Self-Publishing Basics: How to Pick the Size of your Book

by Joel Friedlander on September 13, 2010 · 112 comments

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Ed: Trim sizes in this post were updated on May 8, 2012.

As soon as you get serious about self-publishing a book, you are confronted with the choice of what size your book ought to be.

For instance, if you want to get a price on how much a book will cost to print, the first thing you need to know is the size.

Some pricing on digital books is in a range of sizes rather than having a different price for every different size, but that only helps a bit.

If you plan to print offset, you’ll need to specify the exact size in your request for an estimate. So one way or the other, it’s good to figure out near the beginning of your planning.

That’s not to say you can’t change your mind along the way. You won’t be locked into anything at this stage, so as long as you’re close to what the final size will be, the figures you’ll be working with should also be close enough until later in your production process.

Traditional Trim Sizes

Book sizes are known in printing terms as trim sizes since that’s where the book is trimmed at the last stage of production.

There are very few “rules” about book sizes, but there are a number of conventions that are good to know about. (All sizes quoted in this article are width x height.)

  • The only real rule is that mass market books have to be 4-1/4″ x 7″. These books are often sold through racks at point of purchase sites in supermarkets, airports, drugstores and the like and their size is an essential part of the way they are distributed. These are not usually self-published books, so you probably won’t have to worry about considering this size.
  • Trade paperbacks, a pretty loose category of books, are often in the 5-1/2″ x 8-1/2″ to 6″ x 9″ range. This page proportion—for instance in the 6″ x 9″ size—of 2:3 has long been considered an ideal for a book page, and you can create good looking books at different sizes but in the same page proportions. Most self-published books are trade paperbacks.
  • Manuals and workbooks are larger and, depending on the printing equipment being used to produce them, are in the 8″ x 10″ to 8-1/2″ x 11″ range. This size is also good for directories and instructional books with lots of graphics or detailed drawings to follow. It lends itself to a 2-column text layout which is an efficient use of space.
  • Novels appear in lots of different sizes but for a shorter book I prefer smaller sizes that seem to be more intimate a reading experience. 5-1/2″ x 8-1/2″ is probably the most popular size, but 5-1/4″ x 8″ is also a charming size for these books. Memoirs are similar sizes. Longer novels move to 6″ x 9″ to avoid becoming overly bulky at smaller sizes.
  • Short story collections or collections of essays are generally the same size as novels and memoirs
  • General nonfiction titles seem to come out in 6″ x 9″ making this size arguably the most popular of all. It’s also the most widely used size for hardcover books. When more room is needed on the page, for instance for sidebars or pull quotes, 7″ x 10″ is a frequent solution.
  • Photography or art books don’t conform to any particular size. They can be very small, or big and heavy “coffee-table” books. Many artists and photographers prefer books that are square or nearly square. This allows both horizontal and vertical pictures to have about the same amount of white space on the page.

Production Decisions and Trim Sizes

The decision you make on how to print your book will also affect your choice of trim sizes. Generally speaking, due to the highly automated nature of digital printing (used in print on demand distribution) you will have fewer choices of sizes.

For instance, here is the entire list of trim sizes offered by Lightning Source, the largest supplier of print on demand production:

5 x 8 inches (203 x 127mm)
5.06 x 7.81 inches (198 x 129mm)
5.25 x 8 inches (203 x 133mm)
5.5 x 8.5 inches (216 x 140mm)
5.83 x 8.27 inches (210 x 148mm)
6 x 9 inches (229 x 152mm)
6.14 x 9.21 inches (234 x 156mm)
6.69 x 9.61 inches (244 x 170mm)
7.44 x 9.69 inches (246 x 189mm)
7.50 x 9.25 inches (235 x 191mm)
7 x 10 inches (254 x 178mm)
8 x 10 inches (254 x 203mm)
8.25 x 11 inches (280 x 210mm)
8.268 x 11.693 inches (A4) (297 x 210mm)
8.5 x 11 inches (280 x 216mm)

CreateSpace, the Amazon print on demand supplier, has a similar list, but offers nothing over 8.25″:

5 x 8 inches, 12.7 x 20.32 centimeters
5.06 x 7.81 inches, 12.9 x 19.8 centimeters
5.25 x 8 inches, 13.335 x 20.32 centimeters
5.5 x 8.5 inches, 13.97 x 21.59 centimeters
6 x 9 inches, 15.24 x 22.86 centimeters
6.14 x 9.21 inches, 15.6 x 23.4 centimeters
6.69 x 9.61 inches, 17 x 24.4 centimeters
7 x 10 inches, 17.78 x 25.4 centimeters
7.44 x 9.69 inches, 18.9 x 24.6 centimeters
7.5 x 9.25 inches, 19.1 x 23.5 centimeters
8 x 10 inches, 20.32 x 25.4 centimeters
8.25 x 6 inches, 20.955 x 15.24 centimeters
8.25 x 8.25 inches, 20.955 x 20.955 centimeters
8.5 x 11 inches, 21.59 x 27.94 centimeters
8.5 x 8.5 inches, 21.59 x 21.59 centimeters

You’ll notice many of these sizes are identical to the Lightning Source sizes. Many are considered “industry standards.”

At more specialized digital printers, the choices may be even more limited. For instance, at the color book specialist, you have a choice of only 5 sizes for color books:

5 x 8 in., 13 x 20 cm
6 x 9 in., 15 x 23 cm
7 x 7 in., 18 x 18 cm
8 x 10 in., 20 x 25 cm
10 x 8 in., 25 x 20 cm
13 x 11 in., 33 x 28 cm
12 x 12 in., 30 x 30 cm

These are all larger sizes, intended for full-color books.

Other considerations may further limit your choices. I often recommend a creme-colored paper for novels and memoirs, and even some self-help and nonfiction books. I find it easier to read for long stretches and with less glare than the pure white papers.

