Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Back Cover Copy or Synopsis

Like most readers, when I'm searching for my next novel, I'll read the back cover copy--the story description--to help me decide if I want to choose that book. What I expect from that description is a teaser, some kind of  hook that will propel me into the story so the journey can surprise me. I do not want the entire story laid out. Still, that's a trend I've noticed in many book descriptions.

I recently read a novel that described five plot points on the back cover copy, points I assumed would be dealt with in the first third of the novel, at the latest. Rather, the first point didn't occur until page 80, and the final one on page 280 in a 328 page book. That description didn't tease the reader, rather it gave a synopsis. I didn't even have to read the book to know what was going to happen. Talk about disappointing.

Now, I actually enjoyed the story. The writing was beautiful and the characters well thought out, but there were no surprises, no twists, because the description revealed them all. The back cover copy could have / should have been written as a teaser, not a tell all. Had that been done, my entire perception of the novel would have changed. Rather than being a so-so book because of it's predictability, it could have been a page-turner with its unique twists.

Needless to say, this trend perplexes and disappoints me.

Has anyone else noticed this trend? Why do you think publishers are writing descriptions this way? Does it bother you?


  1. Absolutely agree, Bren. I maybe read two sentences of the back cover copy. Make it brief and pointed without revealing too much. The only way I read more is if I'm really not that attracted to the book and am deciding whether or not to take the plunge. I don't want a synopsis for sure, and I've seen some novels give serious plot points that shouldn't be revealed in their back cover copy. Sometimes I'll give the book a pass because I already know the story. This is probably the only place I agree "less is better". ;)

    1. Less is definitely better when it comes to back cover copy. The brief story description is a major determinant for whether I want to read a book or not. I do not want the major plot points revealed to me. I may as well read Cliffs Notes.

  2. Brenda, Such an insightful, TRUE post. Publishers take note! I can count the times I've read cover copy that gives everything away and turns it into a very predictable read. Less is better, for sure. LOL about the Cliffs Notes! But no joke, truly! Personally, I've read very poorly written copy that makes me cringe (sad for both author and reader). Thankfully, Revell is good at sending authors copy to change as they wish. Still, it's hard to alter someone's else's writing, if you know what I mean. I do tweak things occasionally but now will do so with more boldness, keeping what you've said in mind here.

    Lorna S. is a master at cover copy. For my upcoming book, she created a few lines that tell everything and yet nothing;)

    Two sisters. One man. When he chooses one, will the other destroy their love?

    It is succinct and works well. Let's hope it shows up on the book!

    Another fun thing, have you tried to write cover copy for your WIP? It's harder than you think. That's one reason I admire Lorna so much. Anyway, thanks for a great post. You always make things shine:)

    1. Laura, I'm so glad I'm not alone in seeing this. It just bothered me so much last week when I read that book that could have been good if I hadn't been given every plot point. How very sad for the author.

      You're right about Lorna Seilstad being excellent at writing blurbs that intrigue, but are pithy. I've written cover copy for each of my finished works. Lorna takes what I've written and makes it sing. So glad she's my critique partner!

      And I am very intrigued by your hook line. (I didn't realize Lorna came up with that--I shouldn't be surprised, though.) I can't wait till LOVE'S RECKONING comes out!

      Thanks for stopping by, Laura. :)

  3. Please forgive the typos...early here this morning:)

    1. Forgiven! Isn't it just like authors to want to edit our comments?