Tips for Writing a Back Cover That Sells

As a self-published author, your book’s marketing campaign is likely dependent on a one-person team — you! Which is why it’s so important for your book’s cover and back cover to help it jump off the shelf and into the hands of eager new readers.

Sp 016 tips for writing the back cover summary

Your cover design is the first thing that will inspire readers to pull your book off the shelf. But your back cover is what will inspire potential readers to take your book to the register.

How to hire the perfect cover designer for your next book.

Writing a strategic, concise and easy-to-read back cover can be your key to making money as a self-published author. Here’s how to write back-cover that will hook new readers and sell your book.

Inspire Action

As a writer, you may love long, lyrical descriptions. But the headline of your back cover should be short, simple, and action-oriented.

Start your headline with an action word, then include a promise of what readers can expect to gain from your book. What question will you answer, what intriguing secret will you reveal, or what emotions will you stir in your reader?

Find Out What Really Went on in Nixon’s Whitehouse. Learn the Easy Steps to a Clutter-Free Life. Prepare to Laugh, Cry, and Laugh Some More.

Your headline should hook the readers and draw them into the body copy to learn more.

Make It Easy to Read

A large block of text in the body copy of your back cover may lose your readers. Keep their attention with short paragraphs and scannable text, and keep it around 200 words.

Use headlines, subheads, short paragraphs, and bullet points. Keep open space around your copy to help the content appear quick and easy to read.

Set the Scene

Fiction readers are looking to escape into a scene, so your back cover should give them a taste of the world they’re about to dive into. Set the mood of the story and explain what’s at stake.

In the first two sentences of the back cover of Annie Hartnett’s Rabbit Cake, Hartnett introduces the setting and the core tension of the book:

“Elvis Babbitt has a head for the facts: she knows science proves yellow is the happiest color, [and] she knows a healthy male giraffe weighs about 3,000 pounds…She also knows she plans to grieve her mother, who has recently drowned while sleep-walking, for exactly eighteen months.”

Hartnett then communicates the emotional tone of the story:

“Elvis investigates the strange circumstances of her mother’s death and finds comfort, if not answers, in the people—and animals—of Freedom, Alabama. As hilarious a storyteller as she is heartbreakingly honest, Elvis is a truly original voice in this exploration of grief, family, and endurance of humor after loss.”

Harnett intrigues her readers with an introduction to the mystery and tension of the story, but doesn’t give away too much of the plot. We know the story will pull at our heart strings, but that we’ll also be warmed-over with laughter.

Speak to the Problem

Non-fiction readers look to your back cover to learn how your book will solve their problem. Will your reader learn how to make more money? How to plan the perfect getaway to France? How to understand the complex history of American and Cuban relations?

Your back copy should speak directly to your reader’s problem to show you understand and sympathize with their issue. Then, make a promise to your reader about how your book will solve their problem.

This example from the back cover of Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki shows how Kiyosaki understands the reader’s need, and how buying his book will give them the solutions they’re looking for:

“Rich Dad Poor Dad will…

  • Explode the myth that you need to earn a high income to become rich
  • Challenge the belief that your house is an asset
  • Show parents why they can’t rely on the school system to teach their kids about money
  • Define once and for all an asset and a liability
  • Teach you what to teach your kids about money for their future financial success”

Your back cover copy is the sales-pitch that will either draw in new readers, or make them put your book back on the shelf.

Although your back cover is critical to your book’s marketing plan, your author bio is another key aspect to building your reputation and making money as a self-published author. Learn how to write an author bio that will impress readers and sell your book.

Adam user

President & CEO,
Steuben Press

Adam Ellis has worked in the book industry since 2002, when he was first exposed to the wonderful world of Self Publishing. Over the years he has worked with thousands of authors and helped to produce, print and publish countless books.


Adam Ellis and his staff are amazing. I had complete cooperation and help throughout the process. I can't say enough. If anyone needs a reference, I am here. They did everything to help me finish my mother in law's story of her life efficiently and quickly. Thanks Adam!

– Mary Ralian, Pewaukee, WI

Mary Ralian's book is titled Anna's Story.