Tips for Indie Writers: Your Book’s Back Cover

Last week I discussed designing the front cover for your book.  Today, let’s look at what should be on the back cover.  Obviously, what you want on the back of your book and where it’s located on the back cover is entirely up to you, but these are just a few tips to get you started.

Do Your Homework

You more than likely own books, live near a bookstore or live near a library.  And while the last two may not be currently open in your area – thanks to a current global pandemic – if you have a stash of books, you can do your homework just fine.

Just flip those paperbacks over and look at what’s present.  Many hardcover books have dust jackets that may only have a large photo of the author or some image related to the book, but if you find one that has information about the book, use it as well.

Now, of those elements, which ones do you feel would best help to sell your book to a potential reader? Remember, you now have to mentally distance yourself from the creative side of the writing process and get into the writing process’s marketing side.  Think of what’s on the back cover as a sales pitch to the potential reader.  This is your opportunity to sell them on your story and get them to buy the book.  

Let’s examine some of these elements.

The Blurb

Pretty much this a short description of what the story is about.  Lay out the story’s basics, the characters, and the conflict in a couple hundred words or less.  Your goal is to entice the reader to want to know more and purchase the book to read the full story.

If you’re like me and have a hard time not being wordy, write a synopsis of your story, then pare that down to the sentences that lay out the basics and will hook the reader into buying your book.

The Bio

If you want to include your bio on the back, this should also be basic information.  If you want to add more detail, you can always have an “About the Author” page inside the book as well. But a few sentences about you can be useful on the back cover.

The Picture

I think it’s nice to have a photo of the author on the back cover.  This should look somewhat professional since, again, you are selling yourself and your book.  Have a friend or family member – hopefully, one of them takes decent pictures – take several photos of you in different locations and in different outfits.  This way you’ll have choices when you sit down to decide.  

It might be wise to even contact a local photographer and see how much they charge for an hour or so to take a few shots, so you get quality images for your book.

But, please, no selfies.

The Info

Make sure to include your book’s or author’s official website and social media.  This is another way that people can find out more about you and your books. 

The Reviews

How do authors get reviews on a book that’s not even out yet?  Well, if they’re well-known, they have their agent or publisher send out advanced copies to critics to read and then use snippets of those initial reviews on the book.

But if you’re an indie author, you may not have that luxury.  Luckily, there are pay services available where you can have people read and review your manuscript before publishing to get a few review quotes about your book to add to the back cover.

Using a legitimate review service adds credibility and gravitas to your writing, especially since these people don’t know you and can be objective in their opinions about your work.

Besides, putting “The greatest author EVER!” – Mom, on the back may come across as a tad hokey.

While you are using small snippets from these reviews on the back, the full reviews can be used on your website and social media to help promote the book.  

Choose sections of each review with statements that sell.  If you were to pick up this book, what words from those reviews would make you want to read it?  Choose those, then make sure you attribute the quote to the reviewer and their outlet.

The UPC

If you plan to sell your book as a paperback and hope to get it into a store one day, having the UPC code on the back is a wise move.  The publisher you are using will have a template for you to use to explain the dimensions of the UPC (example 1.5” x 2”).  

Make sure you have a white box positioned wherever you want it on the back cover, with the specific dimensions given, so the UPC barcode can be added during printing.

Now What?

Once you are 100% locked into what you want on the back cover, all of this information should be given to your cover artist.  Make sure you describe exactly where you want each element, then once you get a draft back, you can make alterations if needed.

Again, this is your product with your face and name on it.  Make sure it sells you and your story in the most effective way possible.

And now, you should have a professional and sellable cover for your eBook and paperback.

Next week, we’ll explore some more writing tips.  See you then!

The Field – From Word Doc to Paperback, Part Seven

Here are a few takeaways and final thoughts I have about self-publishing The Field:

It’s important for your own creative sanity that once you make the leap from your novel being your baby to publishing it either as an eBook, a paperback, or both, it is now a viable, marketable product.  This means that you have to put distance between you the author and you’re the person trying to market and sell what is a now a viable commodity.

