Free Book Jacket Layout Template for DIY Self-Publishers

by | Dec 15, 2010

One of the most challenging tasks for a do-it-yourself self-publisher is laying out a dust jacket for a hardcover book.

To create the artwork for a jacket, it’s important to work closely with your book printer. Many of the crucial pieces of information you’ll need are only available from the people who will manufacture your book.

For instance, the width of the spine is determined by the bulking of the specific paper used for printing your book. This is expressed as pages-per-inch. A typical book paper is 400 pages per inch. This paper would create a spine width of 1.0″ for a 400 page book. But a dust jacket needs to take into account the thickness of the boards that make up the case, and the rounded corners of the case.

Because the cases of hardcover books extend past the edges of the paper, a 6″ x 9″ book will need a jacket that’s approximately 9.25″ high. Why do I say approximately?

tbd book cover design cta

Every Printer Has Their Day

You cannot determine the measurements for your jacket without your printer, as I said. Even with precise measurements, each printer has their own favorite paper stock, their own bindery equipment, their own cloth or paper covers for cases. All these elements contribute to slight variations from printer to printer.

Some printers will supply you with a template from which you can build the document that will become your book jacket. Some will only give you dimensions, or formulas.

That’s why I’ve created this sample template:

TheBookDesigner-jacket-template self-publishing

This sample template shows the layout for a typical 6″ x 9″ dust jacket. The actual flat dimensions of this jacket are 9.25″ x 20.095″ which will allow for 3″ flaps.

Using this template, you can see how the dimensions your printer gives you will help create your own jacket artwork.

For instance, this printer requires .25″ added to the trim size of the height of the book and the standard .25″ for the “turn” around the edge of the front and back covers. This layout is for a 408 page book on 400 pages-per-inch paper stock, so you can see the binder has added about .22″ to accommodate the other pieces of the spine, yielding a spine width of 1.22″

The allowance for “turn,”—or “internal” bleed—is important because if you have an illustration that covers the entire front cover, you want it to wrap around that front edge so you don’t have a stripe of an unwanted color creeping over onto the cover from the front flap.

You’ll also note at the top of the diagram “ruler stops.” I always calculate these measurements and use them to create guides for my jackets. It helps me visualize the various elements of the jacket and verify that the measurements are correct. For instance, on my sample, if all the horizontal measurements don’t add up to 20.095″ I know I’ve made a mistake somewhere.

Pieces and Wholes

Normally in the development of the book design, the front cover is designed separately, and well before the rest of the jacket. All the parts can be done in pieces and then assembled on the master template.

I’ve put a link below so you can download a PDF of this layout. The PDF is an actual-size document so you can see exactly how it’s constructed.

Whether you want to do your own dust jacket or not, if pays to know how they are put together. And if you have any questions about how this works, leave them in the comments and I’ll try to help out.

Download: Sample Book Jacket Layout

Ready to Design Your Book Cover?
Want To Make Sure Your Book Cover Design is C.L.E.A.R.?

So often we see sub-par book covers paired with amazing books… Which is why we pulled this excerpt from our self-publishing course to help you get clarity on what makes a great cover, and how to outsource the design (if you’re not an illustrator yourself).

tbd book cover design cta
tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. Alex Savage

    Hi John,
    Please explain how to make a profit from self-publishing a large format, full color, perfect bound hardcover coffee table style tome when the cost of printing them through websites like Blurb is ridiculously high? It can’t be done. Even you have to admit that the so called “self-publishing” game is mainly for novels, or vanity books.

    • John Morris

      Hello Alex
      Publishing is a risk business, normally self publishers deal in small quantities without the traditional publishers range of departments of publicity, sales etc to push sales, I suggest you talk direct to printers rather than go through the self publishers websites, although you may need to print more copies to get the unit price you require, but this is based on “can you sell them all”

    • Joel Friedlander

      No Alex, that’s not even close to accurate. Many self-publishers for many years have produced a wide variety of books successfully. But if you pay too much for the books, of course you will price yourself out of the market, that’s just basic business sense. I do know people making a profit on Blurb books, but they have a business model that allows either a very high list price, or they use the books for an ancillary purpose and make their profits off other products. You can produce a full color coffee table book but I would not print it at Blurb if you want to sell them commercially.

