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by Patricia Fry

Who Should Write Your Back Cover Copy?

By Patricia Fry

For some of us, writing the book is easier than writing the synopsis, a brief promo piece or—dread of all dreads—the back cover copy.

Who wrote (or will write) your back cover copy—the bit on the back of the book designed to influence browsers to buy it? Did you ask your editor to write it? Maybe you left it to your POD publishing service. Or did you write it yourself?

I’m often asked to write the back cover copy for my editorial clients’ books. But I never do this on my own. I always get as much input from the client as I can. After all, the author is the one with the vision for this particular book. He created the story or wrote and organized the material. He is intimate with the content of his book, but he may not feel confident writing the all important back cover copy. So who should write it? It really doesn’t matter, as long as the author is involved.

Even after editing the book and maybe even going through it a second time to tie up any loose ends, I don’t feel qualified to write the cover copy on my own. It’s not my book. It’s not a result of my vision. It’s not my story or a product of my passion. So when an author asks me to write the back cover copy, here’s what I do, first:

I ask the author how he or she responds to someone who inquires about their book. I ask the author to describe his book to me using as many words as he or she wants. And I pose the following two questions:

1: Why did you write this book?

2: What is the purpose of this book?

As the editor or even a casual reader of the book, I will certainly have my impressions of the content. I might define the story as an action-packed saga staged in Alaska during the gold rush. But the author may consider it a love story. While I might describe a book as a spiritual memoir featuring intimate religious visions, the author may see his book as a self-help book for Christians.

Certainly, if I think the author is off in his description, I will say so and attempt to steer him in the direction of reality. Or I will help him to change the book to fit the desired category and depiction. But I will always listen to the author’s translation before I do any of the above.

Your Reason and Purpose

Have you explored your reason and purpose? It’s a good idea to do this even before you start writing your book. If you don’t have a clear and rational reason for producing this book and if you haven’t examined its purpose, I suggest that you do so NOW. You want to make sure that your reason and purpose are logical and pure. Otherwise, you may be on a path to sure disappointment.

Poor reasons for writing a book:

  • To change people’s thinking about something.
  • You’ve always wanted to be an author.
  • You had an interesting life and want to share it.
  • You want to get rich so you can quit your job.
  • “I might as well, I don’t have anything else to do.”
  • “People tell me I’m a good writer.”
  • You have a very rare hobby and there are no books about it, so you want to write a book for the handful of others who share your interest.

Better reasons for writing a book:

  • To add to your credibility in your field.
  • Your extensive research shows there’s a need for this book.
  • Writing is your passion and you hope to break in as a serious author.
  • “I’ve worked hard to get where I am and I believe I have something of value to share with others.”
  • “I love writing stories. I’ve studied the publishing industry. I understand my options and my responsibilities as an author. I’m willing to do what it takes to break into publishing as a novelist.”
  • “I’m a high-profile celeb, I have a close connection with one or I have experienced something highly unusual and exceptionally media-worthy and I want to write about it.”

I hope that, after reading this article, you will all sit down and re-examine your project—your reason for writing it and your book’s purpose. Determine whether your reason and purpose are reasonable or if you needed to make some changes.

If you’re writing a book or just thinking about doing so, please consider the content of this article, first. Follow these recommendations and you are more likely to write the right book for the right reasons.


Patricia Fry is the president of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network) and the author of 29 books. See her most recent books in the left column of this page.

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