Thanks to all who entered the About the Book contest on Book Country! We’ve deliberated and are ready to announce the winner. But first, we have our judge, Berkley copywriter Carly Hoogendyk, workshop the top three book descriptions. Her dissections are a great way to polish your copywriting skills! Carly wrote a fantastic back-cover copy writing guide a while back — be sure to check it out if you missed it before!
FISHING FOR HOPE by William Byers
This novel is a love story set in the south that derives from the perspective of three brothers. A tragic car accident occurred on Christmas Eve and claimed the lives of their wives. Each brother, living their separate life, must find a way to cope individually as well as find the strength to continue raising their daughters. This is a story that touches on brotherly love and will fully define the true meaning of what a father-daughter relationship can be under extraordinary circumstances.
First of all, based on the content of this copy, this sounds like a touching story and a worthwhile read. Unfortunately, the style of the copy suggests that it might not be told in the most compelling way. My biggest pointer is to give specific examples and details instead of just presenting the content. When it comes to book copy, the storytelling begins NOW.
That said, always include specific details like your character’s names. The story essentials will vary from case to case, but you will want to consider including character particulars like a hometown, job, foibles, and personality traits.
One unspoken rule of professional book copy is to not overtly refer to “this novel” or use the phrase “this is a story about.” In the same way that creative writing suffers imaginative losses when an author “tells” rather than “shows,” your copy ought to illustrate the characters/events/setting of your story, rather than coldly present the facts about the book you wrote.
This novel is a love story set in the south that derives from the perspective of three brothers.
On Christmas Eve in a small southern town, three brothers lost their wives in the same tragic car crash.
Instead of using the phrase “told from the perspective of…”, a fun trick to use in copy when a novel is told from the POV of multiple characters is to devote separate copy to each of those characters’ stories, suggesting that the story will focus on specifically one person’s desires, challenges, etc. If all three brothers have their own storyline, it’s important to give detailed insight into what makes their stories (and potenitally their voices) different.
(For a great example of how to suggest alternating POV’s in copy, take a look at copy for nearly any romance novel.)