One of the most mystifying parts of book writing is the back cover. What should it say? What shouldn’t it say? How long should it be? Isn’t it just a summary? Can’t you just cut and paste a passage from the inside and stick it on the back cover?
The thing a lot of self-published authors don’t realize is that the back of your book isn’t an excerpt from your story. That means you can’t cut and paste your way to success.
The truth is that your back cover is much more than a book summary—it’s a sales pitch. It’s what could very well be your one opportunity to convince someone to buy your book. But the reality is that the back cover often becomes an afterthought.
And that means your back cover winds up being a boring, watered-down recitation of your story instead of an exciting invitation to experience a transformation.
Why Back Covers Go Wrong
So why is this all-important part of the book so neglected? I believe it’s because authors have been knee-deep in “all the things” that have to happen to get the book finished and published.
Not only are there the final, high-pressure moments of typing away, working those fingers to the bone writing (and re-writing) the manuscript, but also there’s promotional work going on, website development, social media posts, launch party planning—and the list goes on.
And then there’s the typesetting, and working with a graphics wizard to design a killer, eye-catching front cover.
All of that stuff is cool, and it certainly will help you get your book ready to hit the shelves—but now you need a persuasive back cover to convince readers to open their wallets.
A beautiful website isn’t enough.
Cute social media posts teasing your story aren’t enough.
And a pretty front cover isn’t enough, either.
It’s the back cover that shows your audience that your masterpiece is the perfect read for them.
One of the biggest mistakes authors make is thinking a general recap or cut-and-paste passage from the book will suffice as the back cover copy. But here’s the thing: the back of your book isn’t prose; it’s sales copy.
It’s like a mini-commercial, and you’ve got just a few seconds—and only a little bit of space—to shoot your shot and render your reader captivated and ready to buy.
Seems like a lot, but the framework is simple. Here’s how to write a winning back cover:
Tap Into Your Readers’ Needs and Desires
Your back cover copy (“copy” just means the words) should tap into your readers’ needs and desires. Think about the readers in your target audience. What do they need that your book offers? What do they want that they’ll find in your book?
When your back cover copy speaks to your audience’s needs and desires, people can connect with your book instantly, and that connection will give them the confidence to buy.
Keep it Short and Sweet
Again, this isn’t an extensive summary, so you’ll want to keep your back cover copy short and sweet. This is important for two reasons: first, if readers see a great big wall of text, they won’t want to read it. But a shorter bit of text will be less daunting to the eye, and that will make the reader more likely to take it all in.
Second, you’ve only got a little bit of space on the back of the book. If you try to cram 1,000 words on the back cover, the formatting just won’t work. Your text will have to be so tiny to fit on the back that no one will want to read it at all.
So what’s the ideal length? Around 150-200 words is a good rule of thumb. If you go too far past that amount, you might overwhelm your reader and make your back cover look too busy.
Break it Up with Bullets
Think about the main points you want to highlight, and consider listing them with bullet points. This will draw readers’ attention to the bite-sized nuggets that will quickly tell them whether your book is right for them.
Talk About Yourself—But Only a Little Bit
A big mistake I see a lot of self-published authors make is omitting a brief author bio at the end of the back cover copy. Unless you’re already well-known in your industry or market, people need to know who you are.
Even if you’ve written an About the Author page for the inside of your book, the problem is this: it’s inside your book. People aren’t going to open it and search for that page. And if you’re selling online, they probably won’t do a whole lot of scrolling all over the place to learn about you.
So it’s your job to introduce readers to who you are and why you’re qualified to share what’s in your book. And a nice little headshot of yourself (just you—not a photo with your spouse, kids, dogs…) goes a long way in making a human connection with your audience.
Keep the bio short, too—no more more than 50 or 60 words.
I know I’ve gone over a lot here, but the key thing to remember is that you’ve got to prioritize writing your back cover copy because it can make the difference between people leaving your book on the shelf or snatching it up and doing the fast-walk to the cash register.
If you don’t have experience writing sales hooks, a professional copywriter can help. Copywriters’ sweet spot is crafting compelling, attention-grabbing messages that spark interest and drive sales.
I’d love to help you with this so you can stop scratching your head, trying to figure this out on your own. Instead, let me take your back cover copywriting off your hands so you can focus on all the other things on your book publishing to-do list.