However, both Lightning Source and CreateSpace limit which trim sizes are available with creme paper. For instance, at CreateSpace only the 5.25″ x 8″, 5.5″ x 8.5″, or 6″ x 9″ are available, all other sizes print with white paper only.

Offset Printing

Offset printing has few of the restrictions imposed by the digital book printers. Although it’s handy to stay with the traditional sizes, you can print your book any size you like. Some sizes may make more efficient use of paper and consequently be more economical, but it’s possible to do almost any size. I have a book on press right now that’s 9.5″ x 11.5″, an impossibility for digital printers at the moment.

Offset book printers will also make the full range of paper stocks from many paper mills available to just about any size book. Printing papers vary widely and you can choose different weights, colors, textures and finishes if you like. There really are very few limitations other than your creativity and your budget.

Picking a Size for Your Book

Most of the books I see from self-publishers are either 5-1/2″ x 8-1/2″ or 6″ x 9.” They are good, readable sizes that will work for many types of books. If this is your first book and it falls into the categories I’ve listed above, there’s a good chance one of these two sizes will work for you.

Pick a different size if:

  • your book is clearly in a different category, like a workbook
  • if you have a functional reason you need a larger or smaller book, like for a gift book or an atlas
  • if you want to stand out in your niche by having a different size than everyone else.

However, be wary of larger sizes, over 6″ x 9″ or 7″ x 10″. Why? Many book shelves—including the shelves in some bookstores—won’t easily handle books bigger than that. Unless you’re producing an art book, you probably don’t want to end up with a book that won’t fit anyone’s bookshelves.

Takeaway: Consider the genre of your book, the printing method you plan to use, and your paper choices before deciding on a trim size for your book. If possible, pick an “industry standard” size.

Image licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License, original work copyright by phing,

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    { 102 comments… read them below or add one }

    Sean August 18, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    I am working on publishing a book. It is to be released in both hardback and paperback. Does 6″ x 9″ support both types?


    Joel Friedlander August 20, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    Yes, it’s a very common size in both bindings.


    Susan Idlet July 17, 2014 at 8:33 am

    I’m considering using Lightning Source, but can’t seem to figure out if I can have my 8.5×11 color book printed HORIZONTALLY – in other words – 11×8.5. Do you know the answer?


    MONICA July 10, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    HI, I was wondering if the trim sizes specified are for two pages or one?

    And do you need to layout the book so say if there were 60 pages, in the layout you would see the sequence, page 1, and page 59, side by side within Indesign?

    I am trying to publish a book of illustrations, and poems, where there is 54 poems, with sections, and I want to be able to publish it electronically and print it.

    Is there any templates that I can use, to flow in text to see how each size may look?

    Thanks so much,


    Sudhir October 3, 2014 at 4:31 am

    Hi Monica,
    What you are referring to is called ‘imposition’ in traditional printing.
    It depends on the type of binding to be used, which in turn is determined by the number of pages in the book. For pages below 100, saddle stitched is suitable. [the pages will appear as mentioned by you - first page and last page on one side of a sheet, 2nd page and last but one on the verso].
    I have not used indesign, but its earlier version, pagemaker has an option to ‘build booklet’. and there you can choose the binding type.
    I am sure indesign will have these options too. Hope you find this useful.


    Montage (mon tayj) June 29, 2014 at 9:51 pm

    I believe I will drop down to the 5 1/2 X 8 1/2 for my next novel: The Women of Sugar Hill, which will be on the shelves in July (2014). Good info in the article.


    Shabazz June 29, 2014 at 7:06 am

    Hello Joel,
    I asked a company to format my first novel of 55,000 words and upload on createspace. They intend to publish 5 x 8 which is the smallest available. Using a ruler to measure other novels like ‘The Davinci Code’, ‘The Sicilian’ etc, they are an average 4-1/2 x 7 for paperback, which is the right size I’d like my book to be.
    Is there some form of explanation I could get, or do I find an alternative way of printing my book?



    Elizabeth Haynes June 24, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    Thanks for your informative post! I stumbled upon it while trying to figure out trim sizes. Very helpful as I look to publish my first book this year! Thanks again!


    Donald Nelson June 9, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    Hello Joel,
    I began writing a story during the summer of 2000 which eventually turned into what I now believe to be a novel. Now, some fourteen years later, I’ve finished the story, I think. I am a sixty nine year old man with social security as my income. I would love to see my story in print so I can share it with the world, but lack of income sits it far in the back seat, if you know what I mean. I used PhotoShop to create a distinctive colorful cover for the day, if it ever happens, it goes to print. The story contains 65,586 words which led me to your site when I was thinking of a paperback book size. Only a select few have read what I have written because I have had a fear of what I wrote could be stolen. Each reader has basically said the same that it is a wild emotional roller coaster ride, which I have placed beneath the title on the cover. Over the years I have read and re-written what I had written previously to give more flow and understanding for the reader. Now I need to find someone who can edit, etc., but that financing serpent raises it’s ugly head yet again. My story is a patchwork of events that I experienced or had firsthand knowledge of throughout my life, which is what inspired me to write in the first place. My novel is every day real life, some of which many have no idea occurs so very close to their homes. A joyous feeling one moment turns to adventure and suspense the next. A deep heartfelt feeling of pity swells to tears then trampled by anger. But in the end happiness wins over all. It’s a true emotional roller coaster ride filled with laughter, tears, anger, pity and adventure. It’s every day real life!


    David Powning June 2, 2014 at 4:03 am

    Hi Joel,

    Quick question: as far as I can tell, very few indie authors use the 5 x 8 trim size – is there a reason for this? I have an 82,000-word novel that I’m about to publish, and having been advised not to use my first choice, 5.06 x 7.81 (something to do with extended distribution?), my second choice would be 5 x 8. But now I’m edging towards 5.25×8 …

    Any advice gratefully received.

