by Cathi Stevenson

You’ll no doubt find plenty of information on what to include on the back cover of your book. Things like synopsis, barcode, publisher imprint, author bio, author photo, credits, and reviews are all customary. But laying these elements out on the back cover of a paperback needs to be done properly. Careful attention has to be paid to the font size and spacing; margins have to work, so people can hold the book; enough space has be to left around the barcode so it will scan. The following is a list of things to consider:

  1. You have room for about 250 words on your back cover, less if you have lists or quotes. For more information (and infographics) read this article:
  2. Make the interior margins nice and deep. People need room for their fingers to hold the physical book.
  3. Make sure you use only one space after punctuation (this rule applies to everything). The two spaces rule is a relic of monospaced typewriters. Modern fonts adjust the spacing for you. Two spaces can create “rivers,” which are lines of space that snake through the text and can be distracting.
  4. Make sure the leading (space between lines) is deep enough. It’s difficult for people to read crammed text. At least two points is acceptable, but I usually add a bit more space. If you’re using 10 point text, then the leading should be at least 12. I would go higher myself if possible, and use 12.5 or more.
    TRADE SECRET: If you find your leading is too narrow, but can’t increase it without causing major problem, scale the glyph (character) height to 97%. Be careful doing this, it can cause create problems with some fonts. It works best with sans serif fonts.
  5. Line length should not exceed 72 characters, including spaces. If a line is too long, people will be forced to blink before reaching the end, and lose their places.
  6. Make it clean. Don’t use too many fonts, stick to one or two (a serif and a sans serif).
  7. Contrast is important. The color of the text and the background have to be distinct enough so that people can read with comfort.
  8. Avoid using “reverse” text. Reverse text is white text on a black background. It’s very difficult to read both online and in print. If you cannot avoid it, then make sure you are using a strong, uniform font, not one that will “break off” and disappear because the strokes are too thin. Also, make sure there is adequate spacing around the letters and between the lines.
  9. If you have other books, then putting cover thumbnails on the back is a good way to advertise.
  10. Don’t forget to include the URL to your website.