The Self-Publishing Process

Writing Attention-Grabbing Back Cover Copy for Your Novel

You nailed the front cover of your novel, but what's next on the list? Your back cover! Here's how to develop attention-grabbing back cover copy.

Your front cover design is what sparks a reader’s attention. The back cover summary of your novel will help book buyers decide if they want to purchase and read your book. To capture book shoppers’ attention, you’ll need a good hook. The challenge, however, is doing that with such limited space.

How to do it

  1. Sell it. If you’re familiar with the phrase “elevator pitch” that is the same approach you should take to your back cover. You have a brief window of time to sell your novel from the time a potential buyer picks your book off the shelf to the moment he or she decides to purchase it or put it back. The trick is, you won’t be standing next to your book to sell it, you must rely on your back cover copy to do that for you.
  2. Keep it between 150 to 200 words. The industry standard word count for back cover copy is between 150 and 200 words. This shakes out to roughly five to eight sentences, depending on sentence length. With a small amount of words to convey your story, there are key points you need to include.
  3. Introduce the protagonist. First and foremost, you must tell readers who your main character is and what he or she truly cares about (motivation). Be sure to include the inciting incident that forces the protagonist’s hand.
  4. What are the stakes? Communicate what the protagonist stands to gain or lose. Tell potential readers what could stand in the way of the protagonist getting what he or she wants.
  5. Avoid backstory. Don’t weigh down or take up valuable space within your book’s summary with backstory. Your book summary needs to be as engaging and action-packed as it can be. This will help hook the reader’s attention and get them to purchase your book.
  6. Don’t give away the whole story/ending. While it’s important to give enough detail to convey what your novel is about, you also don’t want to give too much away. Ideally, your back cover should leave potential readers wondering, “What’s going to happen?”

What’s Next for Your Novel

Test your finished back cover copy with potential readers and ask for their honest feedback. Do they want to read the whole book now? Was there enough mystery to draw readers into the book? You’ll know if your book summary is a smashing success or falls a bit flat based on feedback from your reviewers. At that point, you can then revise it based on their suggestions.

Need help writing your back cover summary? Contact us at 1-866-381-2665 to learn about our back cover copy service.


Erika Bennett is the Content Manager for Xulon Press. She has worked in the publishing industry for more than a decade and her passion is to make sure great books find their way into readers' hands. You can also find her writing on

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