6 Things to Know Before Choosing Your Trim Size

Size matters when it comes to marketing your self-published book. 

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There’s more to a book than just the content or the cover design. It’s about the experience…the smell of fresh ink, the satisfying crack of the spine, and the way it seems to rest in your hands just perfectly. 

Whether we notice it or not, the size, shape, and cover of a book are all factors in what can make or break a purchase. 

Another factor for people purchasing books is convenience. They want a book that will suit their reading needs, whether they’re seeking a coffee table flip-through or a travel guide. 

So how do you know what size your book should be trimmed to? You’ll want to start with knowing the basics like your size options, audience, and genre and market standards.

1. Know Your Options

The first step to choosing the right trim size for your book is to know the basic categories to choose from. In choosing from these categories, you’ll want to consider everything from your personal budget (mass market paperbacks for a slimmer budget, hardcover if you’re ready to invest a bit more), to the market standards, which we dig into later. 

Hardcovers with thick brims can be eye-catching, while trade paperbacks are easy to bring along for the person on-the-go. 

 The standard options include:

Trade paperbacks

  • These range in size from 5.5” x 8.5” (“digest” size) to 6” by 9” (US trade size). 
  • Tend to be the least expensive to produce.

Mass-market paperbacks

  • Also known as pocket books, these are usually trimmed to be around 4.25”x 6.87.”

Hardcovers

  • Traditional hardcover novels range in sizes from 6”x9” to 8.5”x11.” 
  • You’ll need to budget a little extra for a hardcover. 

2. Know Your Audience

By now, you should have a pretty good idea of your book’s target audience. Give yourself a refresher course on who your readers are. Consider the following:

  • Where do they go for information?
  • Where do they go for entertainment?
  • What do they enjoy about your book genre?
  • Why would they purchase your book?
  • Where will they read your book? The beach? The bath? A park bench?

Take yourself through a day in the life of your ideal reader. Will they need to pack your book in a backpack, or perhaps even keep it in their pocket during a big adventure? 

Consider the age of your audience as well. Children will need something large and light in order to get a better grasp while they read. Teens and college kids might not want to add too much weight to their backpack full of textbooks. 

3. Know Your Genre

Believe it or not, even your genre can help determine the best book trim size for your self-published novel. 

Each genre has a standard sizing, and falling into your genre’s size range can tip off readers that your book is from the genre they love most with a simple glance.

The standard sizings by genre are:

  • Novella: 5x8
  • Fiction: 4.25x6.87, 5x8, 5.5x8.5, 6x9
  • Children’s: 7.5x7.5, 7x10, 10x8
  • Memoir: 5.25x8, 5.5x8.5 
  • Textbooks: 6x9, 7x10, 8.5x11
  • Non-Fiction: 5.5x8.5, 6x9, 7x10

Check out your own book collection, and note the size differences and how they relate to different genres. Familiarizing yourself with how books look in your specific genre is a great way to get an idea of the best trim size for your book. 

4. Know Your Content

If your book has images, diagrams, and other visuals, you’ll want to account for more book pages. The more pages you have, the thicker the book will be if you use smaller trim sizes.

Consider how thick you’d like your book to be. If it’s a long read but you don’t want your book to be too thick, try a larger trim size. 

If you’re experiencing the opposite challenge and you’re nervous that your book will be too thin, move down to a smaller trim size for a thicker book.

In order to have a nice sturdy spine that can catch people’s eyes, you’ll want your book to come to at least 150 pages long. 

Consider the number of pages you have now, and whether you should use a small trim size for more pages or a larger one to reduce the number of pages you have. 

5. Know Your Budget

Your cost of printing will heavily rely on your book trim size. As mentioned before, traditional paperbacks tend to be much less expensive than a larger hardback novel. 

The number of pages will also determine the pricing. 

If you have a lot of content and are worried about printing so many pages, a slightly larger trim size can lower the number of pages in your book, therefore lower the cost a bit. 

6. Know the Market

Head to a bookstore or library and check out what book trim size big publishers are using for your book’s genre and category. 

Many established publishers do ongoing research on the book trim sizes people purchase the most. 

Matching the book size to that of popular publishers can also draw customers who typically aim for the big guns to your book, too. 

Knowing your genre, audience, content, budget and what’s hot on the market is sure to give you an exact idea of what book trim size you’d like for your self-published book. 

Get ready to catch your audience’s eye and deliver a book that feels just right! 

Once you have your trim size picked, you can see it in action at some local book stores! First, you’ll need a guide on how to sell your books on consignment. 

Now, let's get your book into stores »

Adam user

President & CEO,
Steuben Press

Adam Ellis has worked in the book industry since 2002, when he was first exposed to the wonderful world of Self Publishing. Over the years he has worked with thousands of authors and helped to produce, print and publish countless books.

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