Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Cover Copy

How are you at writing back cover copy for your story? Most fiction writers don’t train for the advertising biz, and yet we’re expected to come up with log lines and blurbs and back cover copy. Recently, I read another author’s blog where she talks about optimizing your bio and cover copy for search engines by using keywords. Huh? And here I thought my profile was pretty good. As for cover copy, I can never come close to the witty style my former publisher used to promote my Bad Hair Day mysteries. I can write the story, but condensing it into a few lines that are entertaining while employing keywords is beyond my scope. Here is one area where I’m glad to get editorial input.

Let’s say we’re writing a mystery about a produce grocer who operates a booth at a weekday morning farmer’s market. When one of the other vendors ends up dead, suspects may include mutual customers, rival vendors, conniving relatives, and snarky suppliers. To make it easy for me, we’ll set it in Florida. So what would our keywords be here?

Amateur sleuth
Cozy mystery
Culinary (especially if vegetarian recipes are included)

I’m sure you can come up with more keywords. Anyone want to pitch in?

Now let’s have a go at the cover copy:
Before he can take a bite out of his organic Gala apple, green grocer Jimmy Octagon notices a commodity not on the menu at the farmer’s market. Normally a beehive of energy, honey seller Aldreshia Meyers is dead as a turnip over by the onion stand. With the mayor threatening to shut down the market and Jimmy’s vendor license on the line, he’d better find the killer fast or else he might become the next victim of the lethal Green Menace.

Okay, I warned you I’m bad at this, didn’t I? Note that I neglected to use a single keyword. Why don’t you give it a try?


  1. Rats, I have to go to the place of torture (ie. the day job) early so I can't really dig into this post till later this evening. But this gives me some new thoughts on the cover copy. I'll have to try thinking of it in keyword terms and see what happens.

    BK Jackson

  2. See you later, BK. I'm running off to critique group and so will be back early this afternoon to answer comments.

  3. GREAT cover blurb, Nancy!! You want to write my next one? LOL!!!

  4. Here's a shot (in the dark):
    When a vendor is found dead at a farmer's market in Florida, it's up to a produce grocer-turned-amateur sleuth to find the killer. He must sift between mutual customers, rival vendors, conniving relatives, and snarky suppliers to find the murderer. This is no ordinary cleanup on aisle three, and if the grocer doesn't find the culinary killer in time, he could be the next victim of this cozy mystery.

  5. The key to search engine optimization is to understand the result set of a current set of key words before you set out to establish your back cover copy. If you know that your story is about a detective uncovering secrets of an inner city drug cartel, you would do a Google search with keywords "detective" "drug cartel" and "inner city" to see what is returned by Google in your result set. Chances are there will be hundreds of thousands. I did it and I retrieved 125,000 relevant hits.

    The idea is to make those search keywords most relevant to the synopsis of your story. Many search engines have been tweaked to weed out abusers who promote crappy products while trying to get top hits when they have really poor content that has nothing to do with what they advertise, mass marketing gurus.

    I've only written one paid article for a site that strictly adheres to policy following SEO techniques.

    For an example of how this works, type in the following keywords into a Google search "legend of kyrandia gamelplay" and when you scroll all the way to the bottom, you should find a link with a title of "Legend of Kyrandia - Play Now With Dosbox" and a +1 next to it.

    That's my article on the first page of results out of 39,000. That's why it is important to optimize. My article is no better than the rest, I'm sure. But it's more visible when people search those specific keywords.

  6. The Farmer’s Market just took a turn for the deadly and if cucumber salesman and amateur sleuth Jimmy Octagon can’t solve the murder he may be next. His former flame honey vendor Aldreshia Meyers, known to the other vendors as The Sweet Tart, is discovered murdered, killed with her own product. There were many who despised her very unvegetarian affair with the cucumber man, but did they hate her meat eating ways enough to do her in? The hunt is on for the killer or killers, and Jimmy can leave no leaf unturned, lest he be the next to feed the mushrooms.

  7. Steventhe: Good use of keywords in your blurb! Diane, thanks for the great tip! I'll have to deploy that technique from now on. Basil, we can always count on your sense of humor to make us chuckle. You've added even more depth to the blurb along the way.