    Many thanks,


    Joel Friedlander June 2, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    David, 5 x 8 is perfectly acceptable, and 5.25 x 8 is a format I’ve often used both for novels and nonfiction (including my own book) so pick either one and you should be fine.


    Vikk May 16, 2014 at 8:54 am

    I am trying to figure out what size would be most appropriate for a journal or blank book. I don’t want it too big but it has to be large enough. LOL Easy to slip into a handbag or briefcase or backpack. I was thinking 5.25 x 8? I’m planning on a simple 50 page book.

    I am also trying to figure out an appropriate line width to accommodate the handwriting.

    Any thoughts?


    Joel Friedlander May 16, 2014 at 9:49 am

    Vikk, you might want to check the blank books for sale in your local bookstore, office supply, or art store. I think 5.25 x 8 would be okay for a small sketch book, but for writing you might consider going to 5.5 x 8.5 and using lines that are about 24 points apart.


    Vikk May 16, 2014 at 10:21 am

    Thanks for such a quick response, Joel. I think your suggestions make sense. I was sort of shooting blind. This formatting is all new to me so it’s a bit of a struggle to wrap my mind around everything. Appreciate the tips.


    John Morris April 26, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    Hello Scott
    Normally the trim size of the book would remain the same as a limp book with the case 3mm larger (1/8 inch) on the head,tail and foredge, of course the spine would be larger as you would need to allow for the shoulder when rounding and backing and nipping in the case on the bookblock
    This means if you are doing split editions paperback and cased books, the trim size remains the same when manufacturing.


    Scott LeRette April 25, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    Joel, I’m curious as I can’t quite get an answer to this. If a book has a trim size of 5.5 x 8.38, what does this mean the hardback cover will be? I’m under the assumption that the trim size would always be less than the actual cover for a hard bound book. Thanks. Scott. The Unbreakable Boy.


    Joel Friedlander April 26, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    Scott, the 5.5 x 8.38 (which I take to be a “nominal 5.5 x 8.5″) is the exact size the paper that makes up the book block will be, it’s “trimmed size.” For paperbacks, the cover is wrapped on before trimming, so the entire book is the same trim size. For casebound books, the cases are made up separately and then the book blocks are attached, but case sizing is not exact from one binder to another. Still, when the size is quoted for a metadata description or a catalog, the book is still shown as 5.5 x 8.38 or whatever the trim size is.


    Sue April 5, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    Hi Joel,
    Thanks for all the great advice I’m now exploring on your website & blog.
    As a new self-publisher, I first came across you when I googled ‘book templates’ since my logic was to save time double handling by writing my book straight into a template. (Not sure now if this is such a good idea??)

    I purchased a licence for your A5 2 way Sparks template to get the benefit of print & ebook format. Unfortunately I selected the wrong trim size after reading on this blog about trim sizes and ways to market your book.

    As a suggestion for other readers, you may want to have a link on your ‘Template’ website to this blog to help readers decide the trim size and also a link to your other blogs that would help with the decision of the best template to use. In this way others won’t make the same mistake I did.

    I’m now wondering whether the best plan is to write in a Word doc first whilst you are developing ideas and evolving the book based on feedback. When the book is completed and edited, then look for either a template like yours for DIY or use a Specialist to format it. What are your thoughts?
    Thanks for your help & ideas from your website.


    Lisa March 26, 2014 at 10:01 am

    I’ve reached the point where I need to pick the size of my non-fiction book. I’ve always imagined it to be square, to set it apart from others in its category, but I’m wondering if there are any unforeseen limitations that I might run into if I choose this option. Specifically, will my distribution options be limited with certain trim sizes, particularly square? Thanks for your feedback!


    John Morris March 26, 2014 at 11:38 am

    Hello Lisa
    The traditional book sizes in litho are normally used for economic costs of printing where the paper stock can be fitted to that size, however you can have what book size you like, but it may cost more and maybe paper wastage and some printers may not be able to handle the binding of the book. With digital printing it easier to fit the size you require, although some digital print suppliers may not want to do this. The size should not make any difference to your distributor.


    JOH March 14, 2014 at 5:16 pm

    All right, ready to put my 90,000 word memoir out there (about my 7 years in India and Nepal) and folks say it (happily) reads like a novel.
    For some reason CreateSpace recommends 6×9 for almost everything, though 5.5 x 8.5 looks a bit better to me. thoughts?


    Joel Friedlander March 14, 2014 at 5:34 pm

    JOH, either will work. I’m not a fan of the 6 x 9 memoir unless you’re struggling with a long manuscript and the inevitable penalty you pay for books with lots of pages in print on demand. I’d say 5.5 x 8.5 would be a good size, but make sure your typesetter knows how to keep the book from running too long without compromising its readability.


    JOH March 14, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    Thanks so much, and for a prompt reply! The 5.5 x 8.5 also just “feels” better in my hand, and I’m glad to have my instincts confirmed.


    Joe February 14, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    I’m just about set to publish my first novel and I am trying to finalize cover size. Does 6×9 work for a novel or is a smaller size more common.


    stephanie December 19, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    how big are mary higgins clark paperbacks roughly. Thanks to anyone who can help


    Joel Friedlander March 14, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    Stephanie, they are “mass market” trim size, not something very suitable for a self-publisher.


    John Morris November 25, 2013 at 2:12 am

    Hello Maggie
    Sometimes when looking for a smaller size it depends on the minimum size the binder and 3 knife trimmer can handle. just check what the minimum size can be handled. A6 approx 5 and 7/8 inches high by 4 and 3/8 inches wide can usually be handled on automatic binding, smaller sizes may have to be trimmed on a single knife trimmer. Printing digitally the sheet size is normally SR3, this means you would get more pages to view on A6 size, but sometimes they will only work 4 pages to view rather than 8.
    Also smaller books could mean longer page extents and could cost more.


