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Judging a Book By Its Back Cover Blurb: Writing Back Cover and Series Blurbs That Sizzle–and Sell! by Karen Wiesner

Fact 1: Readers judge books by their back cover blurbs just as they might a cover.

Fact 2: Authors and publishers want them to! To have a reader judge a book by its back cover blurb is our goal.

The only problem with this is that we want readers to judge our books to be worthy of taking the risk of buying and reading it, not the opposite. For that very reason, an *effectively good* back cover blurb is absolutely crucial to our success.

Let’s define our terms before we go any further. An effectively good blurb either is effectively good in making a reader open the book or it’s not. That’s the bottom line, and all that matters. A blurb can be good and not effective, or effective and not good, but either it’s both or it won’t work. End of story. (That could be literal, you know.)

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter a whit if it’s long or short or somewhere in-between. We have a misconception these days that being short by definition makes a blurb good and effective while a long blurb is by default in opposition of that, but both flavor-of the-day trends are illusions that you can’t afford to rest on. You can have a thousand word blurb that’s so amazing readers devour it and immediately want to read the book just as you might see a short, punchy blurb that’s incredibly well-written but doesn’t make someone want to read the book. Hence, effectively good means it’s both well-written and makes a person want to read the story inside the pages, not just the back. If a blurb isn’t good enough to make someone want to open the book and read, it’s not effectively good.

Beyond this, most authors don’t realize that there’s a sort of order to the steps that a reader goes through in the process of deciding whether to purchase and read a book. While the first five steps can go in any order and all degrees of importance are completely individual to the preferences of the reader, the steps are critical for all authors, publishers and distributors to note and address, since overlooking even one can mean the difference between a lot of sales and little or none.

Visualize a reader either in a physical bookstore or a virtual one like our publisher’s website or that of a distributor like Amazon. Your reader is perusing a selection of books, interested but not yet motivated to buy. Now imagine that each of the steps below elicits a rating scale in the reader’s brain that she might not even be aware has been triggered. Each step can get a rating of anywhere from 1 (drop-it-like-a-hot-potato bad) to 10 (do-not-pass-go-buy now!).

The initial scan of a book will factor in all of the following steps, in any order depending on reader preferences:

Step 1: Author.

Some readers are loyal and buy anything and everything by certain authors. If they’re obsessed with the author, that’s all that’s needed to prompt a purchase sometimes. If this isn’t a must-buy author, then the author will play a large, small or anywhere in-between role in whether the rating the reader unconsciously gives is high or low.


Step 2: Cover.

A lot of people think cover art plays such a huge role in whether or not someone will buy a book that there may be an overcompensation in the industry and thousands of dollars may be spent (needlessly? a moot point) on cover art. The fact is, some readers might be turned off by certain covers, for a variety of reasons that may or may not have anything to do with how attractive or high quality the cover actually is. From my point of view strictly as a reader, while something that catches my eye will be given the full evaluation, a cover that doesn’t appeal to me much doesn’t automatically put the book out of the running. Regardless of what the cover looks like, if I’m interested in the book for any other reason, like the other steps in this process, I’ll give it a closer look. Even if I hate a cover–because it’s ugly or the design is of poor quality–I may buy a book if the other factors I prize get the thumbs up. But I know cover art does play a larger part in some reader’s buying decisions, so it’s something I have to be aware of and address as an author.


Step 3. Genre.

Many readers have only certain categories they’re interested in reading in, some only one. Most of the writers I know read everything, or read in a lot of different categories. But genre does play a factor in whether or not to buy for many readers. So genre will play a large, small or anywhere in-between role in whether the rating the reader gives this step a high or low.


Step 4. Book size/word count.

I’ve heard readers say they never read anything shorter than novel, not even in a collection, mainly because they believe the reader won’t or can’t create a fully-fleshed out story in the page limitations. Others won’t read anything that’s too big and intimidates them on size alone because, after all, if you can’t say something concisely, then maybe it’s not worth saying at all. In this step, extremes in either direction are almost always what tip the balance in favor of or against a buy.


Step 5. Title.

While there are very few people who would dismiss a book from consideration on the sole basis of the title, or even buy one because of a good one, this is a factor, however small, in a book purchase. Some people would never buy a book if the title was too racy or implied a subject matter they’re not interested in or they’re flat out against. On the other hand, I have a friend, humorous mystery author Christine DeSmet, who always comes up with these amazing titles: Misbehavin’ in Moonstone, When the Dead People Brought a Dish-to-Pass, Five-Alarm Fudge, All She Wore Was a Bow, Hot Fudge Frame-Up… You get the picture. Her clever titles crack me up and entice me to want to read the stories. Others might have other examples, but titles play their part in making the decision to buy, however slight that part is.

As I said, these five steps can register in a reader’s brain in any order and with varying degrees of importance, all based on individual preference. That book can have any conceivable amount of stars, from 0 to 50 at this point, after this first scan is completed. Anything really low will probably be dropped back on the stack (or the page left on a website) without further ado. Now, imagine, if all five of these factors result in a good amount of stars (the book in question has 50 possible stars that could be awarded–and 50 would practically guarantee the move to the next, most pivotal step…)

The Turning Point…


Step 6: Reading the back cover blurb.

