Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Only 150 Words

Writing 150 words. No big deal, right? Most of the time that’s true, but I’m talking about back of the book copy. The words potential readers use to decide whether or not your book is worth purchasing.

They are the hardest 150 words I’ve ever written. Well, actually, it turned out to be more in the neighborhood of 120.

When I signed my publishing deal, I didn’t realize I’d have to write those all important words. I figured there were people who did that, people who knew how to write copy that would inspire a reader to buy a book. Turns out for my publisher that person

Once I stopped hyperventilating and got down to business, I discovered I rather enjoy doing it. (Remind me of that the next time you see me banging my head against the wall in frustration.)

There are positives about writing your own back of the book copy. First, you know what your book’s about so the text will actually match the story. (I’ve read copy on books where that wasn’t true or, at least, was misleading.) Second, it’s nice to have control over what’s on the back cover. The only negative is that it takes time. Lots of it.

I wrote the back copy for my first book, Fatal Brushstroke, but that was much easier. Mostly because I already had some text I’d written as an exercise for a mystery writing course I took years ago so I had a good start. I think the copy turned out pretty good. Or, at least, I’m not embarrassed about the result. Here it is:
A dead body in her garden and a homicide detective on her doorstep...

Computer programmer and tole-painting enthusiast Aurora (Rory) Anderson doesn’t envision finding either when she steps outside to investigate the frenzied yipping coming from her own backyard. After all, she lives in Vista Beach, a quiet California beach community where violent crime is rare and murder even rarer.

Suspicion falls on Rory when the body buried in her flowerbed turns out to be someone she knows—her tole painting teacher, Hester Bouquet. Just two weekends before, Rory attended one of Hester’s weekend painting seminars, an unpleasant experience she vowed never to repeat. As evidence piles up against Rory, she embarks on a quest to identify the killer and clear her name. Can Rory unearth the truth before she encounters her own brush with death?
For my second book, Paint the Town Dead, I had to figure out once again how to write words that fairly portrayed my novel, while at the same time, would convince someone to consider reading more. So here’s how I went about it.

First, I thought about what I wanted to see in back of the book copy. As a reader, I really just want to get a sense of the type of book (cozy, thriller, private eye), to know who the protagonist is , where the story is set and what the main problem is. That’s all I want to know. I get irked when the back copy tells me too much about the story. Really irked.

This kind of copy has a particular style so I immersed myself in reading the backs of dozens of books similar to my own. The text on the back of a thriller is different from that on the back of a private eye novel or a cozy so reading the right kinds of books is important here. That wasn’t terribly hard since I have an extensive library of mystery books, most of them in the cozy vein. All I had to do was walk down the stairs and start reading. I also checked out Amazon and read the descriptions of other books similar to my own.

Then I checked online to see if anyone had any words of wisdom about writing back of the book copy. These two posts were the most helpful to me:

Finally, I started writing. Or, should I say, staring off into space thinking about what to write. I wrote a sentence here, another there, and finally I had text I found reasonable enough to submit to my publisher. Here it is:
The Ocean Painting Society invites you to join the painting wave...
It’s June in the quiet Los Angeles County city of Vista Beach, the place computer programmer and tole-painting enthusiast Aurora (Rory) Anderson calls home. Decorative painters are flocking to the newly built Akaw hotel to attend the Ocean Painting Society’s inaugural convention.
During the weeklong event, Rory plans on shopping the trade show floor, working in her mother’s booth, taking classes and connecting with other decorative painting fans. She doesn’t expect to witness her childhood friend collapse in class and die.
When the police find no evidence of foul play, Rory embarks on her own investigation. Can she brush aside the lies to uncover the truth and bring the killer to justice?
It’s not the most wonderful text in the world. It could probably be better, but I think it fairly portrays the book I wrote and sounds cozyish.

I’ve submitted the copy to my publisher. I have no idea if they’ll deem it acceptable or if I’ll have to go back to the drawing board. I’m hoping it’s the former, but I'm prepared for the latter.

Has anyone else written back of the book copy? Any tips? ‘Cause I’ll have to do it again for book 3...

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