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Jacket Copy Sells Books

I’ve been musing, intermittently, on this blog and in polls, on the value of a good book cover. What is a good book cover and does it sell book? Who is influenced by a book cover? Many authors, when asked, will tell you they hate the book covers of their novels, most of the time because they’re not representative of their story/content. Same thing for the title. How compelling does it have to be? Does the title influence book buying?

It turns out that both do, but only in conjunction with how compelling the jacket copy (or back copy) –the blurb that tells you what the book’s about– is even more important. In a commissioned study of over 3600 readers, Publishing Trends noted that “The job of writing jacket copy shouldn’t be foisted off on editorial assistants—it is the second most important book purchase factor (after favorite author).”

It seems that most reader want real information about the book and a prosaic representation of the message the book cover and title send. Interestingly enough, reviewers such as The New York Times have less than a 13% influence on book buying. In addition,

The importance of various elements of jacket copy also varies by age. Younger book shoppers are more interested in character detail and brief promotional statements or quotes—31% of readers under 18, for instance, said they’d be most influenced by a statement like “Sometimes what happens in Vegas follows you home.” And even though they might have little else in common, the under-18 crowd shares the preference for a snappy promotional statement with readers over 65, 25% of whom are most influenced by these statements. Younger and older shoppers don’t want to work hard to figure out what a book is about, so flap copy aimed at them should cut to the chase.

This means that, for an author and publisher, knowing your audience is crucial in how you write jacket copy. Still, the article concludes that there is no magic bullet. As we say, to each his own, even when it comes to blurbs.

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