Jacket copy will never capture everything you want readers to know about your book or your achievements as an author. Just accept the fact that a book description is supposed to be a teaser.
I’m helping some friends write marketing copy for a new product they’ve developed, and it got me thinking about book descriptions (by which I mean the jacket copy, or the back-of-book description, or what some people call the blurb*).
* These terms are often mixed up, since “blurb” can also mean the quotes of praise that appear on the back of the book from other writers or critics.
You see, there’s a lot I could try to squeeze into the short description of my friends’ new product: how it’s made, who it’s for, how much it costs, what problems it solves, why that’s important, etc.
But they want one or two catchy sentences. Maybe fewer. And that means reducing things to their most essential and (hopefully) enticing — which, again, is why I started thinking about book descriptions.
If you’re trying to come up with a killer book description for your latest work, here are a few tips:
1. Throw your hands in the air (for brevity’s sake)
Jacket copy is never going to be “perfect.” It’ll never capture everything you want readers to know about your book or your achievements as an author. So give up on trying to pack it all in and just accept the fact that this is supposed to be, much like the descriptions on a menu, a teaser. First throw your hands in the air, and then use them to karate chop all the extraneous elements into submission. What’s left over will be in fighting trim.
2. It’s about crisis, not resolution
Whether you’re writing a handbook for electricians or a paranormal romance, you’ll intrigue readers by making them ask the question: “How does someone deal with the circumstance or problems presented in this book?” Your book description should lead us to that question, not answer it!
3. Set the mood
Should we expect candlelit dinner and smooth jazz? Or the buzz of a tattoo shop? Or wind whipping a mountain pass? Try to capture something visceral about the world your readers will inhabit. Even if it’s just one or two details, get MOOD into your book description!
4. Beg, borrow, and steal
By begging I mean: ask for help. Get your book-loving friends and fellow writers to critique your book description. Even better, ask them to write their own versions. Then you can “borrow” your favorite bits to create the final blurb. As for stealing, go to your local bookstore or library (or… online) and read through fifty book descriptions. Make note of what captures your attention. Also make note of what bores you. Steal the approach of the descriptions you like. Avoid the stuff that made you snooze.
5. Put your book description through the wringer
Just like your book, your book description should go through several (or more) drafts. Don’t settle on the first thing that comes to you. Work for it!
How have you crafted a memorable book description? Share your book description, and some thoughts about how you came up with it, in the comments below.
Image via ShutterStock.com.
If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out these four articles to help you write better jacket copy for your book:
The impossibility of jacket copy (In Order Of Importance)
How to optimize book jacket copy (Promediacorp)
Jacket copy sells books, so make it good (Publishing Trends)
How to write sales copy for the back of your nonfiction book (Authority Publishing)
Worth reading even if you don’t write nonfiction, as many of the same concepts will apply.
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