Worry-free book design for authors worldwide
Front covers attract … back covers sell! You already know that, in fact, everyone does judge a book by its cover. You also know that you have only two or three seconds to attract a potential reader with your front cover. But once that reader picks up your book and flips to your back cover, this is your chance to sell your book. That reader is already interested, and just needs convincing.
Grab your reader’s attention with a catchy headline. Don’t just repeat your book’s title on the back cover. Your headline can be a short phrase or a whole sentence. Just make sure it’s easy to read and to the point.
Tell your reader what a great benefit your book will be. It’ll be easy to use, or fast to use, or it’ll keep your reader up-to-date. It’ll simplify your reader’s life, or make him/her an authority on the subject.
Here’s an example from a book I designed called Tour of Duty: Spanish for Law Enforcement. The target readers are police officers on active duty, a group that needs fast information for potentially dangerous situations. The benefits are in the headline:
Learn useful, practical, and even life-saving Spanish commands and phrases in minutes!
List the benefits
Now write a paragraph or two (or create a bulleted list) setting out the benefits of reading your book. What will the reader gain by reading your book?
Does your book conveniently divide material into sections? Is it the most up-to-date reference? Will it save the reader time? Does it provide valuable advice?
For example, here are the benefits of reading Tour of Duty: Spanish for Law Enforcement:
- Divided into user-friendly sections for quick reference
- Simple to follow pronunciation guide and phonetic spellings
- Removable translated legal forms
- Designed to fit in your side pocket and sturdy enough to withstand the daily rigors of policing
If possible, include three testimonials or endorsements. Ideally, your testimonials will be from well-known people in the subject area of your book. Be sure to include their credentials after their name.
Someone may want to give you a testimonial, but be unsure about what to write. In this case, write a good testimonial and ask permission to use their name with it.
Here are a couple of examples from Tour of Duty: Spanish for Law Enforcement:
“This is a book no police officer should be without. It has a ton of information and has all the phrases you need to keep you safe and doing your job effectively.”
—STEVEN SARGENT, Police Lieutenant, Worcester, Massachusetts
“This is certainly a no-nonsense book. I found myself communicating in Spanish on the first day I used it.”
—ED FONSECA, Federal Correctional Officer, U.S.B.O.P.
About the author
A page about the author is often placed on the last page inside the book. However, a few sentences about the author (with an optional photograph) can be included on the back cover. If you choose to use a short bio on the back cover, make sure the author sounds like the ultimate authority on the subject.
Your publishing information is usually placed at the bottom of your back cover. This includes:
- bar code with ISBN number and price
- website URL
- publisher’s name and logo (optional)
List one or two categories so that bookstore staff will know where to shelve your book. The categories are usually shown at the top left corner of your back cover, but can also be placed at the bottom with your publishing information.
Keep it simple!
When deciding what to include on your back cover:
- Ask what the main benefits are to your target readers. Leave out everything else.
- Don’t clutter your back cover with too much information and a busy background.
- Presenting less information in an easy-to-read type size is better than cramming lots of information into a small type size.
Connect with your potential buyer. In other words, if your book is for children, make sure their parents know why they need to buy your book for their children.
Remember, your back cover copy can be just as powerful a marketing tool as your front cover. Be clear about the benefits of buying your book, and you’ll deliver an irresistible message!
As a self-published author, your book’s marketing campaign is likely dependent on a one-person team — you! Which is why it’s so important for your book’s cover and back cover to help it jump off the shelf and into the hands of eager new readers.
Your cover design is the first thing that will inspire readers to pull your book off the shelf. But your back cover is what will inspire potential readers to take your book to the register.
Writing a strategic, concise and easy-to-read back cover can be your key to making money as a self-published author. Here’s how to write back-cover that will hook new readers and sell your book.
As a writer, you may love long, lyrical descriptions. But the headline of your back cover should be short, simple, and action-oriented.
Start your headline with an action word, then include a promise of what readers can expect to gain from your book. What question will you answer, what intriguing secret will you reveal, or what emotions will you stir in your reader?
Find Out What Really Went on in Nixon’s Whitehouse. Learn the Easy Steps to a Clutter-Free Life. Prepare to Laugh, Cry, and Laugh Some More.
