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It is often said that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but indeed we do. Design is the first thing that your readers will notice about your book.

As the publisher, you're in control of what readers think when they first look at your book, whether it's on a shelf in a bookshop or on a website on their phone - it needs to look like something they want to read!

Although we don’t want to drive the decisions that you make, we will give you guidance as to how to make commercial decisions about the design and format of your book. Retailers like to stock books that will sit neatly alongside the rest of the books on their shelves, and if a retailer was to look at your AI sheet and notice that it was an odd format, they may be less likely to order copies of your books.

The most widely used of these formats is the B format paperback and is probably what your own bookshelf is full of. The format that you chose is closely linked to the retail price that you want to charge. For example, customers may be willing to spend more on a B format book than an A format book, and a Royal format book than a B format book.

The 4 UK industry standard sizes for trade books are:

A Format: 178mm x 111mm
B Format: 198mm x 129mm
Demy: 216mm x 135mm
Royal: 234mm x 153mm

If you have had any previous experience with other printers or suppliers you may have been offered imperial measurements different to those above. These are often US sizes and whilst they could be suitable in international markets, imperial sizes may not be so suitable when trying to sell into the UK market. While we can produce books to various sizes, industry standard sizes are also more economical to produce.

We have a variety of bookwove papers ranging in weight and brightness.

Our standard book papers range from 52gsm (grams per square meter) to 80gsm and generally speaking, the heavier the paper, the better the quality. Higher grammage papers tend to be more opaque, and therefore there will be less show through of the ink on the reverse of the page that you are reading.

Different papers are suitable for different types of books and we can recommend the best paper for you. The physical properties of the paper will have a big impact on the weight and the bulk of the book, which may also affect the cost of carriage if you intend to distribute the books yourself. Furthermore it will determine the spine-width that will in turn have an effect on the cover design. We are more than happy to send out samples.

The extent refers to the number of pages in your book.

It cannot be an odd number and extents are calculated in multiples of 16. If the extent of your book sits outside our standard extents we will round it up to the nearest multiple of 16 with your approval. For example, if your book had an extent of 200pp, we would round it up to 208pp and there would be 8 blank pages at the back of your book. 

The spine width is essential to the production of your book.

Both the text paper that you choose and the extent have an impact on the spine width of your cover. The spine width also plays a key role in the cover design; if the spine width is too narrow then the design on the spine of the book will spread onto the front and back panels of your cover design. Likewise, if your spine width is too wide, then the design from the front and back panels of your cover could run on to the spine.

We have created a spine width calculator to make this a straightforward calculation that you can do yourself: Spine width calculator

We have a large range of cover finishes that can be applied to your book but these are just the basics.

We will talk you through them to help you to decide the best option for you. All of these cover finishes can be applied to both paperback and hardback jacketed books.

Varnish is a cost effective finish that offers overall protection and coating to the printed cover. It is clear and provides a gloss or matt finish.

Gloss Varnish – Gloss varnish is a lacquer that we can use to coat the cover. It protects against general wear and tear and gives a high gloss finish to your cover.

Matt Varnish – Matt varnish is the same process as gloss varnish but instead of being shiny, it provides a more subtle matt finish.

Lamination is a plastic film in various finishes that is applied to the entire printed sheet to create various effects.

Gloss Laminate – It is very high impact and hard wearing. It makes colours more vibrant and offers a high level of protection to books.

Matt Laminate – It gives a subtle and tactile finish to your cover. It doesn’t provide the same level of protection as gloss lamination but it is a more popular choice due to its smooth quality finish.

Soft Matt Laminate – Similar to matt laminate it has a premium feel and is extremely tactile, like rubber to touch.

Hardback Books
There are additional choices that you can make about cover finishes if you decide to print a hardback book. Cases can be covered with a wide range of materials but the following are the most commonly used and the most cost effective.

  • Printed paper
  • Paper embossed to look like cloth
  • PVC coated paper
  • Real cloth

These special cover finishes are great if you are looking to produce special editions of your book. 

All of these special cover finishes do incur additional costs but are worth it if you are looking to create limited special editions or looking to create not just a book, but a beautiful object. The cost of making a block for foiling and/or embossing is quite high, so for runs of under 1000 copies we would suggest sticking to standard cover finishes such as varnish or laminate.

Spot UV – this is where we apply gloss varnish to a localised and specific area of your cover, for example, the title or an image. It is particularly effective when used against a matt laminate cover finish due to the contrast of matt and high gloss.

Foil blocking – this is the process of applying a metallic foil to your cover and available in a range of colours. The process of foil blocking is done on a foil-blocking machine where heat is used to stamp the foil onto the surface of the cover via a brass block.

Embossing – Pressure is applied to the cover board using a die to distort the surface and raise a specific area for greater emphasis or to create a textured effect.

De-bossing – De-bossing follows the same process as embossing but rather than raising an area it creates a hollow or dip.

Cover Design

Whether you have a vision for your cover, or you need to start with a blank canvas, a cover designer can guide you through this. Depending on what level of service you require, whether help with an existing design, or inspiration for a completely bespoke idea, a designer will usually begin by reading your book and picking out key themes or characters to use as inspiration for the cover. We can put you in touch with a design contact of ours, or recommend various websites full of trusted and recommended designers that you can choose from.  

If you choose to go down the DIY cover route and produce your own artwork, then thoroughly research your market and make sure you know your audience. Take a look at other books in your genre and compare the RRP, barcode layout, and the general typical presentation of the cover including the font, imagery and spine design.


A great book can be compromised by poor textual design. Text that is poorly laid out, hard to read with tight margins, may cause your readers difficulty reading. As the publisher, you should make the reader experience as easy and enjoyable as possible for your reader, so that they are absorbed and swept away with the narrative, rather than struggling to read the text on the page.

If you would like to get in touch about typesetting, please contact us.