We are so pleased to have copywriter Carly Hoogendyk as our guest blogger this morning. Carly, a colleague of the Book Country team here at Penguin, is an expert in writing back cover copy for dozens of books in many genres. We all know how important that cover copy can be in selling a book, whether it is a physical book jacket you are reading or the “About the Book” entry on a eBook retail site. I asked Carly to apply some of her knowledge of book cover copy to what Book Country members are doing when they upload their books for peer review or to publish. Read her tips for writing your “About the Book” to attract and engage readers on Book Country.
Putting together a fantastic “About the Book” is a great next step for writers, whether you are just coming off a month of NaNoWriMo or preparing to self-publish.
I’m a Junior Copywriter at Berkley and New American Library. I read manuscripts for soon-to-be published novels across the full spectrum of genres—New Adult, Westerns, Cozy Mysteries, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Contemporary Romance, Erotica, and Thrillers. Once I have a sense of the story, characters, and “what sets this book apart from the rest,” I write the snappy, three-paragraph persuasive book report that we all know and love: The Back Cover Synopsis.*
*Grammatically speaking, you’ll observe throughout this post my copywriter’s love affair with my favorite persuasive punctuation: ellipses, colons, the Oxford Comma, and—perhaps my favorite—the EM DASH.
I got into copywriting via fundraising. I became extremely adept at the 15-second elevator pitch by cold calling strangers to ask them for money to support the arts. (If you think writing book synopsis is difficult, trying hectoring strangers for their hard-earned dough during dinnertime.)
It was brilliant practice for what I do now: If I couldn’t engage their attention quickly and articulate my hook in an extremely short window of time, they’d hang up on me (and it happened… a lot). In the instances where I successfully got strangers to listen for long enough to actually fork over a buck or two (or a thousand), it was lively language, a confident tone, and fact-based persuasion that gave my argument the edge that won them over.
That being said, here are my basic tips for how to avoid a “hang up” when you’re writing descriptive copy for your book:
Know Your Hook(s)
In cover copy, the hook is anything that will make your story especially enticing to a potential reader. It can be the name recognition or awards won by the author, a clever turn of phrase which suggests the writing will be entertaining, or a cryptic suggestion that there’s something completely unexpected in store…*
*There’s something about the dot-dot-dot that reads like beckoning someone with a curled index finger… Which, while creepy in real life, is fair game for effective book copy.
There’s something about your novel that makes it original and specific and intriguing to readers. That’s your hook. Working your hook into a tagline that opens your copy is a tried and true way to get a reader to continue on to the rest of your synopsis and, ideally, the first page of your book. Continue reading