row of silhouettes of people, including people in suits and dresses, with one person highlighted with a checkmark

Back Cover, Take II

When I self-published Somewhere and Nowhere, my bike trip memoir, I didn’t invest in the cover as I should have. In addition to wanting a professional design, I’ve been rethinking the back cover copy based on some things I’ve learned.

The Old Copy

crowd of Lego people

When I wrote the original back cover copy, I was trying to appeal to a broad audience: bicyclists, cross-country travelers, female travelers, memoir enthusiasts. I thought the copy was pretty catchy:

One summer, two young women head west on their bicycles from Cape May, New Jersey. In three months on the road, they battle 14-percent-grade hills, tornado-force winds, and 110 degree heat. They are sheltered by everyone from nuns to cowboys. They swim in the Missouri River, climb the Rocky Mountains, and cross the Continental Divide–three times. And eventually, they reach the Pacific.

Emily hoped to find peace and happiness away from the clutter of life. With nothing to do but ride her bike all day, life would be simpler… or would it?

I never felt comfortable promoting the book, though. Then I read Seth Godin’s This Is Marketing. His book describes reaching a small, specific audience. The readers who’ll be my book’s fans (I think) are people who struggle to be present and to calm the noise in their heads. I wanted to rewrite the cover copy to reach these readers.

The New Copy

row of silhouettes of people, including people in suits and dresses, with one person highlighted with an arrow and the words "My reader!"

I watched a webinar about back cover copy. I heard it said that no one is TRYING to find your book. People are so overwhelmed these days that they are actively trying NOT to read your book. Any excuse not to buy it will be enough to stop them. So your cover copy needs to convince them they must read it, by showing what the book will do for them. (This is easier to do with a non-fiction book. Memoirs by unknown authors are especially hard, as they’re competing with so many celebrity memoirs.)

Last weekend in the library, I saw a book called 13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do. I walked past thinking, “I don’t need something else to read,” but then found myself going back to it. I thought, “I’ll just read the back cover.” The back cover listed right out the 13 things, and I wanted NOT to do them. I wanted to know how. I had to check out the book.

book cover with sunshine and bike lying on ground

I realized the book’s marketing had worked perfectly on me. So I tried rewriting Somewhere and Nowhere’s back cover copy in the style of the library book. I got feedback from friends. Here is the current version:

LESSONS OF THE ROAD:
-WORRY DOESN’T HELP.
-JUST WAIT AND SEE.
-LET GO OF THE TRIP YOU THOUGHT YOU’D BE ON.
-BALANCE SELF-IMPROVEMENT WITH SELF-ACCEPTANCE.
-BE PRESENT.

When Emily and Mary head west from Cape May, New Jersey, Emily imagines the peace she’ll find bicycling across the open spaces of America. With nothing to do all day but ride her bike, life will be simpler… or will it?

Emily battles 14-percent-grade hills, tornado-force winds, and 110 degree heat, waiting for the fun to start. As the women find shelter with everyone from nuns to cowboys, she clings to the best moments. And on the wide open plains, she comes face to face with the noise in her head.

But as she crosses the Mississippi and climbs the Rocky Mountains, she begins to discern patterns: Worries that hound her. Recurring thoughts that impede her happiness. Daydreams that remove her from reality. She discovers a path to transform herself, even as she begins to accept the present moment.

I’m still soliciting feedback and would love to hear your thoughts in the comments. I’d also love to know any books with back cover copy you could not resist.

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