Judging a Book by Its Cover: What Copy Is and Why You Should Care by Julianne Clancy

Posted by July 25th, 2014

Copywriting- Julianne Clancy

Just a few of the titles Julianne has worked on!

I am a copywriter. This is not to be confused with a copyeditor (who makes sure the gods of grammar are not angered) or a copyrighter (which I don’t think is a real thing, but I assume would be someone who enforces copyright law). I’m the person who writes what’s on the covers of books and retailer websites.

Fun, right? Totally—I get paid to read books and write about them. Easy, yes? Not so much. See, copywriting isn’t just putting a synopsis of your book out there; it’s making people want to read your book, to choose it out of the hundreds of thousands of options available to them.

This is why copywriting matters. Your copy is the first thing that your reader is going to know about your book. You want to excite, enthrall, and entice them—you want them to be wowed. Much like a great pick up line, you’ve only got one chance at nailing it, and you don’t want to blow it.

There are a lot of specifics that can be discussed about copy, but, before we get into any of those, let’s start with the basics:

Think about your audience

You’re writing for potential buyers, so you want to have an idea of who those buyers are. Are they older? Younger? Male? Female? Adventurous? Prim? Your audience can affect both the tone and the content of copy, so it needs to be clear who you’re writing to from the very start.

Decide what makes this book special

No matter how good your book is, your job in the copy is to convince strangers that a book is worth money before they read it. What about your book differentiates it from others of the same genre? What’s the hook? Basically, why does the reader care? Remember, this isn’t a synopsis—you’re trying to tell someone why they should read your book. Don’t be afraid to tease surprises that are to come. People like mysteries. Give them something to get curious about.

Do your research

For some genres, copy is usually written a certain way. You don’t have to follow the rules, but you should be aware of them and have a good reason if you’re going to change it up. Trends stick around because they work. Take advantage of the great copy that’s gone before you and emulate it.

Write first, cut later

Copy has to be short. It’s the nature of the beast. However, restricting yourself from the get-go can make it hard to find your voice, point, and flow. Give yourself the freedom to write what you want to say. You can always cut later

Cut later—be brutal and be brief

The average adult attention span is 8 seconds. Make sure you grab your reader in that time. When you’re making edits to copy, be ruthless in eliminating weak words, unnecessary adjectives, and overly complicated sentences. The copy is a quick taste to draw in your reader; the book itself is the long sell.

Don’t ignore search engines, but write for humans

SEO (search engine optimization) is a huge buzzword for copywriters today. It is important to remember that, yes, you need to be searchable online, so take the time to put together a list of pertinent, searchable words and phrases and work them into copy. Focus on the first 20 words (that’s what shows up in a google search) to make them catchy. But write for your customer. At the end of the day, good copy is sells books. Don’t sacrifice that in favor of machines and metadata.

Practice, practice, practice

Writing copy is an art, and, like most art, it takes practice. So, take the time to learn it! The more you do it, the better you’ll get.

Working on crafting your best hook? Discuss in the discussion boards


About Julianne Clancy

Julianne ClancyJulianne Clancy used to say that she’d be happiest simply reading books all day and analyzing them later. Sometimes dreams do come true. A proud New Jersey native and alumnus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (go Heels) and Trinity College Dublin, Julianne lives in Astoria with her husband and their cat, where she spends her free time cooking, playing Wii U, and getting into extremely long and nerdy debates about all things pop culture.

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One thought on “Judging a Book by Its Cover: What Copy Is and Why You Should Care by Julianne Clancy

  1. Joanne Orion Miller

    Ms. Clancy captured the how-to’s and wherefore’s of jacket copy perfectly. I’ve always found condensing an entire story into a paragraph challenging, but her article helped me to look at it in an entirely new way. Let’s hear more from her!


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