(A brief guide to writing the book descriptions that fill the space where, if you were to take the jacket off the book and lay it out flat with the outside of the jacket down, it would be the part that is farthest to the left, unless the book is in Hebrew and then, to be honest, I‘m not sure where it would go)
- Always use “stunning,” except when the book is about the history of the stun gun.
- Pair — as in: “In this thrilling and dramatic story, about a brief but passionate affair between a brilliant and stunning movie star who is also a track and field champion and an expert and charming bow-and-arrow hunter and gatherer and a handsome and debonair backgammon and kung-fu master who comes and goes between the mysterious and dangerous jungles and rivers of Brazil and Argentina and the grand and glittering avenues and skyscrapers of New York and Hong Kong, you will be swept up and carried away by the dynamic and emotionally taut relationships and fates of the characters and their families and friends. “
- Always use “deeply.”
- For that matter, always pair “deeply” with another adverb, except “profoundly.” In No. 2, come to think of it, it should be “…about a brief but deeply and feverishly passionate…” etc.
- Use items in a series as often as possible. “In this stunning, deeply passionate, and thrilling tale of guns, gangs, and gambling…”
- Use alliteration.
- Infinitivize at least once per flap — as in: “To read this stunning and deeply moving and thrilling novel is to be swept up and carried away …” etc.
- Use one or two but no more than two direct quotations from the text. They may be full sentences — “‘He was a genius, a stunningly evil genius’” — or fragments — “He was a ‘stunningly evil genius,’ we are told at the beginning of this deeply and dramatically thrilling novel.” But in any case they may take up no more than 10% of the flap copy.
- Use “we” at least once per flap.
- In addition to “stunning,” use at least three of the following adjectives for every flap: “Enthralling,” “gritty,” “original,” “remarkable,” “magical,” “ground-breaking,” “arresting,” “dazzling,” “heartbreaking,” “compelling,” “devastating,” “captivating.”
- Find a way to work in “best-selling,” even if it has to take the form of something like “Often compared to the stunning best-selling novelist _________…”
- “Backdrop” is always good. “Against the stunningly dark and somber backdrop of pre-war Latvia,” or “With the stunning backdrop of Oahu in the early Twentieth Century,” or “We are deeply and dramatically moved by this stunning narrative and its remarkable and brilliant backdrop of Hollywood at its most dazzling and compelling.”
- You may continue from the front flap to the back flap but only if the book itself is more than six hundred pages. (Not sure how to work “stunning” into this rule.)
- Use one and only one interrogative per flap. “What will the stunning and compelling climax of this deeply and subtly thrilling drama told against the backdrop of the amazing Maori culture and mythology of southern and central New Zealand?” or “‘Why twenty and not twenty-one or twenty-two?’ we may go so far as to ask.” or “Where will the gritty treachery and betrayal end?”
- Try to end the flap with the word “resolve” or “resolution.” (“Stunning” should always be placed near the beginning.)
- Forget “subtly.”
Daniel Menaker is the Editor of Grin and Tonic. His most recent book is A Good Talk.