An Important Skill for Every Writer

By W. Terry Whalin

About 25 years ago, my phone rang and it was an editor for a publishing house in Chicago. He asked, “Can you write back cover copy?” The back of a book contains enticing words which sell the reader on the contents inside the book. To write these words involves a specialized writing skill that I have learned.

“Absolutely, I can write back cover copy,” I said yet inside I was trembling because at that point I had never tried it. I received the assignment and the publisher sent the manuscript for the book. I had several days to skim the contents of the book, and then craft the words for the back cover. The payment was a modest $50 per book and in that period I wrote several dozen back covers. There was no publishing “by-line” or credit for my work but I gained valuable experience and increased the diversity for my writing.

Many writers have never tried copywriting or considered it. Possibly you are one of those writers and I want to give you some encouragement to learn this skill and highlight a resource with some additional instruction. Brian Clark, known as copyblogger, defines copywriting as, “one of the most essential elements of effective online marketing. The art and science of copywriting involves strategically writing words that promote a person, product, business, opinion, or idea, with the ultimate intention of having the reader take some form of action. So, whether you're looking to sell something or to build traffic by earning links from others, you’ll need to tell compelling stories that grab attention and connect with people so that they’ll respond the way you want.”

Whether you are writing a book proposal or a query letter or an ad for your website or a sample back cover for your book or any number of other types of writing, learning copywriting will help you put power and persuasion into your writing. Every writer needs this skill. If you are a fiction writer you need to learn good storytelling skills--and nonfiction writers need to learn to tell stories. In addition, every writer needs to learn to add the power of copywriting to their set of skills.

For many years I’ve read and reviewed many how-to-write books on a wide variety of topics—but I’ve never seen a single book on writing back cover copy—until I read Shelley Ring’s excellent book, HOW TO WRITE BACK COVER COPY THAT SELLS.

In seconds, every author needs to capture the attention of their readers. The back cover of your book are some of the most important words written to sell your book—in the bookstore or online. As Ring explains in her book, “Each chapter of How to Write Back Cover Copy walks you step-by-step through the creation of your copy package. Putting together the copy package first allows you to cement your non-fiction ideas and message, work through your fiction plot, develop your character arc, and strengthen your motivation. Much like a synopsis, writing the summaries first also keeps you on track as you complete the book or fiction novel.” (Page 6)

Ring has written back covers for traditional publishers and indie authors. Whether you are writing nonfiction or fiction, you will learn valuable insights in this well-crafted book. I loved the appendix which contains simple templates every writer can use for key aspects of the creative process. I highly recommend HOW TO WRITE BACK COVER COPY THAT SELLS.

Many writers need this skill of copywriting. Have you studied copywriting? How did you learn this skill? If you have other resources, please let me know in the comments below. 


It is an important skill for every writer. Discover the details and resources here. (Click to Tweet)

W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. His work contact information is on the bottom of the second page (follow this link).  One of his books for writers is Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams, Insider Secrets to Skyrocket Your Success.  He lives in Colorado and has over 205,000 twitter followers.

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1 comment:

Karen Cioffi said...

This is something all authors should know about. The back cover helps sell the book. I've taken copywriting through AWAI and read a number of books on it, but never anything specifically on back cover copy. Sounds interesting.

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