Your headline should hook the readers and draw them into the body copy to learn more.
Make It Easy to Read
A large block of text in the body copy of your back cover may lose your readers. Keep their attention with short paragraphs and scannable text, and keep it around 200 words.
Use headlines, subheads, short paragraphs, and bullet points. Keep open space around your copy to help the content appear quick and easy to read.
Set the Scene
Fiction readers are looking to escape into a scene, so your back cover should give them a taste of the world they’re about to dive into. Set the mood of the story and explain what’s at stake.
In the first two sentences of the back cover of Annie Hartnett’s Rabbit Cake, Hartnett introduces the setting and the core tension of the book:
“Elvis Babbitt has a head for the facts: she knows science proves yellow is the happiest color, [and] she knows a healthy male giraffe weighs about 3,000 pounds…She also knows she plans to grieve her mother, who has recently drowned while sleep-walking, for exactly eighteen months.”
Hartnett then communicates the emotional tone of the story:
“Elvis investigates the strange circumstances of her mother’s death and finds comfort, if not answers, in the people—and animals—of Freedom, Alabama. As hilarious a storyteller as she is heartbreakingly honest, Elvis is a truly original voice in this exploration of grief, family, and endurance of humor after loss.”
Harnett intrigues her readers with an introduction to the mystery and tension of the story, but doesn’t give away too much of the plot. We know the story will pull at our heart strings, but that we’ll also be warmed-over with laughter.
Speak to the Problem
Non-fiction readers look to your back cover to learn how your book will solve their problem. Will your reader learn how to make more money? How to plan the perfect getaway to France? How to understand the complex history of American and Cuban relations?
Your back copy should speak directly to your reader’s problem to show you understand and sympathize with their issue. Then, make a promise to your reader about how your book will solve their problem.
This example from the back cover of Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki shows how Kiyosaki understands the reader’s need, and how buying his book will give them the solutions they’re looking for:
“Rich Dad Poor Dad will…
- Explode the myth that you need to earn a high income to become rich
- Challenge the belief that your house is an asset
- Show parents why they can’t rely on the school system to teach their kids about money
- Define once and for all an asset and a liability
- Teach you what to teach your kids about money for their future financial success”
Your back cover copy is the sales-pitch that will either draw in new readers, or make them put your book back on the shelf.
Although your back cover is critical to your book’s marketing plan, your author bio is another key aspect to building your reputation and making money as a self-published author. Learn how to write an author bio that will impress readers and sell your book.
President & CEO,
Adam Ellis has worked in the book industry since 2002, when he was first exposed to the wonderful world of Self Publishing. Over the years he has worked with thousands of authors and helped to produce, print and publish countless books.
Knowing and understanding the constituent parts of a book cover will help you make the best marketing decisions when you design or commission your own. Despite the popular saying, the cover of a book is what readers will use to judge the contents of your book. It could make the difference between readers walking (or scrolling) past it—or buying it.
Also remember: you want to design your book cover not just to attract readers, but to attract the right readers. This post that we wrote at Reedsy will take you through the anatomy of a book cover and help you build yours from the ground up so that it’s optimized to sell.
Whether you use an edited stock image, an illustration, or bespoke photography, imagery is your cover’s starting point and will affect all future decisions—such as text positioning. Since your cover will be displayed as thumbnails in online stores, the clarity and impact of the cover image are crucial.
For example, the cover for Sing Me to Sleep by Angela Morrison is based on a Shutterstock image of two hands, which has been manipulated, edited, and layered with other elements by a designer to have the desired effect. You can read more about this and stock image manipulation in this guide to book cover design. The image of the two hands works for Sing Me to Sleep as it hints at the tentative relationships that the main character Beth makes, and represents the emotion-driven action of the story.
Sing Me to Sleep by Angela Morrison
A cover image, if effective, will:
- Indicate what genre the author is operating in,
- Provide hints as to the contents of the book, and
- Compel people to read it.
A picture does indeed tell a thousand words. In this case, it needs to tell (or indeed sell) all the thousands of words in the novel.
When handling the words on a cover, it’s important to think in terms of visual hierarchy. In other words, how are you going to arrange the title, the author’s name, and if applicable, the subtitle—paying close attention to the relative size of each element?
