How to Write a Blurb/Back Cover Copy

Last night, SFWA did the big online show to announce our Nebula finalists. Killian got to play a special role in a guest appearance as a catterfly, a denizen of Planet Friend. Isn’t he adorable?

But catterflys aren’t our topic at the SFF Seven this week. Pity. Instead, we’re discussing blurbs and how to write better ones.

Now, there’s some confusion out there about exactly what a “blurb” is. In traditional publishing, a blurb is what one author says about another. Along the lines of “Golly gee whiz, this book was better than espresso brownies!” In indie circles, self-published authors tend to call the book description a blurb, whereas the trad community refers to it as the back cover copy or BCC.

Taking my cue from KAK yesterday, I’m going with the BCC definition. Except there’s no freaking way I’m going to write that before I write the book. My writer brain doesn’t work that way. However, I can give advice on how to write your BCC.

The Basics

The BCC structure is very simple and looks like this for a book with romance:

Paragraph 1: What the protagonist wants, why they want it, and why they can’t have it. Should include both external and internal conflicts, if present.
Paragraph 2: What the other protagonist wants, why they want it, and why they can’t have it. Should include both external and internal conflicts, if present.
Paragraph 3: How these two intersect, make each other’s lives more difficult, and present a threat to them ever getting what they want.

Boom. Done.


Level Up

Once you have the basic stuff in there – and I just sketch it in to get the structure and dynamics – then I polish it up. Remember: while you want to give a sense of the story to the reader, you also want to entice. Exact details are less important than posing intriguing questions. Hint at secrets and drama. Resist naming too many names or places. Those aren’t important at this stage. A sense of who the characters are and the challenges they face are what matter. Make sure the genre is clear. Choose vivid, active words. Make it sizzle and excite!


Advanced Tricks

Once you have it polished and seductive, see if you can slip in some keywords for the genre. Think what readers might search for. References tropes. (Then go back and polish so it sounds good.)

First Cup of Coffee – November 17, 2022

Some background on the difference between Back Cover Copy (BCC) and blurbs, how BCC remains the property of a publisher, even if rights are reverted, and what is a big NO to a publisher trying to retain.

First Cup of Coffee – June 10, 2022

A bit about how to write back cover copy (BCC), otherwise known as blurbs, and why there’s confusion. Also several kinds of good news for me, plus the fabulous effect of gushing reader recommendations.

Good morning, everyone! Gracious. This is Jeffe Kennedy author of epic romantic fantasy and I’ve lost my first cup of coffee here. We go I was shifting around. Looking for the correct spot to be in. Um today is say it with me Friday woo June tenth yeah good day. I’m still running a bit behind today. Not as much as I was yesterday but um, taking it easy, not pushing too hard. We went for a walk this morning and I did my run so that was great and feeling good feeling good I um. Hope you all are feeling good.

I have things eating plants in my garden which is annoying me though. Alas, maybe time for the purge of the rodentia. So um, so yeah I got the book. Uploaded yesterday. It’s ready to go release on Monday woohoo. Thank you. Everyone for all those preorders. They’ve really been going up the last few days now that you know that I’m actually going to finish the series hope you all like it. Um, yeah, so it was good to get that done I had kind of a different day yesterday I did a lot of businessy things did writer coffee um got this podcast up late as as predicted. But I got it up and ended up not going to in-person yoga unfortunately because I had a few things I had to get done. Um, and I’ve still got to finish a few of them today writing that new backcover copy for the covenant of Thorn’s books I need to just plow through it I did look I did peek. At the bcc on the first one and this is one of those weird terminology things because the traditional publishers call it the back cover copy or the bcc but sometimes even with other authors I’ll say bcc and they don’t know what I mean. Um. So it’s clearly industry jargon of limited usefulness and a lot of people call it the blurb and I recall doing that as um, when I was purely a reader when I would you know be looking at stuff and I would say oh you know the blurb. Blurb on the back of the book. But we also talk about the thing on the front. That’s like the pimping from other authors is the blurb right? You know we’re you know, like the during the jones says this is the best book I’ve ever read. We also called out the blurb so it gets confusing. But any rate I need to write those I did do some other stuff for corine so that we could get out the next dispatch from Jeffe’s closet and we’ll do the cover reveal for the Covenant of Thorn’s books in there lizard going by on the wall. Doing his dominance display for me. They do this little thing that looks like pushups and go up. It’s very cute. That’s it. That’s all right? I’m not gonna get your territory so and another cool thing happened yesterday. So I do have this? um.

