Sign up to the newsletter

Websites, Cover Blurbs and Catalogues

A website entry

All houses now have a website, and details of your book should appear long before publication (unless they are deliberately withheld to secure a competitive advantage, and prevent another house from copying your idea).

If you are asked to help

Begin by looking at their website as a whole; your contribution should mirror what is there and be mindful of the reader. If you find that every other author has one short paragraph about themselves, they are unlikely to award you ten.

The website is usually managed by a separate member of staff and updated at regular intervals. Make sure you find out who is responsible and keep them informed about any relevant details.

Try to provide interesting information – details that offer added value to what they already possess.

Those surfing the net tend to have short attention spans, and reading a screen is tiring, so the copy should be brief and punchy. Most readers can spot a book blurb or jacket copy, and if they are searching the website for more information, regurgitating what they have already seen is dull.

Quotations can work very well here, so if you have friends/contacts who could offer a relevant testimonial, be sure to provide it.

Remember that journalists often use websites to find out more about authors when they are writing from home late at night. Use this opportunity to spread information, to add pertinent detail about you and your books.

Try not to repeat what is on your own website: your publisher may or may not allow a cross-reference to it (the decision may depend on whether or not you publish with anyone else).

A cover blurb

This is one of the most important pieces of marketing copy written. Surveys have consistently shown that whilst the cover design may encourage a potential purchaser to pick up the title, it is the cover blurb that persuades them to buy.

If you are asked to help

There’s information on this in chapter 5, which we will be adding to the site in upcoming weeks.

A catalogue entry

Almost all publishing houses produce catalogues at regular intervals: an annual catalogue with a listing of all titles; a complete catalogue of everything in print; and seasonal lists in between (usually spring/summer and autumn/winter) giving details of the highlights of that particular period.

Catalogues act as a shop window for the wares of a particular publisher. Entries in these publications may be short – perhaps just a paragraph or two, or maybe no blurb at all in the case of the complete catalogue – but they will still routinely reach the bookshops and key wholesalers in your market, and the many outlets stocking English language titles internationally.

What’s more important, they are kept and referred to long after receipt – especially by customer order departments and by shops which never get a visit from a representative.

If you are asked to help

Remember that catalogues are used for year-round reference, and get retained as reference material long after the selling period (in particular by libraries and bookshops that get few visits), so the copy needs to last and not be dependent on time-specific information.

They also present the company’s wares alongside each other, so it is important that the words used to describe each title:

  • Make its specific benefits clear
  • Do not knock other titles (either directly or by implication – for example, saying that a particular diet book is the only one the reader will ever need, if the company publishes ten others, is not helpful. On the other hand, it’s important that titles can be distinguished from each other, so a good idea to use different words from those used for other titles
  • Is comprehensible to people who are not subject specialists but nevertheless have the power to circulate information to those they know might be interested (for example librarians, booksellers, reps, and those opening the post). It’s always dangerous to assume that because the author and editor understand the copy, and the end user will too, no one else matters!
  • Builds the publishing house’s reputation for a particular type of book. The author can ride on the back of this; they may gain new readers out of the staple band who know a particular imprint and trust it.

If you found this article useful, you might like to take a look at:

How to get publicity

Promotions, PR and merchandising

How to write a book blurb