Back cover copy is one of the first interactions with your book that a potential reader will have. Think about it for moment. While it may be the front cover that entices a reader to select a certain book in the first place, they inevitably turn the book over to read the back cover copy before making a decision. This is why the back cover copy is so important. It’s not just a simple synopsis with a few words of praise. The back cover copy is really the first line of communication with your audience, and it may turn a book browser into a book buyer.
Since you have such a short window of opportunity to catch a reader’s attention (and the added challenge of keeping it there), you have to begin your back cover copy with the all-important first eye-grabbing line. In the publishing industry, we call this the sales handle. A sales handle is a very brief description that covers what your book is, and why it's compelling and different. Here are some examples of sales handles that our experienced staff have written for books published under our imprints.
From Cancer Sucks: A True Story by David Yates
“If lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice, what are the odds that cancer would strike David Yates three times - and he would survive?”
From Last Laughs: A Pocketful of Wry for the Aging by Everett Mattlin
“Last Laughs: A Pocketful of Wry for the Aging is the perfect antidote for feeling out of place in our youth-oriented culture. Author Everett Mattlin puts it all in true - and entertaining - perspective.”
From The Battle for Beaver Bay by Brian Schultz
“For logger Jeb Creaven, the past can be a dangerous thing — especially since it carries an axe.”
From 85A by Kyle Smith
“What do you get when you cross Holden Caulfield with Johnny Rotten? Meet Seamus O’Grady, the 15-year-old, punk-rock protagonist of 85A.”
For a work of fiction, the back cover copy is where you might introduce characters, setting, and plot, just leading up to the point of resolution. No spoilers! The back cover copy comes after the sales handle, which has already done some of the legwork in setting up what the book will explore. Often a comparison can be made to a similar author (e.g., "If you like Graham Greene, you'll not be disappointed with this book"). Here are some examples of back cover copy written by our staff for books published under our imprints.
From Fake Perfect Me by Cari Kamm
“Isabella Reynolds seems to have it all—the former Southern belle with big dreams is the head of her own skin care company and is the self-proclaimed queen of all things beautiful in New York City. Then her world comes crashing down, and she is stripped of everything she loves—her man, the Italian litigator ‘Saint’ Santo; her company, and even her beloved dog, Potato. With her penchant for binging and purging, how can she turn her life around when she still feels the need to maintain her ‘perfect’ façade?”
For non-fiction, the back cover copy description needs to prove why this particular book on this subject (which, no doubt, has been written about many times over) is different or outstanding in some way. What makes yet another book on Italian cooking interesting? Perhaps the recipes use only vegan ingredients, or follow traditions from a particular region. Other important selling points could include the fact that an author has an established platform as a professor in the subject he or she is writing on, is the author of another book, or is an award-winner. These should also be used as selling points and will help make persuasive and engaging back cover copy. Remember that the back cover copy may also be used on your website or in your marketing materials, and is very likely to be heavily drawn from in any reviews or interviews regarding your book.
From The Man Who Lived in an Eggcup by John Gamel
“In the corridors of every hospital lurk tales of triumph and tragedy, lives won and lost to the world of medicine. But the complexity of the human psyche cannot be stripped down to mere science. Indeed, it’s in this environment - where people remain at their most vulnerable - the human condition manifests itself the strongest.
In these alternately heartwarming and heartbreaking memoirs - most previously published in some of America’s best journals, such as Epoch, The Antioch Review, and The Alaska Quarterly Review - author John Gamel shares what he’s seen during a lifetime in medicine. These are the stories behind the stories, and with them come the desires, failures, addictions, and fragilities that make us who we are.”
Mill City Press offers a back cover copy and sales handle writing service to ensure that your book stands the best chance of capturing the attention and interest of your readers.
We believe every book should have a chance to compete in the marketplace. To ensure that, we combine our knowledge and experience in traditional book publishing with innovative book marketing. We provide real advice and help every step of the way.