Book endpapers (also called endsheets) are probably the least noticed part of a hardcover book. But the endpapers are literally what hold the pages and the cover together. And they can add value to your book if you use them well.
If you’re publishing a paperback, take a look at the examples in this article for ideas anyway; you’ll find that the same principles can apply.
The function of endpapers
In our previous article about book binding, we showed how a casebound (hardcover) book is held together. Here’s the illustration that shows the parts.
You can see that without the endpapers, the whole thing would fall apart, so every casebound book has them. At the front and the back of the book, the endpaper page that is not glued down is called the flyleaf. Three endpaper pages are visible—and usable—at the front and also at the back, for a total of six.
But what about perfect bound (paperback) books, you might ask? No endpapers are needed to hold them together. But you can simply use the inside front and back covers plus the first and last pages to make spreads that imitate endpapers. It can be just as effective.
Most of the time, the endpapers are plain white and simply not noticeable. This is certainly the least expensive choice, and there’s nothing wrong with it. But let’s discuss using color.
Your printer will offer you a choice of colored paper stock for your endsheets. If you plan well, you can find a color that perfectly matches your book cover. Or a color that contrasts handsomely. A book with a brown cover could have red endpapers; a pink cover could have clashing orange or red or blue ones; a black cover could have orange ones. You get the idea. Look through the samples you’re shown and think creatively.
Use endpapers to add value
Reference books, especially, can use endpapers to great effect. Here’s an atlas with a world map that serves as a visual table of contents on the front, and world time zones on the back.
Easy-to-find reference material is a huge bonus for the reader. Could you use this space to help your readers? Think maps, a pronunciation guide, a list of characters or a family tree, a timeline . . . .How could you add just that little bit to your #book to put it over the top? We suggest delightful endpapers. #selfpublishing #indieauthors https://bit.ly/3w0Bfr1 Click To Tweet
Now how about this cookbook for a plant-based, gluten-free diet? Before even opening to page 1, you might be convinced to buy the book and give the recipes a try, based on the enticing photos:
Here’s another case of endpapers drawing the reader into the book. The spectacularly dramatic photograph of a car crash is full of action:
Add interest or whimsy
In this book called 1421: The Year China Discovered America by Gavin Menzies (first edition), the enormous ship on the endpapers is a constant reminder of the size of the vessels in the Chinese fleet that sailed around the world in 1421–1423. (Notice the European ship on the lower left.)
Every year, a professional publishing association called Bookbuilders of Boston puts on the New England Book Show. This 2014 book of winners uses a lot of B’s on the endpapers, just for fun.
Children’s books often make great use of the endpapers. Penciled spirals! What could be more whimsical?
And how about this immediately recognizable scene from Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer? It simply adds fun and appeal.
The endpapers in this book called One Plastic Bag by Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of The Gambia add a kind of horrifying beauty:
Many children’s books use the endpapers to extend the story or the lesson. In the beloved Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld, a crane lowers the sun gradually in the four endpaper illustrations. Here are the final two stages of sunset:
In Goodnight, Numbers by Danica McKellar, the lesson is extended on both pairs of endpapers.
In Julián Is a Mermaid, Jessica Love uses every conceivable surface to enhance this imaginative story: the jacket, the hard cover, and, of course, the endpapers, which serve as a visual prologue and epilogue.
Finally, you must see the endpapers in This Is What Democracy Looked Like, written and designed by Alicia Lin Cheng. The book shows a vast array of election ballots that have been used throughout US history. The author noticed the frequent and imaginative use of type ornaments in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and probably couldn’t resist playing with them. This is one of the very few books we know of that uses all available sides of the endpapers on both front and back, for a total of six different designs.
We hope this little display will help you think of creative ways to use the endpapers in your book.
Read more: Design a children’s picture book » The rest of the book is important, too!
Read more: Book binding basics » for more information on this important topic.
And even more: Designing a book spine » demonstrates an additional way to add value to your book.
Book Design Made Simple. You can do it yourself.