When you self-publish your book, you’ll need to think like a publisher. As a self-publisher, you’ll manage every element of your book, from securing a professional editor to marketing your book to the masses.
One of the most important elements you’ll oversee is your book cover design. You have to come up with the perfect cover design, front and back. While you won’t need to worry about a back cover for most ebooks, back covers are essential if you want to sell hardcover or paperback copies. In many ways, the back cover is even more important than the front cover because it introduces your story to the reader.
In this guide, we’ll discuss how to come up with a back cover that sells your book fast.
The Pros and Cons of Designing Your Own Book Cover
Before we delve into how to design a winning back cover, let’s look at the potential benefits and drawbacks of DIYing this project.
Here are the Pros of Designing Your Own Book Cover
You’ll save money – Is there any bigger benefit than free? You won’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on a cover. That’s money that you can use for other tasks, such as editing and book promotion. On the low end, you’ll pay $300 for a cover design. On the high end and with an in-demand designer, you’ll pay $1500 (or more). When you’re self-publishing, every penny counts.
You’ll have complete control over the final product – Depending on your abilities, this is may be both a pro and a con. If you’re a perfectionist and have an eye for book cover design, the option to do it yourself is appealing and guarantees that you’ll get the results that you want.
Here are the Cons of Designing Your Own Book Cover
You may not be able to produce a professional look – You’re a writer, not a graphic designer… or are you? For those of us who aren’t talented in graphic design, it’ll show on a poorly designed book cover. Because your cover will help sell your book, you may not want to chance it.
It’s time consuming – You just dedicated months of your life to writing and re-writing a book. Do you really want to spend another long stretch of time in the design phase? Plus, if you’re a complete design newbie, you’ll have to learn a lot of stuff from scratch, including how to use the design software.
You don’t know the market – Insider knowledge is perhaps the most compelling reason to commission a professional designer. It’s his or her job to study what’s out there and keep on top of trends. A good book designer will know the market.
Cons aside, designing a book cover can be rewarding because it increases your sense of ownership over your book.
Look at Other Books in Your Genre
Before you start designing your back cover, take a trip to your local bookstore and check out what else is on the market. Focus on your genre (romance, sci-fi, historical non-fiction, etc.) to get a good idea of what style of book cover your prospective readers are accustomed to seeing. You don’t want to reinvent the wheel with your back cover. It should give the reader a similar experience so that they’re not repelled by your unfamiliar cover design.
A Description of Your Book
Also on your back cover, you’ll include a description of your book. But it’s not just any description as you have approximately 200 words (depending on your font type) to grab the reader. Don’t squander this moment by going into a blow by blow of what happens in your book.
Remember that you’re not writing a synopsis of your story (like you would in your query letter). Instead, you’re writing the literary equivalent of a movie trailer. You’re trying to excite, intrigue, and interest the reader. You’re not trying to explain exactly what the story’s about. Leave a lot of mystery. The last thing you want to do on your back cover is to give away too much of your story to the reader. If you do, they’ll quickly get impatient as they’re reading your first chapter because they know too much about what will happen next.
Instead, give a vague idea of what your story is about. Focus on introducing your protagonist and give a little insight into his or her back story.
Create short, snackable paragraphs. Remember that you don’t have a lot of time to convince the prospective reader to buy your book. Make every word count.
Are you writing a back cover blurb for a nonfiction book? Create a short introductory question to grab the reader. Next, follow up with approximately five bullet points to share the most important topics in your book.
Ah, the bio. It’s one of the hardest parts of creating a back cover. In the bio, you’re tasked to a one-paragraph summary of your entire life. No pressure!
Of course, you won’t be able to create an in-depth portrait, but you can touch on the most important parts of your personal story, such as:
- Where you’re from/ where you live now – No need to be specific, a general area will do (i.e. the Pacific Northwest). Being local to the area may boost your appeal to prospective readers.
- What connection you may have to the subject matter* – For example, if your book takes place during the Vietnam War, and you grew up hearing stories about it from your grandfather who served during the war, include it here.
- Your personal life – Are you married? Do you have kids? Mention it here so that the reader can get a picture of who you are.
*If you’ve written a nonfiction book, also explain why you’re qualified to write about this topic. If you’re a subject matter expert, include it here.
A Professional Photo
Be sure to include a photo of yourself on your back cover. I know you don’t like taking photos, but I also know that your prospective reader is curious and wants to know what you look like. Your physical appearance doesn’t affect the story, but it does provide a sense of relatability for the reader. See, I’m a human just like you.
Your bio photo needs to be a close up image of you– and only you– not you and 14 of your closest friends while on vacation in Cancun. It should also be an professional portrait, and not a selfie from your camera roll.
What’s one of the best ways to compel a prospective reader is buy your book? Include an element of social proof on your back cover. Some readers need that extra assurance that your book is worth the effort.
Of course, you don’t want to grab just any old endorsement. A glowing review from your mom won’t hold as much weight as a empathetic must-read from a fellow, well-known author in your genre. Imagine writing a horror book and getting an endorsement from Stephen King? Score! It may sound far-fetched, but you don’t get what you don’t ask for.
Make Room for the ISBN
The ISBN number is a small thing, but it’s important for distribution purposes. When designing your back cover, leave enough room for your ISBN (barcode) number.
Proofread and Get a Second Pair of Eyes
You know what’s embarrassing? Spending weeks on designing the perfect cover and then printing out 1,500 copies of your book only to realize that you have a glaring typo on your back cover. It could be a careless typo, such as the difference between “a” and “an” or “there” and “their,” but it could distract your prospective reader so much that they decide not to buy your book.
Before you invest money into printing your book, go over it several times. Then, ask a literary-minded friend or a trusted professional to proofread your back cover, too. After you’ve spent days or weeks designing your back cover, it’s only natural that you’ll overlook simple errors.
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