    Maggie La Tourelle November 25, 2013 at 1:43 am

    Hi Joel
    Thank you for your useful information.
    I am a self-published author using CreateSpace to pint my books and Amazon sell them. My next book is: The Little Book of … By implication this book should be a small size, possibly no larger than 6.5 x 5.5″, but I don’t see any options around this size. What do you suggest?


    Safaa November 14, 2013 at 1:23 am

    Hi Joel,

    Thank you so much for this informative article! So helpful :)
    I’m in the self-publishing process and am considering 5.06 x 7.81 inches for my novel atm. On MS word, it comes up to 153 pages and in print I would like it too look like a thicker read. Should I consider 5 x 7 perhaps?

    Also, how does one calculate how many pages their printed book will be? I’ve tried searching online and all the methods seem quite hard. Please tell me there is an easy way out!

    Thank you!


    John Morris November 14, 2013 at 1:49 am

    Hello Safaa
    As you have it word, just keep altering the page width, number of lines to a page and type size, this should give you an indication,
    Back in the early days of composition we always had to cast off a manuscript to find the number of pages to estimate the costs.
    So, find out how many words in your book, ( word will give you a word count) multiply by 6, this gives you the number of characters including the space in your manuscript.
    Now decide on your page layout for your mini book, ie pica width or mm width by the number of lines per page excluding headline and folio. Choose your typesize, the best way is to find a book you like with the face and size you like and count how many characters per line fit your desired measure, multiply this by the number of lines gives you the number of characters which will fit on the page, devide this by the number of characters in the manuscript gives you the total number of pages the mini book will make, allow a half page per chapter and add this in, plus the number of prelims.
    To recap
    Total manuscript characters (we call them ens) devided by the number of ens in your desired layout = number of pages
    Add 1/2 page per chapter
    Add your prelim pages
    Gives total pages for your book
    You may need to add blanks at the end to make the extent correct for imposition
    If you do not want blanks you maybe able to extend the prelims
    It is sometimes better to run your prelims in roman numerals to do this without affecting the pagination of the text especially if you have an index


    T. Lakin October 31, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    Hey Joel! Finally found a good site that tells me exactly what I need to know! Just started up my second book (along with my second series) a couple weeks ago and have learned the art of carefully examining each and every little detail I put in. My first book, Pre-Genesis, was a botch. I agree, 6×9 is a good sizing, but now that I’m looking at the size, 5×8 would have been much better! Thanks for the wise advice! I’ll be sure to use sizes and take your advice into account!
    – “T. Lakin” – The “mysterious” high school author…..


    Aga October 26, 2013 at 2:59 am

    I think I forgot to mention that I would like the book to be sold via kdp and one of Amazon programs.


    Joel Friedlander October 28, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    Aga, Amazon KDP is only for ebooks, not print books. You can check out every size offered by the 3 biggest print on demand vendors here:


    Aga October 26, 2013 at 2:31 am

    Hello Joel,

    I wrote book for children, so lots of pictures not so much text. Having looked in the bookshop it seems that the perfect size for the book would be 23cm X 26.3cm (in inches it is more or less 9. 1/16 X 10. 23/64). Now I would like to use one of the print-on-demand provider but it seems none of them provide the trim size like this. Am I right or is there a way to achieve print size of 23cm x 26.3cm?


    John Morris October 27, 2013 at 2:38 am

    a nice size for children’s book is 210mm wide by 230mm deep
    we have produced digital books in this size with bleeds.
    why not ask your print supplier to tell you what is the maximum print area they can print, allow for bleeds and that will determine the maximum book size available digitally. It just may suit your needs


    Aga October 27, 2013 at 7:24 am

    Thank you for your suggestion John.


    Karen Flagg September 2, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    Hi Joel, Thank you for the very informative article. Just wanted to mention that LS lists a new trim size of 4.37 X 7 which I had not seen before. I currently have my book at 4.75 X 7 which seems perfect, but want to expand distribution to bookstores, so I need to find out if LS will do expanded dist. with the 4.37 X 7 trim size. Your article gives me hope as it falls under the ‘mass marketing’ category and may meet their size standards in that respect. Here’s my question: 4.37 is a tad narrow giving a tall and thin look to the book (of poetic verse). I also have played with a 5.25 X 8 format, using the extra page height to include the title of the book and chapter titles as well at the top of each page. The book is something that I would hope people would keep with them, carry in the car, etc., so I like the small version for that reason. What do you think??? 240 pages.

    Thanks again.


    Ada August 23, 2013 at 10:26 am

    Hello Joel,
    I am new to this publishing business. I am struggling with information on the perfect book trim for a Novelette. I have a 15,000 words novelette out as Ebook for a month now. It a horror/paranormal genre. I want to make print copies available but undecided with the trim. I will be doing a POD with Create Space. Is 5.25 x 8.25 a good size? What about for my 45,000 words physiological thriller novel?

    Also, thanks for the advice of using creme-colored paper. I never thought of this.

    Thank You.


    Joel Friedlander August 23, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    Hi Ada,

    I like the 5.25″ x 8″ trim size for your shorter book, and you might want to use the 5.5″ x 8.5″ for the longer one.


    Ada August 24, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    Great! Thanks for the advice Joel. I will definitely follow your suggestion.


    Vee W Selburn August 6, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    Hi Joel,
    Like many of your commenters, I’m ready to print my novel – a thriller – and I want print and ebook formats. After reading the comments I’ve assessed that this book should be either 5-1/4″ x 8″ or 5″x8″. I favour the 5-1/4″x8″ because of the link with DVD cases. Would this be good for the Amazon market in ebook and/or print format?


    Joel Friedlander August 6, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    Vee, 5.25″ x 8″ is a great size for a novel, and many on Amazon are that size. This only relates to the print book, since ebooks don’t have a “trim size.”


