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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.