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Chapter 8: Being a Novelist: Writerly Life Resources

Communicating to Professionals and Readers: Conceptualizing the Novel

Melissa Ford Lucken

Two common and effective tools for communicating to others about your novel are the query letter and the back cover copy. While there may be some overlap in content between a query letter and the back cover copy, they have distinct purposes and are tailored to different audiences to achieve different goals.

A writer who aims to “go” the traditional route will need both. Once to communicate with professionals and the other to communicate with readers. The query letter is a professional pitch to literary agents or publishers, while the back cover copy is a marketing tool aimed at engaging readers and enticing them to read the book.

Audience:

    • Query letter: The primary audience for a query letter is literary agents or publishers. It is a formal letter sent to professionals in the publishing industry to introduce yourself as an author and pitch your manuscript for consideration.
    • Back cover copy: The primary audience for the back cover copy is potential readers. It is written to entice readers to pick up the book, generate interest, and give them a sense of what to expect from the story.

Content and Focus:

    • Query letter: A query letter focuses on introducing yourself as an author and providing a brief summary of your manuscript. It highlights the key elements of your story, such as the genre, main characters, and central conflict, in order to pique the interest of literary agents or publishers.
    • Back cover copy: The back cover copy is a concise and engaging summary of the novel that appears on the back cover (or the online product page) of the book. It aims to captivate potential readers, create intrigue, and entice them to read the book. It focuses on the central conflict, setting, protagonist, and themes to generate interest and give readers a taste of the story.

Length and Format:

    • Query letter: A query letter is typically longer and more formal than the back cover copy. It usually consists of a page or less and follows a specific structure, including salutation, introduction, book description, author bio, and closing.
    • Back cover copy: The back cover copy is much shorter and concise. It needs to capture attention and provide a glimpse into the story in just a few paragraphs. It is often written in a more creative and enticing style, with active language and hooks to engage readers.

Goals:

    • Query letter: The main goal of a query letter is to convince literary agents or publishers to request your full manuscript or a book proposal for further consideration. It aims to showcase your writing skills, the marketability of your book, and your potential as an author.
    • Back cover copy: The main goal of the back cover copy is to entice potential readers to pick up the book and read it. It aims to create curiosity, generate excitement, and give readers a taste of the story to compel them to purchase or borrow the book.

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