    Vee W Selburn August 6, 2013 at 11:59 pm

    Thanks Joel. I’m still discovering all the information I need to know about self publishing and using Amazon as a mechanism for distribution. Knowing that other writers follow the same path to publishing is inspiring. I’m so glad I found your very helpful website. I’ll be keeping an eye on it regularly! I really appreciate your advice, and it’s great that you have responded so quickly. Again, thank you so much.


    milo hicks July 17, 2013 at 8:50 am

    Hello Joel (my father’s name), I am nearing the time to consider printing of my 500 page book – big. I am considering the size 7.5 by 9.25. I have seen literary-quarterly books done this size, but of course at half the length. My intent is to insert perhaps six 16 page colour sections into an otherwise black and white production. I need the 7.5 width for the hope of having wide fold outs included in the colour. And, I can understand that for extended reading, a book needs to keep its weight down. The sheets for the B&W could be a lighter in weight than the colour stock. This is my very first blog. Much appreciated, Milo Hicks


    John Morris July 17, 2013 at 9:34 am

    Hello Milo from United Kingdom
    As the book is 500 pages long and I assume you could be printing this litho, if you are, with that number of pages sizes is quite important regarding costs.
    If the US printers are using B1 presses, the optimal size would be 246mm x 174mm portrait with no bleeds, this would be the maximum sheet size for the press at 32 pages sections the better extent would be 512 pages as this can divide by 16
    If you want the bigger a larger book size for the B1 press would be 246mm x 189 mm portrait with no bleeds, but will only print in 24 page sections.
    You can see if you go for a slightly narrow width savings can be made
    Your 16 page colour sections would need to bind in between the mono sections.
    The fold outs can be tipped onto a section before binding
    I guess you would need a sewn product here
    I know you work in inches but it is quite easy to convert back
    If you


    milo hicks July 17, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    Thanks for writing John. YOur smaller dimension – 174 by 246 portrait matches with an example I had that I think would suit – allowing for a fairly normal column width, plus a narrow hanging caption on the same page. Tell me about the tip-in fold outs, I had not considered that. I have seen it in older books. Do tip-ins have to occur at section breaks. Can they go into the centre of a section. What I am thinking, say I had two fold outs that I wanted to be together, one could be tipped at back of a section, the other at the front of the next – as a pair of foldouts. Would this work. Does something like that have to be done in Costa Rica? I am hoping, in the end, that a publisher would pick up my work, but if that doesn’t happen, I am eager to spend the money to do a bang-up job. Thanks again for being in touch.


    John Morris July 17, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    Hello Milo
    We would usually tip in on the front or back of a section. Carefully done this can be achieved before binding but after sewing the sections together. Tipping in between sections can be done but usually after the book has been bound, but takes time to make them sit correctly.
    Another way would be to have them separate and individual shrink wrap with the book, this way they could be larger and fold like a map. Some printers are happy to do this, others might send to a specialised binder to finish
    If you are going short run digital the process will be different, these may come of as 4 page sections and bulk folded to 16’s ready for sewing. Not all digital printers offer a sewn product. As Joel said talk to your book designer, but decide what process to use and design around the process. It sounds as though this is a reference book. If you are looking for a publisher, sometimes having a couple of finished digital copies might help to show them a finished copy


    Joel Friedlander July 17, 2013 at 11:37 am

    Milo, the production of your book is going to necessarily be complicated and expensive, and for that reason, I highly recommend you get a professional book designer involved in the project, and make sure it’s someone who has done this kind of book before.


    milo hicks July 17, 2013 at 11:55 am

    Thanks Joel, I have just gotten in touch with a very experienced and highly regarded fellow here. I just want to run ahead a bit – I hate hearing “It won’t work,” before I have had a chance to come to the same conclusion. You are sure fast at getting back. Thanks so much.


    Cathy July 1, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    Am I crazy, or am I the only one who thinks mass market should be a standard size at POD companies?

    I am planning on publishing my first novel by the end of the year. I expect most of my sales will come from the ebook version, but I still want a print option, especially for some friends who are interested in reading it, but don’t want an ebook copy.

    The thing is, my genre is romance. I might have seen a Nicholas Sparks or Debbie Macomber novel in trade, but they would be the definite minority exceptions. I regularly peruse my library for books to read and spent some time there studying cover art for ideas for my own novel. Out of an entire aisle of traditionally printed romance novels, not one was trade size – all were mass market. It seems to me that the idea of 5×8 being the “standard” size just isn’t true, at least in the genre I write in.

    One of my favorite authors is a NYT, USA Today, and international bestseller. All her books are mass market – always have been. True, she’s with a traditional publisher, but if I want my books to *look* just like every other romance novel, I want to print in mass market size.

    Except if I want my books to be *available* next to every other romance novel, I either have to spend a lot of money/time to market it myself, or go with an option like Create Space’s expanded distribution. Which doesn’t allow for a mass market size.

    Seems like the only option I have is between a rock and a hard place. Or, I could view print as only for friends and family and print in mass market as a “custom size” through Create Space. At least it would still be available through standard, right?


    Joel Friedlander July 17, 2013 at 11:36 am

    Mass market is probably the worst format for a self-publisher to try to use, and for good reason. These books are produced on high-speed presses and are not intended to last all that long. Prices are kept down by the low quality of materials and large print runs, and the books are distributed by companies that specialize in these formats, and which are very difficult to break into for a self-publisher. I would focus instead on the format that’s gradually killing off mass market—ebooks.


    Lamont June 26, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    I have to agree with you Cathy. Joel is giving great advice, but I really like the size and feel of the mass market size. It fits in the pocket of my sportcoat and most purses. It’s what we’re used to. Even though they are “being killed off” by e-books, it’s whats we gravitate to in print. I have some 6×9 books and they are usually not what I first go look at. The mass market books are browsed more by everyone when I take an hour to just stand around and watch buyers of physical books.

