Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Writing the Jacket Copy

For most book buyers, there is a specific process we follow when deciding whether to buy a book.

  • First, we look at the book cover--both the title and art
  • If the cover interests us enough, we flip over to the back and read the jacket copy.  (For hardcovers, you find the jacket copy on the inside cover.) 

I helped to write the jacket copy for Whisper Falls.  I expected it to be hard, and I was right. There is so much to achieve in approximately one hundred words.

Obviously, we want to intrigue the reader enough that they want to read the story. We have to touch on the book's setting, identify the main characters, and hint at the struggle they are facing. But we can't reveal any plot twists.

I had a really hard time with that last part.  It took three tries for me to hint without revealing.  (Thanks to my cousin Llewellyn for helping with Try III. That version did the trick.)

Lastly, I read it out loud to ensure it flowed smoothly and then sent it off to Spencer Hill for their approval.

Here is the final version of the jacket copy for Whisper Falls.

While training for a mountain bike race, high-school senior Mark Lewis spots a mysterious girl dressed in odd clothing, standing behind a waterfall in the woods near his North Carolina home. When she comments on the strange machine that he rides, he suspects something isn't right. When Susanna claims to be an indentured servant from 1796, he wonders if she's crazy. Yet he feels compelled to find out more.

[The first paragraph gives the setting(s), background on the two main characters, and enough detail to identify the genre/subgenre of the book.]

Mark enters a 'long-distance' relationship with Susanna through the shimmering--and temperamental--barrier of Whisper Falls. Curious about her world, Mark combs through history to learn about the brutal life she's trapped in. But knowledge can be dangerous. Soon he must choose between the risk of changing history or dooming the girl he can't stop thinking about to a lifetime of misery.

[The second provides insight into the struggle in the story that the protagonist will be battling.  I hint at the problem without revealing any major plot points.]

I hadn't seen the cover art when I drafted the jacket copy, but I love how much they "match".

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