Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Visualize Success! How to Write Back Cover Copy

Many of us unpublished writers have a dose of humility and a smattering of self-consciousness.

I am here to tell you with visualizing your book on the shelf, which is visualizing back cover copy, to knock that shit off.

Your back cover copy is about selling your writing.

Your back cover copy is about enticing a reader to buy your book.

Your back cover copy is competition. You are competing for the hard-earned dollar of an honored reader.

If you cannot write a back cover copy for your book, give it up. I am totally serious. Don’t give up witting if that is what you enjoy, but give up selling your book. You must own this process. Back cover copy is what constitutes the majority of your query. Back cover copy  is what you put on your website. The back cover copy  is your illicit lover. The back cover copy is fairy dust you snort when the pixies aren’t looking.

If you are on the publishing path, you have to want it. You have to want it real bad. You have to look at your significant other one evening, and think, “I could make bedroom eyes here. Or I could write.” You dream about your book. You go to the bookstore, and look at where your book would be, memorizing the author to the left of the book and to the right. You have pretend conversations with the characters in your book.

If you don’t want it that bad, this post is not for you. That ego that you check at the door while read’n da blogs? Ya, go get it. I’ll wait.

(la la la, la la la)

Alrighty then. By the way, I am smoking a cigar, sipp'n Congnac, and wearing a Glock 19 while writing this. That’s how ego I went here, folks. It doesn’t get any more MAN than that.

Rawr!

Let’s take it by steps.

Step One: Determine the type of book. Do you envision your book selling as a hardback or paperback out of the gate? For this exercise, we are going to use Hardcover. Because that’s my dream.

Step Two: Find a book, preferably someone else’s, that you don’t particularly like. In this case, we’re going to use Twilight. My wife’s copy. Sorry, honey. Behold! The actual book:


Please ignore the Nikon speed light flashback from the ceiling. I could not remember how to dial it down a notch to give a uniform lighting.


Step Three: Find the dimensions of this book. In this case, 8.2 x 5.9 x 1.7 inches (I got this from Amazon). We’re not interested in the thickness of the book (1.7 inches). For this exercise, girth doesn’t matter.

Step Four: Go into Word, or some other word processor, and under the Page Setup option, choose the Paper tab and change the height and width to the book height and width.


Then under the Margins tab, change all the margins to .25.


Step Five: Save the document.

Step Six: Paste in your back cover copy. Here is mine:

After breakfast, Investigator Lexus Toulouse, ex-soldier extreme, learns she must track down a war-era serial killer.
Before lunch, she finds her Libido Generator is on the fritz, her old warship wants to “get back together” and her impromptu partner, Scott, seems to be displaying very peculiar mental abilities while stirring the odd romantic feelings in her. She doesn’t want odd romantic feelings. She already has four husbands!

Her world spirals out of control when she mistakenly plugs herself into a simulation of the murders. As memories of the war surface, it all comes crashing down on her sanity. She struggles to do the right thing, but if the right thing is bringing back the soldier she buried deep within herself, can postwar Lexus ever return?

By dinner, she is lucky to be alive…

Step Seven: Change the font. My book is science fiction, so I used a nice sci-fi looking font.


Step Eight: Change the paragraph settings. I suggest for Spacing, 10pts After and 1.15” space between lines. Your mileage my vary.


Step Nine: Mess around with the document. Try using a drop cap, bolding certain words, etcetera.




Step Ten: Save the document.

Step Eleven: Go under Print Preview and mess around with the margins. You need to leave enough space for the ISBN number at the bottom of the page. Look at the actual book from Step Two for guidance.


Actual sample margins after adjustment:


Step Twelve: Save the document.

Step Thirteen: Print the document. Don’t worry about finding paper the actual size of the book. Your printer, unless it is stupid (and there are some out there) will print the page using the paper in the tray. The custom paper size was for your formatting convenience.


Step Fourteen: This is the most important step. Hold the paper to the back of the book from Step Two. You can see where the edges are beneath the paper. Does it fit? Are you using a too small of a font? Can you position the paper on the book so the text position looks good?