Like it or not, this is almost always the open-or-oust deciding factor for a reader. Either step 6 gets her to open the book and move into the final step in the process, which is reading an excerpt, or all scanning stars are removed and the book is forgotten, ousted from her thoughts, and she moves on to something else, starting the process all over again. This is the get-off-the-fence point, the denouement, the make-or-break, life or death sentence. If the back cover blurb attracts her, she may read an excerpt and that will seal it for her either way. Some readers will buy then and there if the back cover blurb sufficiently excites them, especially if the book already has 50 stars in the decision-making bank (another reason to do everything right and not neglect but address each step successfully).

The sad part is that you can lose a reader completely at any step, at any time, even if she’s bought the book but she doesn’t enjoy it–that will factor into whether you get another sale from her in the future. It behooves us as writers, publishers and distributors to make sure each step is the best it possibly can be.

Every author knows what a back cover blurb is, given its high-profile placement on the back cover of every single print copy of a book and now as the accompaniment of electronic copies of the same. At its crux, a back cover blurb strives to be a concise, breathtaking summary of your entire story that includes the major internal and external conflicts and the goals and motivations of the main character(s). All of these things should and has to make the reader want to know more.

Unfortunately crafting an effectively good back cover blurb is no easy task, and many writers outright dislike writing them, or simply dread the process perhaps because so much is at stake if the blurb fails to engage publishers (if you’re submitting) and readers (after you’re published). Your back cover blurb can make or break a sale to a publisher as well as to potential readers trying to decide whether to fork over the money to purchase your work, given that it’s one of the first glimpses of the story and that glimpse had better be utterly intriguing. You may not get a second chance to capture your audience. Many publishers and certainly readers buy based on a sizzling back cover blurb that convinces them they absolutely have to read the story inside the pages…or they simply set the book down without ever opening it.

But a back cover blurb is only one kind of blurb that authors need to learn to perfect. Two others are also important: The high-concept blurb and a series blurb (if your book is part of a series). Equally important is branding with blurbs and creating them in a variety of sizes for different applications.

Let the award-winning author of over 120 titles, including 18 series, show you how to unravel the secrets to sizzling back cover and series blurbs that will not only be simple to craft but could help you sell your books to publishers and readers alike. You may know Karen Wiesner from her writing reference titles such as the bestselling FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS, BRING YOUR FICTION TO LIFE: Crafting Three-Dimensional Stories with Depth and Complexity, and WRITING THE FICTION SERIES: The Guide for Novels and Novellas, all available now from Writer’s Digest Books. COHESIVE STORY BUILDING is also available from Writers Exchange E-Publishing. Karen’s books cover such genres as women’s fiction, romance, mystery/police procedural/cozy, suspense/thriller, paranormal/supernatural, futuristic, fantasy, science fiction, gothic, inspirational/Christian, thriller, horror, chick-lit, and action/adventure. She also writes children’s books and poetry. She’s crafted back cover blurbs for all of her own books and series as well as those for the stories in several award-winning anthologies, as well as evaluated, revised and crafted series and back cover blurbs for the entire backlist of hundreds of books in one publisher’s catalog . Additionally, Karen writes blurbs for authors with Karen’s Blurb Service (

Join Karen November 13-19, 2017 for her “Writing Back Cover and Series Blurbs That Sizzle–and Sell!” Workshop.  where she’ll cover the need for high-concept blurbs, back cover blurbs, and series blurbs and simple, effective ways to craft them, branding with blurbs along with creating them in a variety of sizes for different applications. Karen will also critique the blurbs of registrants during this busy week.

HUNTER’S BLUES, A Woodcutter’s Grim Series Futuristic Novel

For the ten generations since the evil first came to Woodcutter’s Grim, the Guardians have sworn an oath to protect the town from the childhood horrors that lurk in the black woods. Without them, the town would be defenseless…and the terrors would escape to the world at large.

Return to Karen Wiesner’s award-winning Woodcutter’s Grim, where you first met and fell in love with this terrifying, magical town with its intriguing cast of characters, in an all new novel. Very loosely based on “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” by the Brothers Grimm.

The year is 2093. When the evil in Woodcutter’s Grim unleashed with a vengeance fifty years ago, humans turned into ghouls that avoided the sun and water…and had the innate instinct to contaminate others with their evil. In no time at all, the evil spread and wiped out most of the world’s population before the Protectorate—the guardians sworn to protect Woodcutter’s Grim and those outside against the evil pervading it—came up with a way to hold the threat at bay, not completely but enough to save those few left. In these years, everything has changed, from occupations to marriage. A curfew has been imposed and all live within the heavily-fortressed walls on the Shaussegeny Estate. Few children are born and those that are have a mutated form of dwarfism that makes them barren. Protectorate hunters patrol the world outside in the daylight. They are the last of humanity with no idea how much future they actually have left.

Unofficial Guardian and hunter, Reece Pallaton, wonders what it’s all for and whether he’ll lose everyone he cares about in this endless battle. Fellow Protectorate Brethren, Mishell “Shell” Anderson insists that they can find a cure, a way to survive and push back the evil, that life will someday go back to normal. But Reece is beginning to believe that the battle he and what’s left of humanity are waging can never be won…until he discovers the source of the evil, the mirror that’s only the opposite half of the “glass darkly” world he lives in, and his own terrifying connection to both.

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Karen Wiesner is an accomplished author with 121 titles published in the past 19 years, which have been nominated/won 134 awards, and has 44 more rele...