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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday - Hook Line and Sinker - Writing Back Cover Copy

Once you've written your book and you're ready to submit it to an agent or publisher you'll need a tagline or hook to grab your audience along with a blurb or what is sometimes referred to as "back cover copy."

Coming up with a tagline usually isn't a problem for me - it's a two sentence summary of the plot meant to intrigue my audience into reading more.  Sort of a TV Guide synopsis with zing.

For Mortal Illusions - a story about a 200 year old vampire who refused to make more of his kind, and a woman who was desperate to save her dying brother, I came up with....
"She would do anything to save her brother's life, even give herself to a vampire.  Except, he wasn't biting."

For Arrested by Love - an erotic romance about a young woman who was determined to snare the man she'd been in love since she was ten years old, but who refused to give her the time of day until she started pulling outrageous pranks that bordered on illegal.  Since this book was written as an erotic spanking romance, I wanted to appeal to that particular audience, so....
"She was willing to break the law to catch a police officer.  Except, he caught her first, and then turned her over his knee."

I think both of these taglines give a glimpse into the initial conflict of the book without giving too much of the story away, while at the same time they provide the reader with a sense that there will be some humor in the book as well.  (On a side note, I got dinged for not having enough humor in Mortal Illusions by the Romantic Times reviewer, but I think that was a matter of personal taste.  It's a lot more serious than Mary Janice Davidson's Queen Betsy series, which is what I think the reviewer was looking for.  A great series BTW, if you like humorous vampire stories with a little mystery added.  Davidson's first book has what I consider to be one of the best opening lines ever....  "The day I died started out bad and got worse in a hurry.")  But I digress.

What I personally find more difficult to write is the 100-200 word blurb that gives a little deeper insight into the story and the conflict, without giving too much away.  Well, I am now faced with this task again, so I decided to do a little research before I began writing my blurb to see what advice I could find on the topic.

Below is a list of the articles I found, and a brief summary of what they offer.

Emily Chand and friend

1. Keep it short and sweet - 100 to 200 words
2. Don't try to explain everything - give the reader the basic set up and a hint of what is to follow
3. Embody the genre(s) - pick one genre for the book, then convey the others in your back cover copy
4. Avoid inundating the reader with too many proper nouns - use strong verbs and adjectives to convey key info; don't rely on proper nouns that only you, the author, understand.
5. Don't showboat - let the story stand on its own

Marilyn Byerly and friend

First and second paragraphs - introduce hero and heroine, give simple plot set up and introduce internal
Third and fourth paragraphs - external conflict (what must they overcome to achieve their goals)

She also provides examples on how to shorten a blurb as well as details on how to structure your blurb for Romantic Suspense, Mystery/Suspense, Sci-Fi and Fantasy and Other types of fiction books.

Joanna Penn

Give a hint of the plot
Use words that evoke images and resonate with the readers of the genre
Name and characterize your main characters
Provide an idea of the setting
Provide a question or a hint of mystery that draws the reader in

1. Read the cover copy on other books in your genre
2. Have a friend write a description of your book
3. KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) It's about quality not quantity
4. Borrow from your own work
5. Got Reviews?
6. Brag a little

So, most of these articles agree the blurb should be pithy, provide the basic conflict, setting and a hint of a future problem or mystery that will need to be resolved.  Easy peasy, right?

Okay, back to the drawing board.

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