Is your book cover helping create sales? The spine

The cover of a book is the first thing a reader sees. It is the initial introduction to your book. All too often the cover can make a difference to whether the reader picks it up or skims past it on the shelf.

There are different components to your cover. Here I want to focus on the spine of the book. The part that not only announces the title and introduces you as the author but sits proudly on the shelf shouting out ‘Iʼm here!’.

It is important to note that I write not as a publisher with many years’ experience in creating books but as a consumer, reader and professional reviewer of books. When I review I start with my initial impression, which of course is the cover. Does the book invite me? How does the cover make me feel? When it is sitting on my shelf amongst other books can it easily be seen, does it call me? I have spent many hours researching, studying and talking to others about the influence a cover has on their purchase of a book and all agree on one thing: if it does not jump out at them whilst sitting amongst other books they will too often overlook it.

Five considerations when creating the spine of your book

• Font - Can the title and author be easily read from a distance? By distance I do not mean from across the room but from a comfortable distance that allows the consumer to stand comfortably back from the shelf when browsing.

Is the font clear and easy to read? Fancy, decorative fonts may look nice but are often skimmed over by the eyes with the brain deciding that deciphering it is way too hard. Does the font meet the theme and feel of the book? If your story is bold and hard or serious a flouncy, sweet font will distract and mislead. If your story is romantic, sweet, soft or innocent your font needs to portray just this. There is nothing more discouraging to a reader than picking a book up with an impression of what you are about to read to find it totally the opposite when you read the back teaser. You feel betrayed and misled from the first instance.

With the spine often being the consumer’s initial introduction to your book it must complement the title and set the mood. The wrong mood can lead the consumer to place it back on the shelf.

• Colour and boldness - The colour and boldness of the font makes a huge difference. Dark colours, especially black, often become lost amongst the other titles. The background colour of your book cover also plays a role here. A title that jumps out from the spine calls me and begs to be read, it should not get lost in the background. Over the years I have found that a white spine is noticed way quicker than other colours.

• Graphics - Some authors choose to place a picture or graphic on the spine. This not only allows the consumer’s brain to absorb the title on a different level but provides a visual guide to what may be inside the book. I have found many graphics that have intrigued me to the point of leading me to pick up the book and read the back blurb, but one must take caution here to not over do it or to allow the graphics to interfere with the ability to clearly read the title.

• Avoid Clutter - Too many words, too many fonts and too many graphics can lead the reader to assume that the book will be hard to read with a story that clutters the mind. It can also lead to the consumer skimming by.

• Author or title first? - What to consider here is the first message you want the reader to get, remembering that the spine is read from top to bottom. If you are a well-known author and sell books based on who you are then placing your name first may work, but my research has lead me to find that a catchy title that speaks of the content and grabs the reader in the first instance quickly over rides who the author is in terms of picking the book.

In summary, the spine needs to introduce the reader, at a glance, to the title and author whilst giving them a feel for what might be inside. It needs to entice them to find out more. It needs to stand out amongst others and basically smile at you from the shelf. It needs to ooze personality whilst providing individuality that is not daunting but intriguing. When the reader removes the book from the shelf the spine should complement the next stage of their adventure, the cover and the back teaser.

Next: The front cover

Jennifer Deaves

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