For example, this cover design for Stephen King’s End of Watch has a minimal but dramatic image with the author’s name much larger than the title. King’s name is the central selling point, so it stands to reason that it’s at the top of the visual hierarchy. Equally, if you are a first-time author, or have a particularly long, impressive, or intriguing title, this will alter how you arrange the text.
The 250 words you’ll choose to place on your book’s back cover might just be the most important in your entire book project.
Think of your favorite books in your personal library. Aside from the titles and authors, what usually comes to your mind? Your favorite passages? All those beautiful covers? The most memorable images provide visual cues about what’s inside the pages, setting the mood, or giving some clues about the story. Some covers tell a story in and of themselves.
So what about the other side of the book? The book’s back cover. Anything?
I’ll wager that nobody remembers what’s on the back cover of their favorite books. And yet I believe this is the most important – and most overlooked – book marketing real estate for self-published authors.
Authors spend a great deal of energy writing the book, of course. Next is choosing a title and helping create an eye-catching cover. But when it comes to the back cover of their printed book, many new authors skimp or are unconcerned with what’s included, and that’s a huge mistake.
The 200–250 words you’ll choose to place on your book’s back cover might just be the most important words in your entire book project.
Think of this way: Done correctly, the back-cover copy is the primary ad for your book. So how do you create a great back cover? Here are some basic do’s and don’ts.
- Limit the amount of content. Unless it’s an oversized coffee table book, you’ll have room for 200-250 words on your back cover, maybe less. Put too much content and it will overwhelm your potential buyer. You’ll have to make the font size so small that people will need a magnifying glass to read it.
- Research what other authors in your genre are doing with their back covers. Before writing your own back-cover copy, examine the backs of other books in your genre for examples of what is working for other authors.
- Write a short summary of what your book is about. Again, keep it tight – write only a paragraph or two. If it’s a novel, include the story’s most engaging plot points. For a nonfiction book, create a bullet point list of the book’s main features and consider including that list on the back cover. Use three to five bullet points only (odd numbers are best, marketing research shows), and tell what the book will do for the reader or what the reader will learn from your book.
- Add your picture to the back cover. Have a professional headshot created for you. This should be a clear, close-up photo of your face. Just you. No significant others, kids, or pets.
- Include a brief bio. For nonfiction authors, you should include two or three points to establish that you are an expert with the training and/or experience that qualifies you to write about your topic.
- Include endorsements. These should be short and powerful statements – preferably by someone well-known in your genre (if you’re a novelist) or your field (if you write nonfiction).
- Make yourself the focus of your book’s back cover. Your focus needs to be on your readers and why they should be interested and/or trust in what you have to say. It’s all about tapping into your readers’ need for your book. Unless you make that connection, those potential readers will choose another book, no matter how good your writing and content might be.
- Use clichés. Don’t tell potential readers this book is “a must-read” that “will change your life.” The back-cover copy is not a book review. Make sure the tone is understated. People know you wrote this ad for the book, and if you write about it in superlatives, it makes you look bad – either arrogant or desperate or exaggerating, depending on people’s perception. Write confidently but humbly, stating facts about the book and touting its benefits, not a parade of adverbs and adjectives of self-praise.
- Get just anyone to write an endorsement for you. You have very limited space, so your endorsement ought to be a recognized name in your genre or field. Better to forgo endorsements than to look like you tried — and failed — to find someone important to recommend your book.
- Forget to proofread and grammar check your back-cover copy. These are the most painful goofs and typos! It’s a sure sign to prospective readers that the pages inside the book contain the same kind of careless errors.
While you might not remember the back cover content of the last book you read, it probably played a major part in your buying decision. The words you place on your back cover are crucial to your book’s success. Give your back-cover copy the time and attention required so it can close the sale!
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Your blog is mainly focusing on non-fiction books but there’s another caveat I’d add for fiction – don’t tell the WHOLE story. A good rule of thumb is to have the back cover copy only reveal about the first quarter of the book – it shouldn’t be a synopsis because you never want to give away the ending!
Very informative. Thank you for finding time to share this.
