This is a culmination of my too many interests. It's is an in-between place. It's more focused than my Myspace blog, but less so than my author blog. Here you can find artwork, photography, writing, poetry, book covers, manga and pointless videos. All of these things mesh together to become a reflection of their creator in an in-between place colored like shadows and flavored like frappuccinos and chocolate. It's one heck of a world.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Adventures in indie Publishing 7 - The Back Cover

Welcome to another edition of Adventures in Indie Publishing where I share my disasters – erm, experiences with Independent Publishing. For previous post in this series, see the Table of Contents.

This is the last of the “How to Make a Book Cover” blogs – thank goodness! What was supposed to be a single blog has spiraled out of control, let me tell you! However, I am planning to compile it all and turn it into an ebook, just so you know.

You make think that you’re pretty clever because you are doing an ebook, and ebooks do not need a back cover. So ha! Well, technically, you’re right. They don’t need a back cover. But wouldn’t it be cool to have the option of printing a copy up for your friends through, say, lulu, for Christmas? Yeah, well that copy is gonna look pretty dumb with a blank back cover. Not only that, but the back cover “image” makes a good website tag, or a good promotional tool, even if the book is an ebook. Just a couple of things to think about.

Now, the first thing you should do is grab a book – any old book will do – and flip it over. Take a look at what is actually on the back cover. You may see some kind of simple artwork or photography (sometimes a continuation of the front cover image wrapped around, or even the front cover over again). You might see an author photo and bio, but you will see a bar code, a “back of book description”, and copyright credits.

So, what should you put on yours? How did I decide what to include? This is where I pull out my honesty cards. That friend of mine who did the original layouts and such also made a sample back of book cover, using my query letter synopsis and some of my artwork (that was actually for something else, but that’s neither here nor there).
indie back original

I redid it, of course, and, in the end, the only element of the original back cover I kept was the last two sentences (which he added) and the “Shades of Gray” underneath it all (yes, there was some confusion with the name of the book – hence the “Dawn of Darkness” in the original). But, the point is that it gave me somewhere to start. Sometimes, staring at a blank, empty stretch of document or image is really daunting. In fact, sometimes staring at the nothingness can be so overwhelming, that it can paralyze a person.

So, what’s a good way around this? Look through your book collection, google image search for “book back cover”, in other words, find the back book cover you like, and then use it as a building block for your cover. No, this doesn’t mean that you can use any of the artwork, photography, or text from someone else’s cover. That’s stealing, and copyright infringement and lots of other nasty things. You still have to plug your own content in, but this might give you a place to start at.

Also, while you’re designing your back cover, keep the front cover in mind. The back cover and front cover need to go together – they need to complement one another. You don’t want to look at the front of the book, then flip it over and go “AGH! Why is the cover green and the back fuchsia?!” You want a reader to flip the book over and see a continuation of the front; it needn’t be a literal continuation, but it should convey the same theme, feelings and ideas.

Once you have an idea on what you want, it’s time to get started putting it all together! I do want to take a moment to explain your options to you. You can make it as a single image (like we did in the tutorials for the Winter’s Chill front cover) and then upload it to the cover creators (remember to make it 300dpi!). You can make your front cover, back cover and spine into a single image and upload it as a PDF, or you can completely put the cover together in the cover creators. Choose the option that works best for you.

Of note on the PDF. I’ve heard that some people have problems getting the wrap around cover PDF to work. I had a friend who converted mine in adobe Illustrator for me (No, I’m not rich enough to own that program!), and I had no problems at all, but other programs/converters might. If it does you can either just relax and make your front cover and back cover as full images, then upload those to the cover creator and drop in place, so that the only thing you loose with the method is the fully customizable spine. OR you can download the trial version of adobe illustrator and convert it yourself. I won’t lie, though, I don’t know if using it for a potentially commercial application is against the licensing agreement when you install the trial or not, so you may want to check this. Also, CLAIMS to sell this $600 program for 90$. I don’t guarantee this is legit, but if anyone else knows we’d all appreciate some info.

So, now, on with the show!

Depending on your POD of choice and their cover builder, chances are they will put the bar code in for you, so all you’re going to need to do is leave a space for it. (The templates usually have it marked where the barcode goes) And you know your copyright information. If you’re making a one piece back cover, a simple format is to put the following in the bottom left hand corner of your cover:

© Publication Year Your Name
All Rights Reserved
Your website address

If you’re using a cover creator, it may also do this for you, or insert the text box where it wants you to put the information.

So, what was that third thing I said was on all book covers? Oh, come on. Stop being silly – it’s the “back of book description” – or the “synopsis” or the “hook” or - you can call it what you want, but any way you slice it, it still means that you have to tell people what your book is about!

You’d think this would be the easiest part of the process. After all, you wrote the book, you edited it, you know it inside and out and – and chances are that if you were to tell me what your book is about right now, you could write two or three pages on it. You can already see where this is going, I’m sure. That’s right, you have to condense, condense, condense and yet still hook your readers.

