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  • Should You Choose a Self Cover or Plus Cover?

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    Digital Printing, Online Printing

    When you’re printing a magazine, book, or booklet, it’s important to pay attention to all the details of your printing specifications, paper choices, and image resolution. When you design your cover, you can choose a self cover or a plus cover. What is the difference, and which is best for your book? In most cases, a plus cover is a better choice, but a self cover works well in some cases. Here are some tips for producing a great-looking cover.

    What Is a Self Cover?

    A self cover is one that uses the same paper used for the interior pages. You may have seen newsletters or magazines that have a self cover.

    What Is a Plus Cover?

    This is a cover that uses a different paper stock for the cover than it does for the interior pages. Typically, the cover is heavier and thicker. It may have gloss or soft touch lamination.

    Most paperback books you see in stores and libraries have this type of cover. Books do a lot of traveling, and paper covers can tear or fall off easily. A durable cover will last through years of handling, shipping, sitting on shelves, and being paged through by many readers.

    Benefits of a Plus Cover

    There are three primary benefits to this type of cover.

    • Sturdiness: As we mentioned above, this type of cover is sturdy and designed to last. It offers protection to your booklet or book’s interior pages.
    • Style: Plus covers look better than self covers. The heavier paper makes the cover stand out.
    • Professionalism: Plus covers are the defining mark of professionally printed magazines, books, or booklets. You may be self-published, but you want a book that stands proudly next to the other printed books on the shelf. It’s easier to market a book that doesn’t look like a brochure.

    Are there downsides to using a plus cover? The major one is cost. Using plus covers adds to the expense and time of a print run. Most authors agree that this expense is worth it, however, because of the added durability and other benefits that come with a “real” cover.

    Reasons to Use a Self Cover

    Using a self cover is going to cost less. First, lighter paper costs less than heavier paper. Second, you can print the entire book, including pages and covers, in a single production run instead of two separate press runs.

    A self cover is less sturdy than plus covers. That said, you don’t need plus covers for every project. A self cover is an excellent choice for printed projects that aren’t expected to last a long time. Projects that work with a self cover include:

    • Newsletters
    • Brochures
    • Catalogs
    • Booklets
    • Instruction manuals

    How to Design and Print a Plus Cover

    Designing a book cover is a fun, creative way to dress up your book. Express your creative side by choosing the colors, fonts, and images for your cover. If graphic design is not one of your talents, work with a professional designer. Your printer may offer design services at rates that make this an affordable option.

    A good-looking book cover makes an immediate visual impact. It’s worth the effort and expense to make it as visually appealing as possible.

    Here are some other considerations when you’re getting ready to print your book.


    Adding pages can add to the cost of your print job. For example, adding just four pages to a standard 25 x 38 press sheet will require an additional signature for the extra pages, even if you use a self cover.

    Working with an experienced printer is the best way to keep your costs under control. Let the printer know what type of paper and covers you plan to use. They can suggest ways to streamline the printing and cut your costs.

    Paper stock

    The choice of paper is another factor when figuring out the press run and cost estimates of printing your book. Using a heavier stock for the cover adds to the weight and thickness of the signature you are printing. This means additional time and money, and it also means you must set up your printing specifics correctly. When you talk with a printing company, be sure you understand what the different printing and paper choices mean in terms of pricing and pre-press production.

    How to Write the Print Specs for Your Plus Cover

    Printing any magazine, book, or booklet requires knowing the size of each element:

    • Trim
    • Front cover
    • Back cover
    • Spine
    • Bleeds

    When you write the print specs for your book, the first step is to determine your trim size. Trim size refers to the size and shape of each page. The standard size is 8 ½ x 11 inches, but others are frequently used in book publishing. You can choose 9 x 12, 6 x 9, or 5/12 x 8 ½. You can also choose a custom size.

    The next calculation you must make is what’s called the “bleed.” This is a margin around each page that is trimmed off to make sure the cover doesn’t end up with a white margin around the edges. A professionally printed magazine, book, or booklet should have no margin or border on the cover.

    • Most printers work with a bleed size of 0.125” (3mm) on each side of your design. This measurement does not include the border between the covers and the spine.
    • Add this bleed edge to the top, right side, and bottom of your front cover dimensions.

    Cover Specifications When Printing

    If you’re designing your book on graphic design software, be sure you calculate the following.

    • Cover width: 2 x trim size. This is for the front and back cover.
    • Spine width: This is a complicated calculation. Your printer can help you figure this out. It will depend on the number of pages you’re printing and your paper stock.
    • Bleed: 2 x bleed size.
    • Height: To get this, add the trim height to the bleed size.

    Resolution Matters

    If you want a cover that looks sharp, follow these tips:

    • Choose a resolution of 300 dots per inch (DPI) for a sharp, clear image.
    • Use a CYMK (cyan, yellow, magenta, black) color profile.

    Get Help from an Expert

    We know what you’re thinking: “This is confusing! I just want to write my book, design the cover, and have it professionally printed. I don’t want to do all these calculations.”

    It is confusing. That’s why an experienced, professional printer is your best publishing partner. At Dazzle Printing, we make it easy to design and print your book with a beautiful cover, sharp images, and high-quality paper. If you’re struggling to understand these dimensions, talk to us.  If you’l like to check out the differences between using self cover and plus cover, use one of our pricing calculators.


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