Create Powerful and Compelling Back Cover Copy That Sells Books!

well-fed-writerNote: The following guidelines are for non-fiction. Fiction, where you simply need to entrance someone with a good story line, would be different.

Think about how you buy a book. You pick it up, look at the cover, and if you like the visuals, title, and subtitle, it’s because something resonates in you; something about what you see calls to some desire or longing inside you. Perhaps to be touched, moved, entertained, transported, educated, informed, enlightened, reassured, etc. If the cover and title speaks to that something, a kernel of hope starts to stir.

“Sell Me”
Now, the reader is thinking, “Tell me you can do what I’m hoping you can do.” Their next move is to flip the book over, and think, “Okay, sell me.” At this point, don’t give them a reason to put it down. Bet you had no idea that so much was at stake!

An Example
Let’s look at the back cover of my first book: The Well-Fed Writer. Look it up on Amazon, click “Look Inside!” and take a peek at the backside (this Amazon feature reminds us that a powerfully written back cover is equally valuable for both physical and online marketing).

1) Upper Left Corner: Category. Check the books in your genre in the bookstore and notice what’s most appropriate to put in that spot.

2) Top-Center Headline: a strong attention-getting headline/sub-head that makes a claim, asks a question, or piques your prospect’s interest. Mine?

Corporate America Wants Freelancers – Full or Part-Time!
Do You Dream of Being a Well-Paid Freelance Writer and Want to Do It Fast?

3) Sales Copy: Immediately below the headline/sub-head is the benefits-oriented (about the reader, and what’s important to him or her) section of the copy that talks to the reader and gets their attention. Here, I let buyers find themselves in my list of target audiences.

Once I’ve caught their eye, I move on to the next chunk – the features section (about the book and its contents) – fleshing out the story by establishing “the opportunity” that exists in the marketplace and outlining how my book can help them capitalize on that opportunity. The idea is to take them through the logical mental steps necessary to lead to a book purchase.

Anyone reading the back cover copy has qualified themselves as being “in the market” for a book like this. Ergo, we need to maximize this “captive audience” opportunity.

4) Author Bio: Include a brief bio that establishes your credentials for being able to write such a book (also features). You want people to think, “Impressive…”

5) Testimonials: Include at least one, perhaps more, blurbs from “key influencers” in your industry – people who will mean something to your target audience. Bob Bly, the freelance writing guru, was my headliner on the front page.

6) Web Address: A “Duh,” perhaps, but include your URL prominently. Mine’s below my bio. If they decide not to buy it right there in the store or on Amazon, I’ve given them the key to more information (and I’ve heard from web buyers telling me just that). My web site can then take them the rest of the way (and perhaps get them to subscribe to my ezine as well).

All my books have a similar look, given they’re all part of the Well-Fed brand. This clear, clean, bold cover design is not only visually compelling, but the way it’s broken up into sections by color facilitates effective sharing of information in a simple, uncluttered way. This is what a good graphic designer can bring to the table.

Landing the Big-Name Blurb
Why not shoot high and go after that author or “expert” whose opinion would really mean something to your audience (and translate to much greater book sales)? Worst case? They say no. Or never reply. Big deal. But, what if they say yes? So, ask away. These folks are a lot more accessible than you might imagine.

I have a friend who’s written a number of books in the psychology and relationship genres, and for his latest one, he landed a blurb from “Dr. Laura” Schlessinger. At a book signing for the controversial talkmistress, he simply asked. All he had was a few chapters at that point, but he left them with her assistant and a few months later, got his blurb. And a pretty good one at that.

Just as important – especially with “how-to” books – are organizations or associations that can offer an endorsement or “seal of approval” for your book. In these cases, while the specific name of the person isn’t as crucial as the affiliation, you’ll still want to reach the president, executive director, founder, etc. Never underestimate the desire of these folks (and celebrities!) to see their name in print.

Here’s a nifty searchable online database for contacting the managers, publicists and agents for over 54,000 celebrities: At press time, a seven-day trial was $1, and after that, $30 a month. If you can land some big names quickly and cancel before the month’s out, it’s definitely worth it.

NOTE: Allow a month or so to hear back from your “blurbers” after sending galleys out.

There’s an art to writing good back cover copy. Devote some quality time to the process of transforming a relatively small space into a powerful selling tool.

(Adapted from The Well-Fed Self-Publisher: How to Turn One Book into a Full-Time Living.
Got a book in you? Can’t land a publisher? Why not do it yourself, and make a living from it? Sound good? Then, check out the free report on self-publishing at, the home of the award-winning 2007 release The Well-Fed Self-Publisher: How to Turn One Book into a Full-Time Living. Author Peter Bowerman is known for the award-winning (and self-published) Well-Fed Writer titles (on the lucrative field of commercial freelancing), which have provided him with a full-time living for over five years. (