(You may scream now)

Done? Good. I’d hazard a guess that those of you who aren’t screaming already have a nice, short synopsis/hook written up, whether for query letter attempts, promotion purposes, or because you’re just that damn good. Great! In that case you can skip ahead. However, for those who don’t I will try to give you some pointers.

The first thing is length. Depending on your font size, you could probably fit quite a bit on there, but keep in mind that most people quit reading after two paragraphs, unless it’s especially gripping. Yeah, two paragraphs, I know. Where have attention spans gone these days? Oh look – something shiny! Hmm? What? Oh, right. That nasty hook. So, how long should it be? I’d say nothing over 300 words. If it helps any, mine sits at 242, including the sample excerpt at the top:

He lay on the floor in a heap. A puddle of congealing gore, so dark it looked black, spread out around him and made the carpet fibers stiff.


Whatever killed Patrick wasn’t human, but if it wasn’t an animal what else could it be? What else is there to be?

Katelina is about to find out that if you turn over the rock of reality and look underneath it you’ll find things that hide in the shadows away from the light. Things you don’t want to see. Blood drinking monsters called vampires.

But what do you do when the vampire happens to be so beautiful you can’t stop looking at him? Or when he’s your only hope against a mob of monsters that think you’ve wronged them? Sure, maybe he saved your life, but how can you trust - really trust - someone who isn’t even human?

Katelina has no choice. Hunted by a coven of vampires, she has to rely on Jorick to help her escape. But no matter how far they run death chases them like a shadow until their only alternative is to turn around and fight.

Trapped between light and dark, the pair must travel down a path of mystery and terror as their pasts are slowly revealed and their passions ignite. To survive, the two allies must join in an ancient power-struggle that could very well decide their futures and the fate of the vampire covens…


So, now that you have a word count in mind, what should it say? Some good beginning ideas are to start with “The main character is about to face this challenge because…” or “In the town of whatever the main character is…” or “It was just after some event when the main character…” – see how the most important information is right there? It’s just like writing a newspaper article – who (the main character), what (faces this challenge), when/where and why. From there you can expand on the details of the challenge – and complications - the character faces.

For instance, above, Katelina is turning over the rocks of reality to discover vampires because her friend Patrick was murdered. The first complication to her dealing with this is that the vampire is hawt. And of course, the fact that Claudius wants to kill her is a pretty big complication. Here there is a miniature solution of sorts – this hot vampire might save her - but here comes the next complication: she doesn’t know if she can trust him because he is a vampire, after all. Blah blah. You get it.

You may be wondering now, should you put an excerpt at the top? Sure, if you have a very, very short one that you can tie into the description/hook without too much bulky explanation. I wouldn’t suggest more than two sentences, personally, but if you can make more than that work then go for it. I’ve seen book backs that have an entire paragraph from the book; in this case it’s usually the very first paragraph, though.

Over all, my best advice is to just jump in and mock something – anything – up. Have people read it and listen to their comments. You could even put different ideas up for vote in your blog or website (I’ve done this for a lot of things.) Heck, maybe you can even find a friend or family member who is brilliant at writing these kind of things. Just like with the art work – never overlook the abilities of those close to you. You could be sitting on a treasure trove of amazing ideas.

So, you have your copyright, your barcode and your description, now what? That depends on what you want and how much room you have left. If you opt for an author bio, my advice is to keep it brief – definitely under 200 words, and truthfully more like 100. You don’t need to list all your college credits and publishing history to impress your readers; they’ll either be impressed by your book or they won’t, and no list of degrees is going to change their mind. If you have other books you only want to list one or two of them – go for either the ones that have sold the best, or else ones that are related to this book ie. The same genre/topics. Aside from that, you want your name, maybe where you live, and, if you can work it in, something funny. People love funny. I’ve had a lot of compliments on my bio, simply because I added the part about winning the lottery but never buying tickets.

Also, remember to write it in third person. Don’t put “I live in Missouri”, put “Joleene Naylor lives in Missouri”. Much more professional.

If you want to add an author photograph then go for it, but remember not to clutter the back of the book up too much. Your number one goal is to make it easily readable – all important information should be right there, at a glance. I do have some tips on your author photo though.

Do not:

1. Use a blurry photo that looks like you took it with a cheap digital or a webcam.
2. Use a photo with a lot of background in it.
3. Use a photo with obnoxious colors in it. This includes your clothing; don’t wear a super bright, or super patterned top unless you really want that “feel”.
4. Use a photo completely contrary to the feel of your work. For instance, if your book is a romance, you don’t want an author photo of yourself in bobble head be-boppers. However, if it’s a funny book, then bebop away.
5. Use a photo where you’re holding something ie; cigarettes, beer, soda, your other books, etc, unless you absolutely HAVE to. Not only is it distracting, but in some cases, there are brand names. (Think MTV videos where they pixelate out t-shirts).


