Whether you are a
self-publishing author or a publisher working with an author, that moment
arrives when you have a great book title and subtitle firmly in hand, and you
may even have a great front-cover design that will feature them. You breathe a
giant sigh of relief. But that moment of total peace can mean only one thing:
Now you have to come up with the back-cover copy.
How important is the back cover?
What can you say there to get people to buy your book? What role does it play
in your overall marketing efforts? Here are some practical ways to think about
crafting back-cover copy that will help you sell more books.
Valuable Real Estate
The limited amount of physical
space on your back cover makes it the perfect breeding ground for that
all-important elevator speech—the one you give to capture someone’s
attention and make them want to know more about your book in the 15 seconds you
usually have one-on-one. When you’re not there in person to give the speech,
the back cover has to do it for you.
Dan Poynter reports that people
spend about 7 seconds looking at the front cover of your book and 15 seconds
looking at the back. This is all the time you have to get readers interested
before you lose them to the next book on the shelf or online. The same is true
for reviewers, distributors, bookstore managers, the media, and possibly
customers for other products and services you provide.
Back-cover text should showcase
expertise and credibility, give your target audience great reasons to buy your
book, and direct them to your Web site for additional information.
The Many Hats of a Back
Do it right the first time, and
your back-cover copy becomes the foundation of your entire marketing campaign,
both in print and online. Its crystal-clear positioning and sell copy will work
in your catalog copy, print ads, Amazon blurb, press releases, story pitches to
the media, Web site content, and more. When you use the same fresh, authoritative
language you develop for your back-cover text in all your marketing efforts,
you can build a powerful, cohesive brand for yourself and your book along with
related products and services.
The 10-Step Checklist
The questions and suggestions in
the checklist that follows are designed to prepare you to write back-cover copy
that will grab potential readers and get them to buy your book.
Target market. Who is your target
market? Don’t say, “Everyone.” To reach out to people and sell them on your
expertise, you need to identify a niche—that group of people who have
specific questions or problems for which you offer specific solutions. For
example: If your book is about personal finance, what kind, and for whom? Is it
for people at the end of their careers and ready to retire? Young professionals
who have more time to develop retirement strategies? Parents eager to save for
their children’s college education? Differences may be subtle, but they are
important. Knowing the specific needs, hopes, and problems that matter to your
target audience helps you create copy that will attract them and make them want
Sales channels. How will your book
be sold? Will you work with a distributor? Sell to bookstores, mass-market
stores, and/or other kinds of stores? Will you offer it on Amazon, your own Web
site, and affiliate sites? Will the book be bundled with other books or
products? Will you sell it at the back of the room after speaking presentations
and seminars? All the above? Keep your sales channels in mind as you write.
Headline. The back cover’s main
attention-grabber is the headline. Borrow from the front cover to create it.
Remember all those great ideas that didn’t make the cut for the title or
subtitle? Maybe one of them can now take center stage as the back cover’s main
headline. Alternatively, the headline can also be a question, a compelling
statistic, or a high-profile endorsement. Surprise, delight, and inspire. Make
anyone who sees or hears about your book want to know more.
Key positioning copy. In one or
two short paragraphs, present the core of the elevator speech for your book.
Get right to the point. You need to stand out in a crowded market or create a
new niche and dominate it. What does your target audience already know, and
what do you bring them that’s new? Why you and not someone else? How does your
book differ from related titles already on the market? What is your unique
perspective, approach, background, focus, or process? What sets you apart? Be
clear about the answers, and you’ll be ready to craft this portion of your
Bullet points. Bullet points make
you write visually. They should be tight, punchy statements that highlight the
key benefits of reading your book. Breaking part of your back-cover sell copy
into these bite-sized chunks can draw readers in at a glance. This part of the
back-cover content may be the first thing they read, so make every word count.
Use five to seven bullet points for a nonfiction book.
Endorsements. For your back cover,
you’ll need about three endorsements, preferably from well-known experts who
will praise the book. Aim high. High-profile endorsements give books instant
credibility. Often, what the endorsement says is less important than who says
it. A recognizable name carries plenty of weight for people looking for a
reason to trust you and spend money on what you have to offer.
Use the Three P’s of endorsement
selection—Person, Position, and Place. Get a household name; a C-level
leader (CEO, CFO, CIO, etc.); a person at the top of a relevant field; or
someone from a well-known and relevant business or organization. Start
soliciting endorsements as soon as possible, because it usually takes time to
make a connection and get a quote. Make it easy for the people you are
approaching to give you a great endorsement by writing and submitting sample
quotes from which they can choose.
Call to action. A call to action
can take many forms and serve different purposes. It might be an additional
selling blurb that drives people to your site or highlights a special feature
inside the book. Are there any great charts, quizzes, or immediately useful
tools or graphs inside the book? Point out a page or chapter number and invite
potential buyers in for a look. Pulling people right into the content of your
book—either in a bookstore or through a link on your site—with this
kind of call to action makes them more likely to buy. Want the reader to buy a
second copy for a sister, friend, business associate, partner, or grandparent?
Say so. Tell people what to do and how to make the most of your message. They
need, expect, and appreciate it.
Author bio. The author bio should
include professional background, expertise, awards, and any other details that
establish your credentials to write this book. What aspects of your expertise
are most important for your target market? What aspects should they see first?
You can use the bio to generate invitations to speak or consult as well as to
establish credibility. But remember, the clock is ticking, so be brief. An
expanded bio can appear in the About the Author page in your book’s back
Subject category. To give
consumers, distributors, and booksellers a clear sense of your subject matter,
make use of the Book Industry Study Group’s BISAC Codes, available at
Technical details. Provide all the
information the book business requires, including ISBN (visit <span
for guidance on using the new 13-digit version), bar code, price, publisher
data, and design and author photo credits. Having these details on your back
cover helps you prepare to work with distributors, bookstores, online
booksellers, and other intermediaries that can help you get your book to your
Your book cover is a billboard,
calling card, lead generator, and more. Treat it like the valuable marketing
real estate it is to make the most of what it can do for you.
The ideas in this article
are excerpted in part from Cover
That Book: Insider Secrets for Writing and Designing a Bestselling Book Cover,
a double CD program for authors, publishers, and experts, co-created by Susan
Kendrick and Graham Van Dixhorn, who are partners at Write to Your Market, Inc.
They specialize in strategic positioning and marketing copy for authors,
speakers, and entrepreneurs worldwide. To learn more, visit
www.WriteToYourMarket.com or call 715/634-4120. For the double CD program,
The Essential Components
of Back-Cover Copy