Write Great Promotional Copy
More often than not, the well-crafted copy gracing book jackets and back covers wasn't written by the author, but by a copywriter. Copywriting, like all writing, is a craft. The ability to condense a 100,000-word manuscript into 300 words is no easy task, and writing copy for your own book presents unique challenges.
The descriptive copy included on hardback books is known as jacket, or flap, copy. Paperback copy is referred to as back cover copy. It is designed to offer a brief description of the book, grab readers' attention, highlight any reviews a book may have received, and identify the author.
To compete with the big publishing houses and their stables of talented copywriters, here are some tips to help you write effective promotional copy for your book.
Think quality, not quantity. Good jacket and back cover copy doesn't have to explain every character, every plot twist, and every feature of your book. Don't put too much pressure on yourself (and on your jacket copy). Keep in mind the goal of jacket copy: to offer a brief summary of your work, engage readers, and offer them a reason to buy your book. Strive for copy that is descriptive, but not all-inclusive, engaging, but not exaggerated. Copywriters know that good promotional copy complements a book and does not over or understate what readers will find inside.
Read jacket copy on other books. Visit a library or bookstore and read jacket copy. Look at copy on a variety of books, paying particular attention to books similar to your own. Whenever you find copy that really grabs your attention, jot down what you think makes it work and find a way to apply that to your own work. Also try to get an idea of the length you find most effective.
Have a friend write a synopsis of your book. Enlist the help of a friend or colleague who's familiar with your book, or is willing to read through your manuscript. Have them write a brief summary of your work, noting the specific points or plot elements they liked most. This is a great way to gain a fresh perspective on your work and can be a helpful starting point.
Excerpt your work. If you're having trouble condensing your book into a few brief paragraphs, comb through your manuscript looking for passages to excerpt. This technique can be used very effectively if you have a strong paragraph that can be taken out of context and still make sense. Place the passage in quotes and underneath the quote identify the passage as having come from your book.
Feature reviews in your copy. If you've been fortunate enough to have your book reviewed, include those reviews with your jacket copy. Take the most complimentary sentence or two from the review(s) and put them in quotes on the back cover.
Promote yourself. People are curious about authors. If you're writing a nonfiction book, your audience wants to know what establishes you as an authority on the subject. For works of fiction or poetry, your reader want to know where you've been previously published or a little about your background. The author bio is your chance. In a very brief paragraph, list your accomplishments, other books (if you've published before), schooling (if appropriate), and any information about your professional life you believe is important (awards, grants, organizations you belong to). Also be sure to mention places where your writing has appeared (newspapers, literary magazines, online journals).
Don't be discouraged if writing promotional copy doesn't come naturally. Professional copywriters aren't as attached to a manuscript as the author, so take a lesson from the pros and look at your work as impartially as possible. When writing promotional copy, try to identify features that set your book apart, consider what it offers readers in terms of subject matter, characters, or plot and highlight that. Also try to visualize how the copy will look on the jacket and back cover of your book. This will help you gauge how many (or few) words you'll want to include.
Try to keep your copy as clear and concise as possible, highlighting points of interest and briefly summarizing your book. Include a two- or three-sentence author bio and any positive reviews your book may have received. Readers will see the cover of your book before they see what's inside. Give them a reason to read further.