Hang around the Buonfiglio digs long enough, and chances are, some night you'll catch a silly kid refusing to tuck into bed, lying atop the covers while being chided by an exasperated adult with the fave family saying: Hey! On is not under!
Alas, the on/under maxim isn't universal. For instance, it doesn't necessarily hold true when applied to romance novel "cover copy." For in most cases, the copy on flipsides of romance reads effectively entices us and sketches the big-picture storyline; after we plunk down our cash, we can be fairly certain what's on the back cover indeed is under it, as well.
Writing cover copy that leaves readers hungry is sort of an art form. "You don't want to give the cow away w/the milk," says BN Romantic Reads moderator and former Grand Central Forever romance editor Melanie Murray. "Publishers want to tease the reader into wanting more."
But to make sure readers are satisfied that the book they buy is the same one they've read about in the cover copy, publisher's craft carefully back-cover teases. "The 'voice' of the cover copy has to match the style of the book; your cover copy for historical author Mary Balogh can't sound like romantic-comedy writer Jenny Crusie wrote it, and vice versa."
The bottom line: Most readers buy books based on cover copy, and I cull most books for consideration the same way. So, in effect, most of the books that ended up on my list of Best Romances in BN's Best of 2009 are there because something stood out from the cover copy and drew one book out of the scores I dig through monthly.
Let me give you an example. Joey W. Hill's "A Mermaid's Ransom ," an extraordinary erotic novel from my Best Paranormals of 2009 duo, sports this cover copy:
Daughter to an angel and a mermaid, Alexis has grown up with blue waters caressing her skin. So when her nightmares begin to plague her - dreams of fire and fear-- the mer-angel has little idea what to make of it. In her dream is the loneliest man Alexis has ever seen-and she's strangely drawn to him. Until the night her dream comes true...
Born of a vampire and a Dark One, Dante has only known brutality. And although he's the leader of the Dark One's underworld, he longs to escape. How better to do so than to hold for ransom the Prime Legion Commander's daughter? But there's one thing Dante never planned for - the way Alexis has stolen his heart, giving him the chance to embrace life instead of darkness...if he can prove himself worthy of her love.
Perhaps the words/phrases that hooked me aren't the ones you'd imagine: Dreams of fire and fear; the loneliest man; Dante brutality; hold for ransom; embrace life/darkness. These are harsh words that give me hints to the darker nature of this novel, ones which suggest the possibility of more intense emotional and sexual intimacy. I expected cutting-edge scenarios layered over the experiences of a heroine I suspected would be strong, yet probably innocent on her way to finding her true strength. And Hill had me at "ransom," 'cause if there's a kidnapping of any sort, I'm all over it.
What are the elements of cover copy that draw your attention? How much does it affect your purchase? Do you find cover copy generally delivers what it promises?
What's under the covers of Eloisa James' fave books of late? The down-home romance of love in small towns. Check out "Our Town," Eloisa's December BN Review column!