    Yeah, and it’s almost impossible to self print them at a price where you aren’t losing money. I can’t find a print source that would allow me to POD at a cost that is a break-even sale.


    Jack June 17, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    There’s an American Classic that needs printing: Short Cuts To Reading by Joan Beck. I used one to teach our kids to read, and am now trying to find one with which to teach my grandkids.

    The problem is its size, as it’s a 10 x 14 inches, four color,
    48 page comic book. Any idea where it could be affordably printed? The publisher last sold them for $14.95.
    See (

    Any suggestions?


    Joel Friedlander June 17, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Jack, it looks you can still buy them from the publisher at the link you provided, and it’s also likely that this book is still in copyright, so unless you have the copyright owner’s permission, you wouldn’t be able to print it.


    Jack June 19, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    I had called the publisher earlier and discovered it was actually out of print. They’re looking for a way to re-publish it, but haven’t found anything affordable. That’s why I asked here, in hopes you would know where to get a 10 x 14 inches, four color, 48 page “comic book” published. It seems to be too large for on-demand publishers.


    Joel Friedlander June 19, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    Jack, I would try Thomson-Shore, ( a short-run book printer that also produces digital books, or 360 Digital ( a purely digital book printer with a wider variety of trim sizes. Neither of these firms offers the distribution part of print on demand, but you can distribute the books yourself.


    nirmal June 10, 2013 at 9:37 pm

    I intend to keep the size of my management text book 7″ X 9″. What should be the font size and average number of words per page. There are about 92000 words in the document. How many pages will it make.


    John Morris June 11, 2013 at 1:18 am

    Hello Nirmal
    Check out the previous comments on this subject scroll back to January 17 2012 should help


    Joel Friedlander June 11, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    nirmal, it’s hard to quote figures out of context, and many of these questions will resolve themselves once you—or your book designer—begins to lay out the book.


    lizzy korwan May 12, 2013 at 8:21 pm

    what size would you use for a children size book ?


    Michael May 2, 2013 at 11:16 am

    It’s a great sunny morning and I have a sunny disposition. Am about to publish book of fiction 200 pp if traditional 6×9. BUT, I am investing almost $2k in cover art I hope will catch the eye of every critic and bookshelf passer-by.Because of that I am tempted to go out on a limb to 8 x 10 or thereabouts. Won’t fit on shelves; abnormal for straight fiction (no pics). Does this seem foolishly outlandish or worthwhile adventuresome?


    Joel Friedlander May 3, 2013 at 8:07 am

    Hi Michael,

    Moving from a standard fiction trim size to 8 x 10 would not be a very good move, I’m afraid. Have you ever read a novel in that format? I’ve never seen one, and pushing against these conventions is not going to do you any good. Better to write the best book you can and learn how to market it, you’ll be better off. Good luck!


    Wayne Evans September 27, 2012 at 11:18 am

    A Great Article with lots of good follow up questions and answers. As a 77 year old grandfather, I am currenty writing a series of five books about my many adventures of survival including my time in the arctic. For a senior person, Keeping the cost down is very important, so I started by cutting 8.5 x 11 stock in half to 8.25 x 8.5 and using a small three ring binder. I was so pleased when you said that this is one of the standard sizes. It also is a size my local office supply says they can easily cut and bind for me at the lowest cost for a small run. Please keep up the fine work on behalf of us WanaBee Authors. You Made My Day.


    joe September 2, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    I have a question. Does industry standard determine whether or not a book can be accepted on ipad or kindle? or distribution.


    AspringAuthor August 29, 2012 at 2:04 am

    Thank you. That’s really helped!! :)


    AspiringAuthor August 25, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    Hi, I was hoping you might be able to help me?
    I am currently in the process of writing some novels of different genre’s (not related to each other).
    At the moment, I’m not looking for them to get distributed, I would just like to have a printed copy (as an actual book) to keep for myself. As I’ve never done anything like this (getting my novels published as books) I really need some advice as to: which company/website to use, what the cheapest option would be, the best size options for the book, whether the better option would be to get hardback or paperback, what I should do about the cover design, i.e, the basics.
    If you could help me it would be much appriciated.
    Thank you.


    John Morris August 28, 2012 at 7:18 am

    Producing a book can take up a lot of your time and can be quite expensive if you only want one copy for yourself. Print on demand companies require finished PDF files to work with. Some companies allow you to use a stock image for your cover and you just add the title and author. You could try
    If you are going to try it all yourself, I suggest you go to the local bookshop or library and look at all the book sizes in the fiction section, this will give you a size which should suit. And the style. If you are going to typeset yourself, I guess you will use MS word. In page setup choose the paper size or use custom size pick the margins and typeface to suit and your text should flow to that format you could then ask the printer to PDF although be prepared for it to be slightly different we don’t normally like word files. The cover is a little more complicated you will need to know the paper you are going to print on as this affects the spine width. I think the paperback option is for you. I operate out of the UK so just google “print on demand” companies and see what US companies offer the service you require.
    What would I do? I would print it out on my home printer on both sides of the sheet and ask the copy shop to bind it and trim it to size for me


    Joel Friedlander August 28, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    John, here in the U.S. taking your PDF to the copy shop to have it printed, bound and trimmed would cost substantially more than getting a proof copy from a supplier such as or Thanks for your comment.


    John Morris June 13, 2012 at 12:46 am

    A hardback book can be in two forms, jacketted or PPC (printed paper case) which has different layouts although the board size is the same. Although a standard layout should work if the design is not critical to the spine and extra bleed allowance made for slight adjustment. Some printers allowance for board hollow or square back vary so on a critical fit design Joel is quite right, check with the printer


    Gail Payne June 12, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Hi, I am somewhat new to book design. I have a client that definitely wants to go with a hardcover, so I am designing a dust jacket. Her book is a 60,000 word novel so I was thinking of recommending either 5.5 x 8.5 or 6 x 6. This would be the page size right? What would the cover size be?
    Thanks for any information.


