We all know how important our book’s title and cover are when it comes to grabbing a reader’s attention and drawing them in. But, very few readers will ever make a buying decision based on those two elements alone.
What’s usually the deciding factor?
The back of the book cover and blurb of course.
Something, ironically, every author I know hates writing.
In this article, you will learn:
- What a back book cover blurb is and what it isn’t
- Explanations and back book cover Examples for both fiction and nonfiction
- Steps to writing your own back book blurb and back cover
This is a guest post by the talented author and editor, Kelly Exeter of Level Up Your Writing.
What is a back book cover blurb?
Before we get into why most authors hate writing their back book cover blurb, let’s clarify what it actually is.
In a nutshell, it’s the 200 odd words on the back cover of your book that describes the book to the reader. These words, if written well, will hook the reader and convince them they need to buy your book.
Which means, they’re effectively a sales pitch.
Now you’re seeing why most authors find them so hard to write. Never fear, we will help with that today.
But first, I want to quickly clarify some terms you might equate with a back book blurb (but shouldn’t).
Synopsis – this is a detailed outline of the book that covers all the major points. It’s usually geared towards selling the book idea to an editor or publisher (not a reader).
Blurb – distinct from the ‘back book cover blurb’ is this 1-2 line endorsement of a book by a celebrity or another author that sits on the book’s front cover. When you hear about authors being asked to ‘blurb’ a book, it’s this endorsement they’ve been asked to provide.
Reviews – these are effectively longer versions of author endorsement blurbs, or short excerpts of reviews by significant publications (like the New York Times). These are often placed on the back cover of a book along with the back book blurb. They act like testimonials for the book.
Book Description – these are the words that accompany your book’s listing on online sites like Amazon and Book Depository. The book description will often include the back book blurb text plus endorsements and reviews (much like the entire back cover of a book). If you don’t have a print version of your book and it’s only sold online, everything in this article about back book blurbs can be applied to your book description in online listings.
What Do Self-Publishers on Amazon Care?
For two simple reasons, Self publishers on Amazon should care about their back book cover blurb because:
- If you publish on Createspace, you’re going to need a back book cover designed
- Because now, Amazon allows people to see the back of books on the book sales page
That last one is pretty big!
How to create a back of the book cover blurb that sells
As already noted, writing a back book blurb is a marketing exercise. This means all the focus needs to be on the reader – their needs and expectations. Here are six rules to be mindful of before you put pen to paper on your back book cover blurb.
1. Give the reader what they expect
It’s so tempting to think “If everyone is doing x and I do y, then I’ll stand out from the crowd.” And sure, this works for a lot of things. Not with back book cover blurbs though. If you’ve written a non-fiction business book and your back blurb reads like a thriller novel, the reader is going to be very confused.
Do you know what confused readers do?
They put books back on the shelf or click on to the next Amazon book.
Before writing your back book blurb, choose 3-5 of the bestselling books in your genre and make a note of stylistic similarities. Then ensure you incorporate them into your back book jacket blurb.
2. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes
This can be really hard for authors. We get so caught up in delivering an enthralling story or a big idea, we forget who we’re writing for. And we forget why someone would actually want to read our book. Remember:
Fiction readers are looking for entertainment and escapism.
Here’s the book blurb for Stephanie Myers’ Twilight:
“About three things I was absolutely positive.
First, Edward was a vampire.
Second, there was a part of him – and I didn’t know how dominant that part might be – that thirsted for my blood.
Third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.”
Regardless of whether or not you’re a Twilight fan or not, that is a CAPTIVATING back cover blurb.
Non-fiction readers have a problem that needs to be solved.
Tony Robbins’ Unshakeable book blurb makes it very clear that if financial instability is a problem for you, his book can solve it. Plus, in an ever crowded publishing world, Tony’s blurb also proves why he’s the writer to do just that:
“From the man who brought you one of the bestselling investment books of the decade comes a playbook to help millions of people achieve financial freedom.
After interviewing fifty of the world’s greatest financial minds, and penning the #1 New York Times bestseller Money: Master the Game, Tony Robbins returns with a step-by-step playbook, taking you on a journey to transform your financial life and accelerate your path to financial freedom.”
