Friday, September 21, 2012

Writing Flap Copy

When my editor asked if I'd like to take a stab at writing flap copy, I took a deep breath and pulled two of my favorite historical novels from my bookshelf. First I looked at BLUE by Joyce Moyer Hostetter.

What I love about BLUE's flap copy is that it uses passages from the book so that the reader immediately hears Ann Fay's voice.

Wisteria is the only thing me and Daddy ever argue about. I say the flower is purple and he says it's blue. I tell him I don't see how anyone can hate a flower that's so beautiful and smells so sweet. Daddy says he don't understand how anyone could love a vine that wraps itself around every limb on a tree like it wants to choke the life out of it.

Can't you just hear the cadence of Ann Fay's voice?

Next I took a look at HATTIE BIG SKY by Kirby Larson.


What I love about HATTIE's flap copy is the last paragraph:

Lovingly stitched together from Kirby Larson's own family history and the sights, sounds, and scents of homesteading life, this young pioneer's story celebrates the true spirit of independence.

I decided to start my flap copy with a quote from my book the same way Joyce did with BLUE. Then I wrote a paragraph that briefly sums up the plot, and then borrowing from HATTIE, I included that my book is also inspired by a family story.


Though I'm sure my editor and copyeditor will revise it, my attempt at flap copy is below:


Sometimes when the kerosene lamp casts shadows, I think I see Ma’s ghost. If she were still alive, she’d say, Jessie Pearl, you keep on studying. Not everybody is cut out to be a farm wife. We’ll find a way to pay for teachers’ college. Leave your Pa to me.

And tonight, Ma would notice how my hands are trembling. I can almost hear her voice. Jessie, fourteen is too young to help birth a baby. Why don’t you go and study in the kitchen? But Ma is just a memory.

It’s 1922, and Jessie has big plans for her future, but that’s before tuberculosis strikes.  Though she has no talent, for cooking, cleaning, or nursing, Jessie puts her dreams on hold to help her family.  She falls in love for the first time ever, and suddenly what she wants is not so simple any more.

Inspired by Shannon Hitchcock’s family history, THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL wraps you like an old quilt in the traditions, tastes, and dialect of rural North Carolina.

So what do you think? Did I pull off writing flap copy? It's not as easy as it looks! 


22 comments:

  1. Well, I love it! And what is uncanny is that I have memorized Ma's lines! (Something to do with a certain book trailer.)

    I am sort of thinking that I need to give credit to Katya Rice for using that quote from BLUE. It's a little vague now but I think it was her idea.

    If this isn't perfect she'll help you know how to tweak it. But honestly, I think you've got it all there and very succinctly too.

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  2. Nicely done, though I wonder if it isn't too long. Different publishers have house styles that may best direct you on that.
    For my book(s) the publishers took suggestions from me, but the editor wrote the flap/back copy. If we writers sweat about synopses for queries, the flap copy should make us bleed... I think of these as akin to the punch line of a cover letter, but different in that it has to give 'more.' It is, in fact, selling to the ultimate reader, those who will buy (rather than publish) the book.

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  3. Thanks, Joyce! BLUE was my primary inspiration, and I agree that Katya will know how to make it even better.

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  4. Hi Mirka,

    It may be too long. I'm anxious to see how my editor and copyeditor revise it.

    Stephen, (my editor), told me that he always gives authors a chance to write the flap copy. He said some of them don't want to and prefer that he do it. In my case, I wanted to at least try. It was pretty stress free because I knew that people more experienced than me would be refining it.

    I don't mind writing synopses either, but I have problems with a hook or elevator pitch. One sentence doesn't give you much to work with.

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  5. Great jacket flap. Ok. You hooked me! I am a fan of Joyce's and Kirby's...you couldn't pick better authors to "copy"!

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  6. Hi Carol, I figured I couldn't go wrong with two classics!

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  7. Great job! Sometimes I think writing the flap copy can be harder than writing the book!

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  8. This time it was easy for me. Part of that is I've lived with this story for about three years now so I feel like I know it inside and out. The other part is I truly was inspired by BLUE and HATTIE BIG SKY. Once I decided what I liked so much from those two books, I just sought to emulate it.

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  9. Well done!

    (Delete the comma after "talent").

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  10. Thanks, Barb! Good catch on the comma.

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  11. That's awesome! I shudder at the thought of having to write flap copy, but I think you definitely approached it the right way. I'm impressed. :-)

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  12. Thanks Anna, and congratulations on your books!

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  13. Thanks, Augusta! I'll sell you a copy real cheap in November.

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  14. That's exciting! And it seems like a good way to go about doing it. Since sometimes flap copy gets even the most basic things wrong, like how old a protagonist is or what the central problem of the plot is, it's nice to think that your flap copy will really convey what the book is about.

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  15. Yes, my flap copy should definitely be accurate. It was actually a good exercise for me. It really crystalized in my mind what the book is about.

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  16. I think you did a great job. Now I have a taste for your voice, the story, and you. Can't wait to read this book. I'm so excited with you!!

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  17. Thanks, Jaimie, and congratulations on your poem. I saw your name in the SCBWI Bulletin!

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  18. Shannon, I love it! So smart of you to refer back to the flap copy of books that made an impression on you. Great job! You should be proud of yourself, girl. ; )

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  19. Ooh...the piece de resistance, (spelling?), my French is rusty. Your opinion really, really matters to me, as I'm sure you know!

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  20. Thanks, Beth! My editor used it exactly as written.

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