This distancing will also help you in the event your get a negative review or criticism you don’t like.  The person may not have liked your product, but they still bought the product and you reap the benefits either way.  By taking this more objective and business-like approach to each work, you can then free up your mind to write the next book, and the next, and the next.

Distancing yourself emotionally from your completed project will also help you think more clearly when it comes to the marketing and sales aspects of your work.  It’s not at all helpful if you get wrapped up in a minute detail that occurs during the publishing process and your obsess over something that in the end has an easy fix. Case in point: I talked in a previous post about the paperback being priced at $14.63 due to production costs. I agonized over this for half a week, sure that my book was now doomed for failure because it was too expensive. Then, a Book Baby rep suggested I create a promo code to decrease the price.  Boom.  Problem solved.

I had I been thinking like a salesperson and been more pragmatic than emotional, I could have solved the problem without the needless drama. Leave the drama for the page not the publishing.

Know that if you are self-publishing that you are going to have to do almost everything yourself.  Yes, there are sites like Book Baby that will guide you, but when it comes to getting the word out to a wide swath of people, just know that you are the best marketing tool there is.  So use social media, your own website, co-workers, family, and friends to get the initial word out.  If you want to, you can enlist the aid of a marketing company – like I did with Smith Publicity – to spread the word farther.  But again, while they will be assisting with press releases and other aspects, the project is still driven by me and my knowledge and passion for the project.

There are also dozens of videos on YouTube as well as blogs that can give you insights into how to market your book either inexpensively or for free.

Also, make sure that you have the means to afford all the aspects of doing this yourself.  There are inexpensive and even free alternatives if you want to publish your eBook on Amazon or even on your own blog chapter by chapter.  Don’t go into debt or sacrifice eating or bills to do this. And if you do, make sure you budget and keep track of all your expenses.


So, what would I do differently.  Well, for the next book I will definitely publish the eBook and paperback as part of the same project.  The reason: it’s cheaper.  I could have paid 50% less if I had gone with one of the packages offered through Book Baby that allows you to do both.  But I thought just an eBook was easy money.  As of this post I have sold more paperbacks than eBooks, so that shows what I know!

I also learned that the best strategy is to budget your time in an efficient manner, especially if self-publishing is a side business and not your full-time occupation.  I work six days a week at my main job, so everything involving the book is like having a second job. It’s important to give yourself some downtime and not burn yourself out with everything that now needs to be done on top of all your other responsibilities.  Your novel won’t get published any faster if your agonizing over pricing at 4am.  Trust me. It’s not worth losing sleep over.

And that’s my self-publishing journey.  It was definitely worth all the time, effort, and expense, and I will definitely be doing it again soon.  If you have any questions, comments, or further advice you’d like to share, please feel free to leave a comment.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Thanks for reading!

The Field – From Word Doc to Paperback, Part Six

Here’s where things get a bit more complex when it comes to self-publishing.  You’re no longer in the digital realm when it comes to a paperback, you are in the real world and that means there are many more variables at play.  Let’s talk about them! 

            For the eBook I did everything online with no assistance from anyone. If I ever had a question – and this has been true since day one of this experience – Book Baby responds to emails very, very fast.  With the paperback, I set up a call with one of the Book Baby people to go through all the details that go into making a paperback a reality.  We hashed through book size, page count, page color, would I need a cover or provide my own, and host of other questions.

After the call, I emailed Steven Novak and he got to work on the paperback’s cover.  I think it turned out great!

IMG_1450

I went through the familiar steps on Book Baby’s website, but the nice thing was since it was just a new version of the same book I didn’t have to deal with as much technical stuff.  Then I had to decide on what price was best for the paperback.  Since this is Print-on-Demand, the price was set at $14.63, which I initially was concerned was too high a price.  I’m a new author, who’s gonna invest almost $15 for my first book?  (I would soon learn that there are a lot of people who are willing to pay that price, which was quite a nice feeling)

A consultant at Book Baby advised me that I could create a promo code on their site to reduce the price, and I did just that.  You can order your copy here and use the promo code FIELD20 at checkout to save 20%!

