Keep Back Cover Copy On The Front Burner

on 06 June 2 Comments

I find that many authors who I work with end up putting off and rushing what I call “the supplemental parts” of a book at the end of the editing process.  But those are also important parts—the back cover copy, the introduction, the preface, the contents page, the title page, the copyright page, the acknowledgments, the about the author page and the dedication.

And, unfortunately, sometimes skimping on the supplemental parts can affect the readability or attractiveness of your book as a whole.

The first “supplemental” part I recommend working on is the back cover text. That might seem counter-intuitive at first blush, so let me explain why I recommend doing it early on in the process.

The back cover, if done well, will help you check and make sure that the rest of your manuscript is focused. It is one of the key parts that you and your editor would be wise to work on the most. If readers don’t want to open the book because of the back cover copy is boring, they won’t ever see how good the rest of your book might be.

Back covers often contain at least three parts:

  1. A compelling question that presents a felt need. The question describes the key lingering idea that people will want to have answered as they read your book.
  2. An intriguing “teaser” that begins to address that felt need, and explains what the book will teach. This teaser convinces them that they need to read the book. It could contain perhaps three facts that you will cover that will help assure readers that you will deal with the felt need.
  3. A paragraph about the author’s expertise on the topic of the book along with a few words about the style of the book. This part establishes why this author is credible and why it will be interesting to read their writing on this particular subject.

I’ve had authors submit manuscripts and then try to write the back cover copy, only to realize that their book didn’t address the key question. Then, they end up revising significantly and delaying their publish dates to get the content right. That, in my view, is the best decision for that scenario. However, it can be painful! So, formulating a back cover copy up front may help you sculpt the manuscript.

The next part of the back copy is the testimonial section. Get some people to review your book in advance, so that you may have a few testimonials.

How long the first three parts are will depend on the quality and breadth of the testimonials. Because  the testimonials can also be put on an early page or two inside the book, I advise people not to overdo this section on the back cover unless the testimonials are really compelling and different from one another.

At the bottom of the back cover is a short version of an author bio. It tells the reader more about you, like other books you have written, a bit about your background (choose two or three items only) and a fun fact. It also mentions a sentence about your family and perhaps the state where you live. A well-cropped headshot should also be included there. And, if your head is turned at all in your photo, it should face into the center of the page slightly to help draw the reader’s eye to the words of your bio.

You can also have a longer About the Author Page at the end of the book on the interior of the book, so don’t worry if you can’t fit everything on the back cover.

For all these reasons, starting early and dedicating sufficient time on your back cover is necessary.  Because it’s so important that the back cover is done well, I’ll go over a few tips for a well-designed back cover in a subsequent post.

It’s enough to remember for now that it is never too early to start your back cover text—or to talk to an editor about it!

If I can help you sculpt your back cover copy, or help you push through to take your book over the finish line, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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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. 


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The 4Cs of Editorial Evaluation

on 03 November 1 Comment

These 4Cs provide an easy way to remember the goals of editing. I hope you find it useful.

An Overview:

Just like the evaluation and presentation of a diamond, the most publishable, sparkling content has been evaluated, chiseled and polished using multiple criteria.

The purpose of any editorial process is to chisel any written work—whether it’s a blog, social media post, article, a book, an email, an ad, a brochure—into a compelling piece that cultivates some level of communication, and in some cases, creates an additional action (purchase, getting more information, deepening a relationship, creating awareness).

The Actual 4Cs:

Creative Content—Evaluating content can be a critical part of an editor’s work, if you are open to content editing.

  • Is your content original? Is it a new twist on a universal message?

Clarity—Are you use the clearest words possible?

Are you buidling a bridge that maximizes understanding between the author and the reader? Are the facts of the situation included?

  • Is the flow logical?
  • Are your pronouns clear?

Compellingness—To determine whether or not something is compelling, ask yourself:

  • Is it interesting? To answer this question, who you are writing to has to be determined. Interest is gaged by the type of person you are writing to.
  • What are your audience’s interests?
  • Are they just looking for a good story?
  • How do they see the world differently than you do?
  • What do they want to learn?
  • Have you offered variety in language by not repeating words?

Conciseness—Unless you are writing a dissertation or academic paper, or an epic novel like Gone with the Wind, cutting out words is the best practice.

  • Have you read your work out loud to see if you need a breath before your sentence is over?
  • Have you broken up copy with short paragraphs, bullets or lists when appropriate?

Stay tuned in days to come for common manuscript challenges, the process of editing, common roles and responsibilities in an ideal editing environment and other tips and tricks for editorial success. If you have questions at any time, please feel free to contact me.

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Diversifying Your “Pro” Skillset

on 17 October 0 Comment

In any career path—whether you work in a Fortune 500 company or own your own business, diversifying your skills is critical to your continued growth and success. Although the catalyst to diversifying recently for me has been creating additional income, the benefits of expanding your skillset reach beyond the monetary ones.

