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InDesign Secrets Video: Laying Out a Book Cover

Did you ever have to create a layout for a book cover? In some cases, it can be a tough task, especially when you don’t know the exact width of the spine until the last minute. But, as David Blatner shows in the latest episode of InDesign Secrets on, you can quickly create a perfect cover file, with the front and back covers, plus the spine with the help of a few key techniques.

InDesign Secrets Video: Laying Out a Book Cover

In the video, David shows how to use the Pages panel and Page tool to create the full cover and easily adjust the width of the spine.

And he also includes important points like why it’s usually a bad idea to include the cover in the same InDesign file as the book pages, and how to get crop and fold marks in an exported PDF of the cover.

Check it out now: Laying Out a Book Cover

Mike Rankin

Mike Rankin

Editor in Chief of, InDesign Magazine, and Author of courses on InDesign and Illustrator. Husband. Dad. Dog walker.
Mike Rankin

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11 Comments on “InDesign Secrets Video: Laying Out a Book Cover


    Those who’d like to see what a professionally designed InDesign cover template looks like can get a sample from Ingram’s POD affiliate, Lightning Source, here:

    The specs are for their own books, but you can see how the spine, bleeds, and other elements can be represented and how guides can make snap-to alignment easier. Their ID template is far better than the mere background PDF image that Amazon’s CreateSpace provides for their POD books.


    Unfortunately, Lightning Source and CreateSpace use different paper thicknesses and place the cover differently on a page. So a cover for one with not work with the other. That’s unfortunate, because the same interior PDF can be used with both.

    I’ve had mixed success adapting a LightningSource cover for CreateSpace. For my latest book:

    Amazon’s only complaint was a claim that it thought my spine was too wide. They tweaked it themselves and guess what the result was?

    For half the books in my latest shipment from CreateSpace, the front cover intruded rather uglily onto the spine. Lightning Source’s template apparently defaults to a spine slightly larger than the actual spine under the reasonable assumption that, given the messiness of the POD cover-creation process, it’s better for the spine, generally one solid cover, to intrude into cover space (often a picture) than vice-versa.

    I agree and wish Amazon wouldn’t meddle with what I send them. Here’s CreateSpace’s rules for adapting an existing cover to a cover for them:

    Lightning’s template has a slightly smaller and differently placed ISBN than Amazon, but Amazon apparently isn’t hard and fast about that. It just needs to be in the lower right corner of the back cover.

    And here’s where to get a CreateSpace template:

    My trick, with which I’ve had mixed success, is that a book done in creme paper for Lightning Source has a spine that’s very close to Amazon’s white paper spine. You can either try to get by with that or tweak the slight difference with InDesign.

    If anyone else has suggestions about creating a cover that can be adapted for Lightning Source and CreateSpace, I’d be delighted to hear.

    –Michael W. Perry, Inkling Books

  2. Oh, and there’s one more issue between Lightning Source and CreateSpace. Lily’s Ride is 206 pages long counting the last page, which must be left blank for POD to put print information and an interior bar code.

    Lightning Source sent me a template that specifically said it was for 206 pages. Amazon apparently only has templates for every four pages, so it sent me one for 204 pages. Two pages off. That already left me unhappy,

    Still worse, the print process that both use often means that a POD interior can end up with an additional two or four pages (one or two sheets). There’s no charge for that, but that extra sheet or two can affect the spine thickness.

    In the case of CreateSpace, that meant that I was sent a 204-page template but my 206-page book printed as 208 pages, two sheets of paper more. In some cases, that adds to existing quality control issues to put the spine visibly out of line.

    I hate to follow this recommendation myself, since I like have a picture that totally covers the front cover and another for the back cover, but if you want to be safe, have a spine design that deliberately intrudes a quarter of an inch or more onto the front and back covers. Spine wrapping onto the front and back covers can look like part of the design. A cover wrapping onto a spine won’t look good.

    That’s also a partial solution to not knowing what the spine thickness will be until the last moment. Make that faux-spine rectangle bigger than needed and make all your adjustments at the book cover’s left and right edges. Just make sure the book title on the spine stays centered.

    Covers aren’t my cup of tea. I love how a good cover looks. But laying them out is for anal-retentive perfectionists.

    Also, you almost certainly want to use hand kerning with the large text on the cover, especially the title. That can make a world of difference.

    –Mike Perry

  3. In my business, we use the CoverBuilder script by Bruno Herfst, which makes setting up a page template for a cover a no-brainer from within Indesign. It comes with additional helper scripts such as Spine Corrector to quickly change the spine width.

    I have no financial interest in Bruno’s work.

  4. My go-to script when it comes to covers is HurryCover by Marc Autret (from An easy to use UI, ability to have fold-out covers as well, is truly my go-to script when I have to prepare a cover.

    Disclosure: while I have no financial interest in Marc’s work, I was involved in the early Beta testing.

  5. We too use hurry cover. Most of the time we create our own covers. We print in house so no problem. Good measurement is the most important issue here I think.

  6. I just make a non-facing pages document with 2 master pages.

    A-Master is front and back cover, and I use the page tool to make B-Master the spine width.

    I then put all 3 pages into a spread


    This makes up the book cover and outputs the fold marks too.

    —-pretty much how it’s done in the video… I don’t remember why I started using a B-Master for the spine, but it was a good reason at the time.

  7. I love your beautiful book covers and spine which Traffords (US) Publishers used for my book in January 2014, which have perfectly captured the concept and essence of the book I have written about the history of the British Theatre of the Deaf 1963-1977. The designs have been admired by friends. However, I had to withdraw the book (not published) and transfer it to local British printers in the UK because of problems with copyright law. Can I please use your copyrighted cover design as already done? I can email you the copy of the design for your information. Please advise me on how can this be done and what fee would be payable. Thank you.

  8. Further to my last email enquiry sent 20 minutes ago, I forgot to mention that if I have your kind permission to use your original book covers and spine for my book on the history of the British Theatre of the Deaf, it would of course mean the barcode and Traffods’ name need to be left blank for the British printers. Can this be done? I am in contact with the printers who have set the deadline of 20th March for my order. I am deaf and am unable to answer and make telephone calls. I rely on emails only. I look forward to your response. Thank you.

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