Thursday, June 16, 2011

Building a Book Blurb

Do you know what I love to do when I’m surrounded by the fabulously seductive smell of books in B&N? I adore flipping over book after book and reading back cover copies.

I want the stories. I crave something fresh and unique. And I want to be hooked.

If you’re anything like me, this is a delightful obsession for you, too. And it’s exactly why nailing the book blurb or “back cover” copy is so important.

Regardless of whether you draft your logline and surrounding sentences before you begin writing your first word (I recommend drafting at least a rough version of this before you begin writing) of after you’ve typed The End, this step is crucial to get right.

And I liken it to building a house.

When building a house you need:

A strong foundation = a high concept logline
This is where you sum up the entire plot in a bam-pow-I-gotcha-hooked sentence. Whether someone decides to buy your book or not will hinge on how well you’ve crafted your concept.

Mortar & bricks = compelling characters
How you choose to describe your characters in your back cover copy is imperative. Are we talking Plain Jane and Boring Bob or Intriguing Ida and Captivating Carl?

Insulation = the current reality surrounding your character(s)
Does this reality have enough influence to get your reader all wrapped up in your novel?

Plumbing = word choice
You can have a beautifully written novel with a sloppy back cover copy. (It’s unlikely that you’ll actually be the one to create the copy that ends up on your book, but if you’ve done the legwork, you’re much more likely to adhere to the story and hone your ability to craft compelling prose.)

Windows = a glimpse of your voice and writing style
The back cover copy is an excellent place to showcase your skills, your command of craft, and your voice.

Electrical = excitement factor or what James Scott Bell calls the “ka-ching” in The Art of War for Writers
Test what kind of reactions you receive by reading (in person) your back cover copy to local book clubs, friends or family. A face can reveal a thousand things.

Roofing = A hint the reader can trust in the satisfying experience
Readers want to know that they’re signing up for something worthwhile when they invest time reading a book. Your back cover copy helps a reader feel confident they’re about to embark upon the real deal if you work hard to establish a non-gimmicky hook for your story.

An experience to top all experiences.

Can you think of any other ways the process of building a book blurb (or back cover copy) compares to building a house?

*photos from Flickr


Anonymous said...

I thought the author's back cover copy was used on the finished product. So clueless here. I guess it's used for marketing the manuscript to agents and publishers?

Joanne Sher said...

Great, GREAT pointers! Thanks, Wendy!

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Wonderful post, Wendy! I like how you thought through and gave helpful suggestions for building a book blurb. I've been trying to figure out how to do this. :) You are a great help!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Oh, this was a great analogy, Wendy! And if I wasn't so thick headed from spending the night in the hospital with my mom, I might be able to think of something, but you really covered great ground here! Excellent!

Wendy Paine Miller said...

V.V., Don't quote me on that. It's just what I've heard from those who've have gone before me. It also depends what kind of marketing you have with your contract from what I understand. But no matter what's in your contract, it's worth it to come up with a powerful back cover copy.

Hi Joanne, Miss you with Exemplify and thank you.

Jeanne, And thanks for your encouragement. James Scott Bell has several great chapters about this in his book, The Art of War for Writers. Worth buying (if you haven't already).

Sherrinda, Thanks for fixing so I can comment again. Hooray! I'll pray for you and your mom. Did you pick up on how you wrote that I covered great ground. Ground, get it? Wow, time for a little afternoon caffeine. ;)

~ Wendy

Pepper said...

Would decorating be like the actual 'cover':-)
Great analogy, but I have a question from a reformed pantsters perspective: Would it be hard to do a logline if you weren't sure where you were going in the story?
I've realized over the past year, that I'm more of a planner. I have a plan in place, but can be swayed by the characters to get off the path (and I mean plan in the most flexibly sense of the word).
I have a general idea about where my story is going when I write the first few pages - but what about those who only see the page in front of them when they write?