    Joel Friedlander June 12, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    Hi Gail,

    I assume you meant “…either 5.5 x 8.5 or 6 x 9

    And yes, that will be the page (or trim) size. Since the case (the hard cover) is larger you’ll need to get a template from the printer who will be printing the book. The specifics vary from one printer to another, so it’s safest to request one once you’ve chosen a vendor.

    For more, check out this article that comes with a download:

    Free Book Jacket Layout Template for DIY Self-Publishers


    Gail Payne June 12, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    Oops, I did mean 5.5 x 8.5 or 6 x 9, yes.


    axu April 14, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    Hi Joel
    Im a graphic design student designing a book on a topic that involves square photography, meaning the photos are square shaped. So naturally the format of the book falls into a square format, i was wondering when its heavy on experimental typographic layouts, graphics, and photos would this square format be the ideal choice? Also this is a one off book so im not worried about the distribution. your help is appreciated


    Joel Friedlander April 16, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    Since the book isn’t intended for bookstore sales, you are pretty much free to design it as it pleases you, within the confines of the printing equipment on which it will be manufactured, so make sure you know that the size you’re creating is something that can be produced economically. Having said that, I’m not a big fan of square books, so I would likely make it a rectangle since the space on the page would allow you to escape the rigidity of a whole book of squares within squares.


    Erin March 11, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    I’m getting ready to publish a parenting humour book consisting of a combination of prose introductions, quotes set up as screenplay dialogue, and the occasional illustration to back up the quotes. I’m having a really hard time trying to figure out what size would be best for this kind of content. Part of me wants to go square — maybe 7×7 or 7.5×7.5 — for the sake of full-page illustrations and for laying out the quotes, but would such a size be harder to get into bookstore and/or cost more to print?


    Joel Friedlander March 11, 2012 at 7:15 pm


    It’s not unusual to see humor books that are square, particularly if they are illustrated. But there are many other factors that come into play when making these decisions, like the printing method you’re going to use and how the books will be distributed and sold. For instance, print on demand vendors have few sizes to choose from, while offset printers can print almost anything you can dream up.


    Ann Hunt March 9, 2012 at 9:18 am

    Hi Joel,
    I’m writing my first book and am self publishing. The trim size is 5.5″ x 8.5″. I would like some of my images to take a full page because they are crowd scenes. If those images are on a page with another image, will it be too small for the reader to recognize anyone? I sent all the images in TIFF format, but the formatter won’t change the size unless it’s in Vector format. I talked to a computer instructor who said she would try to help. I don’t know what to do. Can you help me? Thank you so much.


    Joel Friedlander March 9, 2012 at 10:58 am


    It’s a little difficult to figure out your question. You can re-size TIFF files with no problem, you just want to make sure that the resolution at the final reproduction size is 300 DPI for print books. You can’t change a photograph into a vector file. To check what’s visible and what isn’t, scale the photo on your screen or print the page and have a look. It sounds like you might need a different book designer, because these are all very common issues. Hope that helps.


    Dr. Melanie Martin Tripp January 17, 2012 at 11:10 am

    This is great information and I am going to write books that need to be within these trim sizes which you’ve mentioned. However, my first book needs to be a “mini” book and therefore I’m wondering what the “standard” trim size on one of those is. If I originally type my material in an 8 1/2″ X 11″ size page format, approximately how many pages will each one of the orginal pages translate to in the mini book?
    Thanks for your help!


    John Morris January 17, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Back in the early days of composition we always had to cast off a manuscript to find the number of pages to estimate the costs.
    So, find out how many words in your book, multiply by 6, this gives you the number of characters including the space in your manuscript.
    Now decide on your page layout for your mini book, ie pica width or mm width by the number of lines per page excluding headline and folio. Choose your typesize, the best way is to find a book you like with the face and size you like and count how many characters per line fit your desired measure, multiply this by the number of lines gives you the number of characters which will fit on the page, devide this by the number of characters in the manuscript gives you the total number of pages the mini book will make, allow a half page per chapter and add this in, plus the number of prelims.
    To recap
    Total manuscript characters (we call them ens) devided by the number of ens in your desired layout = number of pages
    Add 1/2 page per chapter
    Add your prelim pages
    Gives total pages for your book
    You may need to add blanks at the end to make the extent correct for imposition
    If you do not want blanks you maybe able to extend the prelims
    It is sometimes better to run your prelims in roman numerals to do this without affecting the pagination of the text especially if you have an index


    Joel Friedlander January 17, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    John, thanks for your succinct lesson on casting off. I get a request for a cast off about once a year, and decline. With the equipment we have now, there doesn’t seem to be as much need as in the old days, when casting off was a lengthy mathematical process with only uncertain results. It’s one part of typographical history I for one am glad to leave behind.


    Userx_21 December 26, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    Looking on Amazon, I see a lot of paperback books around the size of 4.2×7.5 or 4.2×7. Wondering why there are no “industry standard” sizes this small? Seems the smallest “industry standard” size is 5×8…


    Joel Friedlander December 27, 2011 at 10:26 am

    Userx_21, the size you are seeing is “mass market” paperback. These are the paperbacks you see in racks in supermarkets or at airports. If you look through the books you’ll see slight variations in size, but they are all within the same range to suit where they sell.


    earthling123 May 29, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    I am going to be self publishing my first children’s book through Lightning Source, as a 32 page color hardcover. I believe I am going with the trim size they offer of 8-1/2″ x 11″. Will that be the actual size of the cover or the interior page?


    Joel Friedlander May 29, 2011 at 11:50 pm

    eatrhling123, that will be the size of an interior page. Depending on how your hardcover is being bound, you’ll need to get a template from Lightning Source for either the casewrap or the jacket, and that will have the exact dimensions for your cover art.


    earthling123 May 30, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    great – thanks for the response!