Google Search set up for my name and it it’s of limited usefulness but I get it usually picks up this podcast. It sends me stuff. That’s just mentions I used to do very early on I did like mentions for my book titles. But that ended up being like. Totally not useful. Ah, one thing I learned is that oneword titles are really hard for search engine optimization. They’re really cool and I did them at first but they actually suck for people being able to find your books. And so you’ll like that first book I did with Corina Press Back in the day sapphire which I now have rights back to and need to upload. One thing at a time. Um I used to have a Google search for that because it was early days and I you know I wanted to go in. About my books that people heard and so I had it set up for just sapphire and then got garbage results and I had it sapphire plus Kennedy and then I started getting all these weird Google alerts for mentions of like. Jewelry sapphire jewelry and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis that was like everything I would get so finally I just ditched that one but this one brings me um, you know, fairly useful stuff and every everyone’s well it gives us gold gives me gold. So I saw this yesterday. Um, that’s a Reddit’s read that this gal put up a couple of days ago and it’s just so cool I have to share it with you ah, because she said I have found my fantasy romance white whale dark wizard by Jeffe Kennedy and she put it under gush slash recommendation. She says the further I read the more checks on my perfect fantasy romance check-list were ticked off I had to tell some one so my white whale book was an adult fantasy romance with dark themes political intrigue and great smut scenes. The premise was to be in a magical world where the hero and heroine have to be magically bonded for reasons. And either one or both of them don’t want the bond preferably with a heroine who is strong but in a smart cunning way. Not a feisty way and with a hero who is powerful and dominant without being an arrogant arsehole hard checklist 1 I didn’t think I could get all of but dark wizard fulfilled it. And she says the blurb the blurb gives a great feel for the book. However, from reading it, you might think the hero is going to be obsessed with revenge and treat the heroine like crap a common trope but that is not the case he is such a sweetheart to her. He didn’t grow up in high society like her so he sees the horrible laws of the convocation.

The government for what they are he sees how unjustly familiars like the heroine are treated and wants to change things. He also respects her knowledge mallet magic and politics. The reason he needed her in the first place to restore his house yet. He is also scary and powerful when needed. And is dominant in the bedroom. So my ideal hero I think that lizard must be down in the leaves. There’s something scrabbling round in there I read the 3 books released so far in four days that is how much I loved this series. Fair warning though, the series is not finished but each book ends in a happily for now. No major cliffhaners and 1 of the really nice things too is like the first comment on there is um, she said jeffe is also a lovely person and somebody else chimed in and said 100% she is amazing. Which thank you? You guys? That’s just warms my heart so I’m I was just thrilled to see that and then lots of comments on there with people saying souls going to read this now. And you guys would not believe my um sales jumped hugely for that book I mean massively just today because I hadn’t been looking at them because I as you know if you’ve been listening. You know I’ve been busy so I went looked at at Amazon and. Yeah, my sales hugely jumped hugely yesterday and or usuallyly two days ago after she posted that and then even more yesterday. So thank you thank you readers who gush like that that makes all the difference in the world and it’s. The kind of thing that you just can’t engineer right? and so this kind of goes back to some of the stuff I was talking about. Um I don’t know yesterday or Tuesday you know like about wanting to create a new book platform that makes this kind of thing happen I think. Understandably authors are wanting to make this kind of thing happen because it’s so great for getting books out there and getting books into the the hands of the readers who will love them I mean that’s that’s what we really want or at least it’s what I want I think um, some authors are happy to get. Just anyone to read them. But I always am looking to get them to the readers who who will love them and I thought it was funny because this the the op that’s what we say on Reddit because we are hip and cool. The original poster.

She replied in some of the comments saying that um that she was surprised when she went to goodreads to see that I was not a more popular author it was something like that it it she didn’t mean it mean right? but it was um. So then they were talking about some of my other series saying that they had just discovered me um, somebody else said they’d just gone on a big run of my books. Maybe it wasn’t the O p.

Maybe it doesn’t matter exactly what she said I won’t go through this this whole thread.

