Don’t treat it as an afterthought: the blurb on the back must persuade readers to buy — and it must do it in around 200 words
I have a confession to make: I loathe writing the back blurb for my books. I put it off and put it off and put it off until my cover designer starts sending up smoke signals. In fact, it’s such an unfavourite job of mine, I even forgot to write about it in my new book when I wrote my first draft.
It’s kind of crucial, though, so here we go.
The blurb on the back is the third most important part of the cover after the front cover design and the title. Why?
Think about what you do when you’re considering buying a new book. The cover catches your eye, so you read the title and subtitle. They hook you and pique your interest, so… you flip the book over and read the back, right?
Then you decide if you want to buy it.
What Is The Back Cover Blurb?
Your back cover blurb isn’t a synopsis (a detailed outline of the book).
It’s not a “celebrity blurb” (a short endorsement by a celebrity or someone prominent in your industry which goes on the front cover).
It’s not a review.
And it’s not a book description (although it may form part of the description you put on Amazon and other sales sites).
The back cover blurb is a sales pitch for your book, so it must be persuasive, captivating, and make the reader want to read on. And it must do all that in around 200 words.
I would have loved a step-by-step instruction manual for writing my back blurbs, but there wasn’t one. So I swore a lot, struggled, hated it, then I made my own guide. Here it is.
5 Steps To Writing A Compelling Back Cover Blurb
- Look at the bestsellers in non-fiction and read their back blurbs. What similarities do they share? What makes them compelling? What makes you want to read on? Make a note of the structure so you can adapt it for your book.
- Put yourself in your reader’s shoes. You’re writing non-fiction, so your reader has a problem to solve or a goal to reach. Start there. Richard Bayan’s Words That Sell back cover blurb shows you immediately that if you struggle to find words that sell your products and services, his book will help you: “More than 6,000 words and phrases that make the difference between “yadda-yadda-yadda” and copy that sells”.
- Make it easy to scan. Most readers will give your back cover blurb around ten seconds to convince them to buy, so it better be easy to read. Bullet points are fantastic for this: pull our your book’s main benefits — three to five is plenty — and pop them on your back cover.
- Write a killer first line. Easier said than done, I know… but check out other non-fiction books for inspiration. Look outside your industry for inspiration. I love this one from Professor Steve Peters: “Your inner Chimp can be your best friend or your worst enemy… this is the Chimp Paradox”. His back cover is intriguing, scannable, and contains celebrity endorsements. Winning!
In short, your back blurb should set out the question, challenge, or problem your reader faces. It should promise answers. And it should let your reader know what they’ll get if they read the book.
Your Book Must Sell Itself
Remember: your book cover is the red lipstick — it must get attention, hook your reader, and persuade them to invest money and time in reading your message.
Your cover isn’t the place to go cheap — it would be tragic to waste all the time and effort you’ve put in writing your book.
Invest in a good cover designer, one who understands the principles behind sales and marketing as well as gorgeous design.
Put time and care into choosing your title.
And make sure the back of your book is a well-written, compelling advertisement that’ll hook your reader in and persuade them to buy.
My new book, called How The Hell Do You Write A Book? will be out soon. But in the meantime, if you want to get cracking, sign up to my daily emails below ⬇⬇