What if the back cover copy for a book is more important than the front cover art with the title and subtitle?
You’ve heard the old adage “never judge a book by its cover.” I agree, because these days, people don’t judge a book by the front cover. Instead, they judge a book by the back cover copy they see displayed front and center on the book’s sales page at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, and dozens of other website retailers.
Today, almost 70% of all books are purchased online. That means back cover copy is the new front cover. Those words are the first thing many shoppers see when looking at a specific title. Therefore, that text plays a bigger role than ever before. Bad text will bore readers and lose their interest. Good text will help persuade the reader to purchase. If a book lacks compelling back cover copy, a lot of sales can be lost both online and in the bookstores.
I’ve taught numerous clients how to write convincing back cover copy that helped their books hit the bestseller lists. Below is my four-step process that works for most non-fiction books. (For memoirs and fiction, skip further down this article):
Step 1 – Display an attention-grabbing hook
Present an attention-grabbing hook in the form of a statement or a question in large bolded font across the top of the back cover. Make it jump out from the other text. Use the technique, “What if I told you _____?” to help create an effective marketing hook. Here are examples of book hooks that help get people’s attention:
- Everyone speaks. Not everyone is heard.
- You can cure the disease to please.
- What if you could say no without feeling guilty?
- Discover how to sell books like wildfire.
Step 2 – Describe the need for your book in society
In the first paragraph under the top marketing hook, use 2 – 4 sentences to explain the big problem in society and the need for your book to exist. What is the big problem you’ve noticed that is affecting thousands of people? What are the consequences people are experiencing? Don’t get too dark or negative. But, state the reality that people are encountering. Below is a good example from the book, The Power of a Positive No:
Every day we find ourselves in situations where we need to say No–to people at work, at home, and in our communities–because No is the word we must use to protect ourselves and to stand up for everything and everyone that matters to us. But as we all know, the wrong No can also destroy what we most value by alienating and angering people. That’s why saying No the right way is crucial.
Step 3 – Tell the reader the specific payoff of your book
Under the problem paragraph, use the transition sentence, “This book will help you…” and then list 4 – 5 bulleted statements that describe specific results people will experience from reading your book. Various examples of effective value statements might be:
- Escape the guilt of disappointing others by learning the secret of the small no.
- Increased confidence to control your emotions in sticky situations.
- Connect and communicate well with team, family and friends
- Break the “I’ll start again Monday” cycle and start feeling good about yourself today.
Step 4 – Clarify your credibility as an expert who can be trusted
In a final paragraph under the payoff statements, use 2 – 4 sentences to provide a brief bio in a way that explains why you’re an expert worth following. List your credentials and describe your track record of helping people experience the results described above in Step 3. For example, below is a brief version of my bio that summarizes my expertise and the results that I create for clients in the publishing arena:
Rob Eagar is one of the most accomplished book marketing experts in America and a leading specialist in the field of direct-to-consumer marketing. He’s personally coached over 400 authors, consulted with top publishing houses, and helped clients hit the New York Times bestseller list three different ways, including new fiction, new non-fiction, and backlist non-fiction. He even helped a book become a New York Times bestseller after 23 years in print! For more information, visit: www.RobEagar.com
What about fiction or non-fiction memoirs?
If you’re creating back cover copy for a fiction book or a non-fiction memoir, remember that you’re not selling a story…you’re selling emotion. People buy fiction and memoirs in order to experience strong feelings.
For example, Stephen King is known as the master of fear. His novels are meant to keep you up at night. John Grisham is known for keeping readers in suspense with his legal thrillers. J.K. Rowling is known for creating the exciting fantasy world of Harry Potter that kids enjoy.
To create back cover copy for a novel, pull out a short excerpt of 2 – 4 paragraphs from the MOST emotional or suspenseful part of the story. Use that excerpt text as-is, or use it as the basis to create the plot synopsis for the back cover copy. The goal is to make readers feel a strong emotion and leave them wanting more. Remember, no feeling = no selling.
With memoirs, the purpose of back cover copy is to get people to think and feel, “I can’t believe this person’s crazy story is actually true!” That type of reaction creates intense curiosity and also helps spreads word of mouth. For example, The Glass Castle is an incredibly popular memoir. Notice how the book’s back cover copy creates an immediate sense of curiosity:
When sober, Jeannette’s brilliant and charismatic father captured his children’s imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and how to embrace life fearlessly. But when he drank, he was dishonest and destructive. Her mother was a free spirit who abhorred the idea of domesticity and didn’t want the responsibility of raising a family.
The Walls children learned to take care of themselves. They fed, clothed, and protected one another, and eventually found their way to New York. Their parents followed them, choosing to be homeless even as their children prospered. The Glass Castle is truly astonishing—a memoir permeated by the intense love of a peculiar but loyal family.
We now live in an age where the vast majority of books are purchased online. Thus, the back cover copy is the first text that shoppers see when choosing to buy a book. Getting people to purchase hinges upon the words they read. Language is the power of the sale. Use my simple steps to insure that your back cover copy helps drive book sales like wildfire.