1. Crop the photo. You can do this in any image editing program, or even in photobucket (upload your photo, click on the edit link and use the crop tool, then resave the image and download the cropped version to your hard drive).
2. Use a photo where you’re smiling, even if it’s only a small smile. Smiling photos make you look happier and more enthusiastic about your work, and it will subconsciously carry over.
3. Use a photo with only a few colors that compliment the colors used in your back cover.
4. Have someone else take your photo or, if you have to do it yourself, hold the camera out by extending your arm from the elbow down, but keeping your upper arm as much against your side as possible. This holds your shoulders in a natural position and makes it appear as though someone else took the photo.
5. Consider using a single color “frame” around the photo to set it apart from the background.

If you plan to use artwork or photographs on the back of the book (You may notice I have a row of trees at the top of mine), then go for it, but make sure that you have the rights/permissions to use those items (see How to Get a Cheap Cover Part 1) and make sure that they do not interfere with the readability of the description, bio, etc. A good way to do this is to put the images at the top, or bottom of your cover. You can also run them up and down on either side of your descriptions (kind of like on the sample back cover my friend made me), or use an image to break up the area between the bio and description. If you’re a little more savvy with the image editing program, you can turn the opacity down or use mask layers, however, proceed with caution! It is very rare that words can go on top of an image and still be easily read!

When using images on the back simple is best. You don’t want to compete with your front cover, but complement it. And, especially if the image is at the top, you don’t want the reader’s eye to stay focused on it too long. You want the image to draw them in and then down to the words below it (or from the words and into it, whatever). An image that is too detailed or chaotic won’t have that effect. It will hold their attention, and will stand out more than the words and, unless you’re selling an art book, you want the words to be the most important thing.

In lieu of an image, you can always put your title at the top in a large fancy font, ala VC Andrews paperbacks. Or even just some little twibbly bit of wingdings arranged nicely. After that, though, you might have some space left on your back cover. Don’t worry, you can fill that in with all kinds of cool stuff.

Remember those taglines we talked about for the front of your book? You can put one on the back instead of or as well as the front. For instance I have “Not everything is black and white..” on the front, and on the back it says “not everything is black and white – not even vampires”.

If you have some already published books out there, you can do some neat things like “By the Author of____ & _____.” Or, maybe you’ve got some good blurbs from people about other books – or even this book – that you can use. If it is for a previous book, be sure to say that. For example first do the heading “Praise for My First Book (use your title)” and then beneath it put the blurbs. But, MAKE SURE YOU HAVE PERMISSION! You can’t just go putting other people’s words all over your book. Sure, the chances of getting sued are pretty low, but it’s just wrong, if nothing else.

Another idea is you can use your “slogan”. What’s that? Well, that’s a little catch phrase you can come up with that will help define your body of work. This suggestion actually comes from Edward Patterson in his How to E-book that I keep linking to (it is that helpful, people!). He actually suggests using this slogan with your website URL, but you can use it elsewhere. Mine is “You never know what you’ll find in the shadows…” (since my site/blog is Ramblings from the Darkness). If you don’t have one, then not a big deal. It’s just another suggestion.

Of course, you can do anything else that you can think of. Heck, if you want to you can print paid advertisements on the back. It’s your book cover. Just remember the goals:

1. It should be easily readable
2. It should complement the front cover
3. It should make my book appealing

So long as you have those down, you’re good to go!

So, now we’re ready for that portion

How I Did It.


As I mentioned previously, I actually did my back cover first, and then my front cover. I showed you what I started with earlier in this blog. The first thing I did was take out that picture and put a different one in, and then rewrite the description and change taglines:
indie back two

But that sucked. All of it sucked. So, I played around with the layout and the colors and got the trees/white thing going on (I like white because I can READ black letters on white without my eyes blurring. White letters on black give me a terrible headache and make my eyes physically hurt after a little bit), then I rewrote the synopsis and rewrote it, and rewrote it and asked people’s opinions and emailed people and rewrote some more and eventually I had it.
indie back final

Is it good enough? I don’t know. I like it, anyway.

So, I hope this has been helpful to someone out there. In the next “Adventures in Indie Publishing”, we’re going to get our accounts made and our document formatted and ready to go. Yay!

Cover Templates:
LuLu one Piece:
LuLu two piece explained: detailed!)
Create Space one piece templates:

Tips on back covers:
Back Cover Copy is a Welcome Mat-

Places to look for art & photos
The Creative Commons One Stop Shop:
Deviant Art:
Sci-fi and fantasy art:
Flickr –
Creative common show room:
Stock xchange (stock photos):
Stock image resources (a list of links to stock image places)

Find fonts:
dafont :
1001 free fonts:
Urban :

Online photo editors:
Pic-Nik -
Photobucket –
Foto flexer -

PDF conversions for wraparound covers:
Adobe Illustrator trial download:
free online converter:
free converter download:

Bmeps (you need some computer skills for this one):
Image converter plus:
Image to PDF 2009: (image must be less than 400k in unregistered version)


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