Has anyone ever told you to keep your mind out of the gutter? When writing and publishing a book, it’s your words you need to keep out of the gutter.
A book gutter is the blank space down the center of an open book where the pages are bound together. It’s important to know what a gutter is when it comes to the page layout and design of a self-published book.
Learn more about book gutters and other important self-publishing terms.
What Is a Book Gutter?
The gutter of a book is the margin on the inside edge where the pages are bound together. Lay a book open on a table. The seam down the center should be empty of any words. You’ll see both the left and right pages have a blank space where the pages join together. That space, or margin, is called the gutter. It runs down the center of an open book.
The gutter can also be considered the inside margin. On a left-hand page, you’ll have your gutter margin on the right. That’s where the page is bound. On a right-hand page, the gutter margin is on the left, because that’s where the page is joined.
Your pages will also have a top margin, which is empty space at the top of the page; a side margin, which is empty space on the edge of the page (not the bound edge); and a bottom margin, which is the empty space at the bottom of the page.
Margins keep your words from running all the way to the edges of the page. Not only is it difficult to read words that run all the way to the edge, but there’s a chance important words could be cut off during the self-publishing process.
Gutters, Alleys, and Creeps
In book publishing, the gutter is the white space where the pages are joined at the spine of the book. Some designers will refer to the space between columns of text as the “gutter,” but that is more specifically called an “alley.”
There is also a spacing factor called “creep,” which usually only applies to books that are saddle bound, or saddle-stitched, in the center. The way pages are stacked and stitched in a saddle-bound book would cause the margins to appear in the wrong place on the outer pages versus the inner pages. A printer would account for this “creep” in spacing by making creep adjustments. With perfect bound books, this usually isn’t an issue.
Why You Need a Gutter
When you have a book that is perfect bound, the pages are stacked on top of each other and then glued together. Opening that book curves the pages away from the center. Imagine a line of text runs all the way from the left-hand edge, across the page, and into the gutter. It would be increasingly difficult to read the words as they get closer to the point where the pages come together.
When you’re self-publishing, it’s important to keep gutter in mind, so that all of your words are easily read. A properly sized book gutter allows the reader to easily move from left to right, no matter which page they’re reading. And lines of text are never buried in the seam of the book with proper gutter spacing, ensuring that all of your words are easy to read — not just the words in the middle and on the edges.
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