Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Visualize Success! How to Write Back Cover Copy

(revised and updated from an older post
Many of us unpublished writers have a dose of humility and a smattering of self-consciousness.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 also 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.


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!


  1. This is a great idea.

    I will say, though, that I found the very first sentence of your blurb to be a bit information-dense. I had to read it twice to grasp it. While little frowny wrinkles appeared on my brow.

    I would cut out "ex-soldier extreme". Try it. Read the two variations out loud. You don't need it. You tell us there was a war and she used to be a solider in the third para. Snappy is better.

  2. Hi Natalie!

    Thanks for writing! The idea is to visualize success.

    Over the years I've revised that back cover copy. That was... wordy, yes. Here's the text of the most recent version, which make sense only in the contect of how it appears on the back cover. But you get the idea:


    In the course of several days, Investigator Lexus Nancy Toulouse

    ex-soldier extreme:

    finds her Libido Generator is on the fritz

    learns her old warship wants to “get back together”

    loses whatever war-torn sanity she had left in a crime scene reenactment

    becomes a Princess Concubine to the mysterious Empress

    but, the worst of it all

    while trying on some lingerie that she knew her four husbands would like,

    someone tried to blow her up

    and she regenerated all the way back to a teenager.

    Now, there will be lots of BLOOD
    and none of it hers…

  3. I like the last line of the revised copy :) Although, I did like the After Breakfast...Before Lunch...By Dinner thing of the first one.

  4. That was quite entertaining. I am currently on chapter 11, not exactly a full deck yet, but a work in progress. This was very informative for future reference, though.

  5. helpful. aren't you supposed to be writing something thoughtful, fringie, rage provoking, or otherwise interesting for my blog?

  6. You never look at the dates when people publish things.



  7. i'm guilty. i know i am. but ... sooo ... you're workin' on a provocative post for my blog, right?

  8. I am working on book 2. Book 2 is the first book my new editor had from start to finish (I fired the first editor for book 1 halfway through the process).

    Sofia demands excellence and I have to bump everything up several notches. Time consuming with a day job.

    Translation: I'm a writer. The very definition of flaky.

  9. Seems like this gets you into the mind set of being successful. Great idea :)


  10. That was great. I thought your blurb was catchy. The back is usually the last thing I work on. I have a super hard time working on short pieces, like blurbs.


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