Book Design: The Elements and Purposes of the Front Cover and Spine - article

With any luck, the book jacket on your newest novel will do a near- perfect job of explaining everything that’s going to be found inside. From the front and back covers to the author bio, the only thing missing is generally the material you spent months (or years) skillfully writing. Still, two exterior areas of special importance are the front cover and the spine. They might just be the only chance you’ll have to bring potential readers in.

The front cover (called that for obvious reasons) typically is composed of the author’s name, the title of the book, and most commonly an image that correlates to the contents of the book. You want your front cover to be an attention grabber, something that can pique interest in your project, but not something that easily overshadows the work. To be an attention grabber, doesn’t mean it’s necessary to sprinkle glitter over your entire cover.

Moving towards the rear, the spine of a book (the side where the pages are bound together) usually contains the author’s last name, the book title, and a logo/name of the publisher. If your book is resting on a bookshelf between other books, the spine is the only thing that will be seen, but because the amount of space you have is usually one quarter or less of the cover, you will be restricted to the basics and hope you have an interesting title. If the library/bookstore/bookshelf your published work is sitting on is diligent enough to order alphabetically, they will most likely be going with your last name, so ensure it is big and bold. Everything on the spine should read from left to right if you laid the book down on its back.

Though probably not the most exciting part of the process, nailing down a good book cover and spine is crucial to how your book will appear in public. And while it’s common to say “you can’t judge a book by its cover,” people, in fact, do judge your book by its cover.

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