1. The opening sentence and first paragraph
The first line of the back cover must appeal immediately. The first paragraph should attract attention, poke a wound, be exciting, or trigger the reader.
If you start with ‘This book is about’, you’re wasting valuable space, and you’ll immediately lose your reader. Better go straight to the point. A quote, a question, or ‘naming the pain’ are good opening sentences for non-fiction books.
2. A promise to your readers
The back cover is not only a summary of your book, it’s also your main sales page. You are making a promise to your readers: what will they be able to do, what will they know, or how will they feel after reading the book? For example: “This book will give you the knowledge and practical daily steps to keep the passion alive in your relationship”.
Focus on the reader and solve their problem. You, the author, and your book are secondary. It is the outcome, not the process, that matters to the reader.
So focus on the results rather than the process. Don’t say, “This book contains seven productivity exercises”, but “These concentration exercises will increase your productivity by 15 percent”.
3. About the Author
The ‘About the author’ section introduces the sender of the message. Don’t make the mistake of listing your career achievements. Select information that is relevant to the reader and which complements and adds value to your back-cover. You can always add a page (or even a chapter) to your book to share
more about yourself, your background, and your other products and services, may be of interest to motivated readers.
It is also informative to mention why you are passionate about the subject. Why did you decide to write this book? If you add a short, powerful, personal message (which can be elaborated on in the introduction to the book), readers will feel more engaged.
4. Author photo
Most authors decide to include a picture of themselves on the back cover. This author’s photo gives readers an instant impression of the person sending the message/writing the book. Invest in a high-resolution, professional-quality image. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a business-style photo: the look and feel should match your message. Don’t be tempted to just use a holiday snapshot. They are often grainy and don’t have the right appeal.
5. Reader’s response or recommendation
A recommendation from someone who isn’t involved in the book works better than the author or publisher saying how good the book is. Recommendations or reviews from a third party can be compelling. They make even more of an impression if the reviewer is well-known, such as a celebrity, expert, or specialist in your field. In my blog The Best Reference you will find explanations and examples.
6. Call to action
What action do you want your readers to take after reading your back cover? Is there something you want them to do? Something you want them to think about? Is there a conversation they should be having? Do you want them to buy your book or go to your website? Including the URL for your book’s landing page or your website will help the reader find you online.
Back cover essentials
The text of your back cover, especially the ‘about the author’ part, is usually written in the third person. For the reader, it is as if the publisher is writing about the author and the book. So even if you’re writing your back cover yourself, pretend that someone else (possibly the publisher) is saying this about you and your book.
And now for the punch line: all these different parts of your back cover cannot exceed 250-300 words, including the ‘about the author’ section. The back cover space is limited, and you need to reserve some space for the author’s picture, the barcode/ISBN, and other sales information. So make sure you focus on the most important things and don’t repeat yourself.
Read and learn; study other back covers
Search for books on your topic on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other book sites. Take some time to read the back covers of books that are similar to yours. Examine random back covers from your bookcase. You’ve probably never looked at books this way before.
What information is featured on the back covers, and what is missing? How is the theme presented? What is said about the author? What tone is used? What would work or not work for your book? There is so much to see, learn, and decide when writing the text of your own back cover…
Have fun and good luck with this journey of discovery!