Here are three ways broadening your reach can help you. You can:

  1. Learn something you need to know—even if it’s not part of your “job.” When I was a leader in the corporate world, it was expected that those in management delegate tasks that others could do. That strategy was effective from a productivity standpoint, but not advantageous for me from a career progression standpoint. Some skills you just need to know, regardless of whether or not they are your job.

Social media familiarity was this elusive skill for me while I served in large organizations as a creative director, managing editor and marketing director. We used college students to execute social media efforts. If I had to do it over again, I would have had the students that I supervised to show me, and done more on my own time—sooner. While I was the creative mind behind social campaigns—I didn’t’ know how much about the nuts and bolts of it—and I still have much to learn.

But in the last year, I have specifically sought out projects centered around social media. I have a long way to go to implement what I have executed for others, but I am getting there.

The moral of the story? If you see skills that seem critically important in the marketplace…learn them…a little at a time…or you may find yourself having to run a marathon to catch up later.

  1. Figure out how to do something that you are interested in. Since I was a little girl, I’ve loved to put words and pictures together. In my career progression working for others, I had to choose between strategy and design execution to keep moving upward, even though I was trained about design principles in my master’s degree. So, I gave up my design desires for upward mobility. I supervised graphic designers instead of operating the software myself. Now however, I’m refreshing those skills.
  2. Apply your knowledge across disciplines to better communicate your message and to better serve clients. In the world of traditional publishing and editing, marketing and editorial are thought of as two separate disciplines. Knowing both really helps the other, however. My marketing background helps me understand various audiences well to be a better content editor—it doesn’t matter how well-crafted your sentences are if the words are directed to the wrong audience at the wrong time. My design background also makes me a better editor (I’m very open to cutting because of design challenges when many writers aren’t). Knowing design and printing also makes me a better book cover evaluator. Many authors I work with have gotten into binds that they didn’t know about printing challenges. I’ve since always asked to be involved in the design process, and they appreciate that.
  3. Know how people do things you pay for helps you evaluate their work, and it also helps them grow in their own skillset. Because of my broad background, I have helped many designers understand readability and marketing to certain types of audiences. I’ve supervised designers whose work looked like it was well suited for only one industry diversify their own skills. I’ve had writers expand their views on what is possible to include in a book or leave out. I’ve helped speakers turn their messages into books.
  4. Understand your sweet spot—and your shortcomings. As you diversify your skills, you learn what you love, and you learn what is still better to delegate. Even if you now know how to do something, it may not still be best for you to do it.

As you can see, the effort of diversifying is worthwhile—and it is an ongoing journey as we continue in the effort of lifelong learning. Happy learning!


If I can help you with writing, content evaluation, content editing or copyediting, please don’t hesitate to contact me!


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Write to Humor Yourself—How I’m Like My Cat

on 21 August 0 Comment

OK, the honest truth is that I would not be writing tonight if it weren’t for this blog challenge.

I am under the weather—not visiting with friends in from out of town eating at one of my favorite restaurants down the street and not attending my life group through church—both of which are very important to me. I don’t want to get people sick.

But I’m not going to fail at this challenge! So what can I write about?

Something that makes me laugh—so I don’t cry about what I’m missing.

Those of you who are passionate about your pets will relate the most to this post.

Have you ever noticed that pets become like their owners and owners become like their pets?

Here are just a few ways that I have been like my cat—this week.

My cat does pretty good on his diet, except when he is off his routine. Then, he is left to his own devices to manage his caloric intake…

I was like my cat on Monday night with food. When we came home from a long weekend away, I was off my routine. We had climbed all over the place on waterfalls, and we had hiked about 9 miles. You can read about our adventures on my hubby’s blog, Hiking With Your Honey.

But unlike my cat, I have the benefit of knowing how my body reacts when I treat it poorly. I ate a hamburger (with a gluten-filled bun) and French fries when we stopped at Applebee’s to get our blogs written and posted. The result? I was sick all night and half of the next day! I normally split this type of entrée with my husband! But I ate it. I guess I thought I had earned it or something.

I was sick physically because my body is not used to that much food at one time! I am also normally gluten free. To make matters worse, I was emotionally sick because I knew better.

My cat bites people when he is hungry. I don’t physically bite people, but I know I can get grumpy when I don’t maintain my normal eating schedule. Or I get super tired.

When I’m satisfied with life, I have two reactions—just like my cat.

  1. I curl up to my loved one (my hubby)…when my cat loves on me, there is no denying it. He is on top of me, beside me, etc. I’m a snuggler just like my cat is!
  2. I go into recluse mode off in a corner by myself…just me and my thoughts. I think my cat takes a nap in those scenarios. But since I don’t know where he is when he hides, I can’t be 100% sure. I do know that when I need a nap, I take one. My love for naps is one reason why I’m an entrepreneur. Don’t get me wrong…this having your own business thing is a ton of work! And I know I do just as much work for less pay, but the work can be done in a more productive way—I work when I’m awake and energetic! What a concept!

