The SEO factor of back cover copy for self publishing authors

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, 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 behavbook back cover copy example for authors self publishing a bookiors 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 PublishingDivine 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.

Importance of book title SEO to self publishing authors

Self Publishing – the impact of great SEO book titles and copy

I spent some time chatting with an author today about self publishing their book – and exactly HOW to make the book stand out ‘SEO-wise’ on the various online bookstores and search engines (Google Book Search specifically).

Creating great SEO for your book starts long before the book publishing process is complete (or even started in most cases) and you are ready to create a web site. It actually starts back when you planned your book… even as far back as when you worked up the book title.

The title of your book is the first place you should start creating  a great SEO strategy for your book – especially if you are self publishing. This is the primary vehicle the majority of the places you will sell your book online (Amazon, B&N, etc.) will use to locate your book.

Shouldn’t your most important key words be there? It’s a fairly straightforward process that is all too often overlooked or forgotten.

There are just four steps to ensuring your self published book’s title and cover copy work hard to promote your book:

  1. Identify the key word or phrase that describes your book – Let’s say your book is on self publishing – use that phrase in the primary title for your book. Often the temptation is to get too creative with your title – let’s use the self publishing company Dog Ear Publishing as an example. Their tag line is “Express Yourself in Print” … That’s a terrible title for a book – even though it sounds more creative and unique than ‘self publishing.’ It doesn’t succinctly (and in a way people search) explain what the book is about…
  2. Check the key phrase in Amazon, Google, B&N etc – Does a search for the phrase you want in your title actually deliver books that are similar to yours? If not, then you’ve not chosen the right set of keywords – maybe look up some books you know address your market (doesn’t matter if they are self published or not) and take a look at the keywords / tags listed down at the bottom of the page.
  3. Create a descriptive and supportive sub title – Write something that, if possible, lists your keyword or key phrase again. In this case for Dog Ear Publishing we need to incorporate the phrase ‘self publishing’ in something that actually tells the reader why they should purchase the book (and what they will get once they do…)
  4. Build key word rich back cover text – Your back cover text should contain the same key words or phrases that exist in your book title and subtitle. Our inclination as authors it too often to try and ‘hook’ the reader with random exciting text from within the book – which is fine, just make sure you find a way to incorporate your keywords. Don’t assume either the reader or search engines know what you mean when you say ‘… this topic …’ – say exactly what you mean like this ‘… self publishing …’

Let’s tie it all together – Dog Ear Publishing is publishing a book about self publishing (not surprising since they are a self publisher…). They wanted to title their book “Express Yourself In Print” … a nice, creative, fluffy title that would work well on a brick-and-mortar shelf but is terrible on the web (where most books will be sold). We’ve talked them out of it… now the book is titled:

Self Publishing Insider

Next challenge is adding a descriptive sub title that speaks both to the search engines and to the reader. The sub title chosen by Dog Ear was “The Evolution of Self Publishing” … hmm… not entirely sure what that means, though it does contain the key phrase ‘self publishing.’ However it contains another ‘high search’ word ‘evolution’ that is pretty much NEVER associated with the phrase self publishing. Let’s see if we can do better – the goal, according to Dog Ear, is to communicate that this is a comprehensive guide to the process of self publishing a book using a brand new market model. OK, that makes sense and is a good angle for a book… we did some digging and found that ‘self publishing guide’ was a great search phrase that was often used in searches on Google. Dog Ear didn’t particularly care for the term – too generic – so we spiced it up (sub titles can be pretty long…) focusing on the comprehensive nature of the book to:

The Ultimate Self Publishing Guide

Voila – a title with wonderful SEO qualities that helps the book publisher (and author) get their book found out on the web. Amazon will love it, Google will love it – and best of all? It tells everyone exactly what the book is about… Now, all that needs to be done is for the copywriters to use the words self publishing, self publishing insider, and ultimate self publishing guide in the copy on the back cover. Not too big a stretch!


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