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Standard Book Sizes

Groundwork

December 7, 2020

Do I have to follow standards?

Yes, there are standard sizes, and they vary depending on the book’s genre. But as a self-publisher, you have more flexibility in straying from standard book sizes. But considering the genre when deciding your book’s size is much more important if your book will be sold in brick and mortar stores. For customers to find your book in a brick and mortar store, you want it displayed alongside others of its kind. Likewise, books sold primarily online don’t need to stay within your typical genre size because they won’t be competing for attention on the physical bookstore shelves.

Sometimes, typical sizes take into consideration usability. For instance, a cookbook is usually fairly large, not only so the photos stand out but also so the reader can refer to it standing up at a kitchen counter. So if you decide to stray from traditional standards, also consider how readers will use the book.

To avoid confusion, when talking about book sizes, you always state them width by height.  Clarity on your book’s orientation (horizontal or vertical) becomes especially important when deciding your book’s size and getting printing quotes.  Printing a 6 x 9″ book is very different from a 9 x 6″ book. A vertical book may fit more efficiently on the printer’s larger parent sheets than a horizontal one. I made a short stop motion animation video that helps illustrate why this is the case.

Some genres span various sizes, while others do not.  Books such as mass-market paperback books need to be small and inexpensive to fit supermarkets’ racks.  Trade paperbacks range from 5.5 x 8.5” to 6 x 9”. Hardcover sizes range from 6 x 9” to 8.5 x 11” or, as in children’s books, can change orientation to accommodate illustrations and be 11 x 8.5”. 

When self-publishing, you can break from the standard, but take care to weigh the pros and cons of doing so.  Here are a few things to consider:

Reasons to stay in your genre size:

  • Your genre audience is more familiar and recognizes a standard size.
  • It may be easier to shelve with similar books.
  • Your audience may have positive associations with books that look like books they have read before

Reasons to stray from your genre size:

  • Your book is modest in size, and you want to increase the spine size.
  • You want more room on the page to include sidebars or other graphic elements.
  • You want a size that can be printed both on-demand and offset.
  • Your content is spread-dependant, meaning that you need content to fit on facing pages.
  • Your book is especially long, and you want to save money on printing.

The three most common dimensions:

Pocket Book: 4.25 x 6.87 in
Low-cost paperback fiction

Digest: 5.5 x 8.5 in
Paperback fiction and non-fiction is the smallest of U.S. trade sizes. 

US Trade: 6 x 9 in
Well suited for paperback fiction and the most common standard size offered by print-on-demand services as well as offset printers

Standard U.S. book sizes and genres at a glance:

Fiction:
4.25 x 6.87 in (pocket book)
5 x 8 in
5.25 x 8 in
5.5 x 8.5 (digest)
6 x 9 in  (U.S. trade)

Novella:
5 x 8 in

Children’s:
7.5 x 7.5 in
7 x 10 in
10 x 8 in (landscape)

Textbooks:
6 x 9 in (U.S. trade)
7 x10 in,
8.5 x 11 in

Non-fiction:
5.5 x 8.5 in (digest)
6 x 9 in (U.S. trade)
7 x 10 in

Memoir:
5.25 x 8 in
5.5 x 8.5 in (digest)

Photography, art books, and cookbooks vary

For a deeper look into things to consider when determining your book’s trim size, check out my article on Book Trim Sizes.

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