How to Design a Book Spine

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1106 Design

August 01, 2023

Our last post discussed the ins and outs of the back cover and how to make the most of the space there. However, the back and front covers aren’t all that matter in cover design. The spine must also be considered.

It may seem like the book spine is the least important part of the full cover. However, if you have a print book, the spine is what people will see when your book is shelved in a bookstore. Most books are shelved with the spine facing the customer. Because of this, the design of your book’s spine should be as attractive as possible while still sharing the necessary information.

Because of the space constraints, designers must be skilled to create an engaging spine. Below are some best practices for designing book spines and a breakdown of how each element can help you sell your book.

 

What Background Should I Use for My Spine?

This depends on your preference, but there are certain factors you should take into consideration, namely readability and aesthetic appeal. Your spine should be bold and eye-catching but not obnoxious.

You can use your spine to bridge the front and back covers so they create a single, continuous design. If the design makes it hard to read the type, then you may opt for a solid background. However, allowing the front and back covers to flow together can lessen the problems caused if your spine creeps forward or backward during binding.

When using a solid background, you should select an eye-catching color already featured on the front or back cover or another color that complements the design. Using solid colors can help improve readability. That said, because not every book spine is perfectly centered after printing, you should wrap a bit of color around from the spine to the front and back covers so mistakes are less noticeable.

If you’re still unsure which is right for you, look at other books in your genre. Ask yourself how you can stand out while still conveying your genre and attracting fans of that genre to your book.

 

What Should My Type Look Like?

Generally, the author’s name is featured at the top of the spine, followed by the title and imprint name or logo. This hierarchy can be altered, but we don’t recommend it, especially if your book will be appearing in a library. In most libraries, the catalog sticker is placed at the bottom of the spine, so if your title or name extends down too far, it risks being obstructed.

Whatever font and color you use for the type on the front, you should use on the spine. The type should be large enough to be easily readable, but not so large that it looks crowded. Be careful that the text doesn’t wrap around to the front or back cover. Sans serif fonts often stand out more than serif fonts, especially in bold lettering. Script fonts can look nice but may be harder to read and place.

The color of the type should contrast with the background but still look appealing. When selecting colors for your book, consider what you want your audience to feel and what mood you want to set. The color and font should befit the genre and subject matter.

Learning a bit about color theory can help you make wise design decisions. Color combinations to consider are complementary colors (two colors that are right across from each other on a color wheel) and triatic colors (three colors that are evenly spaced on the color wheel). These combinations provide exceptional contrast and impact.

If you’d rather the colors be more similar to set a specific mood, look into analogous color combinations (these are colors that appear right beside one another on a color wheel). However, these color combinations tend to be bold and can be overwhelming.

It can also help your book stand out more by adding texture to the spine, such as raised or metallic lettering. Remember to be consistent with colors, typeface, etc. throughout the cover.

 

Should I Use My Full Name on the Spine?

This is a matter of preference. If you use your full name, you risk making the spine look cramped, depending on how long your name is. Usually, only the author’s last name is used, with some exceptions.

For the most part, your name will be smaller than the title. However, this may be different for well-known authors. If you are or become popular, your name may draw readers to your book more than your title. Therefore, making your name larger could prove beneficial when it doesn’t negatively impact the design. For example, this is common on books by Stephen King.

 

Should I Include the Title of My Book on the Spine?

Absolutely. This should be the largest element on the spine. There are some exceptions, as explained above, but in most instances, the title of your book is of most interest to your readers.

 

Should My Subtitle Appear on the Spine?

There are exceptions, but the subtitle usually only appears on the front cover and in the book’s front matter. A rule of thumb to remember with the spine is that less is more. Stick to the bare minimum so your spine has maximum impact and doesn’t look cramped and hard to read.

Do I Need a Logo?

A logo can help with branding and make your book look more professional and credible. The spine is the perfect place to show it off. It shouldn’t be larger than the other information on the book spine.

 

Special Considerations for a Series

If you already have a series planned out, you should ensure the spines correlate once they’re on the shelf together.

We’ve talked about the importance of ensuring the front covers stick to a cohesive design, but when those books are shelved spine-forward, the front covers won’t grab readers’ attention.

All books in a series should have a cohesive design. It should be obvious that they’re part of the same series, and when shelved together, this can help the series stand out as a whole.

What if My Book Is Narrow?

Ideally, there’s a ⅛” safety space framing the type in case the spine slides forward or back during binding. Therefore, if your spine is thinner than ¼”, it may not be able to hold text.

Your printer or whatever service you’re working with should be able to send you a cover or dust jacket design template according to your specified measurements. From this, you can determine whether your spine will be too narrow to hold type.

If your spine is too narrow, add more content to your book, such as a Table of Contents, a Forward, Acknowledgements, an Author’s Note, a blurb about upcoming releases, illustrations, or even bonus chapters. If you can add more pages to the front or back matter, or the text itself, you may be able to widen the spine enough to place text there.

A more affordable option would be to select a striking color or pattern for the spine that will draw attention to the book . . . without clashing with the front or back covers. You could also allow the front cover design to flow to the back without interruption.

 

As you can see, many decisions go into this deceptively small part of your book. At 1106 Design, we provide complete cover design services that ensure your cover, including your spine, will look its best. Our experts know the ins and outs of cover design and will work with you until you’re delighted with your cover. Contact us today to learn more.

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