Today is Day 27 of “31 Days of NaNoWriMo Prep”, which means we’re getting awfully close to the first day of NaNoWriMo itself! Do you feel prepared? Nervous? Excited? Personally, I’m a mix of all three. If you don’t feel prepared, though, then you probably haven’t read the other 26 posts in this series. If that’s the case, click here to catch up, or click here to watch the corresponding YouTube videos!
Today’s topic is the back cover copy, or the BCC, as it will be referred to from now on. The BCC, also known as the back-of-book blurb, back blurb, back book cover blurb, etc., is the chunk of text on the back of a book that tells the reader what the book is about. Don’t confuse the BCC with a synopsis, however, because a synopsis gives away how the book ends, while a BCC does not. The BCC acts as step two of a three-step-system to get a potential reader to buy your book (step one is the cover/title and step three is the first page).
I’d like to add a disclaimer that if you’re intending on traditionally publishing your novel, you won’t need to worry about writing your own BCC. That is the job of publishing house that’s printing and selling your book–specifically, it’s the job of the marketing department and/or the editor. And, fair warning, there is a chance that the person who’s writing your BCC hasn’t read your book in full, so the BCC could end up being very misleading. The publisher might allow you to look it over before it’s plastered on the back of the book, but it isn’t likely, especially if you’re a debut author.
So, the rest of this post is strictly for those of you who plan to self-publish your novel and need to write your own BCC. It’s actually a lot of fun, in my personal opinion. I’ve actually come up with a template that you can use when creating your BCC, but keep in mind that the template can be reworked and rearranged to meet the individual needs of your project.
Step One: Start with a hook.
The hook needs to introduce an interesting element of your story to the potential reader, while remaining vague enough to keep them reading. Usually it’s a stand-alone word or sentence. The hook isn’t entirely necessary, though. You can definitely get away with jumping right into the meat of your BCC. But it does add a little something extra. If you want, you can move the hook to the end of your BCC, using it as a closing line instead of an opening one. This is actually what I’ve done with the BCC of The Forbidden Prophecy, which is my soon-to-be-published debut novel.
Step Two: Introduce your protagonist and the backdrop of your story.
When talking about your protagonist, mention their age and/or any interesting facts about them. As for the backdrop, it can be the physical location that your story takes place in, or it can be the emotional backdrop your story is set against.
It doesn’t matter whether you introduce the protagonist or backdrop first. If you feel like the backdrop of your story is extremely important and that it would catch a potential reader’s attention more than your protagonist, then start with that. If your protagonist is more interesting, however, then I’d recommend you kick off this section of your BCC by talking about them.
Step Three: Introduce the inciting incident.
This is the moment that changes things for the protagonist. It can be a good change, or a bad change, but it does need to be some kind of change.
Step Four: Describe the new normal.
Here, you need to tell the potential reader what happens after the inciting incident. What things go right for the protagonist, and what things go wrong. Give the potential reader a brief glimpse into the protagonist’s life after this big thing has happened to them. This step also introduces any other characters that will be important in the novel, either by name or by the idea of them.
Step Five: Introduce the twist.
Things can’t stay the same forever, or else this would be a very boring story. So tell the potential reader how the protagonist’s new normal is thrown off balance—but remember, keep this vague, too. You don’t want to give away the climax or any big plot twists. All you want to do is introduce the potential reader to the idea of the big problem.
Make sure to keep in mind that, while writing the BCC, you need to keep it under 200 words (150 is the best word count to shoot for). Keep it vague, like I mentioned before, so that the potential reader can’t figure out how the story will end just by reading the BCC. Also, don’t make it one solid block of text. Break it up into paragraphs, so that the potential reader doesn’t feel intimidated by it and instead is able to get through it quickly and easily. And make sure to write it in present tense, even if the book itself isn’t written in present tense. It gives off the impression that the events of the book are happening right here, right now, as opposed to having happened in the past. It makes the BCC engaging to the potential reader, and encourages action on their part.
“But how do I make my back cover copy interesting? I don’t want it to sound like every other one out there,” you say. My answer is that all BCCs will sound similar, because they all use basically the same format. They use this same format because it’s one that works. It gets the necessary information to the potential reader quickly and concisely. However, there are a couple of things you can do to make yours stand out. First, you can make sure to mention the things that make your novel interesting and unique. Talk about the things your book has that others don’t. And second, you can use your own voice to write it. By this I mean you shouldn’t get all scholarly if that isn’t your writing style, because it’ll give potential readers the wrong impression of what reading your book will be like. Your personal writing voice is unique because it’s yours, and writing in it will make your BCC feel unique, as well.
And that’s it for today! Make sure you check back in tomorrow for Day 28, which will be our final week-in-review, where I’ll tell you about all of the prepping I’ve done this week. And if that doesn’t interest you, then I’ll see you on Sunday for Day 29, which is about finding a literary agent!