I have many more insights about life because of my cat. If you want to read more of them, visit

If I can help you churn a piece of writing out—whether it is funny, serious or somewhere in between, please contact me. I write, cowrite, content edit, copyedit and more—and I’ve done it professionally for years. Explore the various pages of this Website to learn more about me.

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How a Professional Editor is Like a Silversmith

on 24 March 0 Comment

A few weeks ago, one of my clients who is a book author called me a silversmith. I didn’t realize how profound—and accurate—that analogy was until I did a little more research about what a silversmith does.

  • A silversmith holds the silver into the hottest part of the fire, where the flames heat up to 2000° F, watching it the entire time he holds it.
  • In the fire, the “dross” or the impure/excess parts of the metal are burned off.
  • A silversmith knows when to take the silver off the heat when a reflection is visible. If the silver isn’t watched, it can be damaged if it is heated too long.
  • This refining, hot process has to be repeated up to seven times before the silver is seen as precious and valuable.
  • Because all silver mixes with sulfur in the air, it tarnishes and has to be polished.

My client said that the editing process was painful at first. As someone who had done much writing in her career, she wasn’t prepared for the extensive red ink on the sample tracked changes chapter.

However, when she read the result of the finished product, she  was pleased.

She said, “It was more clear and beautiful than she ever expected. It accurately reflected the message in her heart, in her voice.”

She also said that she would not have gotten to that point by herself. Just like raw metal can’t hold itself over the fire, I believe we can’t produce the best results on our own—at least in a book-length piece.

In addition to an editor, I am a professional writer. I make about 50% of my income by writing articles, blogs, ads, social media posts, video scripts, etc. for companies. I have a Master’s of Science in Journalism and more than 20 years of professional writing experience. And, yes, even I need a professional editor for my writing work.

 I also can’t polish myself or see the hard-to-find spots—I don’t have eyes on the back of my head, I can’t see my work from an objective point of view outside of myself. I also know that my brain overlooks the imperfections and accepts myself for who I am. To do anything less would be self-deprecating.

But, to not entrust my work to the evaluation of another, who is qualified in refining and polishing will always keep my work in a potentially less valuable state than it was meant to be.

Why would I accept something decent when it has the potential to become a masterpiece? Is preserving my ego and my perspective so important? I figure, it is better to get “refined” prior to publication than after the fact…

I don’t currently have an editor for every blog post that I write—but I hope to someday. I will, however, have an editor for every book I publish. Why? Because a book in print can’t easily be changed, and it costs money to print.

In my view, books take experienced editors who sit there by the fire with another’s material, multiple times, knowing the delicate balance of burning off the dross and not compromising the voice of the author by taking away the material’s very essence.

Some editors may be the grammar Gestapo or the KGB of commas—but they may not pay attention to the voice of the piece. Sometimes, in correcting so much technically, the spirit and the beauty of the manuscript is lost. That’s the issue with Grammarly and other editing software. Using it is a great start for grammar and spelling mistakes, but it won’t prevent you from publishing unclear content.

So, if you are an author, let me ask you a couple of questions.

  1. Are you ready to let someone else put your manuscript through the fire of another lens to let it reflect greater beauty to those who live outside of your biased eyes? I ask because I’ve encountered many authors who think that they are ready for editing—until they try it. Be prepared to keep an open mind, and maybe even ask someone else to give you an honest opinion of which version is better after the sample edit.Good editors will not, however, take away the essence of your material—they will leave your voice in tact. If your manuscript is not strong enough to be put through for the refining fire, they will challenge you to bring more information or more emotion to strengthen it first.Sometimes, authors find that they really don’t want objective editing or refining, which is fine—it’s better to know that and be authentic.
  2. Who are you going to entrust your baby—your manuscript—too? Many people claim to be editors these days—actually anyone without journalistic training who can use software can claim to be an editor. But I am not sure they are effective at editing. Are they leaving in impurities so they don’t offend you, can turn the job faster, with the result of a less valuable piece? Can you still identify your voice?

My Silversmithing
I’m certainly not saying that I’m the only editor out there who has learned through the years to strike this balance of transforming content and keeping an author’s voice.

I’m also not saying there aren’t those out there who get the balance right on their first try; there are lucky ones. Nor am I saying that I always strike the balance perfectly.

I will say that I create partnerships with my authors and that I give them my all. Others have told me that my “craptastic” is most people’s fantastic, in terms of quality. I welcome that comment too. To be the best they can be, like silver, most books must go through the fire multiple times to get all of the impurities/unclear parts out of the primary material.

My job is to make the material shine as brightly as possible so that it appeals to as many people in the book’s intended audience as possible.

I believe, that when you are truly ready to launch your material to the world, you are ready to get the best molder available. So do your research. Ask your editor for references and referrals. Also, see if your personality and your values mesh.

The author and editor relationship becomes a trusted, collaborative partnership that enables both parties to grow—and together, they may just birth a masterpiece.

Are you interested in professional editing services for your book? Do you need a seasoned  professional writer for a project for your business? If so, I’d love to help. Contact me today.






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