Back Cover non-fiction
By Robin Quinn for
Independent Book Publishers Association
The World of Words is a magical place, where kingdoms
are produced simply by tapping the computer keyboard. Likewise, the
words on a book’s back cover magically take the reader on a quick tour
of what’s inside. That is, if the combination of ingredients in this
word potion does its trick and keeps a shopper spellbound.
Let’s say you’re a savvy publisher who understands how
essential it is
to hire talented designers to create the right looks for the covers of
your books. At a bookstore, the front cover of one of your non-fiction
titles has, in fact, just made an impact, intriguing a potential
customer to linger with the book for at least eight seconds (the
average time spent scrutinizing the front cover according to The Wall
Street Journal). Once this shopper flips the book over, will your back
cover copy work its magic to strengthen interest and trigger the "I
must buy this book" impulse?
Here are some tips for making it do just that.
Use an alluring beginning. If you did your
the top of your back cover listed one to three subject categories so
the bookstore employees were certain where to place your book and, as a
result, it showed up in the shopper’s area of interest. Now the shopper
is glancing at the back cover. Does the copy begin to cast its spell
with a headline or quote at the top conveying the central reason to
read this book? Have you compared the message to your competitors’ to
make sure that it stands out?
Continue to cast your spell with your body copy.
While scanning the cover, will the shopper be enticed by body copy that
reinforces and expands on the benefit highlighted in the headline or
the opening quote? Does your copy "sell the sizzle, not the steak"; in
other words, does its power come from focusing on the major things a
shopper would get out of reading the book rather than on the content
per se. Does the copy’s resonant voice reach out and touch the book’s
potential readers? Is the body copy written in a clear, concise way
certain to make an impact? A common problem with back cover copy
according to award-winning cover designer Tamara Dever of TLC Graphics
is that "people write too much darn copy." Don’t crowd your back cover
with text; remember that you’re going to need room for two to three
strong testimonials, plus the author bio. Breaking up the copy into
bulleted points will make it easier to keep the shopper riveted after a
quick ogle of the front cover in the bookstore aisle.
Feature bewitching testimonials. Quotes from
opinion-makers who are well known or have an important affiliation
relevant to your subject area are usually more convincing than those
from your average Joe or Jill. However, don’t overlook the significance
of clever wording even from the best sources. A tactic used by Ken Lee,
Vice President of Michael Wiese Productions, can help round up lots of
quotes so you’ll be sure to have some that will enhance the power of
your back cover copy. Lee, who works at a company that publishes TV and
film production books, involves authors in collecting quotes very early
in the publication process, as the book is being written. Only about 50
pages of a book are given to each opinion-maker. A conscientious author
may deliver 10 to 15 quotes with the final manuscript this way, Lee
notes. I also recommend tweaking the quotes to increase their sway (of
course, run the revisions past the sources).
Keep them dazzled with a brief author bio. Like
body copy, the author bio will be more likely to keep the shopper
enthralled if it is kept short and to the point. This is the place to
make a strong case for the author’s expertise on the book’s particular
At the end, conjure a sale by asking for it. A
recent trend in back cover copy is to wrap it all up with a strong line
requesting a book purchase. For instance, Fred Gleeck’s title Speaking
for Millions ends with "If you’re looking to make big money as a
speaker, buy this book now!"
Divine the wisdom of using the author photo. Do
see value in adding the author photo to the back cover mix? Will it add
power or detract from the back cover’s command? We’ve all seen pictures
of authors on covers that lessened the authority of their books because
the photos were amateurish, over the top, or just simply unappealing.
On the other hand, a famous author’s photo or a captivating and
appropriate action shot could impel more customers to buy. Even with a
good photo, you may decide that having more room for sales copy on the
back cover is a higher priority. An option is to place the photo on a
back page of the book.
Let your Web site continue working the magic.
your Web site’s URL to the bottom of the back cover gives you an
opportunity for further contact with shoppers, even after they’ve left
the store as the new owners of your book. The shopper you began to
snare with your back cover’s alluring opening doesn’t have to slip away
from your sales influence.
