In Your Corner: Choosing a Trim Size for Your Book

Decisions, Decisions

(where would we be without decisions?)

When it comes to choosing the form in which your book will be sent forth into the world–hardcover, paperback, small, or large–it’s the rare author who has considered the book’s actual trim size.  Those other elements?  They’re easy to visualize in your head, to picture your book as taking one such form.  Trim size is not so easy, in part because many authors don’t even know what the term means.

trim size definition

Thanks to Dictionary.com, we can safely interpret trim size to mean the page area left after final production is completed–which is not the same thing as the page area throughout the printing process.  While a book is being printed, the pages are slightly larger than their final size.  Once your content has been printed, the pages are cut down to their final size–their trim size.

Depending on which self-publishing company you choose, you ought to have a choice of trim sizes to select from.  Print on Demand (POD) options will often constrain your choices simply because each size uses its own machinery, so the more sizes on offer = the more expensive the machinery is to purchase and maintain for the operator, and ultimately, the end user–you.

There are so many sizes to choose from, it almost boggles the mind.The most common trade paperback sizes, for example, run from 6″ by 9″ to 5.5″ by 8.5″, but you’ll also see 5.25″ by 8″ and 5″ by 8″ in some POD services. It’s not unheard of to choose even larger sizes–6″ by 9″, 7″ by 10″, 8.25″ by 8.25, or even 8″ by 10″–especially if you’re working within the children’s picture book or technical manual markets.

trim size
[ a pleasant-looking trim size ]
Sometimes the decision might be self-explanatory.  If you’re a photographer, for example, it makes sense to go with a larger trim size to allow your images to be shown off to greatest effect.  But why does size–or even deciding between hardcover and paperback– matter at all to everyone else?  The answer boils down to reader perception, and reader perception can be greatly affected by the minutiae.  A nice balance between text and white space, for example, is a subconscious clue that the author took great pains to be professional while designing their book.  A crowded page, while maximizing the text-to-page ratio and lowering the total page count (and therefore cost) of a book, looks clunky and dense, making it difficult to read.  Similarly, a hardcover book is a sign that, on a fundamental level, the author cares about creating a durable, treasured possession–while a paperback enables portability and a voracious consumption of words.

Think about how your book will be used, and by whom, and what the typical expectations are within a genre.  Fiction titles typically run in smaller trim sizes, since readers typically read them for pleasure–whether on the train to work in the morning, or while sitting on the back porch.  Nonfiction titles, including memoirs and the ever-growing Creative Non-Fiction (CNF) field typically run in the middle of the pack–unless they’ve been penned by someone famous, like a film or a football star.  Those are often oversized, just like the personalities they describe.  Technical manuals, cookbooks, photography tabletop books, and children’s picture books are always the largest books on the shelf–and often, they are used while lying flat on a table or the floor.

I guess my recommendation is rather simple: take a ruler with you to the bookstore and library.  Measure the books that fall within the “if you like my book, you might also like X book” category, whether you’re thinking of similarities in genre or thematic content.  Weigh it in your hand.  Are you more likely to pick up the hardcover or the paperback of that book?  And don’t just measure the outside cover.  Look inside–at the trim size, the the margins.  It may not be an easily quantifiable thing, but readers are most likely to buy books that strike them as visually balanced and attractive–and the trim size of a book contributes to this a great deal!

You are not alone. ♣︎

*  And when Thomas himself took the poem seriously and made some rather intense life choices–for example, going off to WWI–Frost was devastated.  He was even more devastated when Thomas died in Arras.  The moral of this story being, it would seem, to make major life decisions upon thorough research and consideration, not the (misread) interpretation of a poem.

Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

The Book Beautiful: Formatting the Masterpiece

As you finish your manuscript and move toward the stage of publishing, the layout of the inside of your book (such as formatting, font choice, etc.) must come into serious consideration. The formatting of your book transforms your word document into a book, it brings your manuscript to life.

