Malone
    "Death in Dahlonega"


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