Book Real Estate: The Spine; Font & Phonics
In our technology saturated world, it may seem like book lovers search for books and get their book recommendations in primarily one way; through the internet, with sites like Goodreads and Amazon and other book blogs. But a surprising amount of people remain loyal to brick and mortar bookstores and libraries. I make it a point to go to brick and mortar places because I find browsing the shelves yields books that I would have had no chance of discovering while browsing the internet. Unfortunately, there is an inherent problem with browsing books at a bookstore or the library. That problem is actually seeing the book!
We all judge a book by its cover. A nicely designed or interesting book cover will grab the attention of a casual browser and get that person to pick up the book to read the blurb. We simply have to know what that book with the great cover is about! The only problem is, we rarely see the book cover while in the bookstore or library. Space constraints on shelves mean we are presented with the book’s spine more often than not. This means instead of a whole book cover, that book now has just an inch or two of space on its spine to intrigue a person into picking that book up for a look see.
For the most part, the spine of a book is too small for a picture of any meaning to be visible. So, it’s up to the book’s title to get as much mileage as it can. This means font and presentation and the words themselves. I don’t know about you but nothing annoys me faster than some loopy, squirrely font that is completely unreadable. It may be very pretty, in theory, but if I can’t read it sideways and probably from a couple of feet away, then it’s useless. If you are one of the lucky authors that have their books displayed at eye level then it might not be a problem but if you’re on the bottom shelf then you need to take that distance into account. Nobody is going to crawl around on the floor trying to read your title. If it can’t be read by someone standing with their head cocked to the side (in standard book browsing position), then it’s no good. So, make your title as colorful and glittery as you want but make sure it’s readable from a distance.
Then there is the title itself. Book titles constantly surprise me. It needs to have at least some connection with the subject of your book and most titles seem so out in left field as to be ridiculous. The book title might sound snazzy but it reveals nothing about what the book might be about. I read mostly fantasy, so when I’m browsing books there are certain words I look for. If a book’s title has one of the keywords I’m looking for, I’ll be more likely to pick it up for a look see. (Your mind = the original Google.)
Anything, and I mean anything, to do with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland will catch my attention. My obsession with Alice and Wonderland is deep and all consuming. (It got me to read Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter and I probably never would have touched the book without that connection.)
It’s a lot to pack into a couple of inches on the side of a book. Very few, very lucky books are displayed on the shelf with their covers visible. So, that couple of inches needs to pack a punch if it’s going to get noticed. Be clear with your font and make sure it’s readable whether your book is at eye level or on the very bottom shelf. Make sure your title has at least something to do with the content of your book and gives a browser some idea of what to expect. Draw a potential reader to your book by including some popular keywords in your genre so that an interested browser can zero in on your book quickly. Above all else, treasure that two inches of space because it may be the first thing a reader sees of your book.
What words do you look for when browsing for books? Do you have problems with some author’s choice of font? What are some books that caught your eye just with its spine?