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S2/E33: Writing Killer Cover Copy by Elana M. Johnson

Updated: Oct 22, 2021

The author of this week’s selection, Writing Killer Cover Copy primarily writes sweet romance under her own name Elana Johnson and inspirational romance under the pen name Liz Isaacson. This title is part of a series for Indie authors, which she publishes under her full name Elana M Johnson. Quoting her website: “A USA Today Bestselling and Amazon Kindle All-Star Author, Elana writes young adult and adult contemporary romance. She is well-known for her young adult dystopian romance series Possession, Surrender, Abandon, and Regret, published by Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster). She writes clean beach romance [with titles like] Hawthorne Harbor Second Chance Romance series, the Brides & Beaches Romance series, the Clean Billionaire Beach Club Romance series,

She runs a personal blog on publishing and is a founding author of the QueryTracker blog, a co-founder of The League of Extraordinary Writers, and a co-organizer of WriteOnCon. She is a member of SCBWI, RWA, and NINC and a popular speaker for libraries, teens, and writer’s conferences across the United States. To contact Elana to speak at your event, please see her contact page.”

She has a lot of brass tacks tips in this book (e.g. her 3-part formula for writing taglines, the optimal length of a tagline — less than 150 characters — so that they fit on Amazon ad copy, best ways to test cover copy). Like usual I’m not going to be able to capture all that this book offers, but here are my…


1. You Do You. While Johnson shares what worked for her in this book, she does so with the strong caveat that it’s critical that you adapt what you learn in her book to your own personality, style of writing, genre, price point, budget, etc. Trying to be someone else or to replicate someone else’s marketing system is a recipe for disaster.

2. The Skeleton of Cover Copy. With today’s shorter attention spans, you have to get the bones of your cover copy down and you have to do it fast. Think of this as the checklist that you start drafting your cover copy and the checklist that you make sure has been met when you finish your final revisions of the cover copy:

  • Hook – something that captures the imagination, intrigues, or asks a question right away

  • Quick(!) Description – You do not want to tell the whole story or encapsulate the themes and character arcs. Think taste, not feast. Just a little décolletage, not a full-frontal spread.

  • Ask – the persuasive part where you try to “convince the audience…to buy and read right now.

3. For long-term fans, go for the package deal. Great cover copy is just one piece of the puzzle. Polished and appropriate cover design that can hold its own next to a shelf full of bestsellers is what stops the scrolling long enough for them to read your (excellent!) cover copy. And once the reader has taken a chance on your book, make sure you have the most authentic and entertaining book you could write awaiting them. That’s what really brings the sales in the long run. Writing a great story that resonates with readers, will keep them coming back again and again and recommending your books to their friends!

HACK: Same-Same

If you have any experience with query letters, you’re in luck! Johnson says that the “book part” of the query letter is a good proxy for cover copies or blurbs. And that leads us to today’s quote:


“All of the principles are the same. All of them. I need to compel a reader (agent) to read what my book is about, getting them excited and dying to read more. Then they buy (or an agent requests to read more).” Elana M. Johnson

This book weighs in at a mere 84 pages and will probably only take you a little over an hour to read. Her writing style is breezy and conversational, but as mentioned, it contains a fair number of nuts-and-bolts tips you can put to use right away. Johnson also provides useful links to additional resources, including to the “Writing Killer Cover Copy resources page, with a cheat sheet of sorts. Give it a look!

I hope this was helpful! Next episode (October 22, 2020) I’ll bring you my three things (and a hack!) from Blueprint Your Bestseller: Organize and Revise Any Manuscript Using the Book Architecture Method by Stuart Horwitz.



Fellow author Robin Knabel and I recently posted a new episode of our podcast, Unsettling Reads. Come check out our spoiler-free review of Devolution by Max Brooks. Visit www.UnsettlingReads.com to browse our other reviews of books from the crime, fantasy, horror, literary, mystery, sci-fi, suspense, and thriller genres. And a reminder to look for Robin’s short story in the summer issue of The Raven Review!

Until then. . .

Happy writing, people!



Check out other writing books by Elana M Johnson

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