When I got the proofs for the paperback I jumped up and down even higher this time.  They looked AMAZING!  I had been a bit unsure of the whole process before I got the proofs, but the final product was definitely exciting!

All the pieces were in place.  I had ordered 125 copies for myself (well, not only for me, that would be a tad odd and narcissistic), and was awaiting their arrival.  I got the email from Book Baby that the four 22-pound boxes of books had been shipped.  I was glad for the sake of not getting a hernia that they were in four separate boxes.

Then on Friday, September 7, 2018 at 9:30PM, I got an alert on my phone that UPS had delivered the books.  And they were on my doorstep.  And we have a package theft problem at my complex.  And I live 40 minutes from where I work!

I clocked out and rushed home (as fast as one can in L.A. traffic on a Friday night).  I arrived just in time to see the sprinklers turn off in front of my door.  Where the boxes were.  Now all wet.  Yay.

I hefted the wet boxes into the apartment and dried them off.  I opened the first box, planning to unload them all to ensure there was no water damage, and I froze.  There, from inside the box, staring back at me was my novel: The Field by Ian Dawson.  It was a profound moment.  I took the top copy out and flipped through it.  The new book smell hit my nose the smell after a new fallen rain (or it could have been the smell of wet cardboard box, who know?).  I then pulled them all out of the boxes and luck was on my side: no water damage!

Now I had 125 books ready to go.  Where were they going?  Well, remember in my last post I talked about Smith Publicity?  Well, I’ve teamed up with them for a three-week media blitz in late September, and I needed copies to send to potential reviewers and interviewers (more on that experience soon!).  Plus, I knew that family, friends, co-workers, and those who helped me get the novel done and published wanted copies, too.

So, after all of this, from the push from the woman who cuts my hair to publish the damn book, to getting the paperbacks in wet boxes on my doorstep, what have I learned and what will I do differently with the second book (Coming Spring 2019!)?

Come back tomorrow for the final post in this series to find out!

The Field – From Word Doc to Paperback, Part Five

With Book Baby, you can sign up for a marketing consultation with Smith Publicity, which is exactly what I did.  Having a Young Adult novel to sell is great, but you need to get people – especially young people – interested and buying the book. I had two one-hour consultation and I learned a whole heck-of-a-lot!  A few of the key takeaways were:

  • You need to have a social media presence;
  • You need to have an Author Photo;
  • You should have hard copies of your book to send out for potential reviews and interviews.

Well, guess what?  I didn’t have any of these!  Like I said in the first post of this series, I had run away from social media in 2016, so I had no Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram, none of it (I didn’t have a dating profile up!).  I knew that it was time to extricate myself from the wilderness and rejoin the masses on social media.  Well, at least one platform: Twitter (@thefieldya).

I also had no really good, current pics of myself to use for my website or profiles.  Luckily, I knew a co-worker who was a photographer and I asked him if he could take some photos of me for my Author Photo.  After I offered him money, he said yes (I’m kidding, he would have done it for free…but I’m sure the cash didn’t hurt).  We took a whole bunch of photos and by a vote of my co-workers, we landed on this one as my official Author Photo:

Ian Dawson_Author Photo
Photo Credit: (c) Andrew Ramirez

The biggest hurdle was the lack of paperback books to send out.  I knew it was a good idea for a number of reasons: a lot of kids don’t have access to tablets and phones 24/7; many of my co-workers wanted paperbacks instead of the eBook; a lot of my relatives didn’t have tablets or phones to read the book on and would prefer a hard copy.  Hm. There seemed to be a demand for paperbacks, something I had not realized.

It was time to go back to Book Baby for another project. How did it go?  Come by tomorrow to find out!