Getting Started – Getting Better

Cover Design

Cover Formatting Definitions


This illustrates the main parts of a print book cover. Some, like the title, are obvious. Others, like bleed, may make you go, “Huh?” This page provides general information on where and what each is.

We’ll go over some of the details in future tutorials.

The Title: While everyone knows what the book title is, it’s important to know how to leverage details like size, location, and font-family (are you using a plain or fancy font?)

Bleed: [Green lines above]
This is literally a margin for error. Because book cover designs go all the way to the edge of the page, printers require a small margin of your picture to extend beyond full size, to allow for the slight variations in machine cuts. Unless your book is a coloring book or similar, your interior bleed will be inside the page, but the cover bleed is always outside.

The Spine: [Bold Pink box above]
Like the title, almost everyone knows what this is. However, there are variations on how it’s formatted. In the US, the text on the spine is setup so if the book is lying on a table with the front cover up, you also read the spine right-side up. In Europe, however, the direction is reversed – though the title is always at the top of the spine.

Author Name: [White text, lower right]
Once more, this is no big secret. Every author wants his or her name on the cover! But placement, font, and other details matter.

ISBN Box: [Small bright white box, lower middle-left]
Every print book uses an ISBN, and your book should have a spot to place it. For Kindle books, their downloadable template puts the ISBN in the lower right of the back cover. This is where your book’s identifying number and bar code go. If you purchased a bar code from Bowker along with your ISBN, you’ll paste the bar code in here. However, if you purchased your own bar code and ISBN, you have a little more flexibility on its location. It should still be at the bottom of the back page, but I’ve seen bar codes in the center bottom, for example.

Blurb: [White text on gradient box, upper left]
When you pick up any print book, the back gives you a quick preview/ad of what the book is about. That little bit of text is known as the Blurb. Some authors also include a short bio and a photo on the back cover. Whatever you decide, it needs to fit in around and over the ISBN box, and should be at least half an inch from the outer edge and half an inch from the edge of the spine.

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