3. Keep it short
250 words is a good ceiling for a back book blurb. If you need more words than that to ‘sell’ your book, fiction or non-fiction, you might be in a bit of trouble!
4. Make it scannable
For fiction, use short paragraphs. Note how Twilight has its sentences laid out:
For non-fiction, bullet points are great. Here’s a back book cover example for Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad:
Remember, a book blurb is not a synopsis. You need to make a strong promise to the reader (“I can help you,” “I will entertain you”), but don’t give away the whole story or big idea otherwise the reader has no reason to … read!
6. Nail that first line (or two)
Oh boy. If the first few lines of a book’s blurb don’t grab you, that doesn’t bode well for the rest of the book, does it? Here are some great ‘first line’ techniques:
Ask a question
Despite constant efforts to declutter your home, do papers still accumulate like snowdrifts and clothes pile up like a tangled mess of noodles? (Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.)
Set a scene
At first sight, Ove is almost certainly the grumpiest man you will ever meet, a curmudgeon with staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People think him bitter, and he thinks himself surrounded by idiots. (Fredrik Backman, A Man Called Ove.)
Speak directly to the reader’s problems
Entrepreneurs often suffer from the misconception that to be successful, they must do everything themselves. (Chris Ducker, Virtual Freedom.)
Make a promise
Fitness, money and wisdom – here are the tools. (Tim Ferriss, Tools of Titans.)
Steps to writing your back book blurb
Once you’ve taken in all of the above and gotten a feel for the promise you want to make to the reader, use the outlines below to write your book cover blurb.
A base template for writing a FICTION book blurb
Beth Bacon, an award-winning author and marketer, suggests this formula for writing a fiction book blurb:
- Situation. Briefly, describe the circumstances of the story.
- Problem. Next write about the situation or hitch that makes change inevitable.
- Hopeful Possibility. Here you provide the hope of overcoming the crisis. This is the cool character or long shot possibility that gives hope that the difficult problem can be overcome.
- Mood. This part describes the emotional state that readers will have from reading your story. Example phrases include: “dark, dystopian tragedy”, “humorous chick lit cotton candy”, or “suspenseful, romantic and awash in…magic”.
Here’s a back book blurb example for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone ticking all the boxes above:
“Till now there’s been no magic for Harry Potter. He lives with the miserable Dursleys and their abominable son, Dudley. Harry’s room is a tiny closet beneath the stairs, and he hasn’t had a birthday party in eleven years.
But then a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to an incredible place called Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. And there he finds not only friends, flying sports on broomsticks, and magic in everything from classes to meals, but a great destiny that’s been waiting for him … if Harry can survive the encounter.”
A base template for writing a NON-FICTION book blurb
This is a formula I’ve developed over the course of three non-fiction books of my own, and it’s served me well:
- Introduce the problem
- Outline how you propose to solve it (bullet points are good)
- Tell the reader how their lives will be better after reading your book
Here’s a back book cover example of Jen Sincero’s You Are a Badass follows this formula:
“You Are a Badass is the self-help book for people who desperately want to improve their lives but don’t want to get busted doing it.
In a refreshingly entertaining how-to guide … Jen Sincero serves up 27 bite-sized chapters … helping you to:
- Identify and change the self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviors that stop you from getting what you want.
- Create a life you totally love. And create it NOW.
- Make some damn money already. The kind you’ve never made before.
By the end of You Are a Badass, you’ll understand why you are how you are, how to love what you can’t change, how to change what you don’t love, and how to use The Force to kick some serious ass.”
Over to You Now
Remember, the words you use on your back book cover is one of its most important marketing tools and often the reason a reader will decide to buy your book. While it’s understandable that it’s the last thing you want to write after finalizing your book, it’s worth setting aside a good amount of time to give it the attention it deserves and needs.
Kelly Exeter is the author of three non-fiction books and a passionate editor. Via her Level Up Your Writing services she works with bloggers, writers and authors to sharpen their message and ensure their big ideas are delivered to the world in a way that best resonates with their target audience.