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Advice about Back Cover Copy

Need some tips for the back cover copy of a print layout? Here’s what we’ve learned over the years…

The quick start version: The ideal length is 125-175 words. Anything longer than 250 can be a tight fit on the back cover, particularly if you’ve chosen a smaller trim size. 

Rather than including an author bio on the back, we suggest featuring social media links, and saving your author bio for an About the Author page in the interior. If you include an author bio on the back (which isn’t always possible on smaller trim sizes), it should be significantly shorter than the back text. 

To get a feel for back text and/or author bios, pick up a stack of books (at the library or off your own shelves) and simply read the back (or dust jacket flaps in the case of a hardcover). Read an entire stack, with an eye toward the back cover text and how it grabs your attention. This is even better with books that you haven’t read because you won’t be distracted by what you remember about the story. Alternatively, go on Amazon and look at some new releases in your genre and read the short descriptions there.

Now for the in-depth version:

First, here are a few technical tips to keep in mind:

  1. Length: Write the back text as if you only have a few seconds to catch a potential reader’s attention. Focus on being quick and compelling. The ideal length is between 125-175 words. Anything longer than 250 words is too long. 
  2. Quotes (from the manuscript or reviews/endorsements from others): If you’d like to include a quote, please let us know if it’s still in progress. We recommend a maximum of 1 quote from the book, or 1-3 quotes from others, or a combo of both. But please keep in mind these should be short and sweet and do count toward the word count recommendations above (i.e. aim for less than 250 words total). 
  3. Author bio: If you include an author bio on the back (and, again, we suggest seriously considering an About the Author page inside the book, especially if you’re using a 5.5×8.5” trim size or smaller), it should be significantly shorter than the back text (aim for 75-100 words max). But a link to your website or other social media is often more effective because the reader can visit you online to learn more about you personally while also learning about your other books.

So now that some of that technical info is out of the way, how do you actually go about writing the back cover copy? 

  1. Mention the character, setting and conflict. All of these will give your reader an idea of the genre, and help grab their attention. 
  2. Don’t give away the entire plot, but don’t describe only the first chapter. For a second, let’s think of movie trailers instead. Have you ever seen a movie and left disappointed because all the best parts were already in the trailer you saw months ago? Or have you watched a trailer and thought ‘I have no idea what that movie is about’? Your back text wants to avoid both of those extremes.  
  3. Here are a few links to advice from experts in the self-pub industry about writing the back text. They go into more detail and offer several step-by-step ways to tackle this task: 
    1. Helping Writers Become Authors: Secret Storytelling Weapon: The Book’s Back Cover 
    2. Kindlepreneur: How to Create a Back Book Cover Blurb that Sells
    3. The Creative Penn: How To Write Back Blurb For Your Book 

Last, we’ve designed two versions of a back cover, one with 250+ words plus an author bio, and another that’s around 150 words. As you can see, the background design is identical, and fairly minimal, to allow for more emphasis on the text.

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