If the front cover of your book is meant to catch your reader’s attention, the back cover is meant to keep it.
Think about it—the front cover is mostly about showmanship. You’re showing your reader a visual representation of the book to come. When I see a front cover that intrigues me, I immediately turn it over to read the back cover. Why? I’m looking for a pitch. What’s the book about? What’s the reader promising me?
The back cover of your book carries more weight than you might think, and there are a ton of elements that go into making it work well. In this article, we’ll cover what the book back cover is, what it includes, and how you can make your own.
What is the back cover of a book called?
Did you know there are a few different ways to refer to the back cover of a book?
First, there’s the dust jacket. This is the shell that comes with hardcover books—it usually features the book’s cover and the back cover, and readers can remove the dust jacket to reveal the hardcover book itself.
There’s also the back cover, which is called exactly that—the back cover. The front cover is where your cover art goes, and the back cover is on the other side. Easy peasy.
There are also things called ‘blurbs.’ A blurb functions as a sales pitch intended to attract readers. These might be summaries, testimonials, or any number of short descriptors intended to draw in audiences.
What do you put on the back of a book cover?
The back cover of your book serves a purpose, just like the front cover does. And while it might not be as important aesthetically, it’s still important to consider each element carefully. Let’s go over a few things you might include on the back cover of your book.
A testimonial is a brief statement from another author about how good the book is. You may notice, for example, that a ton of horror novels have blurbs by Stephen King on the front or back cover. They might say something like “this book shook me to my core,” or “truly an unsettling read.” My copy of Hunger by Alma Katsu has a blurb by Stephen King which reads: “Deeply, deeply disturbing.”
A testimonial from a well-known author lends the book some credibility. It also suggests that this book might be in the same vein as books by the author giving the testimonial. If you like Stephen King, maybe you’ll like this book. You’re more likely to read books recommended by a friend, and you’re similarly more likely to read books recommended by an author you already like and trust.
A summary is a brief description of what happens in a book. On the back cover, this isn’t supposed to be a complete summary of the plot—after all, you don’t want to give away the story. The entire point is to make the reader want to buy the book and read about what happens.
So, what goes into a summary on the back cover of a book? You want a brief synopsis, or pitch, like one you might give to an agent. This will include the premise of your story, the setting, the main characters, and a hint of the conflict to come. You won’t mention how the conflict resolves, or bring up too many specifics—again, you want the reader to find out for themselves.
Think of it as a movie trailer. In a movie trailer, you don’t know what happens in the end. That’s the point. But you’re hooked by the atmosphere, the characters, and the promise of what’s to come. If it’s a trailer for a horror movie, it’s probably going to promise you a scary viewing experience. An action trailer will give you a taste of the car chase sequences to follow.
3. Awards and Other Books
Blurbs might also include mentions of other books the author has written or awards the author has won. This is more common for authors who are already bestsellers, but it’s possible for newbies to do this, too, if they’ve won notable literary prizes before.
This functions similarly to the testimonial. It gives the author, and by extension, the book, some credentials. Ideally, this makes the reader think to themselves: “Well, it must be good. It was a finalist for the National Book Award!” or something along those lines.
If an author is particularly well known for a specific book, this is usually mentioned, too. Someone might not know that the author wrote more than one book, or they might have heard of the more famous book without knowing who wrote it. It’s a reminder that this author has shocked and awed audiences before, and who’s to say they won’t do it again with this book?
4. Author Bio
Author bios sometimes appear on the inside flap jacket (especially on dust jackets for hardcover books), but they can also appear on the back cover of a book, especially paperbacks. An author bio is a brief piece of writing about the author. It’s meant to let the reader know a little bit about the person who wrote the book.
Author bios might include information about where the author grew up, where the author currently lives, what hobbies they have, what other books they’ve written, where they went to school, or which book they’re working on next. They’re meant to humanize the author and help them connect to their readers on a more personal level.
How to write an unforgettable blurb
After the front cover, the blurb on the back is arguably the next most important element of your cover. To make sure yours packs a punch, we’ve got a few tips and tricks for you:
1. Keep it short
Blurbs give you a little room to summarize the plot of your novel, but really, these are best kept short. I don’t know about you, but when I come across overlong book blurbs, I sometimes feel like I’ve already been told too much. I want to feel like I’m discovering the story, and having most of it laid out for me in a lengthy blurb disincentivizes me to read the rest. If I have to get through half the book before I find something I don’t already know about, I’m not going to have a great time.
