You know that saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”? As a metaphor, that saying is fantastic. But when talking about literal books, a cover is exactly what a book is judged by. You’ve probably done this before: A book’s title or cover looks interesting, so you flip it around and read the back cover to see what it’s about. In the short amount of time it takes you to scan the summary, you’ve usually decided whether you’ll be buying that book or not.
In other words, the cover—especially the back cover—is hugely important in hooking the casual book buyer. The good news is, a good back book cover isn’t that hard to pull off. Here are five quick ways to create a back cover that will pull people in.
The more we understand the human brain, the clearer it becomes that people learn through the unexpected. If someone already thinks they know everything they need to, they are less curious and less likely to buy your book. The job of the back cover is to help them realize they don’t know everything they need to know.
People probably won’t buy a book that says it’s all about sanctification, but they might buy a book that says something like the following: “For many of us, we are trying to live the ‘good Christian life,’ and yet find ourselves worn out, discouraged and more empty than how we started. Why is this? What are we missing?”
To sell a book about the biblical concept of covenant, you could say, “We live in a world that is fascinated with ‘happily ever after,’ but only experiences a commitment that seems to dissolve the moment we need it most. We are a culture both fascinated by and disillusioned with love…but what if there was a better way?”
The point is this: Create a compelling tension, and people will want to read your book to see how you resolve it.
HINT AT THE ANSWER
Many readers, though, will need at least a hint of where you’re taking them. After casting your compelling tension, give a bullet point of three to five ways your book will address this tension (more than five is too many, and marketing shows odd numbers work better). So let’s say you’re writing the sanctification book. After casting your tension, the next paragraph could say something like this:
“Author and pastor Josh Pease suggests the emptiness we feel in our Christian faith stems from a misunderstanding of what God expects from us in the first place. In this encouraging new book, he suggests that our dissatisfaction stems from:
replacing “struggling” with “surrendering”
believing we need to earn God’s approval
allowing religious pride to rule over humility
…you get the idea. The point is to help people have a sense of what they’re getting into before they give your book a few hours of their life.
KEEP IT SHORT
In honor of this point, I’ll be brief: You have 150-200 words to rope people in. Any more and your back cover will be a wall of text people won’t want to read. Keep it short and simple.
Research has shown that more people will buy a book if the author’s picture and bio are included on the back. The reason for this is a book—especially one that is instructing people in their spiritual journey—is a vulnerable choice. People aren’t buying words, they’re buying you as someone they trust to speak into their life. So help them feel like they know you a little. Include a professional looking picture, fairly close up to your face, along with a short bio of why you’re someone they can trust.
ADD ENDORSEMENTS IF YOU HAVE THEM
Endorsements don’t always have to come from famous (or church famous) people, although that definitely doesn’t hurt. If you have pastor friends of larger churches, seminary professors or anyone else who could be seen as a marginal spiritual authority figure, don’t hesitate to ask them to read your book in advance and write a brief (one to two sentences, tops) blurb. It’s like reviews on Amazon products:
Even if you don’t know the people giving the review, it makes you feel better to know someone else enjoyed this product you haven’t seen yet.
All these things add up to a compelling, personal back cover that will tell people your book is worth their time.
To Your Success,