Make your self-published book
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What size should my book be?

This is a question we get asked a lot by authors.

I don’t know about you, but I had never really thought about books being published in different sizes. When you stand in a bookshop, it’s obvious of course, but it’s not your first consideration when you’re thinking about self publishing.

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These are the traditional sizing conventions publishers tend to use:

Mass market paperback

  • Always 4.25 x 7 inches.
  • They are so called as they are inexpensive to print, and aimed at impulse-buy, mass market sales. These are versions of books you will see at non-traditional locations, like supermarkets and airports.

Trade paperback

  • Can be any size from 5.5 x 8.5 inches, to 6 x 9 inches. Most self-published books are considered to be trade paperbacks.
  • The trade paperback is usually the same size as the hardback (hardcover) version of the book, although the paper quality and binding will be a better quality for the hardback version.

Novels

  • Usually sized anywhere from 5 x 8 inches, up to 6 x 9 inches, depending on the length of the novel.
  • If your novel is quite long, consider going for a 6 x 9 size, so your book doesn’t become too bulky. This can make it uncomfortable to hold, and difficult to read.

Text books, work books and reference books

  • Usually sized 8 x 10 inches or larger.
  • This allows space for diagrams and drawings, and also for a two-column format to be used for the text layout.

Non-fiction

  • Usually 6 x 9 inches, although can be larger.

Hardback (hardcover)

  • Most popular size is 6 x 9 inches.

Of course in this era of self-publishing, you’re not tied into following convention. But there are several factors that will influence the size of your book:

1. Your publishing method

If you’re using a self-publishing print-on-demand platform like Createspace or Ingram Spark, you’ll be limited by the sizes they offer.

Make sure to look through their websites to see what sizes are available, and if there’s one suitable for your book.

If you’re using a traditional publisher and printer, then you may have other size options available to you. Talk to your printer to discuss what sizes are available, and what they’d recommend.

2. Your choice of paper colour

Particularly on self-publishing platforms, not all sizes are available for both white and cream paper. If you have a preference for one colour over the other, make sure you can also have the size you want.

With traditional publishers, this usually isn’t an issue, as your finished product can be much more bespoke. But this may have cost implications, so make sure you check out what your options are, and how they affect the price.

3. If you’ll be publishing in paperback and hardback

This is really a practical consideration, rather than a limitation. If you’re publishing a hardback version of your book too, then consider whether you want this to be the same size, or a different size to the paperback.

If you choose a larger hardback, you will need to re-format your manuscript for the new size. This will have an impact on the time it takes you to publish, and also on the costs involved, so is worth considering at the early stages, so you can make an informed choice about the best sizes for each edition.

4. Where you’ll be distributing and selling your book

For print-on-demand publishing, this isn’t really an issue, as your book will be sold in a ‘virtual’ bookshop.

But if your intention is to sell your book in mainstream bookshops, make sure it’s a sensible size to fit on the shelves and be displayed in-store in an attractive way. If your book is difficult to display on a shelf effectively, a bookstore may not bother promoting it at all.

5. The genre/niche you’re writing in

Some books will need to be large or non-conventional sizes. A road map, for example, will not usually be printed at a 5 x 8 size.

If you’re writing in a particular niche or specialism, investigate what the norm is for that market. You may choose to comply with this, or deliberately choose a size that stands out from the crowd.

Do you have any more advice or tips for choosing the right size for your book? Share your views in the comments section below.

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We’re Peter and Caroline O’Connor. Creating beautiful book cover designs for authors all over the world is our passion. Every author should be able to benefit from a beautiful book cover design (not just the lucky few who get signed by a big publisher). We design, podcast, and coach authors full-time so we understand your struggles. Currently accepting new clients.