Writing back cover copy —

Always an interesting exercise for the author. And editor, and whoever else gets sucked into the process.

It’s most interesting, of course, if you have to write the back cover copy before you write the book, which happened to me once (It was Law of the Broken Earth, and that’s why the back cover has so little resemblance to what actually happens in the book. Oops. I did try to write a back cover that anticipated where I would actually go with the story, but guessed wrong.)

Anyway, Navah just asked for a first attempt at back cover copy for The Mountain of Kept Memory. I thought you might like to see what I came up with, so here:


They were talking about her.

Oressa Madalin, princess of Carastind, whose secret avocation involves getting into places she isn’t allowed, overhears horrifying news while eavesdropping on her father’s conversation with his closest advisors.

War is coming.

And Oressa is determined to save Carastind, even if it means defying her father. Her brother Gulien is her ally, but to succeed, they must win the aid of the enigmatic Kieba. And no one intrudes on the Kieba or her unfathomable mountain.

The invasion is already underway.

But the invaders want more than conquest. They want control of the Kieba and her terrifying magic. And they have no understanding that if they defeat the Kieba, they may also destroy the world.

In a world beset by the shattered power of a thousand dead gods, one woman holds the key to ancient technology. But she is more vulnerable than she seems. And neither Oressa nor Gulien can see a way to save both the Kieba and their own country, and the world . . .


What do you think? Does that sound intriguing enough to make you open the book and read the first couple of pages?

I would say that this back cover is a tiny bit misleading, but maybe close enough not to feel like I’m really lying to the reader.

Now we’ll just see what Navah thinks of this! The back cover could change completely and will probably change at least *some.*

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7 thoughts on “Writing back cover copy —”

  1. Two very specific notes:

    “one woman holds the key to ancient technology” I’m not sure if that’s less or more misleading than I would have expected.

    Also “… both the Kieba and their own country, and the world” trips me up.

  2. I know, I thought several times about the “technology” in that sentence. We’ll see what Navah thinks.

    And, good to know! I’ll rephrase that, then, even if Navah doesn’t have trouble with it.

  3. Definitely intriguing! I want to know more about Kieba. And I think I like Oressa.

    The word “technology” to me immediately makes me think far future world in which today’s tech seems like magic or myth. Am I misled?

    I think the phrase “secret avocation . . . isn’t allowed” is rendered redundant by the word “eavesdropping.”

  4. I’m definitely intrigued. But I (and probably most of your blog readers) may be a bit (or more) biased towards your works. Objectivity is elusive.

  5. Thanks, Kim — I think I better avoid the word “technology.” Maybe I can say “Power.” Also, it’s kinda more the kind of technology that would seem extremely advanced to us, in a world where the ambient tech level barely involves arquebuses. You are probably right about the redundancy, too.

    And yes, objectivity is indeed elusive.

  6. I may lie outside the normal curve here, but I use cover-copy to decide which books to put back down rather than which book to take home. It may seem like the same thing as the converse, but it isn’t. The title & cover do the work of getting my attention so the copy serves as an indicator of tone, and perhaps some sort of evidence that the author and I might be on the same page.

    Author name aside, if I read this copy in the store I would buy the book. It didn’t trigger any warning bells and read mostly neutral to me, but there were a few positive pings. “In a world beset by the shattered power of a thousand dead gods” alone sells me, followed closely by “unfathomable mountain.” The rest was extraneous for me because I don’t have any emotional connection to the characters or plot yet.

    Actually, now that I’ve been looking at it longer the unfathomable mountain image is becoming the bigger draw. Can I ask? Is it literally unfathomable? Can it not be comprehended, because that’s something I can get behind.

  7. Macsbrains, thanks for your input. I’m thinking about how I respond to cover copy and I think: if it sounds good, I’ll likely read a few pages. If it makes the book sound incredibly generic or has turn-off cues, I’ll be more likely to put the book back on the shelf without opening it. I do get specific positive pings: words like “lyrical” and “lush” can be a draw, whereas “gritty” is a turn-off, though not a deal-breaker. Sometimes I’m astounded by what gets described as “lyrical,” though.

    The mountain is pretty much unfathomable, yes — at least for the characters in the book, and I expect it would prove to have fairly unfathomable aspects for someone from our world, too. I think. You’ll have to let me know what you think after you read the book!

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