Writing Insights

How You Might Be Killing Your Book in 3 Seconds


Photo by Francesca Tirico on Unsplash

There is an extremely important part of a book that many authors either overlook or they don’t know how to do effectively. This area is so important that you can kill the sale of your book in 3 seconds if it’s not done right. What is it? Your back cover summary.

Years ago when I started working in publishing, you had 7 seconds to grab a reader’s attention when they picked your book up. Today, it’s down to 3 seconds. Yup, only 3. (When you consider that the attention span of a goldfish is 4 seconds, and the average attention span of a person today is 3 seconds, I have to wonder how technology has made us smarter, lol!)

I have done both cover design and interior layout design for hundreds of books, and on average, when a book was given to me to work on, most times the author had not even written a back cover summary! And the few that did write one had content that would send readers into yawning spasms right there in the bookstore. I remember several back cover copy pieces for fiction books that gave the entire storyline away right there on the back cover—no need to read the book, it’s all right there in 2 paragraphs.

So if you only have 3 seconds to grab that reader and keep them from putting your book down, that content better pique their curiosity—and quick! Three seconds isn’t enough time to read a whole paragraph, so I like to start out with a larger headline at the top. This can be a question or statement that has to do with the main problem or issue that your book is written to address. Make sure it is an attention grabber! Then you have maybe 2 paragraphs (not long ones) to give the gist of what your book is about and what the reader will take away from it, How will reading your book make their life better? If it is a fiction book, give a very short introduction to your main character (or maybe the top 2 characters) and show the conflict that is happening in the book but don’t give away the ending. If you have an endorsement or two, put a shortened version of that on the back cover after the summary to credibility to your book.

You can always spend a few hours in a bookstore looking at the top-selling books and see how their back covers have been put together. Take notes on it and then work on yours. You can even find these back covers online so you don’t have to leave the house to do your research!

Sometimes it’s best to enlist the help of professionals. Even after helpful instruction like this, when I am working on a cover design, I take what an author wrote for the back cover and “spice it up” to improve the salability of the book and make it more clear or concise. Or maybe I will pull out something from the book itself that the author never thought to use for the back cover, but it made it so much better. Even you are self-publishing your book, the most important thing you need is for the files that you submit to be printed to be excellent, so hire a team to help you out!

If this article has been helpful to you, feel free to leave a comment below to let me know. If you would like a quote for my layout services, contact me. I would love to meet you!

Happy writing!

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