Thursday, November 5, 2009
Dust Jackets: Spines--More Important Than You Think
Most publishers treat spines as the ugly stepchild of jacket design. It's the smallest part of the jacket and thus the easiest to ignore. All a spine needs is the title running along it, the publisher's name/logo on the bottom, and the author's name on top.
Right? Well . . . not so fast.
Think of it this way. How many books in a bookstore are face out? One percent? Two percent? In most cases, Publishers/distributors PAY to place these books face out. (Didn't know that? Another post I need to write.) Whatever the number, it is a very small one.
[Pictured on the right is the spine of Sickles at Gettysburg, by James Hessler. Click to enlarge.]
The vast majority of books are shelved spine out. When a customer walks through a store and is faced with hundreds or even thousands of books and the only thing he sees is a spine . . . that ugly little stepchild suddenly takes on an entirely new meaning, doesn't it?
We strive to add a little spice to our spines. We do so with a mixture of color, font style, and arrangement of components. Can you read the title from six feet away? Can you tell what the book is about? These are important questions we consider when designing the spine.
But there is a more important (and usually ignored) aspect to spine design you should think about. When we use a set piece graphic on the front cover (a painting or photo, for example), our designers often place it on the spine (assuming there is room width-wise). This little touch of class not only looks nice, but it jumps out at a potential reader because it is so different than most of the spines around it.
AUTHOR LESSON: If your publisher asks for your advice on cover design, suggest that the spine be paid a wee bit more attention. Adorning it with a photo or painting that mimics, as far as possible, the front cover is often all it takes to stand out in a crowd.