Back-cover copy–the blurb you’ll put on the back cover of your book– is a key marketing tool. You’ll use the same blurb for a query, if you’re querying agents and editors. So how do you do it right?
You need to tease the potential reader with cool stuff about your book but include NO spoilers. So the blurb will tell us all the cool things about the setup of the initial push to action in the book, the inciting incident often known as the beginning of Act 2. But it won’t give away anything further. At least, not much further.
Author James Scott Bell writes a lot of useful how-to books for writers, and he’s got a simple formula for the back-cover copy. I looked him up this week while writing a blurb for my own book. Here is what Bell says.
Create three paragraphs, each one sentence long.
In the first paragraph, describe the initial situation of your main character. Use an adjective and a noun. For example, a lonesome cowboy, a happy debutante, or, in the case of my book, a dyslexic teenager.
My example: “It’s 1969. A dyslexic fifteen-year-old struggles with harsh criticism at home and school because he can hardly read.”
In the second paragraph, start with “When” and describe your inciting incident and the resulting pickle the character finds himself in.
My example: “When his guardian calls him stupid and lazy one too many times, he runs away to the Missouri woods to find peace but instead encounters a deadly storm.”
In the third paragraph, start with “Now” and describe the high stakes in your story and the character’s dilemma at this point in the tale. For it to be a good story, says Bell, the stakes that feel like death to the character.
My example: “Now he must decide whether to trust the secretive African-American man who rescues him–while struggling to keep steps ahead of a wily truant officer who wants to send him back to the pain and humiliation of his life in town.”
This advice comes from Bell’s book How to Make a Living as a Writer, page 142. I highly recommend this book and his others as encouragement and wisdom for writers.