All the ingredients of your back cover should mix well
create an enticing and vivid image of your book. Done right, the back
cover copy will make the title irresistible by tuning in to the needs
and desires of your target audience.
Back Cover Copy is the Welcome Mat to the Front Door of
By Sari Mathesy
The words you place on the back cover of your book are the words that
will either walk your book right up to the cash register or march it
back to the shelves. Your back cover is the final billboard, a
point-of-sale advertisement, and the last piece of promotional material
that hits potential purchasers on their way to pay. It can either lure
readers inside your pages with well-chosen words or knock the wind out
of your sales with faint and feebly-phrased copy. Your back cover is an
invitation for readers to purchase and wasting that space on anything
else won’t ensure you any immediate RSVP’s.
This is not the place to put a book report. The back
cover is really not the spot for the story of your life (except for
maybe a brief biography with a couple of sentences that capture the
essence of you), unless your life story is so compelling that it’s the
basis for your book. You have your dedication page to thank your family
members for tolerating your mood swings; cover space is not the place
for it. Back cover is not the spot for a picture of your pet or for you
to list your hobbies (unless this is a book about them). Nor is it an
arena to qualify your sources, quash your critics, or question your
intentions. Wasting that precious space on anything other than
carefully-chosen sales copy is like flailing at the air. You might land
a couple of punches, but you’re not going to score a knockout.
Back cover copy should be an open invitation to the
reader to cross the threshold of a book. It should beckon the reader,
tempting him with choice tidbits that hold the promise of the banquet
within its covers, wafting the essence of what’s within and making the
reader hungry for what’s being served up inside. It should be
provocative and engaging enough to hook a reader’s interest, yet not
give away so much of the contents so that the bait is gone in just one
bite. It should be enough of a tease about what’s inside to force
readers to get out their wallets and buy a ticket to see the rest of
Authors often submit synopses when it’s time to develop
their back cover copy. No!
Yes, you do want to give a tiny preview of what’s inside, a reader
should get an idea of what to expect, but please save the Cliff Notes
versions for the Ingram listings. Instead, take a lesson from the
internet search engine marketers. Good back cover copy should include
significant details that may incidentally appeal to your audience and
make the difference between sealing the deal and sending your book back
to sit on the shelf.
Giving details about your book without giving away the
story synopsis-style should be your goal. Who-what-where-when is a good
journalistic formula when used sparingly, but it should only hint at
what’s inside. The protagonist is a professor? Academics will identify.
The plot involves scuba-diving? There is an ocean of enthusiasts who
may jump on board. Your hero comes from Brooklyn? Brooklyn people like
reading stories set in their own backyard. Don’t neglect to say whether
it is mystery or memoir, fiction or fact. Just save the blow-by-blows
of your book for inside its pages and use the back cover to get the
reader primed and psyched for what’s inside.
Genre: Make it
easy for the bookstore staff to stock your book on the proper
shelf. On the top right or top left of the back cover, list the
genre your book best fits into.
The list below is by no means complete, and you may add your own
descriptive genre, but be sure to use one that the bookstore staff will
be able to easily classify.
Fiction Genre List
Action and Adventure,
Gay and Lesbian,
Military and Espionage,
Offbeat or Quirky,
Religious and Inspirational,
Short Story Collections,
Thrillers and Suspense,
Non-Fiction Genre List
Art & Photography,
Biography & Memoirs,
Body and Mind,
Business & Finance,
Celebrity & Pop Culture,
Music, Film & Entertainment,
Current Affairs & Politics,
Food & Lifestyle,
Gay & Lesbian,
Home Decorating & Design,
Humour & Gift Books,
Medical, Health & Fitness,
Military & Military History,
Nature & Ecology,
Relationship & Dating,
Religion & Spirituality,
Science & Technology,
Soul and Spirit,
True Adventure & True Crime,