When it comes to physical, printed books (not Kindle or eBooks), most of us have come to expect a professionally designed layout and carefully written information on the back cover. However, as electronic books have become predominant, and as shoppers turn to purchasing more books online (mostly through Amazon), the importance of the back cover continues to diminish with each passing year.
At this point, it’s not uncommon–and is perfectly acceptable–to skip the back cover copy and back cover layout altogether, leaving space only for the barcode. Amazon, recognizing the trend, stopped offering a view of the back cover for many books some time ago. However, if you truly want your self-published book to look as legitimate as possible, a professional back cover is going to be necessary.
Once a reader has flipped the book over to read the back cover, it’s safe to assume you have their attention. While the front of the book cover design is primarily for getting attention and catching the eye, the back cover’s purpose should increase book sales, or the likelihood of a sale. This happens by providing specific information about the book that the reader is looking for.
This section will explain everything you need to design a great back cover for a book, whether you’re doing it on your own or working from a book template.
Back Cover Font and Typography
As with other elements of book cover design, you should use the same font / typeface on the back cover as you do on the front. If the title is in small caps on the front cover, for example, stay consistent and use small caps on the back.
Blurbs, quotes, and anything written in sentence or paragraph form (such as descriptions) should be in 10-12 point type. Quotes can be italicized to differentiate them from other text.
As is the case on the front cover, bright/dark contrast will increase readability on the back cover, especially for text at smaller point sizes. Headers and bullet points will help clarify information, which is especially important for nonfiction titles.
Kerning (see Spacing Letters and Lines) is less important at smaller point sizes, but pay attention to glaring problems on larger letters. Also, be aware of possible crowding in multiple lines of small text. Single spacing, for example, is too tight for lines of 10-12 point copy. A range of 1.3 to 2 (double-spaced) works best.
Each text element should have consistent line spacing and should have a dedicated space on the page. Proximity, color blocks, and/or lines will help separate them. (See Copy Placement: Where do the words go? and Color Blocks and Lines).
Back Cover Images and Color Blocks
The most cohesive back cover layouts repeat the same concept used on the front. If you have color blocks that span across the entire front cover, continue them across the spine and the back. Often, that’s all you need to create a foundation. For consistency, maintain the same color scheme and typeface throughout.
The two most important things on the spine are the title and author name. Typeface should be consistent with that of the front and back covers. Words should be legible and easy to read at 12-18 inches away.
It makes sense to include the subtitle if it’s short, or if the spine is thick enough to support two lines of text. When in doubt, leave it off.
The publisher’s logo (or an abbreviated version of it) can be placed toward the bottom of the spine.
Back Cover, Fiction Example: The Iron Knight
The inspiration for this back cover was inspired by the concepts and images used on the front. The layout takes advantage of the power of eye contact to create an initial focal point in the upper-left corner. From there, the collar of the jacket and the remaining white space create a strong Preferred Diagonal Scan, leaving a large, open space for copy. After browsing the reviews, the eye exits the page at the social media.
Text is a classic, easy-to-read typeface with plenty of contrast between the letters and the background. Each blurb and its corresponding author have equal spacing between their lines. The quotes are in bold and the author’s names are in italics. The space between individual quotes is increased slightly. These efforts help separate the quotes from one another and make them easy to identify. All back cover text is right-justified.
Copy includes nothing more than five reviews and endorsements. Note that the blurbs are not for this particular book, but are for the series Iron Fey. Nonetheless, the strength they wield is persuasive enough to make a book description on the back cover unnecessary.
The strong facial image of the main character takes the place of extras, such as an author bio, which are often found on the back cover.
The publisher reserved the bottom third for the barcode, Facebook information, publisher imprint, and a website.
Back Cover, Nonfiction Example: Survival Guide
The back cover layout for this Penguin publication, How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It, doesn’t strive for flash or sophistication. Instead, it draws the eye to critical pieces of information in a functional, utilitarian way. The areas of greatest dark/bright contrast are the key points of focus, which creates a back cover that provides the reader many reasons to buy the book. Instead of leveraging endorsements, this back cover stands out with bold, easy-to-read, valuable content.
Presented in one typeface and two point sizes, the text elements are separated with color blocks and borders.
Proximity and clearly defined spaces make the large amount of back cover copy easy to digest. By reducing contrast in one area and increasing it in another, the page draws the reader to the most important information first.
The white boxes grab attention. The headers, in bold caps, make the content easy to recognize so that, in one glance, the reader knows exactly which topics are covered.
Note the endorsement above the barcode area. It stands on its own without an author or credit. Here, the bottom section of the back cover also includes a blog for the book, website for the publisher, pricing, and the imprint logo.
That’s all for Back Cover Design & Spine.
For more on back covers, read Book Cover Copy: Front and Back.
Previous Article: Best Colors for Book Covers
Thanks for reading!
By Stacie Vander Pol