    Nathan Carriker May 14, 2011 at 11:34 am

    This post was timely (for me), and has me convinced to step my 68Kword novel down from 6×9 (180 pp.) to 5.5×8.5, but it hasn’t yet touched on the subject of price. Does anyone know of any correlation between the price of a novel and its trim size, beside the fact that the tiny mass market paperbacks are inevitably under $10?

    I’m really having a hard time deciding whether to post a price of $14.95 or $12.95 (God forbid anything have the number 13 on it, right?), and if I go with the smaller size, I don’t know if I might be pricing myself out of the market at $14.95, even though I can, and likely will, discount?

    Follow-up comments much appreciated!


    Joel Friedlander May 16, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    Nathan, I don’t think there are lower prices for the 5.5 x 8.5 trim than for 6 x 9 but I’ve never seen a formal study on this question. The manufacturing costs are almost identical, and digital printers usually charge the same for either size. This makes it even more obvious that your price has to be a marketing decision. For novels, I would definitely recommend lower pricing unless you already have a following of rabid fans who will pay whatever they have to to get your book.


    George T Maxwell April 28, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    Hi Joel,
    Found your posts through @JaneFriedman. Glad you tweeted a link to an old article. Perfect timing for me. I think I will go with 6″ x 9″ because my book will not be a traditional novel and maybe it will sit out a bit more on the home bookshelf.


    Liz Castro February 11, 2011 at 11:40 pm

    Really helpful post, Joel. Thanks!


    Joel Friedlander February 14, 2011 at 11:50 am

    Glad you got something from it, Liz.


    Michael N. Marcus September 13, 2010 at 10:09 am

    My first ten self-pubbed books were all 6 by 9. After buying Christy Pinheiro’s 7 by 10 book, I saw that the bigger pages were much more suitable for how-to books with lote of screen shots and other illustrations.

    I started formatting a new book for 7 by 10, and realized that the larger pages would make the book significantly thinner. A thinner book with bigger pages could be much better for the reader, but I thought I might have a competitive disadvantage selling the book.

    If a 400-page book shrinks to 320 pages, prospective purchasers might not think it’s worth the cover price. Shoppers are more likely to notice the page count than the page size, and some bookselling sites don’t indicate the page size–and certainly not the word count.

    So, for now, I’m back to 6 by 9; and all of my books fit nicely on the same shelf.

    Michael N. Marcus
    — “Become a Real Self-Publisher: Don’t be a Victim of a Vanity Press,”
    — “Get the Most out of a Self-Publishing Company,”
    — “Stories I’d Tell My Children (but maybe not until they’re adults),”


    Joel Friedlander September 13, 2010 at 10:30 am

    Not only that, but since a lot of your books are aimed at the same audience, you can go the next step and instead of just the same trim size, think about establishing a “brand” with its own look and feel for the line of books you’re building. Just a thought. And thanks for your input, Michael.


    Will Entrekin September 13, 2010 at 7:59 am

    It looks like I’m choosing 5.5*8.5. I used a 6*9 for my collection, and had I to do it over (and one day I may), I would have knocked a half inch off either side. 6*9 is slightly to the larger side of most trade paperbacks.


    Joel Friedlander September 13, 2010 at 10:26 am

    Will, I much prefer novels in the 5.5 x 8.5 trim myself, both for design and for reading. But the 6 x 9 is a workhorse and accommodates longer manuscripts really well.

    I hope you sell a ton!


    Bill Cunningham September 13, 2010 at 7:36 am

    Joel –

    We picked the 5.25 x 8 size for BROTHER BLOOD – our debut blaxploitation horror novel by Donald F. Glut (THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, TRANSFORMERS, GI JOE) – because it mimicked the proportion and size of a standard DVD case. Because I come from a movie marketing background that size was instrumental in my decision and led to some interesting ‘discoveries.’ Most of our readers are classic genre movie fans so we made that conscious decision to give them something with which they (and I) were most familiar. Once they see it they can imagine it on their shelf which is important to our fan base and positions our print editions as collectible.

    The front cover art by Nik Macaluso is an example of pure blaxploitation, and could (should) have been a movie poster… Aesthetically, we’re communicating that Brother Blood and many of our other books are ” a cinematic experience on paper or Kindle.”

    Further exploring that aesthetic we even gave the back cover a movie style credit block and list of the book’s “bonus features.” So far it’s worked rather well and we’re exploring something similar for our second title RADIO WESTERN ADVENTURES.

    Oh what a difference size makes!


    Joel Friedlander September 13, 2010 at 10:25 am


    A terrific example of playing off reader’s expectation for help in decided a trim size. I just did a collection of stories for a client in 5.25 x 8 and really like it, but never made the connection to the DVD case. Maybe that’s why it felt “right”?

    Thanks for your contribution and best of luck with the book.


    Maggie Dana September 13, 2010 at 7:24 am

    Ah, those pesky trim sizes given in mm. They’re height by width, not width by height as in the US. When I was typesetting for a UK publisher a couple of years ago, this convention threw for a loop, plus the fact I had no frame of reference for “198 mm”.


    Joel Friedlander September 13, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Ah yes, those pesky “mm”s. Thanks, Maggie. Since I don’t ever use the metric measurements, apparently I no longer see them either.


    Ayman June 22, 2014 at 4:07 am

    How can I adjust the trim size to 6 x 9 inch in MS Word? where is this tool and how can I find it in MS Word?


    Joel Friedlander June 22, 2014 at 11:00 am

    Ayman, you might get some help from our Formatting Guide which you can find on our site where we have pre-designed and pre-formatted templates for Microsoft Word: Formatting Guide


    John Morris June 30, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    Just read your comments on trim book sizes, you are quite right, in the UK, quoting height by width means the book is portrait, ie 216×138 (demy portrait)
    if it is quoted width by height means the book is landscape ie 138×216 (demy landscape)


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