Size Matters: What do you look for in size?

Hello SErs! Harmony here. Happy Monday!

Well, with yesterday being both April Fool’s day and Easter Sunday, I took care when biting into my Easter Eggs, lols! 🙂 You just never know …

Okay, so, today, I thought I’d take a look at matters of size when it comes to print publishing.

For a long time, I stuck with the industry standard that Createspace had recommended  for paperbacks and told me would go through the most sales channels–which was 6X9 inches. Somewhere along the line, the options increased for expanded distribution. Along with more choice, came more decisions.

Below are two tables of the various sizes and whether or not they are Industry Standard. The first is for black & white, and the second for colour …

While the larger sizes result in cheaper pricing due to fewer pages, I believe that the feel of a book in a reader’s hands is important, too.

Recently, I published a book with a small word count, and so I had a play around with the sizing. I chose 5.86 X 7.81 inches, and it resulted in about 300 pages. When it arrived, it felt lovely to hold and navigate. I could have made it cheaper by sticking with the 6X9 option, but it would have been a thinner and more unwieldy volume.

In considering this, I compared it to the many mass-market paperbacks on my bookshelves. It gave me quite a surprise to learn that my ‘little’ book actually had a ‘bigger’ trim size than the majority of those trad-pub books. The only difference being the thickness (page count). Here are some pictures to illustrate (please excuse my awful photography, lols) …

The first book, on the left, is my book of poetry Slices of Soul, printed at 6X9.

The second book, in the middle, is Jewel in the Mud (the low word count one), which printed at 5.86 X 7.81.

The third book, on the right, by Stephen King, measures just 4.5 X 7.0.

While a few of the books on my shelves match the size of Jewel in the Mud, only the hard cover ones get anywhere near the 6X9 trim size of Slices of Soul. (In hindsight, I wish I’d published Slices at a smaller size, given it is such a slim book.)

This led me to wondering, ‘Why would that be?’

And, if you take another look at the above tables, you might notice that no trim size on Createspace goes below 5X8 inches. So, none as small as most of the traditionally published mass-market books.

Obviously, the bigger the page count, the more expensive the printing costs, right? Well, at least that’s what I’ve experienced in the self-publishing print-on-demand arena. So, what is going on? The only answer I have come up with so far comes down to volume. To quantity. The advantage the big publishing houses have is that they can do bulk print runs and save a lot of money on the cost-per-book ratio.

Fore those of you who have published for print books, I’d love to hear how you decide the trim size. What factors weigh in the most for you? The overall cost-per-book? The feel of the finished product? Other concerns? Let me know your thoughts via the comments below.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Harmony Kent

35 thoughts on “Size Matters: What do you look for in size?

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  3. Another great post, Harmony. It’s interesting to look at it from this perspective. When I published, my focus was on having one poem per page, and the 6×9 worked out best. Both of my poetry collections are rather thin, but I’m okay with that … I think. lol 🙂 Cheers!

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  4. I forget why I chose 5.5 X 8.5 but I think it related to trade paper size. I also do a font size of 12 so the book has a little heft at 86,000 words. All my books are the same size. I like the feel and they are not too thick. Nice post, Harmony.

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  5. Thanks for bringing up the topic of size for print books. I’m working on a poetry book at present and will definitely be thinking ‘smaller’ now. When selecting sizes for print books, my main focus was readability (I like to use a large enough type size along with leading for ease of reading) for text copy of novels/short stories and layout for children’s books with illustrations. Lots to think about here, Harmony. 🙂 Thanks.

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  6. I didn’t even realize other sizes were an option. The first one I did myself was 6×9, and that’s what I’ve done ever since. One of my publishers used a smaller size, but they went through Ingram, so they had options I didn’t. Guess I need to pay more attention to my options over the course of the years. I should have known better than to think that things would stay stagnant.

    Great info, Harmony.

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  7. Harmony, I only self-published one book on my own and I chose the smaller 5 x 8 trim (despite paying more for a higher page count) because I like the feel of that size. My publishing house prints all of my paperbacks in 6 x 9 as that seems to be the industry standard for small press and indie. My books average around 80K, both the indie book and traditionally pubbed.

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    • That’s interesting information, Mae, thanks. Yep, that smaller trim does seem to feel more comfortable in the hands. I guess that 6×9 for indie and small presses comes back to cost. Thanks, Mae! 😊

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  8. This is a big reason I stopped doing paperbacks. My books became too big and expensive on Createspace with the standard 6×9 and people complained when I mentioned how it would be. So I went with 8×11 to get it more affordable. People still complained and I never sold any. Honestly, I doubt having the $20 plus price tag on a normal-sized book would have helped me. If there was a way to do it without such a huge price then it’d certainly be easier.

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    • I have to agree with you on that high price tag issue, Charles. I cringe sometimes when I see how much they will have to be charged at. Still, I do see paperback sales. I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you with yours. Best of luck with everything 🙂


  9. I used 6 X 9 for both my novels, which are around 86K words each. I think for short page counts, a smaller size is good. I like the feel of a book in my hands. Not to mention doing the spine for a thin book isn’t the easiest thing to do!

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  10. My novels are all 5.25 x 8. I don’t really remember why I chose that size, but I like it. Lol! The traditional book size is small, and the print in the book is even smaller, so i think I felt more comfortable with the print being a little larger. I also like the feel of the size of a book in my hands. My word counts are all around 80K+, so I think that factored into my decision as well. If I had chosen a smaller trim, it would have been too thick of a book.

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    • Am chuckling here, Yvi, becasue I know I’ll forget the why at some point too! lols. Yes, I too think the 5.25X8 is a nice size for a larger word count book. Thanks for weighing in 🙂

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