Choosing Your Book’s Trim Size

BookBaby publishing specialist Sierra Edwards discusses what a book’s trim size is and how to choose the one that’s right for your project.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

You’ve spent a lot of time writing, editing, and finalizing your manuscript. During that time you’ve probably imagined seeing your cover design, paging through your printed book, and sharing that book with everyone.

What does the actual book look like in those moments? Is it hardcover or paperback? What shape is it? What about the dimensions of the book? How big will the pages need to be to contain your epic story or show off your larger-than-life illustrations?

You’ve already had to make so many decisions about plot and characters — how do you figure out the best trim size for your book?

What is trim size?

The trim size is the actual size of the printed book you’re producing — the physical dimensions of the book. As a self-published author, the choice is ultimately up to you, but every genre comes with industry recommendations.

And to be more specific, the trim size is the size of a page within your printed book. If you want to check the trim size of a hardcover book, make sure to measure an interior page as the cover itself will be a little larger.

books trim size: landscape and portrait

Trim sizes generally fit into two buckets: portrait and landscape. Portraits are taller than they are wide, and landscape books are wider than they are tall. In the publishing industry, measurements are always given as width by height. This is important when considering an eight-and-a-half by eleven portrait versus an eleven by eight-and-a-half landscape book.

Portrait trim sizes

Most fiction authors will want to choose between two standard trim sizes: Digest (five-and-a-half inches wide by eight-and-a-half inches tall) and US Trade (six by nine inches). These are the recommended trim sizes for fiction — including sci-fi, romance, and fantasy — as well as many nonfiction titles, including memoirs, business books, self-help, history, and faith-based works.

As a general rule, nonfiction and hardcover fiction are produced at the six-by-nine Trade size, while paperback fiction is commonly at the slightly smaller Digest size. These two trim sizes have become fairly interchangeable over the last twenty years, and your decision may come down to an aesthetic or financial choice.

If you’re a Romance author with a 50,000-word manuscript, you might choose to go with the Digest size, both as a nod to tradition and as a means of increasing page count; the smaller page size means fewer words per page, which translates to more pages and a heftier final product.

Or, you might opt for the Trade size to allow more white space on the page and provide a lighter, more relaxed reading experience. And fewer pages — since you’ll fit more words on each page — means a lower printing cost. Either is a great option.

Landscape and Square trim sizes

For authors publishing cookbooks, children’s books, and art and photography books, there are more options to choose from. In addition to the standard portrait options, you can choose from landscape and square options in a variety of sizes.

In the case of children’s books and photo books, the illustrations and artwork may dictate the shape of the book. That said, you also need to consider print-on-demand distribution, which may impact the size you choose. Your photos might look great at a large twelve-by-nine-inch landscape size, but large books — especially landscape-oriented books — aren’t available through many print-on-demand distributors.

A smaller landscape size, like a nine-by-seven or even an eight-and-a-half-inch square book, may be a better choice. The nine-by-seven-inch landscape is perfect for children’s books, and the eight-and-a-half square trim size is ideal for cookbooks.

books trim size

You could even decide to produce your book in two different trim sizes. Some BookBaby authors create a nine-by-seven children’s book for POD distribution and an eleven-by-eight-and-a-half version to sell through Bookshop and at in-person events.

Your manuscript and your trim size

One final thought — you’re probably composing your manuscript in Microsoft Word or another word-processing program. The default page size in those programs is typically US Letter: eight-and-a-half by eleven. That is a great size for composition, regardless of your book’s final trim size.

Of course, that means the page count of your manuscript will not be the same as the page count of your six-by-nine-inch book. We have a handy chart on our website that gives a rough translation to page count based on your word count, but those details will emerge once you get to the interior formatting stage.

word count and your books trim size

BookBaby will turn your manuscript into a beautiful book

The team at BookBaby is here to answer all your questions and help you choose the trim size and book format that will turn your manuscript into a beautiful book.

Email us at info@bookbaby.com or call 877-961-6878 and get started today!

See all our Indie Author Minute videos on the BookBaby YouTube channel.

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