When you reach for a book on the shelf at the bookstore, what’s the first thing you do? Turn it over and read the back cover to see “what it’s about,” right? The same principle applies when purchasing a book online—we all scroll down to the section titled “book description” to find out whether the book is something we’d be interested in investing our money and time in.
If you’re working on your first book, you will inevitably have to sit down and write the sales copy that appears on the back of your book (also known as “jacket” copy). For authors who haven’t had to do this before, it can feel like a bit of a challenge because writing sales copy is a completely different type of writing than writing your actual book. Instead of being overwhelmed, just remember that you’re trying to sell people on the importance or relevance of your book—something that will be part of your job as an author for the rest of your book’s life!
When writing your copy, keep in mind that you have a very limited amount of space on the back of your book, so every word counts. The ultimate goal is to entice your target audience—potential readers—and convince them to purchase your book. With this in mind, here are some guidelines:
Research Other Books – Start by reading the jacket copy on other books, especially from books in the same genre as yours. Find out how other authors position their books and what benefits they mention. This will help you get a better understanding of what sales copy should look like, and can also help you identify ways that your book is different than your competitors (which you’ll want to focus on in a broad sense when writing your copy). You can also do much of this research on Amazon since most book listings feature the back cover copy, or an expanded version of the back cover copy.
Get Started – Write a compelling, and brief, opening paragraph. Draw readers in by identifying who they are and helping them relate to the solutions offered by your book. Here are some example statements:
“Have you ever felt like you were running your business alone?”
“If you’re one of the millions who struggle with weight in your middle section, you’ll find the answers inside…”
“Studies show that 8 out of 10 working mothers wish they had more hours in a day. If you’re a mom with an over-extended schedule, I’ve got good news for you…”
Focus on Benefits – For most nonfiction books, you should highlight benefits that the reader will enjoy, ideally in a bulleted list following the introductory paragraph. To uncover the benefits in your book, figure out what problems your book solves for readers. If you’ve written a time management book, your benefits might look like this:
In The Acme Guide to Time Management, you will learn how to:
- Reclaim two hours back from each and every day (without getting up earlier!)
- Empty that inbox—and keep it under control forever
- Improve your productivity by 500% with this simple change…
- Reduce your stress by starting this daily habit…
End with a Call to Action – After your list of benefits, wrap up the copy with a strong call to action. That means that you are going to ask the reader for the sale (the gentle art of persuasion). Here are some examples:
- If you’re ready to take back control of your life, you need this book!
- Never before has anyone revealed so many inside secrets to the industry. Can you afford not to buy this book?
- This book will show you exactly what it takes to lose 10 pounds in 30 days—so don’t waste another moment!
Other Back Cover Details
The back of your book cover should also include high-profile endorsements from one or more authors in your field. While it’s great if your client or your sister’s best friend enjoyed your book, the only endorsements that really deserve to be put on a cover should come from recognizable authors in the same genre. In some cases, executives from large companies or nonprofits can provide endorsements if it fits in with your target audience, but author endorsements are preferred. If you don’t have any big-name endorsements, it’s better to leave them off than to put endorsements from people nobody has heard of (you can list those in the first pages of the book instead). Lastly, the bottom of your back cover should include a brief author bio, and this should cover the top highlights from your career. This is not the place to mention pets or hobbies (unless you’re being humorous and that’s part of your sales strategy). Instead, focus on your biggest accomplishments, including the number of years of work history you have in the field related to your book, special credentials or education, major media outlets where you have been featured, awards you’ve won, and anything else that demonstrates your authority in your field. Don’t forget to include your website link and a professional head shot of you.
If this is your first time writing sales copy, find a copywriter or an experienced editor and ask him or her to review it and offer you suggestions for improvement. The back cover can have a big effect on a potential reader’s decision to buy your book or put it back on the shelf. Make sure your cover reflects the best your book has to offer.