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When you consider purchasing a book, either in a store or online, what do you notice first? The front cover grabs your attention. Right? After that, you might flip inside to read the first few sentences of the book, and then venture to the back cover (online the back cover is displayed as the “Description”). Or you may go to the back cover before opening the book. Regardless, the back cover copy is a critical element to selling your book once it’s available for purchase. But first, you can use it to your advantage in your proposal to sell your work to an agent or editor.
An aside: when an author is well-known, the name sells the book. Then you may see endorsements or praise (called blurbs) on both the front and back covers. Endorsements may abound on debut authors’ books, too. But I’m not writing here about endorsements. What I mean in this post is the summary of the book that will turn browsers into buyers.
For nonfiction, effective back cover copy is a quick overview of the book’s topic and goal, along with the takeaway value for the reader. Here is a made-up example:
Have you read Proverbs 31 a hundred times but still can’t relate? Or worse, you might wish she would just disappear like Jimmy Hoffa? Yet you still want to be the perfect — or at least near-perfect — wife? Married for forty years, writer and speaker Mrs. Pleasant Atalltimes shares ten keys to being perfect enough in the eyes of your audience of one — your own husband. In 10 Keys to Becoming the Perfect Woman the author shares tips on how to keep him knowing that, after God, he is the center of your universe. From the big picture, such as being prayerful and of good cheer, along with considering his needs before those of anyone else, to the everyday, such as wearing your best perfume only for him, you will learn tips that will make your marriage a happier and more God-honoring place to live.
While this example is intentionally over the top, in a few sentences, the reader can identify the author, target audience, goal, tone, and takeaway value of this book. In the next moment the potential reader will be able to decide whether or not to purchase.
Now for a fiction example:
Surrounded by cookie cutter mansions and manicured lawns, Virginia Dare is determined to live up to her name. There is no challenge she won’t risk. And that includes avoiding the dull suburban life she believes to be her destiny.
Scarred by a challenging childhood full of upheaval, Lance Bradford wants nothing more than to settle into a predictable, safe routine, and stay there. Part of that stability includes attending a large church in the suburbs, where he is a popular bachelor. But no woman catches his eye until Virginia Dare and he both sign up to help with a church mission trip fundraiser.
As they grow closer through their church work, Virginia challenges Lance to leave his comfort zone through a series of wild adventures, while he fights her restlessness. But when tragedy strikes, both of them must really learn how to live, and to rely on God for real peace as they grow together in love.
The above shows that this novel is a contemporary romance and the couple’s overarching conflicts, plus hints at the dark moment and event that will test the couple’s romantic commitment to each other and their commitment to God. Again, the reader is offered information to decide whether to buy or look at another novel instead.
So the back cover copy is a short pitch. Note that our agency’s guidelines asks for something like this. It can be critical in helping a marketing department know how to sell your book more effectively.
Don’t be surprised if you see your copy show up on the finished cover of your book. Editors will often use the material in your proposal as a basis for what they create in their own marketing copy. Don’t despair if writing such copy is not your strength. Your agent can often help you tweak the material and your editor may also help before they present the project to their committees. Thus it is worth your investment of time and effort to make this the best you can. Who knows? It just might be a key to your success!
What do you think is the most challenging part of writing back cover copy?
Does the back cover copy affect your decision to buy fiction? How about nonfiction?
Do you think back cover copy is as important as endorsements?
The statement “never judge a book by its cover” is true because most people don’t stop at the front cover – they continue reading the back cover to see if it grabs their interest. However, we live in a new era where almost 70% of all books are now purchased online (meaning Amazon). This new reality means that your back cover copy is more important than ever before.
When people view a book online, they usually see just a tiny picture of the front cover and the first few sentences of back cover copy. This fact should give authors and publishers a great deal of trepidation. Why? People are deciding whether or not to purchase books based on a tiny picture and a few words of text you create.
Before books were sold online, people walked into a store, picked up a book with their hands, looked at the cover, flipped it over and read the back, then opened the book and read a few pages. Those days are long gone. If you want to sell more books online, you need a good cover. But, you also have to grab people’s attention and make them want to read your book with just a few precious sentences of marketing copy.
The stakes are higher than before, which means you need to get really good at writing back cover copy. Those words may be all that anyone sees on your Amazon page to convince them to buy your book.
