Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Writing Good Copy for Mediocre Books

One of the pieces of my job that I typically really like to do is writing back cover copy for books. I think, in part, it's because I get to battle the "Don't judge a book by its cover" aphorism by truly asking people to judge books by their covers.

Most of the time, writing them is pretty decent. I sit down, I read the book, I look at the marketing plans the authors have proposed, and I write about a page of copy for them to use. About 75% of the time, they use about 75% of my copy. About 20% of the time they dump it entirely and put up something of their own. The remaining 5% - if I'm lucky - they actually use what I've written in its entirety.

(Ironically - though most authors don't know this - I actually proofread their covers before they go to print. So I see what they've done to what I've written. Sometimes it's interesting to see what they think the point of the book is. Sometimes it's really well done. Sometimes it's just not good...)

As I've said, most of the time this part of my job is pretty decent. When it's not decent is when I find myself having to write copy for books I don't find to be good. Some are really well written, but about really bad topics or with characters with really horrible morals/ethics/politics. Some of them are really interesting ideas, but are just poorly written. (Yeah... we write a lot of copy for books that didn't get edited.)

Writing this stuff sometimes makes me feel like I'm writing press releases in support of a natural disaster ("You're going to love the flooding from this next hurricane!") or maybe asking people to buy an unfinished cake ("Sure it needs frosting, but just look at how level the layers are!").

But it's all part of the job, and it's something that I've found I'm pretty good at. So I do it and get paid for it and go on with my life hoping that the authors approve and their books sell.

And - every so often - I come here to confession. Your forgiveness - though not mandatory - is greatly appreciated.

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