When you’re sitting in a cozy armchair by the fire on a cold winter’s night, tucked deep into a blanket, would you like to read a novel the size of a road atlas? Of course not! It would be unwieldy, right? Book sizes aren’t arbitrary. They’re based on common conventions for the genre and how consumers typically use the books they buy.
Some are meant for a children’s nursery, some as coffee table centerpieces, others as distractions on public transportation. This is why you should carefully consider trim sizes for your book.
What are book trim sizes?
The trim size simply refers to the size of your book. Book sizes vary considerably but fall into specific ranges when considering the subject matter, consumer desires, and tradition.
Why is trim size important?
Having book sizes far outside the norms can alienate typical readers. An art book the size of a notepad can’t display the nuances of ten-foot-tall frescos. A paperback the size of a laptop would be tough to read in a cramped airplane seat. Standard book sizes take these needs into consideration.
Imagine how your book will look on the shelf next to other books of the same type. You might think that making your book sizes wildly different would make them more noticeable, but instead, it may actually cause readers to think your book won’t be much fun to read because it’s just the wrong size.
Rather than crafting a book of a crazy size, make your book stand out by having a catchy, compelling cover and engaging content!
Industry-Standard Book Sizes
After decades of catering to readers of all kinds, publishers have discovered size ranges that work for their readers. Feedback about how and when readers use their books has honed trim sizes over the years.
Mass-market paperbacks are typically 4.25” x 6.87”. These books get stuffed into purses, backpacks, and mass transportation carry-on bags. They need to be relatively small and portable.
Now, this is not meant to be a knock against any genre, but this size is for cheaper books meant for sale in gift shops, airports, and drugstores.
Rather than being intended for any genre, think of mass-market paperbacks as filling a specific purpose in the reader’s life. They are usually printed after a book has been released in hardcover and paperback form.
Mass-market paperbacks are also strippable, which means the covers can be removed and returned to the seller or publisher for a refund.
Trade paperbacks are often 5” x 8”. These are usually released between the initial hardcover edition of a book and its later mass-market paperback form.
They are not strippable, so if the book is to be returned to the seller or publisher, the entire book must be sent back, not just the cover. They have higher quality printing than mass-market paperbacks and are designed to be more durable.
Hardcover standard sizes are 6 to 8.5” x 9 to 11”. When a reader wants to keep a book for a long time, read it again and again, and display it on the shelf as a statement piece, they’ll buy a hardcover book.
That’s why the hardcover book sizes vary more than either form of a paperback. There’s more leeway for the author to determine the trim size for their book.
This leaves a nice amount of room for graphics and the font can be of sufficient size without making the book have too many or too few pages.
If you’re making a children’s book or art book, err on the side of making it large.
What to Consider when Choosing Book Sizes
Picking book sizes isn’t easy. There are a few factors you’ll have to consider, such as cost and marketability. But the biggest points to consider are:
Your Genre/Book Type
What do readers expect out of the standard book sizes available? Let’s look at the genres:
- Fantasy: Readers of fantasy books expect large, dense books. The size and weight contribute to the feeling that the story inside will be long and epic.
- Horror: The book can be smaller and have a low word count per page to make the reader fly through the book.
- Art/Photography: Readers want these to be as large as possible to show off the artwork. They need to really capture the detail of their subjects.
Tailoring book sizes by genre shows you know your readers and their lifestyle. If you make your book far outside the norm, there needs to be a good reason. Also, if you write a sci-fi novel and include lots of technical illustrations for fictional future tech, you might want the size to be larger than normal.
Moreover, if you’re making a novelty children’s book about tall, skinny objects, you would want the book’s trim size to reflect that and be tall and skinny, too.
Perhaps you know your particular readers more than any publisher and you simply must make your book sizes unique. The taste your readers have determines your book’s size. It is all about them since they’re the ones spending the money on your book!
Listen to reader feedback, make their reading experience as pleasurable as possible.
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