Guidelines for designing your book cover’s spine

Another important element of your book cover is the spine, the thin side that is displayed when your volume is snugly tucked between two other books on a shelf. Because this may be the only portion of the book that potential readers see at a bookstore, library or friend’s house, you want to ensure the spine includes the book’s title and your name as author.

When placing this information on the spine, follow three basic rules. First, the bottom of the wording should face the back cover’s edge. That way, when a book is placed face up on a table, the wording on the spine won’t be upside down. Secondly, ensure any portion of the photograph or illustration from the front cover that might wrap over the spine onto the back cover doesn’t interfere with the wording. A black line from the illustration that runs through the wording, for example, might make reading the title or author’s name difficult. Finally, only add your publishing company’s logo if it will fit, and when doing so, put it at the very top or the very bottom of the spine.

A common question that arises when self-publishing is how thick the spine will be. This can affect the size of the artwork if it wraps from the front to the back covers. Two basic factors determine the spine’s thickness:
• Paper quality – The higher the quality, generally the thicker the spine will be. The typical “white” paper used in self-publishing has a thickness of .002252 inches per page while a book using paper for color pictures or illustrations is .002347 inches thick.
• Page count – The total number of pages has the ultimate impact on thickness. This includes every page from the half-title page all the way to the last one before you come to the back cover.

To determine your spine’s thickness, simply multiply the page count by the thickness of the paper you’re using. So a 200-page book using white paper would be 200 x .002252 or .4504 inches thick. A 200-page book using color pages is 200 x .002347 or .4694 inches thick.

Be aware that if your book is fairly thin – say fewer than a hundred pages – there may not be enough space on the spine to print your title or any other wording.