Writing Your Back Cover Blurb - Dorrance Publishing Company

Writing Your Back Cover Blurb

So, you’ve finally finished your novel. All the writing, rewriting, editing (otherwise known as butchering), and formatting…and you’re finally here. First of all, may we say congratulations for staying sane through all of that (snaps for you). But now we come to the last few steps. And one of those final steps is writing your back cover blurb, AKA pitching a 500-page book in a mere 250 words. Not so hard, right? Unfortunately, this (coupled with a quality cover) is about 99% of how you’ll get your book to sell. Most people won’t stand in a bookstore and read the first couple pages of your book or check out the preview if you publish online. Readers mainly rely on your cover image and back cover blurb to determine whether this is a book they want to buy. That being said, how do you write a quality back cover blurb? The goal of the blurb is to hook readers and make them think, “I have to have this book.” We’ve compiled some tips to help you do this:

Woman in bookstore

Be expected, but not boring

When writing a back cover blurb, you want it to set you apart from other books in your genre. To set yourself apart is good, to be too different from the rest is not. For example, if you’ve written a non-fiction self-help book and the back blurb reads more like a thriller novel, that’s going to leave readers more confused than engaged. Be engaging, but if your prose is leading you too far out of the ordinary…slam on the breaks.

It’s a blurb, not a summary

Remember, there’s a big difference between a book summary and a book blurb. The summary goes over all the plot points and the main character arc–that’s not what you want for the back of your book. Your back blurb should merely tease the readers on the plot points or knowledge they’ll find within. The back blurb should promise to entertain or help the reader without giving away anything major.

Man in bookstore

Choose your opener tactic

Now, your tactic will largely depend on your genre. Some tactics work for different genres, but others may only work for one. Regardless of your genre, the first few opening lines of your blurb are crucial. If readers aren’t grabbed right away, they may just move on to the next without much consideration. Here are a few different tactics to try:

a) Start with a quote

If you’ve written a fiction book (fantasy, sci-fi, contemporary, etc.), we highly recommend using this tactic. It shows off a bit of your writing style, which will keep the readers intrigued enough to read the rest of your blurb. Find a line or section that you’re particularly proud of, italicize it, and plug it into the beginning of your blurb. Ideally, this line should be something to do with the main action of the story, but not something with spoilers. Regardless of how you feel about the novel Twilight, the blurb is a great example of an engaging blurb quote:

“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.”

b) Ask a Question:

Example: “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.)

c) Set a scene:

Example: “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.)

d) Make a promise:

“Fitness, money and wisdom – here are the tools.” (Tim Ferriss, Tools of Titans.)

Young girl in bookstore

Genre Breakdown

The formula for writing out your back ad is different between fiction and nonfiction genres. Once you have your opening line(s) down, consult this breakdown to help you with the rest.

1) Fiction:

If you’re writing a Fiction back cover blurb, Beth Bacon (award-winning author and marketer) suggests this formula:

a) Situation: Briefly describe the circumstances of the story
b) Problem: Next, write about the situation or conflict that makes change inevitable.
c) Hopeful Possibility: Provide the hope of overcoming this crisis. This would be either an interesting character or long-shot possibility that gives hope that this difficult problem may be overcome.
d) Mood: Describe the emotional state the readers will have while reading your story. A few example phrases are: “dark, dystopian tragedy” or “romantic and humorous chick lit”.

2) Nonfiction:

Nonfiction Author Kelly Exeter suggests this simple formula for nonfiction back blurbs:

a) Introduce the problem
b) Outline how you propose to solve it (ideally using bullet points)
c) Tell the reader how their lives will be better after reading your book

Ultimately, your blurb is your pitch to the readers.  Potential readers take a few moments to make the decision between spending hours reading your work and putting it down to find something else. We can’t stress enough how important it is to take your time really perfecting your blurb. If done properly, after reading your back cover, there will be no going back (or putting back on the shelf, for that matter).

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