Can I Fit 900 Words On My Back Cover?

I’ve created approximately 2,000 book covers since about 2000. Most were for print projects, so there was a back cover that required copy. Over the years, I’ve developed a file of information that I send to all of my clients as we’re nearing that part of the project. These are just guidelines, but for the typical 6 x 9 book this is what I have found works best, and what I share with my clients:

BACK COVER TEXT: You have room for about 250 – 300 words on the back cover. Submit it in an unformatted (no boxes, no tabs, no indents, no italics, just plain text double spaced between the paragraphs) Microsoft Word file (.doc) or plain text file.

WHY? People won’t struggle to read your text, so it needs to be set in a comfortable size, with enough space between each line (called leading) that it’s easy to read. You also need to leave a good-sized margin around the text, so people will have a place to put their fingers, and not have to constantly adjust position as they’re reading.

I ask for plain text files because the text has to be imported into InDesign and sometimes text boxes, tabs and other formatting will cause problems. I can always save the file as plain text myself, but if I’m not using the same word processing program or version of it, then that can also cause problems.

LISTS AND QUOTES: If your back cover text contains lists and quotes, you have less room.

WHY? Both lists and quotes use only a portion of the lines they’re on. In the case of some lists, you’ll have only a few words on a line. In addition, lists often require extra space between each line. Quote credits often require a bit of extra space and again, only part of the line is being used. In short: they eat up space. Check out the images at the end of this article for a visual explanation of what I mean.

IMAGE CREDITS: Make sure that you include any credits necessary to comply with the license of images you have purchased to use on the cover. The exact wording will be included in the End User License Agreement (often called a EULA for short), where you made the purchase. If you have an author photo to go on the book, you should also credit this.

NOTE: Image credits can also go on the copyright page, or in the case of a hardcover on the inside flap of the dust jacket.

IMAGES: Must be 300 dpi at full size.

WHY? This is the minimum required for print, but dpi on its own means nothing, that’s why I added “at full size.” If you have an image that is 4 inches wide and 4 inches high at 150 dpi, simply changing it to be 300 dpi will mean you can only print it at 2 inches wide by 2 inches high. If you force the increase to 300 dpi and keep the size 4 x 4, then the quality of the image will deteriorate and it will not print well.

LOGOS: For optimum printing quality these should be submitted in the native EPS (vector) file, with fonts converted to outlines.

BAR CODES: Include your 13-digit ISBN and the price (if you want the price embedded into the bar code). I will make the bar code here to ensure it is formatted at 100% black, CMYK and a vector image.

WHY? Most of that is technical jargon, but it is the only way to ensure the bar code will print properly and scan. PNG images, which many agencies provide, cannot be formatted in the proper color gamut (CMYK) so you’re taking your chances using them or gif images, or a “lossy” image format like jpg. A vector image is the best way to produce a bar code that will scan.

BISAC HEADINGS: If you want your book to have a subject heading for shelving, please find your proper heading here.

Click on images to view at full size.




Learn, Promote, Get Connected

Years ago there were a number of forums and eMail groups for self-publishers. These days, there are very few, and many of those that are there don’t seem to be doing the job they once did. The same groups that once had 50 or more posts a day are now lucky to get that many posts in a month. The “old timers” — members who could offer information based on years of experience, have gone (or were forced to leave, during one of the many infamous “flame wars” that took place); Some forums became too burdensome for volunteer moderators to keep up with and a few seemed to go down a dark path and ended up on Angela Hoy’s Whispers and Warnings list, one writing forum is there for not paying freelance writers of all things!

In some cases blogs fill a void. There are numerous blogs geared towards self-publishers that are run by very knowledgeable people in the design and publishing industries, who also know what a possessive noun is and does. They’re also quite entertaining writers, and interesting conversations sprout up in the comments’ sections.

Many more though, are run by people who are posting their own learning experiences with self-publishing as they go, and while that too can be both helpful and entertaining, the misinformation from lack of knowledge is worrisome. I often read things like, “well, I typeset my book in Word and it looks fine.” It’s just not a good thing to encourage someone to set a book in Word, with the possible exception of a someone whose Word mastery is at the level of  Aaron Shephard’s, but even there are issues involving color and spacing that simply cannot be handled in Word. One “expert” (his word, not mine) actually refers to sans-serif fonts as “san serf” fonts, periodically throughout the text. I guess spell check and proofreading were too much effort. That little gem also had a cover “decorated” with Microsoft clip art, which usually isn’t licensed for commercial purposes and even if he did obtain permission, Microsoft clipart rarely has any business on a book cover.

Oh, there was a day when clipart was self-publishers really had to choose from, but with the advent of micro-stock companies, reasonable images can be legally licensed for as little as $2, some offer free images even for commercial use. If that still doesn’t work for you, go with a text-only cover and make your title stand out as the feature element.

I will admit I missed the old forums, the lively discussions and the interesting cast of characters from all over the world, with all different levels of experience…and then one day a few months ago, I found them again! Maybe not the same cast, but a few of them were there, and many more who were just as brilliant and just as interesting. There were at LinkedIn.com

LinkedIn has numerous groups for writers, communications and marketing experts, publishers, authors, designers, and most that I belong to are fairly active. But it doesn’t really matter if any one group is active or not, because there are so many you can join, that each day there will surely be something on one of them that interests you.

Aside from the camaraderie and convenience of finding answers to your questions, LinkedIn’s social networking offers a wonderful profile page for its members, and I can tell you through experience that head hunting firms are tracking down potential job seekers using LinkedIn. I worked on a contract position in an office a few weeks ago and that was part of the job — finding qualified candidates who might be interested in a senior position with another company, if the offer was right.. Not only that, but I have recently been contacted about a contract position by a local company who found my profile on LinkedIn.

Artists can display their work on LinkedIn via the free Behance Network. I am also going to have to gush over the Behance Network interface which is so remarkably simple (unlike the ever-changing interface of a certain blogging host I deal with), anyone should be able to figure it out in a matter of minutes. For example, I recently added a new image to my portfolio and then wanted to move that image to the top. On my left a bar appeared with a big white arrow that said “top.” Like Alice drinking the bottle that read “drink me,” I dared to click top, assuming it would take me to the top of the page. No! It moved the image I wanted to the top. Does it get any easier?

I also experimented with LinkedIn ads. They were great for getting directly to my potential clients, but I did find the service a little expensive and it operated quite a bit like Google’s Ad Words, a system that confuses Google’s Ad Words’ staff at times, so I will continue advertising on Facebook. Facebook ads are both easier to use and inexpensive. The only drawback with them is your credit card number is linked to any games you play. That’s fine if you’re aware of it, but I accidentally made a purchase one night that I hadn’t intended to make, and it processed through the credit card I had on Facebook. Thankfully I only made a $2 purchase, there was a $1000 option there I could have just as easily clicked on when trying to figure out how the game system worked.

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