The Do’s And Don’ts Of Spine Text

Your book cover design already plays an important role, but is the spine even more significant? Whether in a store, library, or your living room, the spine is the first thing you see on a bookshelf. Covers seal the deal, but it's the spine that really gets the buyer to notice the book.

A book's spine and cover are used together in its packaging. As such, the design and image should be consistent between the spine and cover of your book. Designing a book's spine should be interesting, and you should be able to suggest what it is about. This means the font you select and the design of your spine text will play a major role. 

But what exactly are the do’s and don’ts of spine text? Are there tips in general for the spine of your book to ensure it not only passes Amazon’s or Ingram’s review process but also attracts readers? Read on to find out!

The Do’s And Don’ts Of Spine Text

So, What Are The Do’s And Don’ts Of Spine Text?

So, What Are The Do’s And Don’ts Of Spine Text?

The do’s and don’t of your spine text all pertain to the text's font selection, placement, and size. Blocky sans-serif fonts stand out more on a book spine than thin serif fonts. Although this is not always the case, script fonts (or fonts that are difficult to read) should generally be avoided. 

For thin books, simple, bold text is of greater importance. Your text choice is especially important because you do not have as much room for graphics as larger books do! The size and placement of the text will depend largely on the size of your book, and other elements being included on your spine. 

To give you a better understanding of what can be included on your spine to have it meet the general distributor requirements 

What Are The General Best Practices For Designing Your Book’s Spine

What Are The General Best Practices For Designing Your Book’s Spine

Although these guidelines apply to all spines, they are mainly designed for books with thin spines.

Be Mindful of Color

The spine shouldn't be too gaudy, but it should be striking. Thinner books need to have an eye-catching spine. The space you have is limited, so you need to make the most of it. This can be accomplished by using a bright color that makes it more noticeable than the 600-page monster it sits next to.

It is also important to keep color themes in mind. Your book should make your audience feel a certain way when they look at it. Depending on the color you use, your audience may perceive your book differently.

The contrast between the colors is more important than the colors themselves. In order to attract attention, books often have contrasting colors, such as a light font on a dark background, or vice versa. A book's spine can be seen both at a distance and close up, which is useful when marketing a book. At a distance, the spine of your book should pop out, enticing the buyer to walk up and grab it!

 There Is No Need to Add a Different Color Stripe Isolated Along the Spine

Many distributors provide you with templates based on your page count and PPI (pages per inch) of the paper stock you choose. Some self-publishing options provide templates based on a large number of pages to allow for variation in paper stocks. 

In spite of the fact that page-based templates are more accurate, there can still be variations in paper thickness from the mill, as well as small differences in ink thickness.

The cover can also have acceptable variances when applied to the book block. Although your distributor will do their best to ensure your book spine design doesn’t creep over to the front or back cover. If you prepare your file with a stripe down the spine, you increase your chances of getting less desirable results.

Try Not To Have Your Spine Text/Design Fill The Spine

It's fine if you prepare your book cover with block letters that cover the spine, but it is related to the last point we discussed. Your front or back cover may have a tiny bit of that on it.

Leaving some space around your text, however, will help set you up for success. It doesn’t need to be huge just enough to stay safe.

Avoid Script Fonts Because Their Ascenders and Descenders Are Wild

The first question we need to answer is: What is an ascender? And what is a descender? The typography terms describe those parts of the letter that rise above the median line or that descend below the baseline. 

Lowercase letters have ascenders that extend above a font's mean line or x-height, and descenders that appear below a font's baseline. The descender, on the other hand, is the part of the font below the baseline. 

There are usually seven letters with ascenders in lowercase form These are: t, l, k, h, f, d, and b. While y, q, p, j, and g generally have descenders. In many typefaces, lowercase f and z have descenders as well.

When you put those big billowy letters on the spine of a book, they look nice, but they cause problems. You won't have a problem if your book is thick, but if it is thin, you might end up with the descenders of your letters creeping onto your back cover, unless you make your text extremely small.

Softcover Books With Less Than 50 Pages Shouldn’t Have Spine Text

It's not the best idea since they are very thin. In some cases, you can do it, but it will look terrible. There will typically be no more than a tenth of an inch between the spine and the pages of a book with such a low page count. 

Therefore, your text would need to be about 5-6 points to fit properly. Combined with the possibility of shifting discussed in the first topic, this small text can cause problems.

Hardcover books do not have this problem. Simply use a minimum of .25" when making the cases.

Always Meet Two Pieces of Art Where the Spine of the Book Meets the Back Cover

Our final tip is to always allow your art (when using multiple images or designs to create your book cover spread) to meet at the point of your design in which the spine joins the back cover. 

Your front cover is certainly the most important part of your book cover. Following this last rule will ensure your front cover will be flawless should there be any bleed-over of the spine design.


Graphic Design Terms 11-12: Ascender vs Descender - Kaz Design Works

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Book Cover Tutorial | Making a Spine for Your Book - Keith Wheeler Books (

3 Tips to a Book Spine that Sells – The Wise Ink Blog