Book Covers: What to Put on the Back Cover

John Kremer, Book Marketing Consultant

While the front cover should act as a billboard to attract potential buyers, the back cover should serve as a display advertisement to encourage the reader to buy the book.

The back cover can be more complex, more wordy, more detailed. How much more complex? The average book now has about 10 to 15 words on its front cover and from 70 to 100 on its back.

In a Book Industry Study Group survey, people said that the information on the back cover was much more important than the actual cover design.

What should the back cover contain?

Bookland EAN bar code

The Bookland EAN symbol should be printed on the back cover with high contrast ink (either black on white, or dark blue on white) with at least an 1/8″ of white space around the edges. The ISBN number should be printed in OCR-A font above the Bookland EAN symbol.

To get camera-ready copy for the Bookland EAN, you should contact the bar code suppliers featured at, who will know how to prepare the code once you have assigned an ISBN number to the book. Besides these suppliers, you could use bar code software to create the EAN code.

UPC Code – If your books are primarily sold in groceries, drugstores, and other mass-market outlets, the Universal Product Code should be printed on back cover, with the Bookland Ean on the inside front cover. You can sign up to participate in the UPC program by writing to GS1 US, 1009 Lenox Drive #202, Lawrenceville NJ 08648; 937-425-3870. Email: Web: There is a charge to join this program.

Scanner Space (optional) – Leave space on the top right corner of the back cover for those libraries which use bar-code scanners for checking the books out. How much space should you leave? One inch down by three inches wide. Again, leave this space blank or use it for information you don’t mind having obliterated by the bar-code sticker.

Subject Category – Print the book’s subject category on the upper left-hand corner of the back cover. Do not add more than two categories. You can use the categories used by Ingram Books (or your local bookstore) to help you decide what categories to use.

Here are a few samples: Business / Personal Finance or Travel / Bed & Breakfast. Note, in these two examples, the first category listing is the main category and the second is the subcategory.

Make the subject clear so underpaid bookstore clerks do not shelf the book in the wrong area. Prentice-Hall’s National Rifleman’s Bible was shelved in the religious section of some bookstores because it lacked this vital information.

Remember that whatever you put on the back cover should serve one purpose: to inspire the reader to buy the book. Few browsers look beyond the front and back covers; hence, the covers have to be so designed that they encourage the browser to buy the book right away or else open the book to learn more about it contents.

John Kremer

John Kremer

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Book Title Critique: $125

If you are looking to brand your book or want to create a bestseller, a book title critique will help you to create a bestselling book before you hire a cover designer (and spend up to $4,000 on a cover with a bad title).

Each critique includes a 15-minute feedback session via telephone.

Email: to set up an appointment.

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