Page Size /
Before you can start your layout you need to know what page size you are working to – known as the "trim size". However, before you can select your trim size you need to know what self-publishing path you are going to use, as this will affect what trim sizes are available to you.
For guidance on different self-publishing options, click here.
Once you have chosen your publishing path you will need to check what trim size options are available to you, and make your choice. Amongst other things, you'll need to consider the kind of book you're publishing, its length, and the financial implications.
Keep things standard
Most self-publishing systems will suggest a standard to you, and unless you've got good reason not to (considering the points below), it's probably a good idea to stick to that standard. Having an awkward or unusual book size may limit your book's distribution and could cause practical physical problems for retailers wanting to display your book on shelves or stands etc. The standard size generally suggested by US-based self-publishing systems, such as CreateSpace, is six inches by nine inches (6" x 9").
Except the standards aren't standard...
Unfortunately, standards aren't consistent across the world. If you use a UK-based self-publishing system or print on demand printer you'll have an entirely different set of "standards" to chose from. And just to make it a little bit more complicated, UK sizes are all metric, while US sizes (ironically) all use the old British Imperial system (inches).
To give yourself maximum flexibility it's a good idea to pick a US standard that has a roughly equivalent UK standard. So, the US 6" x 9" standard (152mm x 229mm) is roughly equivalent to the UK "Royal" size (156mm x 234mm). For a slightly smaller size, the UK "Demy" size (138mm x 216mm) is a good match for the common US 5.5" x 8.5" (140mm x 216mm). In the past, we have prepared press files for CreateSpace at 5.5" x 8.5" and have re-used the same files without difficulty for a UK Demy version through a UK printer for distribution to UK bookstores.
Your readers' needs
Is there a particular way you anticipate this book being used by readers? Is it a pocket guide that needs to have appropriately diminutive measurements? Should it be small enough so that readers will feel comfortable packing it into hand luggage, or holding up in bed, or taking out on the train? Or is it a book that contains huge illustrations or large complicated tables and diagrams, that need a large page size in order to be legible? Bear all of these in mind when choosing your trim size.
The length of your book
The length of your book may also play an important part in determining your trim size. If your book is very long then a small page size might mean a large number of pages that would ultimately make a book shaped like a cube! On the other hand, if your book is quite short then you might have to choose a smaller page size to avoid either very large type, or a book so slender that it looks more like a magazine.
The two main costs affecting the price of printing your book will be the page size and the page extent. The more pages, and the larger they are, the more it will cost to print each copy of your book – but you will find that the effects of the two variables are not equal. We found that the cost would always go up when the page extent increased, but would often be unaffected by an increase in page size.
This means that by increasing the page size you can often significantly reduce your manufacturing costs, because the larger the page the more text you will get on it, and therefore your page extent will go down without your cost per page going up. This means that large slim books are often more economical to produce, but you will need to balance this benefit against the needs of your readers, and the perceptions that may be formed by adopting such a shape: it may risk appearing flimsy and light – and not only in construction, but by association perhaps also in content.