Give Your Spine Design an Edge

A book cover spine is the part of a cover most people pay the least amount of attention to. But when your book is on a bookshelf, it’s the only part that’s visible.

So when you look at a shelf full of books, will yours be the one that stands out and cries ‘BUY ME!’?

Or is it the one with a misaligned spine, the letters dropping off the edge, or barely visible titles—a dull shrinking violet amongst the glittering stars?

Now that more and more authors are taking the POD route—with Amazon’s Kindle Desktop Publishing (KDP) and others like Ingram Spark and Blurb, it’s worth knowing a few pointers to help you create a pro-looking cover.

I'm focusing on the spine here—because in many cases, it’s the spine that gives away an amateurish design.

Planning your cover design - remember page count and paper stock

When you plan your cover design, have a good idea of your page count and the paper stock you’ll be using (i.e. the weight/thickness and type of paper your pages will be made of), as these both have an effect on your spine size.

With Amazon KDP, any books under 100 pages won’t be published with spine text, so you’ll need to design your cover differently to a thick book with a spine that has enough room for titles and author.

For a book with a very thin spine, avoid picking it out in your cover design layout with a vertical coloured strip.

Because of the mechanics of POD printing, it’ll be extremely difficult to accurately line it up on the spine area in mass production print, and you won’t be there to quality check every single copy that goes out. The result could be copies of your book printed with part of the spine stripe visible on either the front cover, the back cover, or if it’s been glued at a slight angle, a twisted looking mess on both.

Instead, try making the front cover design (or the background) wrap over the spine and onto the back cover by a few millimetres, or use a ‘full spread’ image or background that continues over the whole cover.

Give your text some breathing room

Next, give your text some breathing room:

  • Leave at least 2-3mm room around the tops and bottoms of the lettering. If you place your text right up to the edges of your spine, the edges of the letters may end up creeping around onto the front or back covers. Again, this is especially important with thin spines.
  • Choose a simple font that’s clear to read at a small size.
  • Use uppercase lettering, so that the text is visible to the reader and so that ascenders and descenders (the tops and tails on letters like ‘h’ and ‘g’) don’t give you problems on a tiny spine.
  • If you have a chunky spine on your book, you’ll have tons more room to play with the design.
    Think about how your spine will be visible on the bookshelf and have some fun with it.
  • Look at books already on your shelf and notice which ones jump out at you (and why),
    Think about your spine colour,
  • You could include a picture or your logo,
  • play with how the text appears (vertical, horizontal, in a box),
  • if your book is part of a series, have the spine create one big picture when all the books are stacked together—like this fab box set here (image of Osamu Tezuka box set):

And finally...

The golden rule to remember is—whatever you do, keep the text readable and clear, with high contrast to the background.

Keep in mind that your book’s spine is an important part of the cover, often seen from a distance, so don’t let it be an afterthought when you create the cover design.

Make sure your book spine stands out on the shelf and screams ‘BUY ME!’ instead of disappearing amongst the background noise.

Start Designing an Awesome Book Cover Today

I'm on a mission to help self-publishing authors get the pro-level book cover designs they deserve. If you want to learn more about designing your own book, you can check out my blog for more articles and guides. 

If you want a little (or a lot) more help, find out how you can work with me

About Julia

Julia Brown

Julia is a motorcycle-riding, cat-herding, food loving artist, illustrator and book designer. She loves food and cooking but then has to run it off at some point later.

She takes great pleasure in making paintings and artwork to sell, and with her design hat on, she helps self-publishing authors get high-end book design and illustration to boost their marketing and help them sell lots of books — all without having to approach big scary design firms.