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If you want your book to look professional and be easy to read, keep it out of the gutter. No, this isn’t a warning against writing trashy books. It’s a warning to keep your book’s content where it belongs.

What’s a Book Gutter?

The book gutter is where two facing pages meet. It’s the inner margins of your book. And important elements of your book don’t belong there.

In a novel or nonfiction book, your book’s text is most important. That’s what carries readers through your book. Words are also important in children’s books. However, pictures are as well. Whatever matters in your book—words, illustrations, or charts—keep it out of the gutter.

Ignoring Book Gutters in Novels and Nonfiction Books

If you’ve read a novel or nonfiction work with words close to the gutter, you know the struggle. It’s not a good experience. You may have tried flattening the book for a better view. In the process, you likely killed the book’s binding.

As a book gets longer, the gutter poses bigger problems. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid gutter issues with any size of book.

The fix starts with proper page margins. Ingram Spark recommends an inside margin of half an inch. You may want it a bit larger with bigger books. Regardless of how big the inner margin is, make it a bit larger than the outer margin.

Why Your Book Falls in the Gutter

When you self-publish your book, you want every page to count. After all, every page costs money to print. Print fewer pages and your printing cost drops. That means more profit.

The best way to trim your book down is with a nice, deep edit. However, editing takes a lot of work. Besides, editing isn’t fun, and it hurts to kill your darlings.

So instead of editing, you take the easy way out. You use smaller margins that push your book into the gutter.

Unfortunately, as already explained, this is a big mistake. Because while you may shave 10 cents off your printing cost, you also lose readers. Because no one wants to read a book that bleeds into the book gutter. It’s a pain, and reading books should be a pleasure.

The Unique Dilemma of Children’s Book Gutters

Gutters present a special design concern with children’s books. These books—picture books and early readers—can get closer to the gutter. The books open up quite easily, so seeing words near the gutter is fairly easy.

That said, children’s books still need to mind the gutter, and words aren’t the only consideration. Because on top of text, you’ve got to keep illustrations safe from the gutter.

What’s this mean? 

It doesn’t mean you should avoid full-page illustrations. It also doesn’t mean no full-spreads. (Full-spread illustrations stretch across two facing pages.) It means you should keep important elements away from the gutter.

Important illustration elements include anything vital to the story. It may be a character’s face, a bicycle tire, or shoestring tied in knots. Whatever matters, keep it away from the gutter. Toss background elements in the gutter. They can hang out there with no problem.

A Foxy Gutter Aid

Need help keeping your book out of the gutter? Our custom publishing services result in a professional book that’s easy on the eyes, from outer edge to gutter, front to back cover. Learn more about the cost and benefits of publishing with Argyle Fox Publishing, then take the first step toward getting your book off your computer and onto bookshelves.