4 Simple Steps to Write Better Back Cover Copy
I’ve helped several bestselling authors improve their back cover copy, including both fiction and non-fiction books. There are many ways to develop compelling promotional text. But, if you feel stuck in the process, use these four simple steps to help take your back cover copy to a higher level. Let’s start with non-fiction titles. (For novels, keep reading below):
Step 1. Display an attention-grabbing hook
Start your back cover copy by displaying an attention-grabbing hook in the form of a statement or a question. Use a large bolded font to make the hook obvious to readers and separate from the other text. If you’re new to the idea of creating a book hook, use my popular “What if I told you?” technique for help.
Step 2. Describe the felt need in society your book addresses
In the first paragraph under the top marketing hook, use 1 – 3 sentences to explain the big problem in society and the need for your book to exist. What is the big problem you’ve noticed that is affecting thousands of people? What are the consequences people are experiencing? Don’t get too dark or negative. But, describe the burden that led to the need for a book to be written.
Step 3. Tell the reader the specific payoff of your book
The next step is to transition from the problem to the payoff. Tell readers how your book will inform, inspire, or entertain. Why should people buy a copy? I recommend the transition technique of using the sentence, “This book (use actual title) will help you…” Then, list 4 – 5 bulleted statements that describe specific results people will experience from reading your book. An example could be, “This book will help you…Increase your confidence to control emotions during sticky situations.”
Step 4 – Clarify your credibility as an expert who can be trusted
The final step is about creating credibility in the reader’s mind. Why should people listen to you? Beneath your 4 – 5 payoff statements, finish your back cover copy by using 2 – 4 sentences that provide a brief bio in a manner that explains why you’re worth trusting. List academic credentials, bestseller status, and describe a track record of helping people experience the payoff results described in Step 3.
That’s it. Follow those four steps and you’ve got effective back cover copy. However, keep mind that the small size of paperback books and Amazon’s product pages will limit your word count to a small amount (typically 150 – 250 words.) Brevity and punch are essential to making back cover copy effective.
When writing marketing copy for a novel,
use these two simple steps:
Step 1. Display an attention-grabbing hook
Just like non-fiction titles, start your back cover copy with a strong hook sentence in the form of a statement or a question. Make the hook text stand out at the top. Pick the most suspenseful scene form your novel and form a short hook around the emotion felt by the main character. Make sure people can feel a sense of fear, desire, or heroism. Otherwise, your book hook will be a dud.
Step 2. Tell an emotional summary of the most suspenseful scene
Below your hook, give an emotional summary of the most suspenseful part of your novel. People buy fiction based on emotion rather than logic, so it’s counterproductive to give a boring synopsis of the entire plot. Instead, describe the most gut-wrenching scene using as much emotion as possible in 200 words or less. Build the description to a climax and then leave the reader hanging. Avoid giving away a spoiler, but create a cliffhanger effect and tease the reader to want to know what happens.
Even though most books are now purchased on the Internet, never forget that you’re selling to people. People make decisions based on the language they read. Technology doesn’t sell books. Social media doesn’t sell books. Language drives the book sale. If you want to sell more books, start by hooking people with your back cover copy.
Learn how to write awesome back cover copy and other essential book marketing skills by taking my Book Marketing Master Class. Open to authors of any level and publishers of every size.
“Rob Eagar revolutionized the way I look at marketing my novels and connecting with my readers. His Book Marketing Master Class gave me more fantastic promotional ideas than I knew what to do with. Plus, Rob made sure that I understood each step along with the reasoning behind it and helped me craft a workable timeline to implement everything.”
Bestselling novelist with over 300,000 copies sold
About Rob Eagar
Rob Eagar is the founder of WildFire Marketing, a consulting practice that helps authors and publishers sell more books and spread their message like wildfire. He is one of the rare consultants to help both fiction and nonfiction books hit the New York Times bestsellers list. Rob has consulted with numerous publishers and trained over 800 authors. He is the creator of The Author’s Guide Series, a comprehensive collection of resources that teaches authors how to sell more books. Find out more at: WildFire Marketing and follow Rob on Twitter.
Your advice is priceless and extremely sensible. I am a co-author of an upcoming self-help and motivational book called Your New You After 65.
