Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Dreaded Back Cover

(I apologize in advance for the lack of pictures. I'm on vacation and not using my regular computer, and I can't quite figure this one out. When I get back to my regular computer, maybe I'll come back and pretty this post up.)

Alchemy was just the start of my publishing adventures. In January, I'm publishing another book called Hidden Magic. It was the first novel I ever wrote, and somehow it managed to maintain its hold on me through the whole learning curve. It would be fun if I could find my first draft and compare it to the final project--I doubt more that 20% of it survived the editing process, and possibly less than that. It has taken nearly six years to get it to this point.

But here I am, knee deep in watching Darren Boekweg create my cover. It is a gorgeous cover, and I can't wait to share it with you. But a few days ago he asked what I wanted on the back cover. Eek.

When I went on the radio to promote Alchemy a couple of weeks ago, I was terrified. Like couldn't sleep terrified, and this was why: There was a pretty good chance someone was going to ask me what our book was about. Do you know the feeling? Even if you've got your elevator pitch prepared, it is so easy to get lost in the convoluted twistings and turnings that seem necessary to explain character, setting, theme, and plotline.

Before I went on the radio, I turned to my daughter, who luckily was able to distill about five minutes of stuff I thought I had to explain before I could even begin to discuss what the book was about into one very natural sounding sentence.

Writing a back cover is that same kind of daunting. I've been doing my own research on back covers. Mostly, I went through the house and gathered up a pile of my favorite books that seem to match the genre of Hidden Magic. I also grabbed the books in my TBR pile. Here's what I found:

A lot of the books by very famous authors don't have a blurb about their book on the back. Instead, they have a "praise for" section where they cite reviews of previously published books. I am adding this to my list of reasons to become a successful author--so that I don't have to write my own back covers anymore.

Megan Whalen Turner has a huge picture of herself on the back of the dust cover of my copy of The Queen of Attollia, and nothing else. A few other books had most of the back devoted to an author bio.

Books later on in a series often had very few words. For example, the back of Allegiant says, "One Choice: One Choice Can Define You. One Choice Can Destroy You. One Choice Can Transform You." For someone picking up her book for the first time, that is next to no information. But those words are carefully chosen to stir the hearts of people who are already fans of the series. Another reason to get famous. Tag lines like that can get so famous I don't even need to name the book: "One ring to rule them all..."

But my favorite back covers had a quote from the book or a short synopsis, and in many cases, they had both. I know from happy experience that a well-written back covercan get people interested in a book. In fact, I'm a huge believer in using that space to sell your story's romance, if it has one.

I went so far as to count the words on the backs of the stack of my books that had quotes or synopses. None of them had more than 150 words. More than half had close to that number of words, and most of those had a quote from the book with a tiny synopsis that mostly put that quote into context.

Those with just a synopsis were usually closer to about 75 words, with a lot of white space on the back. White space is so important! If the back of the book is filled with words, people (read: me) don't bother to read it. There was often a different font for the hook, so that people's eyes are drawn to it, and then are interested enough to read the whole thing.

I haven't found the magic words to put on the back of Hidden Magic yet. I'll know when I get there, because the people who read it will love it as much as they loved the back of Alchemy.

I've got an assignment for you, should you choose to accept it. You can either:

A. Go through the back of the books you love and notice what works for you. Then write your answers in the comment section.


B. If you already have some great advice about back covers, please share it.

We could become the definitive word on back covers!


  1. Ooo. Good Luck with the back cover. I've only e-pubbed so I've never had to do a back cover.

    1. You should get your books published in soft cover, Connie! I would totally buy them. Not only are they awesome, but those gorgeous covers belong on a bookshelf!

  2. I totally skim back covers. I look for a general idea of the premise and at least a hint of romance. That is all I need. I really just want to know if it is the kind of book I want to read. For me that is the most important part, make sure you are honestly presenting your story so that readers who want to read that kind of story will pick it up.

    I really can't think of any back cover that really grabbed me. Although I really liked Alchemy's. You guys did a great job with that one.

  3. I think you should let a very dear and "special" (I won't specify what makes me special) neighbor read a proof copy and then, said "publicist wannabe" can help you out...ha-ha! ;)


Got an opinion? Use it! Remember... be silly, be honest, and be nice/proofread.