Few things are as exciting to an author as holding their finished book for the first time. But what style should it be? Paperback or hardback? What size? Read on for advice on making these critical book formatting decisions.
Print Book Formatting: What’s Available?
Print books are available in several different size categories.1 The industry refers to them as “trim sizes.”
Hardcovers have rigid covers, usually made of heavy cardboard and protected with a paper wrap called a dust jacket.
Facts and Figures
Hardbacks are the most popular book format available. They bring in more revenue than e-books, audiobooks, and children’s board books combined —$3.7 billion in 2021, up from $3.4 billion in 2020.2
Most hardcovers range in size from 6 inches by 9 inches to 8.5 inches by 11 inches.
Why Issue a Hardcover?
If you want libraries to buy your book, a hardcover edition may make it more appealing. Libraries often prefer hardcovers because they hold up against heavy use and are more visible on bookshelves.
But libraries aren’t the only buyers of hardcover books. Publishers often issue new releases in hardcover before a paperback release, primarily to entice eager readers to purchase a higher-priced edition.
If you release your book in hardback first, you can run a second release campaign when the paperback comes out.
Trade paperbacks are the well-known paperback editions you may have seen in your bookstore’s literary fiction section. It’s considered the standard paperback format in publishing and works for almost all genres.
Facts and Figures
In the U.S., trade paperbacks usually measure 5.5 inches by 8.5 inches or 6 inches by 9 inches. The 5.5-inch by 8.5-inch size, also called the “digest” format by publishers, is the most common size in the U.S.
The 6-inch by 9-inch format is popular with fiction printers. It’s also the most common size for self-published authors working with print-on-demand book printing services like IngramSpark, where Palmetto Publishing proudly sends its authors.
IngramSpark and other similar services offer standard sizes and custom sizes, so you can choose the professional book design that works best for your project.
Why Publish a Trade Paperback?
Compared to hardcover books, trade paperbacks are cheaper to produce and priced lower for readers. Book shoppers who shy away from the cost of hardcover may be willing to spring for a trade paperback.
Trade paperbacks also appeal to readers because they’re easier to carry around. You can easily take one on the bus, drop it into your backpack, or curl up with it on the couch. They blend convenience with a polished aesthetic that almost rivals the hardcover.
Mass Market Paperbacks
Smaller than trade paperbacks, mass-market paperbacks are designed to be more affordable and portable. They’re the paperbacks you see in grocery stores and pharmacies. They also make up the bulk of many romance and science fiction sections in bookstores and libraries.
Facts and Figures
Mass market paperbacks measure about 4 x 7 inches — or more specifically, 4.25 inches by 6.87 inches. It’s been the standard size for years. But in 2020, major romance publishers like Kensington and Harlequin began issuing a new size of mass market paperback —the “mass max.”3
The mass max is 4.75 inches by 7 inches. It doesn’t sound like much, but 3/4 of an inch feels surprisingly larger when it’s in the palm of your hand. Publishers advertised it as a “more comfortable reading experience,” offering more readable fonts and larger margins.
Print-on-demand houses like IngramSpark haven’t started offering them yet, but they offer other small paperback sizes, including 4.37 inches by 7 inches and 4.72 inches by 7.48 inches.
Why Print a Mass Market Book?
Mass market paperbacks are even more portable and convenient than their trade paperback counterparts. They fit in smaller bags, and you can add more of them on a shelf, which is great news for readers who power through dozens of books a year.
Mass market paperbacks are usually priced less than trade paperbacks. They’re also often cheaper for the author to print simply because they require less paper and manage to fit more words on a smaller page.
In general, independent authors release mass-market books less often than large publishers. They’re more likely to be top-selling titles that can sell at high volume.
Choosing a Size for Your Book
Trim size may be one more decision for the self-publishing author, but it’s good to have so many choices. The more options you have, the easier it is to print a book that looks great for readers.
But what makes a size “right”? Here’s what to think about.
Consider Manuscript Length
The 5.5-inch x 8.5-inch trade paperback size is a good fallback, but it’s not always the best choice for longer manuscripts. Thicker books are harder to hold and might be more intimidating to your readers.
When in doubt, go to a bookstore and pick up a smaller trade paperback with the page count you expect to have. If you don’t know your page count in printed format, don’t worry — Palmetto can provide you with book layout help.
Finalize Layout First
It’s important to do your book interior formatting before choosing a trim size. Book formatting can affect page count significantly, and you don’t want to over-or under-estimate.
Avoid these Common Mistakes
Formatting is part of what makes your book look professional. Don’t get caught in these amateur traps:
Shrinking to Fit
Don’t reduce your font or margin size to get fewer pages. It might be cheaper to print, but it will be harder to read.
Ignoring Your Genre
If your book looks too different from others in your genre, it will be hard to shelve at bookstores. Go to your local independent store and see what sizes are common for books like yours. Then choose a similar size.
Book Formatting at Home
Don’t try to save money by doing your book formatting. It’s too easy to end up with a book that looks unprofessional because its margins, print size, or paragraph style are wrong.
Smart Self-Publishing from Start to Finish
There’s a lot to think about when self-publishing. In addition, to trim size and layout, you need to choose a book cover design, title page style, and illustrations if appropriate.
As a top-tier publisher, Palmetto is here to help from start to finish. We can provide you with professional book design and a book layout guide as well as professional book editing, book printing, and marketing services. Get in touch today and learn how we can help you launch your book.