    • Jason Hunter

      I’m looking overseas through When you look a the difference in printing costs, one hardly blushes to say that’s a great option for DIY author/publishers. But it will leave storage/warehousing and distribution in your lap. But many indies account for that anyway.

      God bless and God’s grace to you :)

  2. John Morris

    The important thing to remember is to allow enough bleed around the design, also on paperbacks most printers add a score front and back about 6mm in from the spine to make the cover open without pulling the spine.


  3. ed


    How do i figure the width of a catalog spine once I receive the bulking information from the printer. I have to prepare the file in Indesign.


    • Joel Friedlander

      Ed, the bulking information should be in the form of “000 ppi” which tells you how many pages per inch. Then you simply multiply the number of physical pages in the book by the ppi to get the spine width. So, for instance, if your printer tells you it’s 440 ppi, and your book is 220 pages, your spine will be .5 inches (440/220).

  4. Will Doherty

    Why did they even invent book jackets and why not for paperbacks as well as hard covers?????? I mean, the covers are already hard enough, so why do they need a jacket, is it just so they can retain their value or look pretty? In my experience, the book under the jacket is usually pretty enigmatic as far as cover titles go. While we’re talking about books, why do a lot of books have two or three blank pages in the beginning and end of the book?

    • Joel Friedlander


      There are paperbacks with jackets, but it’s not common. Originally they were “dust wrappers” intended to be discarded once you brought the book home. Gradually the jacket became more important than the cover. Blanks are added at the end of a book to correct the pagination for offset printing, which is done in multiples of 16 pages. Blanks at the front of casebound books are usually flyleaves, and not actually a part of the book itself.

  5. Roemer McPhee

    Joel, what is the paper weight of high-quality dust jackets, exactly? Paper type? It seems heavy-duty.

    R. McPhee

    • Joel Friedlander


      If you are printing at Lightning Source, I strongly advise using the templates they generate. As an extra, you will get a free bar code with the template. Jackets are typically printed on 100# coated stock (sometimes called “enamel”). Interiors are more likely to be 50-60#, so it is quite a bit heavier, and the coating, necessary for color printing, also gives the jacket stock some extra heft.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Roemer McPhee

    Any problems with Lightning Source’s template?

  7. Mchael N. Marcus

    Are the dust jackets put on by people or robots?

    Are jackets put onto covers before the pages are bound into the covers or after binding?

    Cream pages are often (always?) thicker than white pages. Why aren’t they made with the same bulk?

    Michael N. Marcus
    — Create Better Books, with the Silver Sands Publishing Series:
    — “Stories I’d Tell My Children (but maybe not until they’re adults),”

    • Joel Friedlander

      Hi Michael,

      Jackets are wrapped onto the cases after the book blocks are bound into them, usually by machine but, in the case of odd or large sizes, sometimes by hand. I don’t think there’s a relationship between bulking and color. The problem is that digital printers offer virtually no paper choices beyond these two. Take a look at the paper possibilities available in offset printing and you’ll see there are dozens, if not hundreds of choices.

      • John Morris

        Hello Joel
        I have read with interest on book jacket layout and bulking of papers.
        Here in the UK we work in mm and offer the same layout sheets for covers, PPC’s and jackets making allowances for the rounding and backing or square back of the case. these are downloadable from our website.
        We use quite a few papers on digital and try to cross platform them against litho. paper bulking is based on volume from bookwoves, offsets and coated, a munken bookwove volume can vary between vol 15, vol 17.5, vol 18. an offset 12,5 and coated from 9.0 to 11.4. We use grams per square metre not lbs As you know different papers are used according to the book content, text only, text and line drawings or tints or photographs

        • Joel Friedlander

          Thanks for the informative comment. I also like the downloadable templates you provide on your website and will link to them for publishers who are using metrics-based standards, they are quite good.



  1. How to Design a Book Cover for Print (and Free Template Downloads) – Diary Vena - […] Download […]
  2. Book Designer Plays the Template Game - Soicalpost - [...] the same way, printers have traditionally supplied templates for book covers, jackets, and cases. These are measured to the…
  3. Playing with Cover Art – Tea & Magic - [...] Additional Note: For anyone interested in doing an actual book cover mock up, here’s a free template: Free Book…
  4. Tweets that mention Free Book Jacket Layout Template for DIY Self-Publishers — The Book Designer -- - [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ishak Nusantara, Joel Friedlander. Joel Friedlander said: Free Sample Book Jacket Layout…

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.