What Size Should Your Print Books Be?

Pal and author Justin Swapp (author of The Codex stories from The Crimson Pact) asked me a very pertinent question last weekend:

How do you choose the size of your print books?  Is there one size that makes more sense, either functionally, or financially?

First, let’s get this out of the way:  You should have print versions of your book available.  There’s really not much excuse for it at this point.  No, you probably won’t make as much money from them, but it’s something physical for people to look at, hold, and examine.  (And if nothing else, it gives you the opportunity to be in your local library’s collection for local authors.  Seriously.)

Print layout is a whole thing, but this is a straightforward question.  For all of my print titles to date, I use 8.5″ x 5.5″ trim. There’s a few reasons for that decision:

  • With the POD printing options I have, the size doesn’t really make a huge difference in profit margins.
  • It’s a good size to be substantial without being overlarge.
  • The size lets me leave substantial whitespace so it doesn’t look overly cramped on the page.
  • The size signals something other than “throwaway paperback”.
  • It’s the size a lot of the professional trade paperback books I own were bound at… specifically, my set of The Lord of the Rings.

That last probably shouldn’t weight my decision as much as it does… but it does.  Somewhere around here is a picture of me holding up The Crimson Pact: Volume One next to my copy of The Return of the King.  That made me happy.

And that’s it.  But here – as with all aspects of interior design – the quickest way to learn is to reverse-engineer.  Go pick up the trade paperbacks (or other books) that you think are the “right” size.  That have the “right” margins and font sizes.  Study them.  See what they did right.  What the possible problems are.  Figure out how to not only imitate, but to improve

And then go do that.