Book cover design with Lightning Source

One of the tasks that I have shirked for the Eusebius book is designing the cover.  That’s mainly because I’ve been too busy with getting the book actually complete, but also because of a misunderstanding.

When you go to, you get an online interactive designer tool.  The results when I have used it have been so-so, but at least you don’t worry about that.  Lightning Source, who will be printing the book, tell you in their blurb about their cover generator.  Naturally I presumed these were the same. 

But it is not so.  What Lightning Source make you do is enter the dimensions of the book and decide on paper and whether it’s hardback etc.  These options are few, but can still confuse.  I long ago decided on 6×9 inches as the trim size, and mentally chose a hardback.  But I did not realise that this choice committed me to creme paper!  Indeed when I started using the form, I naturally chose white paper and couldn’t find any hardback options!   But after trudging through some docs, I realised that, if I want white paper, in that size, it can only be a paper back.  Still, I am committed to 6×9, and to hardback, so I must lump it.  The creme seems to be thicker, and hopefully is better quality.

But the “generator” just emails the info to Lightning Source, who send you back a template file, onto which your design must be placed by you.  This is not an operation for the squeamish, it seems.

My next thought was to hire someone to do it.  After all, surely anyone dealing with Lightning Source will have the same needs?  But a Google search did not bring up much.  So far I have two options:

A few hundred dollars to sidestep this task does not seem unreasonable. 

I’m not quite sure what sort of cover the “hardback” is, either.   I shall explore as I go a long!

There seems to be a choice of “case laminate (hardcover)” and “cloth – blue or grey” and “jacketed”.  The “cloth” option doesn’t list a cover template size.  But cloth is what I vaguely had in mind.  And then I find this:

Cloth-style casebound titles require text copy for spine production. Up to 42 characters (including spaces) may be used to stamp the title, author, and/or other text the publisher designates onto the spine. Characters available include the 26 upper and lowercase letters, numerals 1-10, space, period, comma, hyphen, quote, apostrophe, colon, semi colon, hash/pound sign, question mark, exclamation mark, dollar sign, ampersand, quotation marks, asterisk, and the two parentheses. Text is positioned on the spine of the book as the publisher designates during the title setup process.

The same digital file or hardcopy book may be submitted for paperback and casebound editions provided the trim size is the same, however, a new copyright page containing the ISBN for that format may be needed. A unique ISBN is required by the book industry for each format.

A google search says “casebound” = “hard cover”!  OK: that’s fair enough.

The choices in another PDF manual for hardbacks are “blue cloth”, “blue cloth (with jacket)”, “case laminate”.  Hum.  OK, that’s the same three choices.  But I search for “cloth” and find later on a charge for “Stamped cover (hardcover cloth only), 100% cotton fabric cover w/gold foil author/title on spine)”.    But then I discover that is the US manual.

The UK manual is different again, and clearer in some ways: “Cloth covered books are available in blue or grey. Foil stamping on the front of the book is not available…. and then the same “Stamped cover” bit.  The UK manual insists on using metric, which is annoying.

So it seems if you want cloth, it comes as plain, and with gold stamping on the spine.  Hum.  Well, that’s clear enough… in the end.  In the process of writing this, I’ve found out more than I knew at the start, it seems. 

But in that case, I can see why people go for dust-jackets, tho!  I had some idea of just having a title and logo stamped on the front of the book, as the old Loeb’s did.   But maybe I do need to get a paper cover designed!

5 thoughts on “Book cover design with Lightning Source

  1. Many books do without front-cover lettering. For example my Concise Oxford Dictionary has a gold-stamped spine but no front lettering. And many university libraries, which I believe are the main initial market you have specified, will immediately discard any dustjacket you lovingly create and put the book on the shelf with only the stamped spine showing (this is what the Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek in Hamburg does). Just leave some space at the bottom for the library shelving-number label. Lettering on the front cover is nice to have, but front lettering or a dust jacket are only essential if you are planning to vend the book in display shelving, whereas I think I remember your business plan is to sell online only.

  2. @Marcel: It would be very nice to see and hold examples. It’s a bit like flying blind. They don’t give you the sort of options that Lulu do, where you can just create several versions and see what comes out each time — it’s Real Publication with an ISBN so must be right first time! You can’t even get proof versions out of them — I ended up using Lulu for that.

    @JBPiggin: Hum. These are good thoughts, and you’re right about the libraries. The dustcover is purely a marketing thing, then. Thanks for the comment about the space on the bottom – I had not thought of that!

    I shall mull it over a bit more.

  3. Hi Roger
    I just stumbled upon your site and wondered if I could help? If you are set on white paper, Lightning Source offer hardbacks in 6.14×9.21 stamped cloth with or without jacket or PPC (laminate). The difference in size is therefore minimal, and if the book is large I would recommend white anyway due to the thickness of the creme paper.
    As a publisher you can also request samples. I have a few here, it is invaluable to see them before choosing your format!
    If I can help at all, or you would like any advice on how to use their cover templates please send me a message. It can seem daunting at first but once you have done a few it’s easy-peasy 🙂
    English Rose Publishing

  4. Thanks for your comment! I’m committed to 6×9, since I had the book typeset to that size! I do worry about the thickness of the creme paper.

    I didn’t know that I could request samples — you mean, from Lightning Source? Is that in the US or UK?

    Thank you for the offer on the cover templates!

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