Book Cover Copy, Self Publishing, and SEO
You’ve spent years crafting your manuscript – now as you prepare to self publish your book you start to think about the cover. Often times authors think more about their book cover design than they do the book marketing cover copy and back cover flow. Yes, a great cover helps your book sell – however, in the day and age of the ‘dot com’ bookstore, cover copy is more important than ever. The great thing about writing great book marketing cover copy – and setting up the flow of your copy on the back cover – is that it’s almost naturally great SEO copy.
Your book’s back cover copy is more often than not also your book marketing copy that will be used on Barnes&Noble. com, Amazon.com and all the other ‘dot com’ bookstores. It’s your potential customer’s first introduction to your book – and it should be a great experience for the reader. Below is a quick outline of my thoughts on how an author self publishing their book can create a strong back cover.
Reader’s behaviors when looking at a book are the same as when they look at a retail store shelf, or even a web page. Consumers scan all these things starting at the top left, to the right, then down the page (most often to the lower left corner) then back to the top left corner. It is very important that you get your ‘big message’ set up across the top of the page. The image of the book to the left is a good example (this is a book self published through Dog Ear Publishing – Divine Nourishment -A Woman’s Sacred Journey with Food by Mary Lane)
Notice that her ‘big message’ is across the top, her bio and author photo (two items considered very important in relation to this book) are down the right side, and the reviews are actually at the bottom of the page. All designed to follow reader’s eyes as the look at the back cover. If you work with your book cover designer and adhere to this simple pattern, you’ll more effectively communicate with your potential readers and quite possibly improve your chances of making a sale.
Below I’ll go into some greater detail about optimizing your book marketing copy – critical exercise for any author choosing to self publish.
(Of course these are recommendations – and of course not a guarantee. It’s very important that you are comfortable with the design of your book cover.)
Book back cover copy / book marketing copy quicklist
The tag line must be prominent and compelling. A tag line must be compelling to your reader – and it has to be obvious to do its job. Communicate clearly to the reader why they want to buy your book. To make your tag line good SEO, make sure your keyword or key phrase is included. If your book title is well crafted (and is set up as good SEO – see my article here on book title SEO) you can use it – but try and take the opportunity to give the reader additional information; hopefully they all ready saw your book title. A great question to ask yourself is if your tag line addresses the core reason your potential reader wants to buy your book. Remember, readers buy books (including fiction titles) from self published authors for the simple reason that they book fills a ‘need’ in their lives. Most authors who are self publishing DON’T have name recognition to drive sales… at least yet… This is also the key content Google and the bookstores will use in your book marketing info -
Readers won’t really read your back cover copy. At least not at first. Use your own book buying habits as an example (or go to a good old fashioned bookstore and watch…) Can you remember when you last read an entire back cover (or book marketing copy) if you weren’t quickly engaged? Usually by the tag line… Your copy should be short and direct – often the hardest part of writing a book is creating a good synopsis, but it’s truly a critical exercise. Get the most important details (or ‘hooks’ if it’s a fiction title) on the cover – and leave the redundant details alone. In a fiction title, often what you DON’T say is just as important as what you DO say. If it’s non-fiction, you may find that a bulleted lists communicate better.
Have your book cover designer keep it simple and attractive. Nothing makes a book’s back cover LESS effective than a busy and complex design. At most add your author photo – but really only if it adds to the message your cover is trying to communicate. Your back cover should be a showcase for the primary messages you are trying to communicate to your readers – not a showcase for author egos. Remember that complexity equals confusion. Remember that your reader has a very short attention span – and if you make them work to just understand your message, you’ll lose them. In the retail world your cover might get one second to grab attention… on the web you’ll get slightly more (since they’ve gone to the effort of finding you) but not much. This doesn’t really apply in the SEO part of the web – except for the fact that the exercise of keeping your copy short and sweet will benefit your books ‘searchability’ to a tremendous degree.
Keep the important ‘stuff’ on the top and right side of the cover. Back up there in the picture of the book cover and the arrows. If you have a list, if you have something important to say in a call-out or box, if your bio / photo is critical – then put it down the right side of the cover. This applies to your tag line, bulleted lists, benefit statement, etc. In addition to placing them on the top and right, be sure you effectively ‘prioritize’ your messages – what do you want your readers to see and read first?
Keep your benefit statements clear and concise. The tag line, the lists, your book marketing copy – all of it should work together to communicate very clearly what the reader will get when they buy your book. Readers typically buy fiction books to create an ‘experience’ and purchase non-fiction to solve a problem. If your cover copy doesn’t begin to create the experience or clearly identify how you’ll solve their problem you won’t gain a customer.
SEO begins with your cover copy. Your keywords or key phrases should be liberally used in your book marketing copy. This helps Google and other search engines understand what your book is about… as well as the search systems at the dot com bookstores. Using keywords and phrases also reinforces to your reader the main thrust of your book.
Give your reader additional ways to find out more. Every author should have a web site or at least a blog/ Facebook / Twitter account… preferably all of the above. Make sure your book cover copy includes your web address. Maybe the reader wants more information before making a purchase – give them a way to reach out to you and discover how much they need what YOU can only offer.