Today on the blog we have a special guest: Anna Henke, a writer who’s an expert in the magic of intriguing and hooking readers with fantastic copy. Readers, enjoy this inside peek at another part of the publishing process, and writers, read on to learn why it matters to craft those marketing sentences perfectly.
Amy: Tell us about your background in the world of publishing and copywriting.
Anna: I worked as a copywriter at Bethany House for six years before branching out into my own copywriting business, The Resident Writer, where I serve self-published authors by creating cover copy that captures attention. I’m now broadening my clientele to include a wider range of creative people, but books have always held my heart. That’s why I got into publishing in the first place.
Amy: How is the blurb on the back cover different from the synopsis of a book that authors include in their manuscript proposal?
Anna: It’s so different! Or at least it should be. The synopsis of the book is just a play-by-play of what’s going to happen. The blurb on the back needs to be strategically written to give out just enough nuggets to entertain and intrigue without giving away any twists or surprises. The cover copy should set the stage, not tell the story. That’s my approach for fiction.
Amy: That’s a great way of putting it. You’ve mentioned the need for strategy…so why does back cover copy matter from your perspective?
Anna: It matters because it’s what seals the deal for most people! The author or the cover draws them in, whether they are buying in person or online. But it’s the blurb on the back that reveals just enough of the story that determines whether a purchase is made. If the purchase is being made online, the description is even more critical. Think about the last time you bought a book online. Sure, you clicked on the cover. But what made you really want the book? THE DESCRIPTION. It’s everything.
Amy: As a reader myself, I totally agree with that. Thinking about writing that description, it seems like a huge challenge to take a full novel and condense it into just a paragraph or two. Where do you usually start, and what does your process look like from there? Or is it different for each book?
Anna: I obviously start by reading the manuscript. I make a few notes of phrases I like for taglines and major plot points. Then I sit down with those notes and really have a think. What is the most compelling part of this book? What leads up to that? Anything beyond that point I completely leave off the cover. I try to match the tone to that of the author’s, which is when my notes come in handy. I also like to use an actual phrase from the book as a headline if possible. I just let it flow from that point!
Amy: You make it sound so easy, but I know from talking to writers and editors that it’s not! 🙂 Are there any common mistakes you see when authors write their own copy?
Anna: The most common mistake is treating back cover copy like a standard synopsis instead of a marketing blurb. It all goes back to your second question. They are two different things. Many authors just summarize the book and leave it at that. But it needs to be compelling. It should represent the book well. And also, genre really matters for cover copy. Authors should research bestselling blurbs in their niche before writing their own, because each genre has patterns that should be followed unless you want to stick out like a sore thumb.
Thanks for joining us, Anna! Readers, do you notice the copy on book covers? (There’s a person behind it—and if it’s from a traditional publisher, it’s not the author. It’s probably a copywriter like Anna.) Writers, is there anything you’ve ever wanted to ask a copywriter? Let Anna know in the comments!
Anna Henke is the woman behind the blog and the business The Resident Writer. With a background in publishing and copywriting, she helps female entrepreneurs clarify their message, connect with their ideal clients, and capture sales through captivating copy that converts. Learn more and at www.theresidentwriter.com.