5 Hacks for Creating Eye-Catching Cover Copy

5 Hacks for Creating Eye-Catching Cover Copy

One of the most important sales tools for your book is its cover copy. Your cover will catch readers’ eyes, but it’s your cover copy–aka the book summary that appears on your book jacket and on your online retail pages–that will actually persuade them to buy your book. Here are five hacks for creating brilliant, concise, and intriguing cover copy that will help you sell books.

  1. Know your competition.
    You can’t write great cover copy unless you’ve read great cover copy, and lots of it. Look at the comparative titles that a). most closely resemble your book and b). dominate your genre as bestsellers. Read as much cover copy as you can, both on physical book covers and online. These books sold for a reason. By reading the sales copy and book summaries that populate your genre, you’ll be able to more easily and naturally adapt their copy strategies to your own book.
  2. Keep it brief, with an ideal word count of 100-225 words.
    Good sales copy makes every word count. Due to space limitations on your cover, your copy must be brief. Even online copy should be succinct, designed to capture and hold your readers’ attention as quickly as possible. While there’s some room for variation (especially depending on your genre), your idea cover copy word count will be around 100-225 words.
  3. Adapt your cover copy to your genre.
    Your genre will influence your cover copy. Best practices for fiction differ from nonfiction. For example, cover copy for nonfiction tends to be longer than fiction. Fiction titles often end on a cliffhanger or question, while nonfiction titles tend to start and end with a summarizing thesis statement. Again, become an expert in cover copy for your genre, so you can absorb and use the best techniques for your copywriting.
  4. Structure your cover copy so it packs a punch.
    Although great cover copy will be genre-dependent, you can use these techniques to help organize your information and hook your readers:

    1. Introduce your main characters and the initial scenario or problem. In fiction like Gone Girl, the main characters are Nick and Amy Dunne, and they are celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary; in The Hate U Give, it’s Star Carter and her uneasy navigation between her home and school life. In nonfiction like The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, the main player is “superstar blogger” Mark Manson and his argument against superficial positivity, and in Caste it’s Isabel Wilkerson and her exploration of race and class hierarchy in America.
    2. Escalate the situation and raise the stakes of the problem or scenario. In Gone Girl, Amy disappears, and in The Hate U Give, Starr witnesses a police officer kill her best friend. In The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Manson argues that false positivity has “infected modern society and spoiled a generation,” and in Caste, Wilkerson asserts that social hierarchies not only predetermine the lives of individuals but also shape entire nations.
    3. Deepen your exploration of the situation. Now you’ve clearly laid out the issue, and the stakes are high. So how do your characters deal with the situation, and/or what fresh solutions does your book offer to the problem? In our fiction examples, suspense is heightened when Nick and Amy Dunne are revealed to be more complex and dangerous than they appear, and Starr Carter is caught in the middle of a national movement demanding answers for her friend’s death. In nonfiction, Wilkerson uses historical research and personal narrative to explore the impacts of caste and how America can move beyond it; Manson use a “real-talk” tone to suggest a fresh, realistic way of prioritizing our lives; and in her self-help book You Are a Badass, Jen Sincero uses bullet points to clearly outline the benefits that readers will take from her book.
    4. And finally–
  5. Leave your readers wanting more.
    The body of your cover copy has hooked your readers–now your final sentence should have them bringing the book home. Fiction often ends on a cliffhanger (“But what Starr does – or does not – say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.”) or a question (“Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?”). Nonfiction often ends with a thesis statement summarizing the message, tone, and virtues of the book (“A much-needed grab-you-by-the-shoulders-and-look-you-in-the-eye moment of real talk, filled with entertaining stories and profane, ruthless humor, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck is a refreshing slap for a generation to help them lead contented, grounded lives.”), and/or a clear statement of how readers will uniquely benefit from your book (“By the end of You Are a Badass, you’ll understand why you are how you are, how to love what you can’t change, how to change what you don’t love, and how to use The Force to kick some serious ass.”).

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