Here I am going through the whole thread. It’s just nice reading all the happy comments. Um, anyway, yeah there there was this reference to like why haven’t I heard of her before I like I don’t know. But um i. It’s always a mystery right? So but it made me happy make me happy of day. You know it’s just um, done. That’s it’s just amazing getting that kind of thing. Um. But you know you can’t you I feel like internet marketers are always trying to create this sort of thing because it does have such a huge impact you know so they’re always trying to do this thing where they like access influencers and get influencers to recommend stuff and gush about stuff and. Maybe this is you know it goes way older because you know it’s like um room the oldversals remember those I’m not a doctor but I play one on Tv and I recommend um, you know it’s that ah someone that you trust. Recommending a thing even if it’s just you trust them because they’re a celebrity you recognize you like the character that they play or or that sincere gushing that I love love love to sing it. It ticked all of my boxes. Um, Grace and I when we recommend books to each other. We often talk about catnip you know oh this is your catnap. So I understand the temptation to try to create this for everybody. But. You know because it’s so awesome when it happens but part of why it’s awesome is because it is unforced and spontaneous and um, people recognize that people recognize the the honest gushing recommendation. It is funny. If you go to that thread and I will link to it. Um, ah hang on I had something in my eye there. Um, and now the flo thought has fled the plot. What was I going to say chich.

This one I wish I could rewind hold on now I thought of it sometimes I just need a minute right? have to pause and think ah one of the other things that’s funny about that thread is that somebody else commented popped in there and so. Recommended a totally different author and series and the op was all thanks for the wreck and you could kind of hear in her tone being like but I didn’t ask for recommendations I was here to talk about this book that I love and recommended it to other and recommend it to other people. I didn’t want your recommendation and the recommendation is for these books that are actually do not tick the do not tick the boxes. That’s one of the funny things because the person. Um, let’s see if I could find oh yeah, they said um. I’m a picky reader and really enjoyed it and it seems to align with what you’re looking for. But um, I’ve read that book and reader it does not ah so I mean I liked it I liked it. Fine. It’s a classic. Um. But it’s it’s a phenomenon assistant Carien and I talk about a lot how people just want to be able to recommend a book. They want to be able to recommend something anything and and this particular book is like sixteen years old which is you know, nothing wrong with that. But at the same time It’s like yeah, but by now most people will have I mean there’s going to be some exceptions but most people who wanted to read it will will have read it. Um, green green mentioned that it has been sitting in her tbr pile. Um. Pretty much since it came out ah or actually it’s a different one by that same author that she said that has been in her has been a tbr orphan as we say the books that go into your 2 b red pile and then languish their little orphans because. We somehow never pick them up and you know it’s like after a certain point you know, maybe you’ve read the thing. Maybe you haven’t whatever I also got some. It’s funny I’ll go like for a long time with like. Feel like is anybody out there reading my books I hear nothing and then things will happen all at once but I got a note from my first agency the one that sold ah my original Twelve kingdoms books and they said that my publisher Kensington.

Had renewed the serial rights on The Mark of the Tala and and and she said my agent. She’s the head of the agency now. So she just like handles financial stuff on those books for me and Laurie McLean at at fus. She’s great and. Laurie said um she said this is really a great thing for a book as long in the tooth as The Mark of the Tala which I thought was kind of funny and that came out in 2014 so and and i. I asked her I said well what does this mean and I forwarded it to my current agent Sarah Younger at Nancy Yost literary to give her equal billing and I said what does it mean which is funny because at this point in my career. It’s not often that I come across some kind of right sale. That I have no idea what it means and so Sarah said it’s probably for something like radish that the first serial is before publication and the second serial is after but Laurie McLean said something slightly different. She said oh well, it’s probably for. Being excerpted into a book or textbook and which would be really cool. So Laurie is checking to see what it is and I mean it’s it’s like $40 you guys. It’s like it’s not like a so lot of money. But um, it is cool and one thing that Sarah said was. You know that is great although not promising for getting rights backs and I ah I was like I am just never going to get rights back on those books because they they continue to sell and that’s one of the criteria for rights or version is like if they’re no longer in print if they’re no longer for sale. If if the sales aren’t reaching a certain threshold so you know it’s one of those good bad things. You know it’s great that they continue to sell um never getting those rights back but you know since I just got the rights back on ten books I’m busy for a little while so one of my. Big projects for today is to write the new backc cover copy blurb for the covenant thorns books I have to do 3 of them and it’s just not a fun task and I ran out of bandwidth yesterday I started one and if you want tips on doing that. Um. I only have a couple one of them is that you focus on who’s the character. What do they want? Why can’t they have it and you could do it for both characters. In this case, it’s first person point of view. So I’ll write it in that first person point of view and you try to kind of capture the same tone and feel of the book.

