You Can Write Compelling Cover Copy by Kat Sheridan

Please help me welcome Kat Sheridan to Writer’s Fun Zone as he shares with us “You Can Write Compelling Cover Copy.” Enjoy!


I often say that selling a novel comes down to three things: Content, Cover, and Cover Copy.

You already have the first two parts. The only thing left is to write compelling cover copy to let readers know what your book is about and to entice them to buy it. Often referred to as a “blurb”, your cover copy is your first, best, and strongest piece of marketing material. You’ll use it everywhere: book retailers, your website, guest blog posts, social media, etc.

Many authors who have no trouble writing a full-length novel will freeze at the idea of having to summarize it in under 200 words. That’s normal, but it doesn’t have to happen if you know a few tricks.

Here’s a secret: for fiction cover copy, there’s a formula, and you can learn it. Really. Non-fiction is different, and I’ll cover it briefly at the end. Ready?

  • Step One: Create a one or two-word description of your protagonist(s). The description is usually a job, relationship, or status: Starfleet Captain James Kirk (job). Orphan (or spinster) Jane Eyre (relationship). King Arthur Pendragon (status). For sci-fi/fantasy/paranormal it may be a creature type, tribe, planetary affiliation, etc. (hobbit, Starks of Winterfell, Vulcan).
  • Step Two: Define the G.M.C. for your protagonist(s). G.M.C. stands for Goal, Motivation, Conflict (or Obstacle, or Stakes).
  • Step Three: Mention or imply your setting and/or period, such as Victorian-era Egypt. The starship Enterprise. A mysterious planet.

Let’s put that all together using Hunger Games as an example:

In order to protect her little sister (Motivation), 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen (character description) must survive a brutal game (Goal) in a land once known as North America (setting). But first, she’ll have to slay all other opponents, including a childhood friend (Conflict/obstacle).


Once you have that basic blurb, you’ll want to create shorter and longer versions of it. Generally, cover copy will be between 100-200 words, the right size to fit on the back cover of a printed book. Product descriptions can be longer. Different retail distributors have different allowances for size. Bloggers, press kits, and various social media platforms will want shorter or longer versions. Be prepared with multiple variations of your copy. 

Fit Your Genre:

Using the Hunger Games example, if this were a romance, my next paragraphs might focus on her competing love interests. To steer it more toward dystopian Young Adult, I might instead focus on the larger concept of the games or revolting against the government. To steer more toward sci-fi, I might emphasize the nightmare of fighting faceless, inhuman technology. Thriller? I’d emphasize the need for escape.

Use Vivid Words:

Don’t be afraid of hyperbole (obvious and intentional exaggeration). Use juicy, vivid words. Adjectives are your friend in cover copy. Create tension and get colorful! 

Target your audience:

Readers are looking for keywords to help them decide to buy your book. Your cover copy should match the tone of your book and your writing style.


Your table of contents is your best friend: List three or four of the most compelling chapter titles and a line describing what they’re about. List specific ways buying your book will benefit or educate the reader, again using those juicy words, and numbers if applicable (“will help you boost sales by 40%, “will shave six weeks off your job search”). The author bio is also critical to selling non-fiction. Your personal bona fides will help sell your book.

Check, check, and check again that your spelling and punctuation are correct, that no words are missing, and that the copy isn’t meandering or overloaded with too much detail. Readers, right or wrong, will assume sloppy cover copy also means a sloppy book.

Still not sure? Just like you hire cover artists and editors, you can hire copywriters like BlurbCopy to write your blurb for you. But now you also know the secrets of doing it yourself!



KAT SHERIDAN is the creator of, providing book cover copy, product descriptions, and author bios for writers. She splits her time between the Midwest in the summer and the South in the winter, sharing her home with the love of her life and an exceedingly dignified Shih Tzu.


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