The Formula for Great Back Covers

Your back cover copy is an essential component of your book marketing.  Research tells us that potential book buyers look at the front cover for a brief 3-8 seconds, flip the book over to scan the back cover copy, and then quickly decide to open the book or to put it down.

Thus, the words you select for your back cover must be compelling, interesting, and focused on the benefits of the book.  Potential readers will be asking themselves,

“If I invest in reading this book, what will I receive in exchange for my time, money and attention?”

When you answer that question in your back cover copy, you will have a book that is a magnet to your perfect readers.

Let’s start from the top of the back cover and review each component.

At the very top of your book cover, you’ll list the genre, the section of the bookstore where your book should be placed, such as Parenting, Spirituality, Business and Investing, etc. Listing the genre gives potential readers a quick overview of the focus of your book.

Next, you’ll see the most important part of a successful back cover, a compelling headline. It’s important to grab the reader’s attention right away and let her know why she needs this book.

Here are some examples:

  • “America’s favorite organizer tackles the time crunch and shows you how to get more done with less stress.”
  • “Feel more peaceful at work, no matter who you work with.”
  • “Release Your Inner Leader.”

Follow your headline with two paragraphs describing the benefits of reading the book. The first paragraph should address the problem, using emotional language, so that the reader knows you understand her situation. The second paragraph introduces your book as the solution to that problem. Using a bulleted list of key points is a good technique in the second paragraph to concisely share the 3-5 key benefits of the book.

Back cover copy is generally written in a conversational tone, using ‘you’ to address the reader.  The intent is to begin a relationship with the reader that is full of trust so it is important to communicate

  • respect
  • understanding
  • expertise – send the message that you have what they need
  • personal interest in helping readers solve problems

The next section of the back cover contains 1-3 short endorsements. These quotes provide social proof and communicate that other people have read this book and liked it. You may want to just post snippets of endorsements as short quotes on the back cover and use the full endorsement on your website and in the first pages of the book.

Next, there is a short bio of the author, generally no more than 1-3 sentences. The bio is written in third person, as if someone else is describing you. This bio should focus on your education, work history, and other items which demonstrate your credibility. The last line of the bio traditionally says where you live. That sentence is there so that readers know you are a real person. For example: Richard lives with his family in Northern California. Julie lives and works in New York. Debbie and her cat Sheba live in Oregon.

Include a small professional photo of yourself on the back cover, even if you are shy. Since the whole point of this book is to establish yourself as an expert and grow your business, having your photo on the back cover further cements you as that expert person. Ensure that your photo highlights your eyes and draws people to you. Your photo should evoke warmth, trustworthiness, professionalism, and confidence. Invest in a professional photograph done with excellent lighting.

The final ingredients of the back cover are the bar code and publishing marks. Your publisher will insert those for you. If you decide to self-publish, you can easily insert them yourselves. In fact, some printers now provide the bar code for you at no charge.

That’s the anatomy of a back cover.  Depending on the size of your published book, you have between 150-250 words, so each one should be carefully chosen for maximum impact. Write a draft of your back cover copy and get feedback so you can assess the impact of your words. Continue to polish your back cover copy until you love it.  Then, have your publisher or editor polish it further for you.

When you follow this formula, you’ll have a winning back cover that will effortlessly attract your ideal readers.

Comments 13

  • This is great information. I have authored four books, and I can tell you that there is one important lesson that I have learned. That is to never let your editor write you back cover copy. The back cover should be personable, thought provoking and informational. This article really helps bring that point home. Thanks for posting.

  • Hello from Montana,

    Always good to learn from the best. This information helps me to trim my words down considerably.

    My style used be to tell people how a clock was made, when all they wanted to know was the time!

    Keep up the good work.

    Your friend,

    Judy Helm Wright

  • This is my first trip to your blog after discovering you through your online workshop that just ended. Practical tips like this one on back covers are wonderful for someone like me who is not yet published and might not think about all the standard little details that go into each aspect of a finished book product. I’ll definitely be back for more! Thanks Lynne.

  • Thank you Lynne. This is really clear and helpful!

  • Thanks Lynn, terrific tips for me. I “do” read the back cover of books before I decide to open to the table of contents. Your help is appreciated.

  • Brilliant. Lynne, your blessing is being able to boil things down to their essential elements and clearly describe both the purpose and steps that need to happen to fulfill it. I love that about you.
    I’m a structure and process person – but I don’t always know what’s appropriate in different settings (like book-writing!!) This was very helpful. Thanks so much, as EVER!
    Cheers, Dolly

  • Since I buy a lot of my books on Amazon, I often don’t see the back cover until after I own a book. Lately, I’ve seen a lot of less than inspiring back covers that would not have motivated me to buy the book had I seen it in a store.

    Lynn, how do you think the demise of brick and mortar bookstores will change how books are marketed? Will good reviews on Amazon become more important than great back cover copy?

  • Thanks Lynn, Back cover copy is almost as hard for me as the log line = ) But this is a big help.

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