Updated: Dec 8, 2019
Let’s say you have a manuscript.
A manuscript that you’re about to turn into a book.
It’s a good book too. It’s interesting and engaging with all the right twists to keep readers turning the pages… if they buy your book in the first place.
As we’ve already discussed, that sale depends greatly on what your cover looks like – from the front of it to the first line or two on the back to the full two or three-paragraph teaser.
Notice that I used the word “teaser,” not “summary” there. It’s an important distinction we’ll explore in more depth down below.
As I said earlier on in the week:
The front cover is supposed to attract people’s attention so that they…
Flip the book over to read the first stand-alone line or two so that they…
Read the teaser so that they…
Open the book up and actually start reading it so that they…
Buy the book and give you money.
So treat your teaser with the same respect you do the rest of the book-writing, editing and publishing process.
The five steps above, including the teaser part of the back cover blurb, are crucial. So is remembering that one needs to point the way to the next.
While, no doubt, you can make a sale or two even if you did accidentally break that chain, your chances of doing so will go down drastically.
So learn how to be a good tease by taking this advice:
Effective back cover blurbs don’t give everything away.
The back cover blurb of a book should always establish key information, such as the main character or characters that the story follows, and what the main issue(s) he, she or they have to face. Essentially, it needs to lay out the kind of key details presented in the first page or even chapter.
But it shouldn’t give everything away. It should leave some mystery. If you ever heard the saying that “nobody’s going to buy the cow when the milk is free,” they no doubt meant it about your back cover blurb. (Or maybe something else.)
I mean, would you buy a book if you already knew exactly what it was about?
Remember the back cover blurb standalone lines I referenced yesterday? Specifically, I want you to recall the third one, which read: “Sometimes the one who loves you is the one who hurts you the most.”
Again, I’m not endorsing it by any stretch of the imagination. I’d never heard of the book – It Ends With Us – or its author, Colleen Hoover, before I did a random search on Amazon.
But that aside, it still does make for a pretty decent example of a teaser:
Lily hasn't always had it easy, but that's never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She's come a long way from the small town in Maine where she grew up – she graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. So when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily's life suddenly seems almost too good to be true. Ryle is assertive, stubborn, and maybe even a little arrogant. He's also sensitive, brilliant, and has a total soft spot for Lily, but Ryle's complete aversion to relationships is disturbing. As questions about her new relationship overwhelm her, so do thoughts of Atlas Corrigan – her first love and a link to the past she left behind. He was her kindred spirit, her protector. When Atlas suddenly reappears, everything Lily has built with Ryle is threatened.
And… That’s it. That’s all potential readers get. They’re left hanging – exactly as they should be.
No matter the genre you’re working with, use that same basic rule to draw readers in. Make them want it. And then make ‘em buy it to get it.
Stay strong and stay true to one single sound: Moo.