Previously, I covered the why of writing book jacket copy. So now let’s roll up our sleeves and get into how to write a book jacket cover.
What is copy?
Book jacket copy isn’t about summarizing your project or providing the reader with a clear synopsis or plot spoiler; it’s about sales.
Book copy should be short, succinct, and send a message.
It should grab the reader and tell them why they should pick your book rather than the thousands of other titles packed onto the shelves.
How do I write it?
First, and most importantly, you should draft a synopsis of your project. It will help you determine which plot points you want to highlight and which you don’t want to spoil for the reader.
Once you’ve got your synopsis down, there are three components to creating a compelling book jacket copy.
Start off your copy with a powerful hook that demands attention. Is there a central question or revelation in your plot? You might start off with the first sentence or two from your plot summary.
Create intrigue, interest, and curiosity.
Again, book jacket copy is about sales, and copywriters have knowledge of certain keywords that engage readers and get them excited about a book. These terms are specific to each genre and audience.
The same words that entice a thirteen-year-old girl to purchase a Young Adult book will be far different from the keywords in place on the back of a literary novel aimed at an adult audience.
Your best bet? Research your market.
Provide details about your story, but again, don’t turn your book copy into a spoiler!
The best way to determine how much detail to include is to read other book jackets.
Start with those in a genre similar to your book. A copy of a romance novel, for instance, is going to be vastly different from a science fiction or horror story. It also helps you to get a feel for your audience and what they want to read.
You might even want to peruse the New York Times best seller list. Pick up a couple of books on there and check out their jacket copy.
The jacket copy may not be the only thing selling those books, but it can’t hurt to look at the success stories.
A Final Caveat
The length of the copy that appears on your book jacket is entirely dependent on the final book design.
Book jacket copy is meant to be slightly over-the-top and a sales pitch. So have fun with it, and take the opportunity to make your book shine and out-sell all the rest.
While you may try to design and format your book jacket cover on your own, know that there are professional editors who do it for you.
An experienced professional editor, such as the editors at FirstEditing, will create a professionally written book jacket cover that will capture your audience’s attention.
It is short, succinct copy that sends a strong message about your writing.
The purpose of a book jacket blurb is to present a small snapshot of what readers will find inside the book.
It is designed to stimulate the curiosity of potential readers by highlighting key elements of the book’s contents.
Three key elements contribute to an effective and winning book jacket.
Three Key Elements
- In a book of fiction, the first sentence introduces the main character.It provides some details such as occupation, the location of activity, personal attributes, etc. Much information may be condensed into one short sentence.
For example, a mystery or crime novel might begin with the following sentence:
When Meredith Wilson finds her solitary life as a Montana forest ranger shattered by the discovery of the mangled body of a teenage hiker, she finds her life becomes a game of cat and mouse, where her life is hanging in the balance.
In a book of non-fiction, the first sentence may present a major argument to be discussed and the substance of the items under consideration.
- The next section contains specific details about the development of events and tries to engage the readers’ attention and focus by attracting their curiosity.
This section can be anywhere from three to ten sentences, and be should be straightforward and succinct.
It may be considered as a mini-synopsis, but should not contain too much material for someone to absorb in a casual scan through the aisles of a bookstore.
- The third key element is the cliff-hanger.It consists of about one or two sentences that present the reader with a quandary, a question, or a hint of a possible resolution.
Essentially, a book jacket is an advertisement; the bait to lure potential readers to purchase the book by promising a great read worth the money.
Depending on the specific genre, the elements will vary in details. But the general framework will remain the same: The introduction, the mini-synopsis, and the cliff-hanger.
Originally posted 4/11/2010 and happily updated 10/29/2017. Thanks for reading!
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