Ask BHP: Who writes the description on the back of a book?

We had a fun question come in asking, “How does the description on the back of a book get written? Do authors write it, or is it Bethany House?”

My name is Rachael and I work in the marketing department at Bethany House. Many of you know me as the Instagram coordinator, but my main job is the company’s copywriter. I’m dropping in today to answer this question because writing book descriptions is one of my greatest responsibilities.

If you’ve never heard the title “copywriter” before, I like to describe it as being the person who writes nearly everything that’s not inside a book. If you see web or print ads, emails, and author bookmarks with our logo on it, that was me! Of all the copy I write, though, back covers are my personal favorite! Not only do I get to spend a portion of my work day reading our upcoming releases, but I also get to interact with our authors and the editorial team to make sure I delivered the plot in the most compelling way possible.

I thought it would be fun to give you a glimpse into what my process looks like when writing a book blurb, while also showing you a few of the back covers of our June releases!

The first part of my process is to read the book—right now, I’m working on our November releases. When I’m reading, I take notes of important plot points, the characters’ emotional drivers, and captivating phrases. Then I use those notes to really think about the book. What is the reader going to experience when reading this story? Who will they be? Who will they fall in love with? What emotions will they experience while reading? What is the main conflict? Then I use all of this to start my summary.

When an author proposes a new book or series to us, they will write a synopsis which gives us a rough summary of the book and an idea of who the characters are. And though we don’t use a lot of this for the back cover copy, I do like to read these when writing that copy to look for any intriguing phrases or descriptions that I can fit in.

The reason we don’t use an author’s synopsis is because it is so different from the back cover copy. A synopsis is essentially a timeline of the plot, whereas the blurb I write is intended to sell an experience to a potential reader—it’s less about plot and more about escaping through the life of another. Once a reader is drawn to a cover, the back cover copy is what convinces them to pick up the book which is why it’s so important to make it as absorbing as possible.

When I’m finished writing the back cover copy, I run it by the author. It’s important to me that they feel confident in what we are delivering to their readers, and that they also believe it perfectly captures the essence of their story. If they want to make changes, we work together to brainstorm different wording and phrases. Once they give their thumbs-up, it goes on to their marketing and editorial teams for approval. These teams are also making sure that the blurb is engaging and well-worded, and our proofreader fixes any grammatical mistakes.

It doesn’t end there, though! This back cover copy is taken through yet another review process once it’s designed. We see proofs of the copy on the designed back cover (like in the images above). In this stage, multiple teams (editorial, marketing, and design) are reviewing the copy and design one last time and are now asking questions like, Does the text look too crowded? Do we need to use different colors or fonts? Do the images on the back flow with the front? When the copy makes it to the designed back cover, I’ve had some time away from it and use this opportunity to re-read it and make any last-minute changes to what I’ve written.

Then, a few months later, I get to hold the book in my hands and celebrate another exciting release!

What back cover pulled you in recently?

9 thoughts on “Ask BHP: Who writes the description on the back of a book?

  1. Fascinating. I thought the author wrote the back copy! What fun to read early copies and try to succinctly write the copy without giving away too much and trying to entice the reader!
    I just finished The Heart’s charge, am now reading Foxglove Manor and my next read is Power Play! The back cover copy on these books had me drooling to get started!

  2. Very interesting to know! I love the back covers of the three books in this thread, they for sure would draw me into wanting to find out more about the title.

  3. Thanks for this peek into the process, Rachael! Even though I’ve been through the process several times, I didn’t quite know how the blurb was developed or how it moved through the editing process. Can’t wait to see what you create for my first BHP book. 🙂

    • Yes, in a way. I remember when I wrote the back cover copy for On the Cliffs of Foxglove Manor, I felt like the front cover evoked so much emotion that I wanted to use powerful and haunting words to match it.

      It really is a dream job! I initially wanted to work in editorial so that I could read all day, but I wanted to write at the same time–this way I get the best of both worlds. 🙂

      Rachael
      BHP Copywriter

  4. This has been very informative. Thanks so much for explaining the process. After reading the blurb on the back of On The Cliffs of Foxglove Manor, I want to read it ASAP!!

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