June 12, 2017

The neglected detail: Using the back cover to publicize your self-published book

By Sandy Diaz

Nothing detracts more from a book’s appeal than a bad back cover.

Whether your reader is a potential buyer, book reviewer, media professional or someone who wants to hire you for your expertise, your book’s back cover has to communicate to your target audience: “buy me, trust me!”

Authors often spend months or even years writing their books, yet give little time to what is on the back cover. Summarizing your book into 200 to 300 words can be a daunting task. Here are some tips for improving this vital area of your book:

Develop a 30-second elevator pitch: If you only have 30 seconds to tell potential readers about you and your book, what would it include? Your goal on the back cover is to give readers enough information to intrigue them into buying the book. What may help focus your message is to ask a someone who has read your book to give you his or her 30-second pitch about your book.

Tailor your copy for fiction and nonfiction: If it’s a novel, remember that detailing every character and plot twist is not necessary. Read the back cover copy of books by your favorite authors in your genre to see examples of how to entice readers without giving away the entire plot. Your goal is to make an emotional connection with the reader so they will want to be transported into your world. If it’s nonfiction, tell readers what they will learn, what problems your book will solve, and why your book is different. The goal of a nonfiction book may be to inform, inspire, educate or entertain. Make sure the reader understands what is inside your book–and why you are qualified to write it. Bullet points work well with nonfiction books.

Remember, less is more when writing your author bio: Only include relevant information. For nonfiction, make your credentials clear by listing education, work experience, professional memberships, past books and awards. For fiction, consider including where or how you grew up, professional experience, writing awards or other acclaim, past books you’ve written or interesting information explaining how you came to write your book.

Include your website/blog: This will allow people (especially the media!) to find out more about you and contact you!

Use a professional author photo: If you choose to include one, use a professional, uncluttered, current headshot. Keep your audience in mind. We worked with a book geared for children/families in which the author’s pose literally looked like an evil character from a B horror movie. Not a great enticement!

Use professional book reviews: Only use book reviews from known, respected sources or credentialed people. (Professional colleagues in your field are especially helpful for nonfiction books). It can actually hurt you if you include, “Thrilling page turner! by Amazon reviewer.” It’s better to leave this out. Someone actually submitted a book to us with, “…this is the best book ever written–Author’s Mother.” This could have been funny if it were not such a serious mistake!

Don’t forget to proofread your copy: Last but not least, although it seems obvious, proofread your text. In the rush to complete what is often the final stage of a book, back cover copy can be neglected. We’ve seen outstanding books marred by typos–and yes, the media, and especially book reviewers, notice. Back cover copy needs to be proofread by professional eyes. If you are working with a publicist early enough in the process, run the copy by that person for feedback on content. Back cover copy is crucial for transforming the browser into a buyer. Don’t skimp on this essential piece to your project.

Sandy Diaz is president of Smith Publicity, a leading book promotion firm with offices in New Jersey, New York City, Los Angeles and London. She can be reached at 856-489-8654 x301.

2 thoughts on “The neglected detail: Using the back cover to publicize your self-published book

  1. Hello, Ms. Diaz,
    I have worked several years on my gift book of photographs of birds, “My Book of Birds,” before realizing how expensive printing photographs can be. When I put the numbers through Ingramsparks costing pages, my book is going to have to be for sale for about $21.95 for an 8×8 book, hardcover (designer made cover) with upgraded paper and ink. It is a beautiful book but I’m wondering if people are willing to pay $21.95 for a gift book that teaches young children to identify birds in their own backyards. Of that, I will receive $1.50 per book. Do these numbers appear normal to you? This was to be the first of a Nature Series of 3 books for ages 3 to 7.

  2. Dwayne says:

    Thank you very much Sandy for a great article. It is very informative and has given me some things to think about when writing the back cover of my book. Things that I hadn’t even considered.

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