Making A Print Book? Here Are Three Decisions You Need To Make.

making a print book

If you’re making a print book, you need to pick your print format to please your print-loving readers. Decisions include color scheme, cover, and trim size.

Self-published authors are asking an important question: Is anyone still reading books?

The answer is an emphatic “Yes!” And leading the way is an age group you may not expect: the millennials. It’s a fallacy that they’re too distracted by video games, surfing the net, and other online activities and do not read books.

In fact, a recent study by the Pew Research Center finds that US readers under 30 are more likely to have read a book — print or electronic — in the past week than Americans over 30. And when they do read books, millennials are overwhelmingly choosing print over electronic. According to another Pew Research Center study, 73% of 18- to 29-year-olds who read a book in the previous year read a print book versus 37% who read an eBook.

When making a print book, you have three important decisions to make:

1. Black and White or Color printing? I’ll assume your cover will be full color, so this choice is about the interior of your book. For most books this is a pretty obvious choice. Novels and fiction books are mostly black and white texts, while art and photography books demand full color. Of course, some books are a mix of both black text with color photos inserted throughout. You’ll need to work with your printer to discuss your choice.

2. Hard or Soft Cover. This is mostly a personal – and economical – choice. A hardcover is a book bound with thick protective cover, with usually a paper or leather dust jacket over the main cover. The aim of hardcover is protection and durability. Hardcover books last far longer than paperbacks. They do not get damaged easily, thus making them perfect for reference guides, great literary works, etc. Plus, they look impressive on a bookshelf.

Paperback books are prepared for non-commercial works and those which don’t get much exposure. The covers here are made of thinner paper or cardboard, with glue to stick to the leaves. Cost of production is lower than hard covers. Most new writers will start off with a paperback.

3. Trim Size. This is an important decision for independent authors. While there are very few “rules” about book sizes, there are a number of conventions that are good to know. Your readers will expect a certain type of book to be within some standard conventional sizes.

  • Trade paperbacks, a pretty loose category of books, are often in the 5-1/2″ x 8-1/2″ to 6″ x 9″ (width x height) range. One of the most popular sizes is the 6″ x 9″ size because of the proportional size: 2:3 has long been considered an ideal for a book page, and you can create good-looking books at different sizes with the same page proportions. Most self-published books are trade paperbacks.
  • Manuals and workbooks are larger and, depending on the printing equipment being used to produce them, are in the 8″ x 10″ to 8-1/2″ x 11″ range. This size is also good for directories and instructional books with lots of graphics or detailed drawings.
  • Novels can be printed in many different sizes. Often called “Digest Size,” a 5-1/2″ x 8-1/2″ book is probably the most popular. Longer novels move to 6″ x 9″ to avoid becoming overly bulky at smaller sizes.
  • Children’s books can be printed in most any trim size, but US Letter size (8 ½” x 11”) is fast becoming a very popular choice for color printing.
  • General nonfiction titles are well suited for the 6″ x 9″ size. It’s also the most widely used size for hardcover books. When more room is needed on the page, for sidebars or pull quotes for instance, 7″ x 10″ is a frequent solution.
  • Photography or art books don’t conform to any particular size. They can be very small, or they can be big and heavy “coffee-table” books. Many artists and photographers prefer books that are square or nearly square. This allows both horizontal and vertical pictures to have about the same amount of white space on the page.

BookBaby Book Marketing and Promotion


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Steven Spatz is a writer, marketer, and the President of BookBaby, the nation’s leading self publishing services company. Spatz’s professional writing career began at age 13, paid by the word to bang out little league baseball game stories on an ancient manual typewriter for southern Oregon weekly newspapers. His journalism career continued after graduation from the University of Oregon at several daily newspapers in Oregon. When his family took over a direct marketing food business, Spatz redirected his writing and design skills into producing catalogs. The Pinnacle Orchards catalog was named "Best Food Catalog," received dozens of other national awards, and the business grew into one of the nation’s largest gourmet fruit gift businesses. After the company was sold, Spatz continued his direct marketing career with Fortune 500 companies including Mattel and Hasbro. He joined AVL Digital in 2004 to lead the direct-to-consumer marketing teams for music industry-leading brands Disc Makers, Oasis, and CD Baby. After serving as Chief Marketing Officer, Spatz was tapped to lead the company’s new publishing division in late 2014. In 2019, the AVL Digital Management team purchased the New Jersey brands, including BookBaby. The company is headquartered in Pennsauken, NJ (just outside Philadelphia, PA) and meets the printed book and eBook needs of thousands of self-publishing authors around the globe. Spatz lives in Glenside, PA with his two children, a demented cat, and some well-used bicycles. Steven loves to hear from authors, editors, and publishers in the BookBaby community with tales of publishing trials and triumphs. To tell him your story, write to


  1. Am at the tail end of completing my novel and would certainly consider Book Baby to self-publish with.
    This is my first attempt at writing a novel and have never published before.
    I’ll need information about what my next step is.

  2. Steven,
    I am getting ready to print my first children’s book with you.
    Matthew Midler is great to work with.

    Question: Do have any articles about book keeping and taxes for indie authors?

  3. I am writing about my life with epileptic seizures. How many words do I need to be large enough to become a book?

    • Samuel. You could certainly put your question in google and get a list of recommendations on the minimum number of words to write to make a book. However, the true answer is 0 words. There have been books published with all blank pages. If you don’t have a goal of selling your book but only want to share even if it means giving it away for free then I wouldn’t worry. If you are concerned about a sellable book then you need to put on your marketing hat.

      This is what I’m currently doing in assessing the length of a relatively short self-help book I’m preparing to self-publish. When I consider my potential customer it generally comes down to the perceived value of the book with a certain number of pages versus the cost of the book. If you have a relatively short book you can get it formatted with a larger font or line spacing to expand out into more pages but then that will raise the minimum retail price per book based upon book baby’s cost per book. Note that book baby prices book cost in brackets. So I’d recommend you get a satisfying amount of writing done and then start using your word processor to start trying to calculate how many pages that would pad out to be with various font settings and line spacing.

      Then consult with someone from book baby to see what the minimum retail price of such a book would be in print or ebook form. Then ask yourself would you see yourself buying such a book at something above your minimum retail price.

  4. I just completed my first short story. It’s the first in my R.E.M. Series.. I want to release each story individually and compile them at the end into one going to apply for a copyright shortly. I want to convert to ebook on Amazon and offer print on demand,


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