Book Back Cover Design Tips

on 30 May 0 Comment

Yesterday I gave you some tips about the importance of a book’s back cover copy. Today, I’m going to put on my creative director hat (I worked for a large organziation for several years in that capacity) and share some design insights with you for the back cover of a book.

First and foremost, use a professional graphic designer for your book cover. Even if you want something simple, this book is your baby—you still need at least a midwife to help you birth it.

Use care in selecting a desiger though, because not all people who offer graphic design services are professionally trained designers. Some are just software technicians. I recommend looking for one that has a graphic design or art degree or certification, and/or professional experience for at least a few years.

Try to ask around—and get recommendations. I’ve been blessed to work with several good ones through the years. Also, ask to see a portfolio of design work. Ask if they have done book covers before, and if they say yes, ask to see those covers. Make sure the covers you see look professional.

To help guide a designer once you have hired them, pick out several books in your library or at a bookstore that may have elements that you like to give them inspiration. Take pictures of ones you like.

Have your designer start with the front cover design first, perhaps with three concepts, and either select one or modify one—with help of others.

Include your publisher and editor first in the review of front cover design to make sure the cover fit your audience and communication goals. Your color choice, fonts and style should reinforce your key message and appeal to your target audience. Then, crowdsource more opinions about your cover. Go over those results with your publisher and your editor. Much more could be said about front cover design, but I mentioned the front cover in this context solely because the back cover has to complement the front cover.

Here are some design tips for the back cover.

Allow enough time (up to a month) to go a few design rounds on back covers—because you know people do decide to buy or not buy based on both covers—back and front. I’d estimate up to a month to go about three rounds. That may be way too much time. But you don’t want to short circuit the process—or sacrifice sleep to have the best back cover possible.

Have your designer vary the font sizes to reflect the hierarchy of information.

  • The font is often bigger on the back cover question or title statement near the top of the page. Just take a look at several books in a library or book store—and you will see what I mean. If the question or statement is intriguing (and it needs to be if you are going to use it), this design treatment is essential. With that being said, unless it is a large-print book, don’t make the promotional copy too large. Oversized print can make a book somewhat amateur.
  • If you end up using testimonials, those are generally set off in italics, and the name of the person quoted is set off by an em dash.
  • To avoid the text looking crowded, make the author bio a bit smaller in size than the promotional copy paragraphs at the top. Just ensure that the author bio copy is still readable
  • If you use a design underneath the text, make sure the graphic doesn’t compete with the text. The text needs to be easily readable Have any design look more like a watermark, screened back.
  • You can also ask your designer to play with color blocks to help break up the text. You don’t want the text too big, but also make sure it is readable. I’ve found that many times, designers may go a bit too small with text. Unless it is a footnote, 10 point is the smallest, and up to 12 points is preferred for body text. But you need to use your judgment.

Use your editor and publisher to evaluate your back cover design.

When I edit a book, I require my clients to show me the covers—front and back—in layout, because design and words work together. A publisher—even a small one focused on self-published authors will want to be involved.

This involvement is important because not only does a book need to be aesthetically appealing, but it has to be readable and market appropriate as well. All of these people used to work together in the world of traditional publishing, but with self-publishing, I’ve seen authors try to manage each piece individually. I’ve found that it helps to get everyone on a conference call together.

I’ve seen book covers that are gorgeous come from talented designers who are highly artistic. Unfortunately, these designs may sacrifice readability and aren’t appropriate for the intended audience—and aren’t the best choices.

The look—just like the text of your back cover—is too important to rely solely on one person. You should, however, give feedback to your designer and give them time to fix any issues using their artistic training.

If your designer has tried to use design tricks to break up the copy and it still looks too copy heavy, don’t be afraid ask an editor and ask for some text to be cut. Most editors I know are generally happy to do that. The reality is that it may be difficult for the writer or editor to know how a word count is going to look before it is laid out. And, it’s easier to cut than create later in the process—so some editors may even suggest having extra text ready up front.

Even if you end up cutting the copy on the back cover, chances are you can always use the text in online copy, on related blogs, for press releases and other marketing related materials. In other words, your work won’t be wasted, even if you cut if out of this context!

Your team should also help you look for any mistakes after you have settled on the look and the content of your back cover. Hopefully, you will have proofreading help as well. Have everyone who has been close to it put down the back cover for up to a week and take another look. In addition to typos, sometimes characters (especially em dashes) don’t translate properly between word processing and layout programs. Check, check and check again! 🙂

If you need help with any part of your book’s development, I’d love to help. I work with professional designers and I partner with a self-publishing house to help you ensure all your bases are covered. Please feel free to contact me for more information.