Sometimes books have belly bands!
What’s a belly band? That is the (usually) paper band around the cover of a book that is not actually connected to the book. You can see below, in the photo of the adorable French edition of Lucy Knisley’s Relish — that strip around the bottom with the praise (in French!) is a belly band.
Now, you are probably saying to yourself, ‘How crazy and mysterious! Have I ever even seen such a thing before?’ (Unless you are a fan of books published by D&Q, in which case you’re saying, ‘Oh, I didn’t realize those things that are always on my books had an actual name.’)
There are generally two reasons why books have belly bands.
Sometimes books get positive praise close to the publication date, after the book has already gone to the printer and it’s too late to make changes. But publishers are like, ‘JK Rowling personally came to us and gave us a blurb saying this is the best ever! That will sell so many copies!’ So instead of trashing the first print run and reprinting a second with this new blurb, they’ll instead print a removable slip of paper with the blurb on it that folds around the cover — a belly band.
The second reason for the belly band is that the book cover has the most perfect ever design — but it’s something that would be ruined if there was text on it. And there’s text that needs to go on it! Maybe there’s a special offer (get the author’s previous book free if you purchase this one!) — or maybe the most perfect design ever did not allow for any descriptive copy about the book or an author bio to be fitted in anywhere, and those need to be somewhere! It is clearly time for a belly band.
This is a photo of the Relish belly band taken off of the book.
So why haven’t you seen more of these belly band things?
The typical belly band is printed on pretty low-quality paper. It’s removable and moderately disposable — it’s not meant to last decades. It’s not newsprint, but it’s generally just a few steps up from that. (If you’ve seen D&Q belly bands, you’ll know they don’t fall under this aegis!)
That low paper quality means that the belly bands are a nightmare both for a publisher’s warehouse staff and for booksellers. Because they’re so easily tearable, just shipping them becomes problematic. And if they don’t rip when they’re being packed in a box with dozens of other books, in the process of mailing, or when they’re being unpacked, there’s still the delightful opportunity of breakage each time someone takes the copy off the shelf and puts it back on.
That makes the belly band a great choice if you have a super-important quote from JK Rowling, or if you’re also shrink-wrapping your book so it won’t be damaged, but less good of a choice for anything else.
But they are very pretty!