And then one way that I do it is I just like write it all out first and then tweak it I just sort of like try to get it all down and then fix it ah because otherwise you could just spend forever on it and then I’m going to start going through rogues spawn and. Doing a bit of editing I’d like to get that done today and Monday before I go on this trip and I still haven’t asked if I can talk about where I’m going and what I’m doing. So um I will have to do that today as well. So um, yeah. Should be a fun weekend should be pretty laid back I hope you all are looking forward to a weekend full of all the things you want or empty of the things that you don’t want and I will talk to you all on Monday take care bye bye.

Being Careful with Back Cover Copy – Especially Sequels!

003I have this sentimental love for Easter lilies. Especially at this time of year. Though I don’t really do anything else Easter, I always buy an Easter lily.

Back cover copy for books is a funny realm. Referred to casually as the “BCC” in the publishing biz, those are the (usually) two paragraphs on the back of paper books, or accompanying the description with the eBook. If you’re much of a reader, you’ve probably read hundreds of these in your life. You spot the book on the shelf and pick it up. Maybe you like the author or the title intrigues you or the cover catches your eye. What’s the next thing you do? That’s right – flip it over and read the BCC. Then you might read the inside jacket copy, which is longer. Then maybe the first page. Same essential process with an eBook.

So the BCC is considered crucial in the buying decision – a position that’s hard to argue with. And, like with covers, authors only get so much input into what the BCC says. The marketing people keep a firm grip on this and it can be fascinating to see how they phrase concepts to entice readers. For example, this is my final BCC for Platinum.

Althea Grant is doing fine. Sure, her Charleston gallery is suffering from the bad economy, and her artistic aspirations have gone nowhere. But she’s happy enough. When rugged metal sculptor Steel rides up on his motorcycle looking to rent studio space, his infusion of cash is more than welcome. But his art is raw, visceral, sexual-and completely inappropriate for her pastel world of watercolor landscapes.

Steel, fascinated by Althea’s rare albino coloring, sees in her the key to his next piece: a metal satyr that can be used for bondage games. Moving into her gallery basement is the first step; seducing the coolly polite lady into modeling for him is the second.

As Steel peels away her careful manners and tasteful outfits, Althea begins to realize her life isn’t just fine at all-it’s as pale and washed-out as the watercolor paintings she’s failing to sell. Can she transform her life and accept her most secret desires?

What happens is, a person who works for Carina writes the BCC and sends it to me and my editor for input. We come up with all sorts of changes, most of which they refuse. For example, we suggested “cool Southern Belle” instead of “coolly polite lady.” Nope. I wanted to call Steel a bad boy. No dice. But the thing we really fought for was to change the final line. The one you see now is one of three possibilities we suggested.

Because what they had originally was a TOTAL SPOILER.


I won’t tell you what it was because, um, it was a total spoiler. But it essentially went “Can she do the thing she does at the end to solve her problems?”

No no no.

Surprisingly, this happens A LOT with BCC. It’s funny because writers really have to learn to say how their stories end, in dealing with the publication process. When you write a synopsis, you *have* to say how it ends. Because it’s crucial to the decision-making process for agents and editors. It’s hard to get over, this “giving-away” of the ending. Like learning to get over standing there naked while a tailor measures you for clothes. But this is how publishing works – and the people in publishing get so inured to this, that they forget not to give the ending away.

So, as the author (or editor), it’s something to really stay on top of.

I saw a new permutation of this the other day. A book had been on my Kindle for quite a while. Along with Carien at Pearls Cast Before a McPig, I’ve bee engaged in the TBR Orphan Project – where each month we read a book that’s been in our To Be Read pile for longer than three months. I saw that the book’s sequel was coming out soon, so I thought, ooh! good timing to read the first book.

I started it, got about 20% in and was liking it fine, not love love love, but just fine. Then I happened to see the BCC for the second book.

And it totally ruined it for me.

No lie.

The BCC for book 2 totally gave away the ending of book 1. Blatantly. Along the lines of “now that these terrible things happened to the heroine and now that the hero hates her and is struggle to recover from these terrible things…” I stopped reading book 1 immediately. Deleted it from my Kindle. I couldn’t keep reading, knowing how it turned out.

Now, you could argue that if I’d known it would have a happy ending, I might have kept going. Maybe? It depends on how how it was described. But this BCC was so explicit that it removed too much mystery from the story.

I don’t know if the author realized, or if she and her editor fought to change it and couldn’t. But wow.

Definitely something to keep in mind.