Understanding book sizes and page layout for self-publishing authors

Why does book size matter?

As a reader, you may not have considered book size or even noticed the layout. But as an author, it’s one of the first things to consider when self-publishing your book.

If you scan your bookshelf you will notice a variety of book sizes. Most fiction books will look aesthetically pleasing on your shelf – you just have to look at a few Bookstagrammers’ Instagram posts! Non-fiction or children’s books, however, come in a variety of sizes from pocket-sized to coffee-table tomes.

Neatly arranged by colour – different sizes.

Pushing aside any desire for a streamlined bookshelf, there are reasons behind book sizes being as standard as possible. The size of your book is a personal choice when self-publishing, but it helps to follow industry trends so your book fits in beautifully with traditionally produced titles.

These factors are important considerations when choosing the trimmed page size of your book:
  • Economic – printing/shipping costs
  • Artistic – having a cover and interior that suits the size
  • Practical – if it’s a workbook or children’s book you may need to go bigger

It’s worth noting that the most popular book sizes are slightly different between the UK and the US.

What book sizes do publishers and book designers use most?

UK formats

  • A-Format – this book is 178 mm high by 111 mm wide. A-Format books are relatively small. They were once the preferred size for books you would find at an airport. Nowadays, mass-produced books for the airport mostly use the Demy size – 216 mm x 135 mm. A-Format books fit easily into a bag which makes them the perfect size for travellers. Genres that work well within A-Format are self-help books.
  • B-Format – this book is 198 mm high by 129 mm wide. B-Format books are popular for UK paperback novels. As this is such a well-used format the B-Format might be a good option for self-publishing fiction authors. Your book won’t look out of place alongside traditionally published titles.
  • Demy – as mentioned, the Demy format is popular for airport fiction as it’s a larger size but still perfectly manageable for most travellers. Demy is 216 mm high by 135 mm wide.
  • Royal – this book size is often used for hardback books in both fiction and non-fiction genres, though it is also used for trade paperbacks. The size is 234 mm high by 156 mm wide.

In the US, popular book sizes are as follows:

  • The Pocket Book – this is 4.25 inches wide by 6.78 inches high and is great for smaller, pocket-sized paperback novels.
  • Digest Format – this is 5.5 inches wide by 8.5 inches high and is suitable for fiction and non-fiction. The Digest is the smallest trade size in the US.
  • US Trade Format – this is 6 inches wide by 9 inches high and is the most common trade size used by self-published authors for their print-on-demand titles.
  • Hardback – the sizes of US hardbacks vary from 6 inches wide by 9 inches high up to 8.5 inches wide by 11 inches long.

There are, of course, many other book sizes and this is one of the areas you will discuss with your book designer. Getting this part right will make a huge impact on the finished product.

Confusingly, in the UK book sizes are usually given as height x width – 234 x 156 mm Royal format, for example – whereas US book sizes are given as width x height. To avoid any doubt, it’s worth including the words ‘width’ and ‘height’ when giving your preferred book size to your designer.

Digest and US Trade sizes, are commonly used by self-publishing authors outside the USA because they are offered by both Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon) and Ingram Spark – two of the main print-on-demand distributors. Digest Format is very close in size to Demy, and US Trade Format is just a few millimetres smaller than Royal.

The most common formats that I work with are Digest and US Trade for both US-based and UK-based authors.

What is a book layout?

Once you know the trimmed page size of your book you can begin to think about the interior design – the book’s page layout.

We’ve all heard the saying ‘never judge a book by its cover’ and yet how many of us do exactly that? And when it comes to your book design, the interior layout is just as important as the cover design. Hopefully, your readers won’t actually notice the how the page is laid out because it will be done in such a way that the book is beautifully easy to read.

Book layout includes all these elements:

  • Font style and size
  • White space, including space between lines
  • Hyphens
  • Margins
  • Columns
  • Images or illustrations
  • And more.

A great starting point for your book layout is to find published books that you like and use these to build an idea of what your book interior will look like – use the ‘Look Inside’ feature on Amazon or perhaps create a Pinterest mood board to keep all your inspiration together. Do you prefer minimalistic interiors, or are you a doodle, cartoon, and colour kind of author? If you are a business owner, consider how your brand fonts would work best – perhaps for headings in the book.

Working with your book designer they will be able to guide and advise you on what works best for the genre your book fits into.

What size is right for your book?

There are several factors to consider before starting your book design, but the trimmed page size is something you can consider while you are writing your book.

If you are looking for a dedicated book designer who works closely with you and guides you every step of the way then get in touch for a no-obligation chat. My packages include advice on choosing the right book size, page layout, printing and distribution advice, and flawless, print-ready PDFs to send to a printer or upload to your self-publishing platform of choice.

Each package option is based on a non-fiction book of up to 50,000 words, set at a standard book size up to Royal format (234 x 156mm trimmed page size) or 6 x 9 inches.

When I received the designed book from Catherine, it sent glorious shivers down my spine! Exceeded all expectations. I trusted Catherine from the word go – and as a first time author this is crucial. Calm, reliable, good communication and very skilled. Have been recommending her to everyone!

Trisha Lewis, Author of The Mystery of the Squashed Self

I have 25+ years of experience designing the content for and managing the production of books. My background in working for publishers like Able Publishing, Robert Hale Ltd, The Crowood Press, and DK, have given me both breadth and depth of experience to help authors bring their manuscripts to life as wonderful books.

For more information about hiring me to typeset your book, schedule a virtual cuppa to discuss your project.

Alternatively, you will find a list of services and costs on the website.

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