What to Say About Back Covers

The back covers of books confuse me. Can you really ever tell anything about a book by one? I know, I know: don’t judge it by the cover. Yeah, yeah. That’s not what I’m asking. Let me see if I can explain it in a way that makes sense for anyone who can’t read my mind.

Have you ever read the synopsis on the back of a book, then read the book, and when you were done wondered what in the world the blurb writer was thinking? The actual story was so far removed that you wonder if the jacket writer even read the book. Surely the author wouldn’t have written that, right? He or she would have known better, you hope.

Or what about a back cover blurb that is so detailed that you question whether you even need to read the entire book now that you know pretty much everything that happens?

It’s the same frustration I feel when I watch a movie trailer and then later see the movie and wonder what the director was thinking when he pieced the trailer together, because the movie was completely different from what I expected. Or how about this one: a great scene from the trailer — the one scene you are looking forward to the most — doesn’t make the final cut? Very upsetting.

When I wrote the back cover blurb for Absolute Authority, I wanted to give the reader a taste of the plot, a feel for the action-packed pace, and just enough suspense to keep it interesting and drive sales. I did not want to give the entire plot away or lead readers down the wrong path just to be “clever,” as I think some authors do.

What criteria do you use to write your back cover or your sales synopsis? Is it the same as your query letter plot summary? If not, what’s different and why? What would you as a reader and a writer consider the best approach to a back cover blurb?


5 thoughts on “What to Say About Back Covers

  1. Great post, David! A good cover can really make or break a book, in my opinion, since visual stimulation is what makes the world go round (and that’s why Sherrill Suitt-Craig is the only cover designer I trust — her covers are amazing!). Of course, blurbs have their importance, too. The best blurb only teases, never gives away too much.

  2. I have read enough mysteries to know that when the blurb says, “..she has to solve the mystery to clear her own name,” or someone else’s name, that that person may be cleared of suspicion in the first 30 pages.
    I’ve been reading very old Perry Masons recently. Those blurbs start on the back cover and are finished on the first page inside. I don’t recall seeing that on other books.

  3. I recently redid my back cover to include a synopsis and a couple of quotes from my Amazon reviews–prior to that I had a quote from the book which really didn’t say what the book was about. I’m hoping that this will improve my bookstore sales.

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