Now while many readers won’t spend much time musing over the careful ruminations that went into the formatting of a book, they will notice if that care hasn’t gone into your formatting. The formatting style you choose should not only reflect, but also enhance the overall feel and mood of your story. Even if the careful decisions you spend hours vacillating over are never consciously acknowledged by your reader, those decisions absolutely affect the reader’s subconscious perceptions and preconceptions of your book. For example, merely picking up a book and scanning through the pages will immediately tell a reader whether or not your book is professional, before they’ve even read a sentence. Among readers there is a certain unspoken, but expected standard for how a book should appear, thus, when a book falls short of that expectation it acts as a giant red flag that your title might not be worth purchasing. You want your book to ‘fit in’ with the other books on the shelf, you want it to look polished, legitimate, and professional.

open book formatting

Once you’ve caught the reader’s eye with a sleek, professional cover and they’ve started thumbing through the pages, something they will take subconscious note of is the font you’ve selected. Note that every time someone opens a word processor that Times New Roman is probably the pre-set font, meaning that if your book is in TNR, it won’t seem special or really pop before the reader’s eyes. There are thousands of appropriate fonts that will help your book stand out, so don’t be afraid to try something new; that being said, avoid over-the-top or childish looking fonts as well.

Further typography considerations to make are the number of characters per line, lines per page, spacing between words, etc. Think of those books you’ve read that have too many characters per line, the kind where you feel like the page or chapter is never ending. The satisfaction of turning pages and progressing to the next chapter is a thing a lot of readers enjoy–not to say you should have

HUGE FONT WITH HUGE SPACING …

… but tiny font with small spacing

isn’t great either. Find a happy middle ground. A further consideration, when there is little spacing between lines, the reader’s eye will often skip a line and they will then have to readjust and thus lose their engagement with your story. It’s a small detail, but it affects the reader’s experience which means that it’s not a trivial detail.

open book formatting

Another thing to consider: how far your text goes in toward the spine of the book. Paperback book readers know how frustrating it is when the text of the book they’re reading goes nearly all the way to the spine so they nearly have to crack it to see what you’ve written–don’t make your readers ruin your beautiful book!

The moral of the story is: don’t just settle for the bare minimum requirements of your publishing company. Treat the formatting process of the interior of your book with the same kind of tender love and care that you treated the writing and editing process with–your readers will notice, and you can rest confidently knowing that you’ve produced a well-thought out, professional book.


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com

Avoid Using “Hard Returns” in your Manuscript

A few weeks ago, we told you to why you shouldn’t allow your publisher to format your book. As a matter of fact, we gave you 3 good reasons for this. However, neither of those reasons were relevant for you, so you decided to forgo formatting the book yourself.

Formatting a book is not a task to be taken lightly. If your book is poorly formatted, it can mean that you aren’t taken seriously. That’s why most self-publishing companies include interior formatting services in their fee. It is understood and accepted that authors usually don’t have time to learn the nuances of interior layout. When you allow your publisher to format your manuscript, there is one piece of advice you should keep in mind:

Don’t use hard returns.

A hard return occurs when you use the “Enter” key to break the line instead of letting it wrap naturally. Most word processing programs automatically take text that won’t fit on the current line to the next line.  Because your publisher will most likely be copying/pasting the text of your manuscript into their book design program, those hard returns can often throw off the formatting considerably. Because of this, publishers normally don’t accept manuscripts with hard returns. The only exception here is poetry books and using the “enter” key to go to the next paragraph.

Other than hard returns, can you think of any other things you had to change in order for your publisher to accept your manuscript?

Cheri Breeding ABOUT CHERI BREEDING:
Since 2005 Cheri Breeding has been working as the Director of Production for Outskirts Press. In that time, she has been an instrumental component of every aspect of the Production Department, performing the roles of an Author Representative, Book Designer, Customer Service Representative, Title Production Supervisor, Production Manager and, Director of Production. She brings all that experience and knowledge, along with an unparalleled customer-service focus, to help self-publishing authors reach high-quality book publication more efficiently, professionally, and affordably.