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Exciting News! My book, Unforgettable Roads, has been offered a contract for publication from Martin Sisters Publishing! I’m still giggly-happy and am trying to not stress over the amount of work that is presented on this silver platter 🙂

One of my tasks was to write the back cover blurb, the jacket flap summary of the book that announces key points and the major theme of the book. In preparation for writing my own back cover summary, I spent several hours at the library reading just that backs of books and making notes. I’m sharing what I’ve learned.

First, I learned it’s easier to write an entire book than to condense it all into a 150 word synopsis. It’s a necessary task – not a necessary evil. And it’s a task that when written well before you begin writing the novel, can keep you focused on your overall goals of the story.

That is Focus Point 1 – Have the goal for the story stated in the summary. Have you ever listened to a friend go on and on about something that happened to them, but they forget why they were sharing that story with you in the first place? Do you want that for your story? Is your goal for readers to finish your story (if they make it that far), set it down and think, “Now, why did that author even put ink to those sentences?” Our goal as writers is always to share a slice of life that will educate, entertain, tug at heart strings, leave a mark on the minds of the reader. Make that clear right in the summary. Think about that as you write. While there are certainly unexpected moments during writing when you see that the story needs to move in a different direction than originally planned, be sure that you don’t move so far off focus that the essence of your story is lost.

Think about what it is that draws you to purchase or borrow a book? Mostly, it’s a recommendation from friends or our eagerness to pick up a beloved author’s new work. But all those books were first picked up by an unsuspecting reader who felt intrigued by the promises on the back cover. Be a good person – make a promise and stick to it!

Focus Point 2 – Leave the reader with a hook. It’s like fishing for readers. Bait your hook with an enticing offer. A perfect last line of a summary should lead the reader to sit down right in the bookstore and start reading. Test out your summary on people who are not familiar with your story. If that respond with, “Sounds interesting,” go back and try again. The response you want is, “OH! Can I read this?”

Focus Point 3 – Stay focused on the true main characters. Your novel will be rich with characters, both siding with the protagonist or the antagonist. You’ve spent weeks perfecting their qualities, speech, behavior patterns and you want to share that with the world. You will. But not in the jacket-flap summary. Main characters (2-3 at most) and the main conflict are the only two points you should reveal on the back cover.

Note: there are back cover summaries and then there are elevator pitches. The summary is designed to give the reader a nice sampling of the story to sink their teeth into. Sometimes this is done with an exerpt of the text itself. Can you find a slice of your story that would serve well to draw the reader in? If you can’t – make that happen! An elevator pitch is a two sentence summary that intrigues a reader. It’s quick, short on details but rich with conflict.

Samples: So now you can see what I wrote for my back cover summary for Unforgettable Roads. Did I take my own advise?

Elevator Pitch:A story of coming-of-age and aging, the mystery of discovery, the revealing of old truths, Unforgettable Roads follows Alison Elliott as she is granted her greatest wish, uncovers her grandfather’s darkest secret, and tries to reunite a family that never had a chance.

Jacket Flap Summary: (I’ve included a few drafts to share the ‘trimming’ process of editing a summary)

Draft One:
Jack Elliott has Alzheimer’s . To preserve his mind, he has written his life’s story: the lessons, the gains and the losses he has lived through, in hopes that as his granddaughter, Alison, comes of age, she will not make the same mistakes he did. For her birthday, Jack takes Alison on a journey to the places in the West where he found his independence in life, his dependence on God, and fell in love for the first time.

When Jack’s journals are stolen, Alison realizes that nothing will protect her grandfather from the evils of Alzheimer’s. Victims of a hit-and-run, Jack is seriously injured. Desperate to find a piece of his past to bring to him, Alison continues the journey, searching for answers, seeking the people and places her grandfather once knew. As Alison follows the stories she grew up on, she realizes that she’s looking for Jack’s first love…and it’s not her grandmother. Will this woman be enough? Will she be the ‘kiss’ that wakes him up?

Draft Two: (There were actually many drafts inbetween. I’m just sharing my most recent one.)
Jack Elliott has Alzheimer’s. To preserve his mind, he has written his life’s story: his youthful westward journey and discoveries. When Jack’s journals are stolen, his granddaughter, Alison, realizes that nothing will protect her grandfather from the evils of Alzheimer’s. Victims of a hit-and-run, Jack is seriously injured. Desperate to find a piece of his past to bring to him, Alison continues the journey, searching for answers, seeking the people and places her grandfather once knew. As Alison follows the stories she grew up on, she discovers her grandfather’s darkest secret.

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