What I’m about to suggest to you is something that I’m in the process of updating, and it’s not quite complete with all my books, so don’t yell “Liar, Liar!!” yet. I think it’s a really good idea for your paper books to act as the marketing tools that they should be for your other writing. Self publishing a paper book on Createspace is fairly easy. Writing a book blurb or synopsis, on the other hand, has always seemed harder than writing an actual full length novel to me. On a paperback, what’s on the tail is vital though. I think that it’s just as important as the cover design for a book that you hold in your hands to read. The first thing I do in a bookstore after glancing at the cover is turn it around. I read the author’s biography, eyeball his or her photo, and then on to reading the description. Obviously it’s the blurb that makes me buy or not buy the book, but once I’ve read it and loved it, I’m going to be wanting more, so if it’s a new author to me I head back to the bio and photo.
One of the wonderful things about self-publishing that not a lot of Indie authors take the time to consider, is the very active second hand book market. Once a single copy of your book leaves the presses it’s off on its life journey. Maybe it will be read and kept by the person who buys it, but sooner or later it’s going to go elsewhere. Books last longer than people sometimes, and some travel the globe. A lot of readers will only read paper books. It’s pointless talking percentages here, because even small percentages of millions of eyeballs is still a lot of eyeballs. People who regularly only read paper books are not likely to keep all of the books that they’ve read because they probably would like access to their beds and cupboards. They’ll give them away, swop them, or sell them at second hand book shops, car boot sales, fetes – all sorts of places. I buy lots of books, many of them new, but I’m a force to be reckoned with at the second hand book stall in any fete or event. I have piles of second hand books in my collection. So make your paper book back cover for that market. Readers like me.
The people who buy them won’t have any clue at all about ISBN’s and will most certainly not look for the name of a traditional publisher – most people can’t tell if a paper book is self-published or not unless they’re involved in the Indie world in some way. They’ll just be captivated by the cover, and then sold by the writing on the back. They’ll buy it, take it home and read it, and either say “Oy, what a load of….” or fall in love with your prose and want to read more of your work. As a reader, I assure you that I’ll go out of my way to find more books by writers whose books I’ve found at fetes or in other arbitrary ways, and Kindles are all over the place now – even here in South Africa. So we have to make it count. Look at a couple of traditionally published books on your shelves, and see how they do it.
It’s obvious that we really should stick to the photo we already use on all our online sites to begin with – this not only gives you power on Google searches, but also makes you recognisable as time goes by. Keep your author pic for at least a couple of years when you first head out the gate before updating to a newer version, and don’t worry about the wrinkles or any other thing you probably wrongly think is gross. Readers aren’t expecting you to look like a Victoria’s Secret model – unless you are a Victoria’s Secret model. So – your usual online photo on the back cover with a short bio – top or bottom doesn’t really matter as long as it’s there. Don’t forget to leave your typed out website http address as well, to make it easier for your new fans to find you when they look for more of your books. Then the very, very best book description you can write. Even if it takes you a day – or two – writing a compelling blurb is more important than writing the book, because without it nobody will ever read it to begin with.
My current book covers have been made using Createspace online cover creator, where you insert your front and your back, and then choose a colour from what’s available for the spine, so they have boring spines. Unless you have a standard colour cover, you’re not likely to get an exact match, which is why I’m redoing mine now as full spreads. Either way you choose to do it, do update your paper book back cover so that you’ll be recognisable, and easy to find, no matter where it ends up. Go to Creatspace and follow calculations for your book, then download your book template. It will look like this.
Open it in whichever image editing software that you use, create a new layer, and off you go. Make sure that there isn’t any pink left when you’re finished, while at the same time also being sure not to put any text in the pink layer or the barcode area. In fact to the left of the barcode could be the perfect spot for your gorgeous author photo and tiny bio. I’m not terribly good at finicky calculations, so I’m doing mine as three different layers – the front, back, and spine each getting their own. When you’re done, save as PDF and upload to Createspace.