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FAQ: The Exterior

FAQ Index
How to Make a Book:
The Exterior

Thank you to Creative Minds Press for providing the content for this FAQ.


Why is a cover so important?

Why should I hire a professional book designer?

Why can't I just use "clip art"?

How should I design the title?

What is cover backmatter?

What should I do about a description?

What should I write for an author bio?

Can I just use a snapshot for my author picture?

What are blurbs and how do I get them?

What is a category line and where does it go?

What is a Booklan/EAN bar code and why do I need one?

Where do I put the price?

Where do I put the publisher info (company name, logo and website URL)?

What is an "on-line comment line" and do I need one?

What is a UPC Code and do I need one?

Does it matter what’s on the spine?

Do I need a logo?

Is the title all that important?

Why is the cover so important?

Many people make the mistake of thinking that covers don't matter—after all, we've all been told as children that "it's what's INSIDE that counts" and "Never judge a book by its cover." But how will anyone know what's inside your book if it has an ugly, dull or inappropriate cover? A cover is your single most effective sales tool. Make it something that a person who knows nothing about the content HAS to pick up.

Please take a moment to read this article on basic design considerations for a cover.

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Why should I hire a professional book designer?

Especially if this is your first book, you'll want to hire a professional to give you the best possible cover. A professional knows the market, has the design experience and can help you / your book look your best.

Be sure that the cover design you decide on is matches the genre of the book. While a cover with only the title and author name against a neutral background is OK for a business book, it's death for a Romance (unless you’re Danielle Steele). Likewise, an entirely illustrated cover screams YA (Young Adult) to the book world, so your literary novel will never get reviewed by the right people—or even shelved in the adult section.

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Why can't I just use "clip-art" and do it myself?

A cover that is a collection of cheap (or free), off the web clip-art looks amateurish. There's no getting around it—the second biggest fault in self-publishing is having an unprofessional looking cover. Your neighbors may tell you it's very nice, but they aren’t in the book trade. Show it to a bookseller. He'll tell you it's not something he would stock.

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How should I design the title?

Make sure the title is in a clear, sans-serif font. Be able to read the title (not necessarily the subtitle) on the cover at least 10 feet away—or as a "thumbnail" picture on a computer screen. Don't use more than 2 font types on the cover.

The author name(s) usually goes on the bottom half of the cover. It is often helpful to put author credentials (especially for a non-fiction) after the name. For example: Bob Ratpoison, M.D.

Some books have an endorsement/blurb (see explanation) on the front cover. Unless this is from someone very important in the field for which the book is written, this only makes the cover look cluttered. There is some belief in the book world that a front cover endorsement is the sign of a publisher who has no faith in the ability of the author’s name to sell the book.

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What is Cover Back matter?

Now that your beautiful, professional-looking cover has enticed the customer to pick up your book, the very next thing she or he will do is turn the book over and read the back. Key elements to put on the back of your book (Paperback):

Description: This is a snappy summary of the book. Don't fill the whole back with a description. This is a sales job. Just as TV commercials are short, you have very little time to capture the interest of your customer. Get the message across in 100-200 words. This would go on the inside front flap of a hardcover dust jacket.

Author bio: Tell the customer why they should believe this author (even if it's you). Even if you have no credentials prior to writing your first novel, tell why writing the novel was important (tell it in 3rd person). Say it in 50-100 words.

Author picture: A snapshot just won't do. Get a good publicity photo done. This and the author bio goes on the inside back flap of a hardcover dust jacket.

Endorsement /Blurbs: These are from people who have read the book in its manuscript stage. They are in some way important, and are usually connected to the topic of your book (ie: a business book would have a business expert, a novel would have another novelist).

How to get them: Believe it or not, many professional authors are very nice about helping other, less-well-known authors out. You can find out agents who can pass your request to the author at the Who Represents website, (The biggest name authors aren't usually helpful, though.) ASK. Write a letter telling them what the book is about, your credentials and why you want them to blurb it (a little flattery goes a long way). Once they say yes, send them the manuscript in a comb-binding (you can have this done at Kinko's or your local office big-box store). Have them e-mail their comments back to you (it's cheaper for you).

Category Line: In the upper left corner put what type of book it is so that the cud-chewing, know-nothing book cluck... er, clerk, at the big-box bookstore knows where to put it. For example: NON-FICTION: Business/Career; FICTION: Science-fiction. You can put this is in small, unobtrusive type.

EAN/Bookland bar code : This is the bar code specially designed for books. It goes in the lower right corner. You can go to this website and get one. There are other places on the web, as well.

Price: Don't forget Canadian! (ie: $24.95/$38.00 Canadian). For currency conversion see this website. On a paperback you can put it in the upper left corner, in the lower left corner or just above the bar code. On a hardback this goes on the upper left of the inside flap.

Publisher info, logo & website url: goes on the lower left.

On-line comment line:Jim Cox of Midwest Book Review recommends a highlighted line across the back saying "If you liked this book, please go to your favorite on-line bookstore and post a review." This is optional.

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Do I need a UPC (Uniform Product Code) bar code?

If you are planning to sell your book primarily in stores not devoted to books (say, a sports equipment store), you may need a bar code issued by the Uniform Code Council. NOTE: this is VERY expensive.

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What goes on the Spine of a book?

In most cases, your book will be on a bookshelf spine out. That means the spine is very important! Make sure the lettering for your title (excluding subtitle) is readable from at least 5 feet away. Most books have lettering running from top (head) to the bottom (foot or heel). When the book is laid down so that the front cover faces up, the title runs left to right. Few books "stack" the title—that is, put one letter on top of another, so that the title is read top to bottom.

Put your title in the largest letters, a space, then the author name (usually just the last name) in a slightly smaller font. Across the foot of the spine, place the publishing company name and/or logo (see explanation).

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Why do I need a logo?

Go to any row of books shelved (as they usually are) spine out, and look at the bottom (also called the foot or heel) of the spine. Almost all modern books have a logo or colophon, which is a company business design) and/or distinctive lettering telling the name of the publisher. Again, the aim here is to look as professional as possible. A company logo lets the book world know you are a professional.

How do I get a logo?

You’ll need to find a graphic artist to assist you in putting one together. Look in your local phone book.

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Why is the title so important?

This is one of the largest parts of "packaging" your book—what to name it! Make a list of ideas. Bounce ideas off your friends, like the folks on the SPANBook Marketing Group. Try to come up with something "catchy" that is also relevant to your book.

Remember that Books in Print only lists the first 30 characters of a title—that includes spaces. Think carefully about what you want booksellers and librarians to see when they look it up.

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Thank you to Creative Minds Press for providing the content for this FAQ.


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