Even if you have no idea what a jackback is, chances are good you have read plenty. Want to bet?
You walk into a bookstore and drink in the scent of freshly pressed books and old leather covers. Along the rows of shelves, a cover calls to you. You read the front or merely soak in the image. Like a light switch in your head, you instantly flip the book over to the (jacket) back.
In terms of convincing readers to purchase books, no element is more important than the jackback. Very few authors enjoy sales based solely on their names, title or cover art. Without the jackback to open the cover, as it were, readers would just stop into bookstores to look at the covers.
Jackbacks contain some standard elements:
- Publisher insignia
After these, author (and marketer) creativity kicks into full gear.
Art: Whether art which wraps from the front cover or complementary art, jackbacks often have art.
Author headshot: Some authors put their face on all of their books for personal brand recognition.
Author bio: When an “About the Author” section is foregone inside, the jackback (or dust jacket) will contain biographical information about the author.
Awards: The authors who presented their manuscripts for awards will often put award insignia or text on the jackback.
Plot summary: Giving the reader an idea what the book is about is a premium idea.
Reviewer quotes: Pre-release reviews are often quoted in single lines to grab attention.
You made sure the front cover grabbed the browser’s attention. You, your beta team and your editor made sure what was inside was the best it could be. Take the next step and make the sale. Do not trip at the finish line.
Using all of the steps, make the back cover the marriage between the front cover and the text. Stylistically, the back cover should complement the front cover, even in cases where you do not have wraparound or additional art.
The font face should be easy to read. If you choose headlines or headings, ideally you will use the same or similar to the title font. Text must be in a contrasting color to the base cover. It needs to be clear of artwork. If the text is layered over artwork, consider a shadow box to make the reader’s first encounter with your book one which will not tax the eyes.
Have the jackback edited. Even if you do not write it, have someone (who is not you) edit it. Shy only a misspelling on the front cover, mistakes on the back cover are most revealing. Your browser thinks, If the author cannot get 300 words without a typo, how horrible is the inside of the book?
Do you have an answer?
It may be tempting to fall into the trap of I need to tell the reader everything to catch the most interest. Especially in books which offer elements from different genres, it could seem logical to put a buffet of everything on the jackback. This is a calculated risk, albeit a large risk.
If your plot includes everything and the kitchen sink, the eclectic nature is likely going to turn off as many as it attracts. While the romance may appeal to some, the zombie hunt in chapter 18 may not go over well. Vampire readers may love your story, until they get to the mini-plot of the detectives solving the environmental crime.
A jackback which is nothing but pre-release adulation can actually drive away customers. What in all of the hoopla makes the browser interested in becoming a buyer? Your jackback portrays you as a meme who’s only supplied reasons for buying the book are you convinced people to read free copies of it in advance and you chose the best quotes from the reviews. What is between the covers?
Spoilers are a really illogical choice. If you solve the book on the back, why would the reader buy it?
A survey of authors will show the closest to unanimity you will ever find in creative people: Jackbacks are not easy to write.
For the author, condensing one’s opus magnum into 300 words is demoralizing, demeaning and devaluing. (See temptation above.) Hiring a writer to pen the jackback can be disastrous. Most per-project writers will not invest the time to read the whole book. Skimming leads to skimpy, inaccurate jackbacks.
Who do you turn to for a quality jackback? Your support network of beta readers and editors. Take a survey.
- Why did you like my book?
- Would you give me a plot summary or book report?
- What would you tell your friends about my book?
Helpful hint: Ask more than three people.
What you will gain is a pool of information about what readers get from your book. This is what potential
readers buyers want to know. This is the information you will use to create a jackback which gets readers excited about buying your book.
- Easy to read
- Grabs interest
- Tied to front cover and contents
- No spoilers
- Get input from readers
Have you ever bought a book without reading the jackback? Ever been iffy about a book and the jackback sold it to you? What do you like to see on the jackback?
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