You’ve just made my copywriter’s job easier. Thank you Rob
Awesome Back Cover Endorsements
B ack cover endorsements are a valuable part of your book’s design. Endorsements made by reputable entities and authority figures within your subject area can help boost sales. Endorsements provide a seal of approval, or testimonial about your book that convince potential buyers that the book is a worthwhile purchase, and an interesting read. There’s a lot of back cover endorsement examples that can inspire you and help you create one for your book that will surely standout.
Just like a book’s cover works to provide the book with an impactful visual persona, character, and help readers to visualize scenes and ideas from the book’s story, a back cover endorsement works to give a book a sense of credibility. In fact, many readers look for a book’s endorsement before making the decision to purchase the books.
Laying out back cover endorsements should be done in a strategic way that compels a potential reader to want to explore the contents of the book, and ultimately purchase it to indulge in the interesting content within. Back cover endorsements can also act as a call to action that entices readers to dive into the book.
By strategically laying out back cover endorsements, you can increase the value of your book and boost sales. People trust the endorsements of authority figures within your subject area, and can even purchase your book based on these endorsements alone.
Below are ten examples of book back covers with well-designed endorsements.
Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal
How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill YouIn the Shadow of the BanyanKiss Your BUT Good-Bye: How to Get Beyond the One Word That Stands Between You and SuccessThe Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal FreedomThe Graveyard BookThe Light Between OceansThe Long WarThe Night Gwen Stacy DiedThe Secret ZooThe Summer of Beer and Whiskey: How Brewers, Barkeeps, Rowdies, Immigrants, and a Wild Pennant Fight Made Baseball America’s GameTime Warped: Unlocking the Mysteries of Time PerceptionWhen We Were the Kennedys: A Memoir from Mexico, MaineWho Owns the Future?Beautiful Ruins: A Novel
We hope that these book endorsement examples will help you create a back cover that will increase not only the sales but most especially, the value of your book.
How to write the best cover for a book, cover to cover
How to write the best cover for a book, cover to cover
I’m not sure if it was the cover or the fact that I got stuck writing a book cover, but when it comes to my book The Secret Life of Pets, I had to do some work.
The cover is meant to be seen in the book as an allegory of the author’s relationship with his animals, but that is not the only thing I wanted to show off.
For example, I wanted the book to show the love and affection for animals.
My goal with the cover was to be as close as possible to a real life story.
This was a hard task for me because there are so many elements to the story that I could use to illustrate the message, such as how the animals are treated or how the book ends.
One of the main points of the book is the relationship between the pets, and the characters in it.
So I had the idea of showing off some of the things I wanted from the cover.
Here are some things I had in mind for the cover: a young puppy that loves to play and how it gets in trouble because it’s a baby.
I wanted to portray the puppy’s love and the fact it gets so in trouble is heartbreaking.
a dog who gets his tail chopped off for his owner’s amusement.
Finally, a puppy who is happy to be with his owner but who is so frightened that he’ll kill them if he gets hurt.
To be honest, I wasn’t really sure if I wanted a puppy with its tail chopped or not.
As a child I had a little puppy that would eat anything, and it would have its tail cut off for me to play with.
But I never realized that I didn’t want a puppy to have its head cut off to have a tail cut for its owner.
That is one of the reasons I wanted this puppy to be so scary, and also to represent the fear of being cut off.
I wanted the puppy to act out the story, so I created a scene that showed the scene that happens when the dog gets its tail severed.
When the dog is chopped in half, the tail cuts off and the dog dies.
Then it goes back to its original size.
Now that’s a scene!
The puppy and its owner then look at each other, as if to say, We’ll do this again someday.
They then look each other in the eye and say,It’s over, it’s over.
Then the dog’s owner goes into the woods to see how he got cut.
He sees a puppy, but the puppy has already died.
Suddenly the dog has his tail cut, and then he goes back into the forest.
And that’s the end of the story.
It was a tough task, but it was also rewarding.
At the end, the puppy is alive and well, and his owner has found the owner who is really, really nice.
It was an easy task for the artist to pull off.
There are a lot of details to be covered in the illustration, but everything was done quickly, and everything was as close to a true representation of the situation as I could get.
If you’d like to read more about the cover, check out my blog entry How to write a cover for your book.