How to Nail the Edit of a Nonfiction Book Cover
When you edit a book cover, you have to consider that this is the one part of your book that must achieve nothing short of perfection, especially for nonfiction books.
The main expectation in the nonfiction genre is that titles are written by experts, therefore a single typo on your book cover would immediately reflect negatively on its entire contents.
In other words, there’s zero market tolerance for typos on nonfiction book covers and you must be methodical in how your approach your cover editing job.
I’ve written this article to help you make sure that you produce a 100% accurate cover before your book goes to print.
Paperback Cover Editing
Paperback covers are composed of a front cover, a spine and a back cover. Let’s discuss each section below:
Front Cover Editing
The front cover contains the main textual and graphic elements of your entire book cover. Needless to say, it’s the most visible area of your book and therefore it must be executed flawlessly.
Here are its textual components:
Title, Subtitle, Author Name
The largest font types in your book are reserved for your front cover’s title, subtitle and author name. Therefore, you have to triple-check that your spelling on those is 100% correct.
Now, this is easy to get right because you’re only dealing with a handful of words. Not so for the next component below.
Typically, you want your most powerful testimonial to be reserved for the top of your front cover. By powerful I not only mean its content by also its author. This premium location is always reserved for a celebrity testimonial.
Now, the fact that someone with a lot of name recognition has given you a testimonial doesn’t mean that it’ll be written in a grammatically correct way. In fact, many times this isn’t the case.
So, it’s perfectly acceptable for authors to adjust the text of their testimonials to ensure they follow proper rules of grammar, punctuation, capitalization, syntax, etc., provided that you don’t end up changing their meaning.
Graphic elements, such as images, illustrations, photographs, etc., sometimes contain text in them, so make sure that this text is free of typos.
In addition to typos, any graphic elements you use on your cover must also be free of cropping errors, cropping marks, pixelation due to low resolution, unintended blurriness, sizing issues and poor color contrast with the overlaid text.
Back Cover Editing
The back cover of paperbacks carries a lot more text than the front cover. Here are its different components:
Marketing Blurb and Author’s Bio
The main textual blocks on a paperback’s back cover are the marketing blurb and the author’s bio.
The blurb is composed of marketing copy whose main job is to sell your book, or at least to intrigue readers so much that they feel compelled to open it and browse its contents.
Your bio reaffirms your expertise by listing key accomplishments to cement your credibility, plus a short personal statement.
While your bio needs to be edited for typos and grammatical errors, the text in your marketing blurb must be thoroughly edited at the same level of depth as the text inside your book.
To this end, you’ll have to make use of the full arsenal of nonfiction editing techniques:
- Developmental Editing: This editing pass will look at the overall structure of your blurb. Is it successful delivering your message to your target audience? Is it well-written to convert book browsers into buyers?
- Content Editing: This editing pass has more to do with readability than structure. Are the paragraphs and sentences in the blurb built correctly? Is the flow of your ideas clear?
- Copyediting: This editing pass will make certain that you’re using accurate language with no spelling, punctuation, capitalization, syntax or grammar errors.
- Proofreading: This editing pass is the fine-tooth comb check that’ll catch any typos that were missed in all prior stages to ensure 100% accuracy.
You back cover will also contain additional testimonials from less influential sources than the one you selected for your front cover, to further strengthen your social proof.
As with any testimonial, expect the text on some of these to also require grammatical corrections.
Barcode, Book Pricing and Publisher Data
Finally, your back cover will contain your book’s ISBN encoded in your Barcode, book pricing information and publisher information (typically their name and logo).
Although your ISBN will be included as part of your barcode image, corroborate that the number on top of the barcode matches your purchase records.
Finally, if your book shows book-pricing information on your back cover, make sure that it’s written correctly (e.g. $14.95 not $14,95).
Your book cover spine will typically contain your title, your name and the publisher’s logo (i.e. in your case, your self-publishing logo). Depending on the total number of characters, it may also be able to fit your sub-title using a small font-size.
Like you do for your front cover, you want to triple-check that the spelling of all this information is 100% correct.
Hardcover Cover Editing
Hardcover books share many of the same cover elements with paperback books. For example, in the vast majority of cases the front cover and the spine will be identical. The only two exceptions are shown below.
The covers of hardcover books have two additional pieces of real estate: the left and right cover flaps.
Typically, the flap that extends from the front cover will display the book’s marketing blurb and the flap that extends from the back cover will display the author’s bio.
These two sections will contain exactly the same text that what you’ll find on the back cover of your paperback format (refer to the Back Cover Editing section above for editing instructions).
The back cover of a hardcover book is typically filled with testimonials taking over the space where the marketing blurb and author’s bio would’ve been found in the paperback edition.
As explained in the Testimonials section above, edit them to take care of grammatical errors and typos without altering their meaning.
While it could be said that all books are judged by their covers, this is of particular importance for nonfiction titles, because they’re considered to be a reflection of the experts who wrote them.
Therefore, both your paperback and hardcover book covers will require extreme attention to detail to check that they’re 100% accurate before they go to print.
If you enjoyed this article and are in the process of writing, designing or publishing a nonfiction book, be sure to check out my free nonfiction success guide, drawn from years of experience editing books for bestselling authors (including a New York Times bestseller) and ghostwriting for CEOs and politicians. Simply click here to get instant access.
Leave me a comment below if you have any questions or a specific need that I can help you address – I operate an author services firm that specializes in helping entrepreneurs, professionals and business owners who want to publish books as a calling card for prospects, to establish their status as an expert or to just to generate additional leads for their businesses.
Here are some related posts I highly recommend:
The 10 Must-Have Writing Skills for Nonfiction Authors
The 7 Key Rules for Writers of Outstanding Nonfiction Books
Bennett R. Coles is an award-winning author of six books published through Harper Collins (New York) and Titan Publishing Group (London). He is also the publisher at Promontory Press, editor for multiple bestselling authors (including a NY Times bestseller), ghostwriter for CEOs and politicians and the founder of Cascadia Author Services, a boutique full-service firm that specializes in premium author services specifically designed for busy professionals. Our end-to-end services include writer coaching, ghostwriting, editing, proofing, cover design, book layout, eBook production, printing, marketing and distribution.
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