Writing Effective Book Jacket Copy

Whether you self-publish or work with a publisher, it’s important to know how to create copy for your book cover that is compelling and will inspire and entice your reader to take action. There isn’t a lot of room on the back of a um curso em milagres online when you add publishing information such as an ISBN, an author biography, or testimonials from other authors, so the copy has to be tightly written without excess verbiage. A great resource for learning to tighten your writing is the classic The Elements of Style, a short and brilliant book by E.B. White on how to prevent yourself from using three words when one word will do.

Here are some tips for writing copy for the back of a book, or a book’s jacket, that will sell your book to the reader:

Be inspired by the copy on similar books. Before you start to write, read ten book descriptions on the back of books that would appeal to your intended audience. Get a feel for the amount of detail and how the writer makes the case that this book is a “must have.” Look at the kinds of promises made in the copy. Can your book make similar promises?

Sell it, baby. This is advertising copy, not editorial copy. Don’t go into too many details about concepts. Use strong, compelling verbs such as “embark,” “initiate,” “embrace,” “address,” “overcome,” “conquer,” and “achieve.” Promise that a book is “practical,” “groundbreaking,” “comprehensive,” or “compelling.”

Highlight your key ideas with a bullet point list. If yours is a work of nonfiction, consider using bullet points in your description. Start each bullet with strong words, whether verbs or nouns, pay attention to parallelism. If you have a list of nouns, be consistent and don’t mix a verb into your list: “practical solutions,” “advice on,” and “7 strategies” should not be mixed with a bullet point that starts with a verb, such as “Learn ways to… ” If your bullet points are incomplete sentences, rewrite the others to make them all incomplete for consistency. Notice the parallelism in this article: Every tip begins with a strong verb phrase in boldface, and uses full sentences.

Watch the hype. Don’t gush about your book or yourself to a degree that might turn off readers. The rule is “know your audience.” Maybe your followers will be excited by terms such as “earth-shattering” or “truly unique” but maybe you are better off with “groundbreaking” and “original” and “fresh approach.” Remember, too, that you can’t qualify “unique,” which means one of a kind. Nothing’s “very one of a kind” or “more one of a kind,” so don’t use “very unique” or “more unique.”

Work your expertise into the description. Don’t just give your name and any degrees you have. You might write something like “Joe Smith, a lifelong spelunker and founder of CaveExplorers.com, the #1 spelunker’s site on the internet… “

Grab ’em up front! Consider asking a question in the first line or setting up a very short example that will grab your reader’s attention instantly-or, make a starting statement. You want the reader to have an energetic response rather than a lukewarm one.

Follow a “Wow! Okay… Wow!” structure. Structure your description by grabbing the reader, then explaining what’s in the book and who you are, and ending with oomph. Of course, you want your description to be engaging and energetic, too, but the energy of the reader naturally dips when reading the facts about what’s in the book. Think about how a musical performance will start with an energetic song, include quieter ones in the middle, and end on an energetic note.

Check your spelling and usage. Don’t rely on the eye! Actually use spellchecker software, and if you really want to be picky, consult Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary 11th Edition (the standard dictionary in book publishing) to make sure you’ve styled every word correctly (groundbreaking not ground-breaking, for example). Be consistent throughout your text (for example, don’t mix “soundboard” and “sound board,” both of which are acceptable-choose one and stick with it). Don’t use terms people might not know unless you define them (for example, people often confuse “I.e.” and “e.g.” so it’s better to use “for example”). Have someone else who is good with grammar, spelling, and mechanics proofread your copy and look over it yourself several times to catch usage errors (such as “effect” for “affect,” which spellchecker software will overlook). Be as nitpicky as you can.

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