If the answer is yes, proceed to the next step. If the answer is no, then you must stop screwing around by writing a ginormous back cover copy. This is a real back cover copy. See! It's all for realsies now, it really lives on the back of a book, for you to visualize and think of how many words you really want to cram in there. It has to fit at on the back of the book and it must look like back cover copy for the sake of this visualization exercise. If it doesn’t, then it’s not back cover copy. Fix it. Cut. Or, rarely, add.

Repeat after me: If your text does not look like back cover copy, then it’s not, is it? It’s voodoo. It’s crap. You need to de-crap it. Be honest with yourself: if the font is too small because you just gotta write, you may want to consider that really, you’re not serious about explaining your book in just enough words.

This is what visualization is all about. Picture in your mind that book on a shelf.

But it’s not just about eye-candy. It’s being able to say what you want to say in short-form. Back cover copy. Write the back cover copy. Be the back cover copy. Print the back cover copy out and sleep with it under your pillow. Imagine what it would feel like if Babs from Slave to the Needle tattooed it on your ass. If there are many words, man, that back cover copy is gonna hurt.

If you are happy with how the text looks, the size, the wording, how it is arranged, then go to Step Fifteen.

Step Fifteen: Fold or cut the paper and tape or glue it to the back of the book (this is where someone else’s book you are not impressed with comes in handy).


Option: Add a book blurb:



Step Sixteen: This is almost as important as Step Fourteen. Does your back cover copy sound catchy, as a whole, now that you are looking at it as real back cover copy? It is on the back of a real book.

If it doesn’t look cool

If it doesn’t sound cool when you read it aloud

If you don’t get chills down your spine when you look at it

Start over

Optional Step Seventeen: Get crazy!

13 comments:

  1. Am I missing something here? Why do you have to go through all that? Yes, you have to write the blurb, but I've never heard an author has any control over the appearance of the back cover blurb. Heck, they rarely have any say about the front cover. So, why would anyone take the time to do all this? I simply write it in word and use bold if needed.

    Lynnette Labelle
    http://lynnettelabelle.blogspot.com

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  2. You missed my point.

    The book blurb is a mechanical process. If it doesn't actually fit on the back of the book, it's not a book blurb. The only way to verify it fits on the back of a book, is to actually put it on the back of a book.

    It's pretty much a given that you have no direct control over all of this. You do have direct control over how you pitch your book.

    Make sense now?

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  3. Makes sense to me. I love it. Athletes use visualization techniques to become winners all the time. Why not writers too?

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  4. I confess what I did was count the words of a number of good blurbs and then wrote and trimmed and revised and squeezed and rewrote until I had something blurb-like at under the average length.

    A week to write 64 words. At that rate a novel is 27 years.

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  5. Hilarious! I enjoyed that post immensely :)

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  6. thank you so much! LOVED IT!

    http://bookworm-megs.blogspot.com/2009/09/links-plus-best-blog-post-ever-not-mine.html

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  7. Taste the blurb, smell the blurb, BE the blurb.

    Oh yes, I know what I'm doing today. Now, where are the scissors...

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  8. brilliant, as usual. and that last bit? yeppers, i'm all about visualization like that :) you are SO on my list.

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  9. I found this post in a search for writing a book blurb. I don't know if you're still there, but I wanted to tell you how helpful, practical and ENTERTAINING your advice was. Not what I was looking for, but I'm glad I read it.
    :-)
    Cat

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  10. Hi Cat,

    Thanks for stopping by and for your kind comments! I have no idea where the graphics to this post went. I'll try to get them resurrected.

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  11. I've fixed this post and revised it with more modern terminology (it's been three years, after all).

    I'm reposting that sucker!

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  12. I could so see myself doing this. Except I'd have a whiskey sour, bag of chocolate, and a jeweled dagger. ;)

    I have to ask, isn't there an average word count that people can use if their printer isn't working? I'm still going to do this but I'm mainly doing it so that I can visualize someone picking up my book and reading that back cover.

    One point of contention. I'm not giving up sex to write. If anything it inspires me. But just so you don't think I'm a slacker. I put in a lot of 12 - 14 hour days writing and marketing. Other than that little thing, I think you're totally spot on. Also I'm sharing your post. Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. EsTilton, thanks for stopping by!

      Okay. You can keep the hot sex.

      Delete

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