Keeping your blurb as short as possible also forces you to include only the most critical and exciting aspects of your story. This may be difficult to identify since as the author, you’re hopefully excited by all of your story, but here’s the key: focus on the main plotline and hint at the most important subplots.
You also want to keep your language as clear and crisp as possible. This is not the place for passive voice, unnecessary adverbs, or clunky wording. Blurbs should be super streamlined.
2. Don’t give away everything
I talked about this in the previous section, but again, you don’t want to give away too much. Give your reader exactly enough that they know what they’re getting into, but make them read the book to find out anything more.
In other words, you want to hook your reader. Show them an enticing snapshot of the world you’re promising them, but don’t show them so much that they feel like they’ve already seen it.
3. Show off your characters
One common piece of writing advice is to start your story with a character. In other words, on the first page, the reader should be reading about a person—not an info-dump, not a setting description, but a human person. This is because people are drawn to people over almost everything else.
It’s the same idea with your book blurb. Introduce your character as soon as you can, and do your best to make the reader care about them and their plight. If readers are invested in your character, they’ll follow them anywhere—even to the checkout counter to buy your book!
4. Show off your premise/conflict
One surefire way to hook your reader in a blurb is to introduce conflict as soon as possible. Again, think of a movie trailer. We might have a tiny snippet of a character’s life before the conflict hits, but we probably don’t have much—the bulk of the trailer focuses on how cool and exciting the conflict is going to be.
Let your reader know what sort of book they’re about to read. What’s the premise? What are the stakes? Does the main character stand to lose everything, including their last chance at love, if they don’t complete the quest? If it sounds serious, the reader’s more likely to be interested.
How to design your back cover
The rules for designing your back cover differ from the advice you might get for designing your front cover. The front cover of your book is meant to catch the reader’s eye, give them the title (and maybe a testimonial or two), and showcase the genre and tone of the book.
The back cover is mostly meant to convey information. The purpose is different, which means you’ll need to keep different guidelines in mind.
1. Function over flair
The back cover should be readable, clear, and simple. This isn’t the place for confusing fonts or artistic, difficult-to-read drawings that make the blurb difficult to read. It’s better to have a simple back cover that’s legible over an unstructured, highly stylized back cover that readers can’t actually read.
One way to do this? Use a template for your back cover. Use the same color scheme that’s used in the front cover to make it cohesive, and keep the fonts in the same family. A template will usually do this for you, and it’ll organize the information in a way that’s readable and streamlined.
2. Get a professional opinion
You may not know where to start designing a back cover, and that’s okay! If you don’t have the time to dedicate to making a cover or learning the skills necessary to create one, hiring a professional to design one for you might be the way to go. This will guarantee a polished product, but make sure to do your research and find the right artist for your budget and genre.
3. Look at other books in the same genre
Finally, you’ll want to look at other books in the same genre to get a sense of how your back cover should look. How do they do their layouts? What are their blurbs like? Look for recent releases in your genre for inspiration and guidelines. It’s okay to stand out, but you want to stand out on purpose, not because you don’t know your stuff.
Examples of fiction and nonfiction back book covers
Now that we know how back covers work and how to create a great one, here are two great back covers to use as references.
Published: The Proven Path From Blank Page To 10,000 Copies Sold by Chandler Bolt
What works on this back cover?
- Broken into easy to read sections
- Opening question that hooks you as the reader
- Bullet points of takeaways
- Closing challenge, “Don’t wait. Read this book and unlock the Author Advantage today.”
- Short author bio that still shows benefit to the reader
CrystalDreams: An Urban Fantasy Thriller (Paradise Lot Novel) by R. E. Vance
What works on this back cover?
- Interesting image that seems relevant to the genre
- Opening paragraph that hooks you as the reader
- A blurb that’s long enough to set up the plot, but short enough to leave you wanting more
- A sneak-peek at some of the characters and the central conflict
Now that you’re better equipped to create your book’s back cover, it’s time to get started. If you’re ready to take the next step with your book, fill out the form below. Every day, we help authors write, design, and publish their books. We’re ready to help you too.