Last week we covered the ‘Why’ of writing book jacket copy, so now let’s get down to business and get into the ‘How’.
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 into the shelves.
How do I write it? First, and foremost, you should draft a synopsis of your project. This will help you to 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 effective book jacket copy:
Attention: 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.
Interest: Intrigue interest and create curiosity. Again, book jacket copy is about sales, and copywriters generally have knowledge of certain key words that engage readers and get them excited about a book. These terms relate 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 key words in place on the back of a literary novel aimed at an adult audience. Your best bet? Research your market.
Detail: 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; copy on a romance novel, for instance, is going to be vastly different from a science fiction or horror story. This will also help you to get a feel for your audience and what they want to read.
You might even want to peruse the New York Times Bestseller 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 check out the success stories.
A final caveat: The amount of copy that appears on your book jacket is completely based on the final book design.
Book jacket copy is meant to be slightly over-the-top and sales pitch-y, so be creative and have fun with it, and take the opportunity to really make your book shine and out-sell all the rest.
Keep in mind that while you may try to design and format your book jacket cover on your own, there are professional editors who will do it for you. An experienced editor will create a professionally written book jacket cover that will capture your audience’s attention. This is short, succinct copy that sends a strong message about your writing.