Like many artists, when I planned my Marooned Kickstarter campaign, I wanted my books to be signed and numbered. This adds a little something special to the book, having not only a signed version, but one that is numbered out of the original printing. However, if you have ever tried to sign and number a book by hand, you know that it isn’t the easiest thing to do.

Having to try and hold open the book cover while trying to sign/number the book is one thing – and then you have to wait for the ink to try lest you get ink on the inside cover. Even more troublesome, I had offered artist sketches as well. The difficulty in trying to number the inside cover of a book is nothing compared when trying to do an inked sketch in the same space! Lucky for you, there is an elegant solution.

I would be remiss without first pointing out that I learned this from the talented Jason Brubaker. He did this for his amazingly successful reMIND Kickstarter campaigns. Credit where credit is due!

What is a bookplate?

Before we get in to the specifics, what exactly is a bookplate? In short, it’s a decorative label pasted inside the front cover of a book to signify ownership. They often bear the book owner’s name, motto, crest, device or even coat-of-arms. You see, this is not a modern invention just for Kickstarter – bookplates have been around since the Middle Ages! (You can find out more at the wikipedia entry).

You can look at lots of examples by doing a Google image search, but here’s a couple to give you a general idea:


As you can see by the examples (and especially the image search) bookplates can literally take any form of design – it’s completely up to you. As an artist, this is very appealing! You can customize the look to match your particular project. In my case, I needed a spot for my signature, a place for the number and a the main area for the sketch (if needed.)

Creating your bookplate

The idea looks good, but how do you do it? It’s actually quite simple. You’ll get yourself a package of full page (letter size) Avery shipping labels. These are full page, thick stickers. The package I linked has 100 stickers for $26 (plus shipping if you don’t have Prime) – but we will be cutting those in half, so you’ll get 200 bookplates out of that one package. That’s around .13 cents per item.

Once you have those, you’ll create your design “two up” – meaning next to each other on a full sheet – like this:


Print them out on your printer, and you now have 100 stickers with 2 bookplates each. You could then cut them by hand, but that’s crazy talk. Head on over to your local FedEx Office (or local print shop) and have them cut the whole stack in half for you. This cost me like $2.50. Well worth the trip, you’ll have perfectly cut bookplates.

Here’s a closer look at the top and bottom of my design – you can see the circle for the number and the line for my signature:


One more important thing – when you set up your book, make sure the first page (a right hand page) is a BLANK page, so you have a place to paste your bookplate.

Stamping the numbers

Now we could write in the numbers, but again – that’s kind of a pain and we want something that looks slick and professional. So what you can do is buy this really cool Cosco Consolidated Stamp for $25. Keep in mind, once you have the stamp, you can use it on future projects, too.


Customizing the bookplates

Now that you have the stamp and the bookplates ready, you can begin actually making them. You kind of want to do this in one fell swoop. Doing things in batches saves you time. The stamp is simple to use – you ink it up, set the numbers and stamp away. I stamped all 200 of my plates at once, then signed them all at once. Now I had a big stack of signed and numbered bookplates. I then did all the sketches on them – which is WAY easier than trying to do them inside a book!

Now you can have your stack of bookplates next to your books as you are putting your orders together. The first thing I would do is grab a book, grab the proper bookplate, and paste it in. It’s quite simple, and looks very good. Now you have a beautifully numbered book (with sketch if applicable) and it only takes a moment to slap it in there.

Placing the bookplate

Putting the bookplates in is very simple. I’ve recorded a quick little video of me pasting one in:

You could use this technique for any size project – big or small. My campaign was around 230 orders, and it has worked wonderfully. So the next time you want to wow your readers with your book – for Kickstarter or otherwise – create a custom bookplate!

5 thoughts on “How to Make a Bookplate for Your Kickstarter (or any other) Book

  1. Clever idea. Could be done in the style of your comic as well. I could use 70’s style fonts and graphics on mine. Nice touch signing and numbering. I had all but forgotten about these things. One more thing to add to my list of “To-Dos” for my next book. Thanks, Tom!

  2. Have you ever watched your videos with the automatic caption on? Without written content, (like yours) these can be confusing, but are most always funny. For example at the end, “have a light touch with him…yes.” Are we going for x rated here? hehe My husband sometimes thinks I laugh too loud, but I can’t tell. Must be why he wishes I was mute as well as deaf. He’s just kidding, at least that’s what he tells me.

  3. Wouldn’t adhesive backed labels get gummy and yellow with age? Shouldn’t book plates be made from something archival?

    1. I’m not really sure. 5 years later, they are still in pristine condition. Keep in mind they are inside the book and not exposed to the light. You certainly could up the quality, but the price will rise accordingly. And you’d probably have to manually glue them on.

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