Book Cover Design: What goes on the back cover?
A very common question that I get asked is, “What do you need for the back cover?” The book description is a given, but there are many elements that can amp up the design to make it look more traditional verse self-published.
Most of the time the back cover gets overlooked as an important aspect of the design. Usually, you’re so focused on making the front cover amazing, that the back cover becomes a second thought. However, if you plan on putting your books in stores, bringing them to events – like book signings -, then you want to make sure your back cover lives up to the standards of your front cover.
The following is a breakdown of the different elements that can be included to make the back cover more professional.
Below are a few tips for those who will be writing their book description:
- Start with a headline that entices your readers to want to read on.
- The ideal length for the main description is 150-200 words.
- Break up your copy into shorter paragraphs verse one long paragraph.
- Avoid clichés such as “a must-read” or “This book will change your life”.
- Avoid using the terms like “the book”. Instead, use the title in italics. Avoid “the readers” and “readers” in your description. For example, instead of “Readers will learn…” say “You will learn…”
- The last paragraph should compel the reader to take action by wanting to open your book to know more.
If you would like to read more in depth about certain aspects, I recommend this article written by Casey Demchak.
About the Author
This is optional, but if your description is on the shorter end, adding an “about the author” and/or author photo can increase the appeal of the back cover. However, it is recommend to keep it fifty words or less and keep the information pertinent to the story itself. For example these are some things to include:
- Education, degree, other writing achievements or if you are a bestselling author
- Hobbies or interests if it can be related back to the story. For example if the main character is a kayaker in the story you could say “Jane Doe has been kayaking since the age of 10…”
- A little personal brief which could include where you live and/or your family.
If you get stuck, take a look at some of the author bios of traditionally published books and see how they approach it.
If you choose to include an author photo, make sure it is appropriate and professional. It is typically a head shot or portrait of the author and it should be a recent photograph. Make sure the photo is clear, not blurry, and that the background is plain or solid and not overly dark or light. The more professional the photo, the more readers will assume the author knows what he/she is talking about.
If your photo doesn’t fit those recommendations then it’s best to not include it. If you want to take your own photo because you cannot afford a professional photographer, then follow these tips:
- Find a solid color wall with neutral tones to stand/sit against
- Wear clothes that look nice, but you’re comfortable in
- Use an actual digital camera, not your phone. You’ll need the resolution to be 300 DPI for printing, and not all phones live up to those standards. Some might, but you’re safer using a real digital camera for now.
Quotes from Reviewers
If you have received praise either from advanced copy readers, or after your book has been on the market for awhile, you can consider including some quotes on the back cover. However it is best to use quotes or endorsements from people or periodicals that relate to your book in some way. It is also best if they are from significant sources (not your family member). Be sure to include a credit line giving the name and title of the person who gave you the endorsement.
- Barcodes are always on the back of a book. Now, if you self-publish through Createspace, they will place on the barcode themselves. However, if you prefer more control, you can purchase both the ISBN and barcode to have included on the back cover. This gives the designer flexibility so the barcode doesn’t necessarily have to be in the bottom, right corner.
- Traditional authors typically include a price. As a self-publishing author, you have control over the price of your paperback and can adjust it at anytime. So only include the price if you are 100% sure you are never, ever going to change it.
- Publisher Logo/Author Name/Website: If you happen to have a publishing name for yourself, include that on the back along with a logo if you’ve had one designed. Also, it’s good to include your website URL so that readers know where to go to find out more.
- Category: If you ever think that you might want your book in a local library, or bookstores, it’s a good idea to add a category on the back. This helps libraries and bookstores know where to put your book. This is a great article by Joel Friedlander that talks about Categories. Even through it’s from 2009 the categories are still relevant.
- Cover Design Credit: If you don’t include the credit on your copyright page, then you should include it on the back cover – or both. If you hired a professional designer then it doesn’t hurt to promote their work twice, right? Especially if you loved the work that they did for you.
- Thumbnails of other books: It’s not very often that I see this, but it is definitely an option to include small thumbnails of your others books. Just make sure your book covers work well at that small of a size and convey the book properly (doesn’t just look like a blob of color).
Just don’t overcrowd the back cover with information. You want there to be room to breathe and you also want to make sure you’re providing your reader relevant information.
Communicate with your designer what you want included, and if they come back and say that there’s not enough room for it all then believe them. Trust them. And then work together to figure out what you can edit/remove so that it all fits nicely.
Below are a handful of a good variety of examples.
You can see examples of print covers I’ve designed in my portfolio on my website.