Standard Book Sizes: The Definitive guide.

The Definitive Guide to Standard Book Sizes.

Guide to Standard Book sizes

Having a book published is an accomplishment for any author. But what size should the book be? Does it need to be in paperback, hardcover, or digital format? There are many different sizes and formats, and it can be pretty tricky to choose one. This article will help authors understand how standard book sizes work and which one may suit their needs best.

What does Book Size Mean?

You have written your manuscript and found a publisher too. Now comes the process of making the manuscript into a print book, something that a reader will hold in their hands. If you choose a traditional publisher, the editor in charge determines the book size according to their publication guidelines. 

Suppose you decide to format a book and self-publish it. In that case, you will need to understand the various dimensions of books available in the market today. Even if you approach a traditional publisher and might not have a say in the book size, it’s good to know all the sizes and their associated genres.

History of Book Sizes

It is important to understand the history of book sizes to understand modern book sizes. Today the names of book sizes that publishers use are a continuation of an old system. These terms are still in use today. Modern books are commonly produced in folio, quarto, and octavo sizes. 

So unless you are alien visiting earth, you’d have noticed that books come in various sizes. Sometimes even multiple shapes, especially for young children. Some books are pretty small and can be slipped into a pocket. Some are pretty big, like coffee table books, which cannot be carried around.

You’ll be happy to know that if you have written a book to be published as an ebook, you don’t have to worry about size at all. The standard size 8.5” x 11” page size in portrait format on MS Word or any other writing software can easily be converted to an ebook format. Furthermore, since the reader can customize the fonts, there is no fixed layout or number of pages for ebooks.

As you can imagine, audiobooks are not concerned with book sizes as well. An audiobook is not so much as a book but a file.

Here are common trim sizes for your reference:

  • Fiction: 4.25” x 6.87”, 5” x 8”, 5.25” x 8”, 5.5” x 8.5”, 6” x 9”
  • Novella: 5” x 8”
  • Children’s books: 7.5” x 7.5”, 7” x 10”, 10” x 8”
  • General Non-fiction: 5.5” x 8.5”, 6” x 9”, 7” x 10”
  • Memoir, Short Story Anthology, Collections of essays: 5.25” x 8”, 5.5” x 8.5”
  • Photography, coffee table books: Varied sizes
  • Textbooks: 6” x 9”, 7” x 10”, 8.5” x 11”
  • Manuals, Workbooks & Instructional books: 8.5” x 11”

What does the Trim Size of a Book Mean?

With that background information, we move to modern book sizes. The term popularly used in publishing is the ‘trim size’ of a book. It is nothing but the dimensions of the book. The term comes from the process of printing the book. As we know, large pieces of paper are folded, glued, and later trimmed to a specific size.

The book is trimmed mechanically so that its edges are neat and uniform. Usually, it is expressed in the width x height format.

The Europeans and Americans choose slightly different ways to measure trim size. For the Europeans, it’s in millimeters, and for the Americans, in inches. In this article, we will be following the American sizes in inches.

During the layout stage of the book, the trim size is decided. How it is done, we will come to it a bit later. While designing a book in any publishing software, be aware of the safe area, trim line, and bleed area. Make sure that important text and graphics stay inside the safe area. The trim line is where the final cut will be. All background graphics or colors should cover the bleed area if they have to be printed to the final edge of the book. The bleed area ensures that the graphics come right to the edge.

Why is Trim Size so Important?

The trim size is essential because of design and aesthetic purposes. A book is a tool for education and entertainment. It should be easy to read, be marketable, and be within the budget. The trim size impacts these factors- the look and feel of a book and the cost and pricing. Let’s look at each in detail.

1. Look and feel

The trim size affects the page count. A small trim size will lead to an increase in the number of pages. It, in turn, also affects the spine of the book. More pages mean a thicker book spine. It also cascades into other aspects of book design, like the number of words per page, the margin size, the space between the lines, page numbers, chapter beginnings, etc. The trim size impacts anything on the page. You’ll need to balance all these aspects so that a beautiful book emerges during the layout process.

2. Cost and pricing

If the number of pages increases, the price will also be impacted. Thus, the cascading effect will also hit profit margins.

Either your book will follow one of the standard trim sizes, or it won’t. If your book is unusual, the editor will decide the trim size in consultation with marketing and sales. Now we look at standard trim sizes.

What is the Industry’s Term for Standard Book Sizes?

The standard trim size depends on the format of the book. Printed books are usually produced in three basic formats—mass market paperback, hardcover, and paperback. Let’s look at them in detail.

1. Hardcover

Also called hardback or hard-bound, this is a type of book in which the cover is hard, rigid, and has a protective cover (dust jacket). The pages are stitched and stapled. These are the most expensive to produce. The trim size usually ranges from 6” x 9” to 8.5” x 11”.

2. Paperbacks

Also called trade paperback, it is a type of book with a thick paper or paperboard cover. The pages are often glued together rather than stitched or stapled. Trade paperbacks are cheaper than hardcovers but not as cheap as the mass market paperbacks. The trim size ranges from 5.5” x 8.5” (a size called digest) to 6” x 9” (known as US trade). It is the range for all fiction books in the market. The difference in cost between the two is minor. Most self-published books follow this paper size.

3. Mass market paperbacks

These are the books you see in airports, bus stands, and railway stations. They are compact and inexpensively manufactured. A mass-market paperback is an inexpensive version of the book. Mainly this format is used for fiction though this is not a size that is usually self-published. The trim size is usually 4.25” x 6.87”.

How to Choose the Perfect Book Size?

Now that we have covered so much about trim sizes let’s move on to your book. How do you choose the trim size? You won’t have to bother about this if you are going the traditional publishing way. However, if you are self-publishing your book, you might have to make some choices.

Most self-publishers publish in the 5.5” x 8.5” or 6” x 9” trim size, which works for many types of books. If you are self-publishing for the first time, these sizes work. However, you can choose a different trim size if that is what you need.

Depending on the following factors, you can choose your trim size.

1. Think about the Purpose of your Book

What do you intend your book to be? Is it a limited edition book? Do you need the size you have chosen? For example, is your book a gift book or an atlas? If yes, you can go for offset printing, in which you are charged more for any customized trim size. However, unless needed or you want to differentiate your book based on size, sticking to the standard sizes is a good idea.

2. Select the Size Depending on the Word-count of your Book

The more words in your manuscript, the bigger will be the trim size. It is because the bigger size will reduce the page count. You could keep an eye out for the number of words while writing the book or edit them down to the approximate word count later. In reality, there is no perfect or correct word count target for your book — just some guidelines as given here.

3. Choose the trim size according to the genre standards

Readers expect a trim size of your book belongs to a particular genre. A romance novel cannot be the 7” x 9” trim size because it will confuse the readers who expect a smaller size. Find out the book’s trim size based on the genre and connect it to the genre of your book. Then choose your trim size.

4. Think of the Cost Implications

Printing presses charge based on page count. So the more pages you have, the higher the cost and the lesser the profit. As you know, page count and trim size are connected. Page count also impacts royalties. Keep this in mind when choosing your trim size.

Conclusion

It’s best to spend some time in the book store to get a feel for the kind of trim size that might be best for your book. To get some idea, here are some popular book sizes in the US and UK markets.

As you can see, trim sizes affect almost all aspects of books, from writing to designing to marketing to display in bookstores. Therefore, it is one of the most important decisions to be taken concerning your book. Once you have chosen the trim size, you can go ahead and start laying out the pages. From this moment on, your book has a solid shape that will go out to the world and make its impact.​

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