Is Your Book Spine and Cover a Tesla or a Trike?

It’s always wise to “get” which book covers are hot, which are cold, and which just drip and limp along. You have an assignment to get your tush to your favorite brick and mortar book store. If you don’t have one, adopt one immediately. It will be good for you and your book. You are going to do an onsite test for your cover. Wouldn’t you want to have the Tesla’s of book covers or would you prefer training wheels on your trike? Get ready for some ahas to pop.

book spines

Front Cover Red Flag: Never, ever use the word “by” before your author name. There is no greater red flag that a book is NOT written, edited or designed professionally to the highest standards. Using a “by” screams that your book is a DYI project. Delete it pronto.

Genre Front Cover Floor Test: OK, go to the primary section your book would be located in a brick and mortar store. Take out all the books that are “like” yours. Put them face up on the floor. If you have a mockup of yours, add it. Step back. It’s critical eye time. Does yours really stand out? Really s-t-a-n-d  out? Not the fonts, the colors, the images. What pulls your eye. Now, at this point, you may have other book buyers in your midst. Fantastic! Ask them what they think. Be quiet, let them say their opinion and listen closely.

Book cover size: Make sure that the size of your book is the right size for your book’s genre. Where the norm was usually 6 x 9 for most nonfiction and fiction just a few years ago outside of specialty books, the new norm is 5.5 x 8.5 or 5 x 8.  As book design Nick Zelinger of NZ Graphics states, “Check if there are specific or popular sizes that permeate the genre your book is in.”

Front of the Store Cover Test: Back to the front of the store, the place that the big boys in publishing buy table space to place their latest offerings. All are in a face-up position. Circle the table several times. Not the images, colors, fonts, etc. What pops, what doesn’t. Others will most likely be looking and handling books. Don’t be shy–ask them what covers pop out to them. Listen, listen, listen.

Book Spines Are Important! Don’t forget using an image or a “flow” from the cover to your book spine … on the sea of shelves at a book store where yours would rest … how does it stand out?  You may not be the best judge … this is where other eyes are critical. Take yours to a book store … do a quasi-focus test with browsing customers and say:

         I’m doing a test for an author’s group about book spines.
Would you take 15 seconds of your time and tell me which spines pop on these three shelves …

Step back and don’t say a word.  Listen to what they say. Promise me you will.

Now, before you leave, you must BUY a book from the store. I’m not kidding. You have just saved thousands of dollars in mistakes. You are welcome.


JB_pic_2013-2 Judith Briles is known as The Book Shepherd a book publishing expert and coach. She is the Founder of Author U , a membership organization created for the serious author who wants to be seriously successful. She’s been writing about and conducting workshops on publishing since the 80s. Judith is the author of 31 books including Author YOU: Creating and Building Your Author and Book Platforms, Snappy Sassy Salty: Wise Words for Authors and Writers and a speaker at publishing conferences.

Become part of her inner circle by joining the Author’s Ark and exclusive monthly webinar and coaching event. Her audio and workbook series, Creating Your Book and Author Platform is now available. Join Judith live on Thursdays at 6 p.m. EST for Author U – Your Guide to Book Publishing on the Toginet Network at Follow @AuthorU and @MyBookShepherd on Twitter and do a “Like” at AuthorU and TheBookShepherd on Facebook.  If you want to create a book that has no regrets, contact Judith at