Picking Your Trim Size

Book sizes in printing terms are called trim sizes. In the last stage of production a book is trimmed, which is how it gets its name. There isn’t a set size that you should choose, but there are a few things to take into consideration when picking your trim size.

Most authors will be using a print-on-demand service like CreateSpace or IngramSpark. Both have a large list of trim sizes to choose from. So, how do you know which one to choose?

First, break it down based on what type of book you have written. Then look at your word count and determine how many pages your book might be*. Once you know that, look at the cost of producing the different sized books and make your decision from there. Also, take into account the page color, as that can limit your selection as well.

Let’s say you’ve written a typical fiction novel. You’d be choosing from the trade paperback trim sizes that the print company offers. 5.5″x8.5″ is the most popular size, however 6″x9″ is a close second. Some people prefer a more intimate read, so the 5″x8″ or 5.25″x8″ might also be good choices. Let’s say you’d like to do the smallest size possible, but you also want to keep the costs down.

To keep things easy, let’s say your word count is 70,000 and you plan to publish through CreateSpace. Now that will put a 5″x8″ book around 275 pages, and a 5.5″x8.5″ book around 250 pages.** If we go check out Createspace’s Royalty calculator, you can figure out how much you’ll make off of each book. Let’s set the price at $9.99. Below are the results:

5″x8″, 275 pages at $9.99 = You will make $1.83 per every sale on Amazon***.
5.5″x8.5″, 250 pages at $9.99 = You will make $2.14 per every sale on Amazon***.

At this point, you’d judge for yourself whether you’d rather have the extra .31¢ per each sale, or if you’d be happier missing out on that and having the smaller trim size.

Where this really comes into play if you have a small, or high word count. For example, a word count of 110,000 will be 450 pages at a 5″x8″ trim size, but only 334 pages at the 6″x9″ trim size. Assuming you list the book at $12.99, you would make an extra $1.40 per book sale if you went with the 6″x9″ trim size. At that point, I’d say it’s a no-brainer and go with the larger trim size.

Other things to consider:

  • If you want your pages to be a cream color and enrolled in expanded distribution, Createspace only offers limited trim sizes, but they include all of the trim sizes mentioned above.
  • Lightning Source / IngramSpark also limit their trim sizes if you want cream paper.
  • Full Color Books also have limitations and a slightly smaller selection when it comes to industry standard sizes.

Below is a quick guide to trim sizes:

Mass Market books have to be 4.25″x7″.

Trade paperbacks are anywhere from 5″x8″ to 6″x9″.

Manuals and workbooks are typically 8″x10″ to 8.5″x11″. This allows room for graphics and you can use a 2-column text layout.

General nonfiction’s most popular size is 6″x9″ but can go up to 8″x10″ based on the book. For example if the book calls for sidebars or pull quotes you might want to go slightly bigger than 6″x9″.

Photography or art books really depends on the content and how they want to present the book. Some are very small, while others can be coffee-table book size.

Memoirs are similar in size to a standard trade paperback novel.

Short story collections or essay collections are generally the same size as novels.

—-

*Download the chart that I use to estimate the page count

**This is only an estimation based on the multitude of books I have formatted. I don’t have a formula that I follow.

***As of April 2015.

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