The 150 to 200 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 your favorite books in your personal library. Aside from the titles and authors, what usually comes to your mind? 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 goes on the back cover. And that’s a huge mistake.

The 150 to 200 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.

DO!

book's back cover

  • Limit the amount of content on the back cover. Unless it’s an oversized coffee table book, you’ll have room for – at best – 150 to 200 words. 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.
  • See 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, you must include the story’s most engaging plot points. For a non-fiction book, authors should make a bullet point list of the book’s main features and actually put 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 is going to 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.
  • Put endorsements on it. They 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).

DON’T

  • 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 in to 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.
  • Write clichés such as “a must-read” or “This book 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 telling its benefits, rather than writing adjectives and adverbs of self-praise. This will win you trust rather than reap you derision.
  • Get just anyone to write an endorsement for you. You have very limited space, so your endorsement must be a recognized name in your genre or field. Better to forego 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 surely played a major part in your buying decision. The words you place on your back cover are crucial to your book’s success – or lack thereof. Give your back-cover copy the time and attention required so that it can close the sale! 

 

Printed Book Design 101

 

Read More
Judging A Book By Its Cover: What Book Publicists–And Media–Want To See On The Outside Of A Book
How A Self-Published Author Got Extraordinary Book Cover Design
Book Cover Design Tips For Independent Authors
Sell the With Your Cover Design
Younger Readers Prefer Printed Books

 

Steven Spatz

About Steven Spatz

Steven Spatz has written 76 posts in this blog.

Steven Spatz is an author, marketer, and the President of BookBaby.

16 thoughts on “Focus On Your Book’s Back Cover

  1. Wendy says:

    I really hate it when the back cover is filled with endorsements. I pick up a book, wonder what it’s about, flip it over, and learn that New York Times is raving about it. NYT has raved about plenty of books I’d have a hard time caring less about, and while I can flip a few pages if I’m looking at hardcopy, often the sample a site like Amazon lets you see includes fly pages, title pages, half-title pages, tables of contents–and little to any of the actual text of the book, i.e. not enough to make a buy/don’t buy judgement.

  2. Laura says:

    Thank you. I was writing the back cover summary when your email came into my inbox! Your tips were very helpful and greatly appreciate your input.

  3. Scott Lorenz says:

    Great article Steven-

    If those 150-200 words on the back cover are carefully chosen to vividly describe the book
    they can be used in press releases and other marketing material. This keeps the marketing consistent with the positioning.

    Next assignment… say the same thing in 50 words… then in 140 characters ala Twitter. It’s a challenge no doubt!

  4. Joanne Kenzy says:

    On a coffee table style landscape book filled with short story poetry of varying subjects, would you put something on the back soft or hard cover?

    1. BookBaby BookBaby says:

      Whatever you put on your back cover it needs to set readers’ expectations for what’s between the covers. Picture your ideal target reader and decide what is the most important & compelling information – visual or written — to put in front of them to help them decide if your book is worth the investment of money and time. -Steven

  5. Thanks for this excellent advice, which I am forwarding to writers I coach. For my most recent book, WRITE YOUR BOOK WITH ME, I put too much on the back cover, and had to revise it before printing. 150-200 words would have been better. My longer draft required tiny font to fit. The back cover is precious space!

  6. Back book cover information is crucial to book sales. Thank you for these tips. I’ve shared liberally.

  7. Rodney Burke says:

    You mean to tell me the self publishing Co. is not going to help with the back page. Mine sure did. They wanted something VERY specific. I guess that only comes with real publishers. I 100% agree. The back should be about the book. Save the reviews for the inside of the front or back cover! I want to know what the book is about and nothing more when I read the back cover. I thought that was the whole purpose of the back cover. Did I miss something in this changing publishing world?

  8. Robert Aston says:

    Than you so much for the useful information. I’ve taken heed of your recommendations for the back cover of ‘Jack o’ War’. This is the third volume of a trilogy that is now nearing publication.

  9. Thank you so much. With my first suspense novel going public in this month, I believe you just confirmed that my back cover will grab the reader’s interest. I am self-publishing, but with professional help. They did a great job with my back cover, which I thought was giving away too much of the plot at first. Now that I’m reading your blog, I’m glad I listened to them.

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