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Choosing the Right Book Size

You can find guides and articles all over the web telling you what the industry standard book sizes are; 6 x 9 for fiction, 8.5 x 11 for a textbook, and so on. But these guides fail to answer vital questions that are tied to your book’s size. Like pairing a font size to a book size. Or how the size impacts the layout. Or how to make all of these choices with your word count in mind.

Well, I’ve heard these kinds of questions for years and I think it’s about time tried to address balancing the many elements of book design.

Books on the Shelf
Image by Marisa Sias

What Size Should My Book Be?

Here’s a handy table with common (and very broad) book types and the trim sizes you usually see for those books.

Book TypeBook Size
Fiction (Novels, Trade Paperbacks)US Trade (6 x 9″ / 154 x 229 mm)
Digest (5.5 x 8.5″ / 140 x 216 mm)
A5 (5.83 x 8.27″ / 148 x 210 mm)
Textbooks, Manuals, WorkbooksExecutive (7 x 10″ / 184 x 267 mm)
A4 (8.27 x 11.69″ / 210 x 297 mm)
US Letter (8.5 x 11″ / 216 x 279 mm)
NonfictionUS Trade (6 x 9″ / 154 x 229 mm)
Crown Quarto (7.44 x 9.68″ / 189 x 246 mm)
Graphic NovelsExecutive (7 x 10″ / 184 x 267 mm)
Royal (6.14 x 9.21″ / 156 x 234 mm)
Photo Books, LookbooksSquare (8.5 x 8.5″ / 216 x 216 mm)
US Letter Landscape (11 x 8.5″ / 279 x 216 mm)
Small Landscape (9 x 7″ / 229 x 178 mm)

These are standards and expectations for the publishing industry. Industry standards should always be your starting point in determining book size. That doesn’t mean you have to make your book at one of these sizes, but you need to know what other writers and publishers are using to make an educated decision.

Now let’s get into the details involved in deciding which size is right for you.

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What Kind of Book are you Writing?

High fantasy? A guide to local wildlife? A familial history? As you start thinking about your book design, I strongly suggest taking a moment to specifically identify your genre and your niche within that genre (if that applies). Once you’ve determined where your book falls in this spectrum, you can start to consider the best practices for other books of this sort.

You’ll notice the table above lists two or three trim sizes for each book type. And that’s just a general idea of the range that is most common. For example, most fiction lands in the area of 6 x 9, but trade paperbacks tend to be on the smaller side, more like 5.5 x 8.5 or even smaller.

Here comes the trickiest part of this entire process: You need to think about the genre your book falls into AND the niche within that genre you want to occupy.

The idea of “going wide” with a book is ill-fitted to a self-published author. You don’t need to get a ton of exposure. You need to get highly focused exposure. That means putting your content in front of the kinds of readers who are actively looking for it. If you’re publishing a science fiction novel, that’s your genre. But what’s your niche? Is the story set in the contemporary world with a twist on existing science (think Neal Stephenson) or is it a deep space odyssey full of aliens (think James S. A. Corey)? That’s a niche. Find yours and look for existing titles that land in that same or a similar niche to see how those book dimensions compare.

Sizing from the Inside Out

While you’re doing some research in your genre and niche, open up those books and look closely at the fonts. It might seem a little counterintuitive, but the font you select will impact the size and spacing on the page. And these measurements, along with the book size you go with, will impact how many pages your book ends up being.

Here’s an example:

I have a work of fiction that’s about 92,000 words. I’ve got seven pages of front matter (half title, title, copyright, dedication, and some blank pages). The book is sized 6 x 9 with Optima font at 11 point and a 14 point line spacing, with an extra 6 points separating paragraphs; I have 363 pages total. I can adjust that some by changing around the margins and gutter, but if I keep those static and just adjust the font, I can drastically change the page count.

If I make the font 14 point, the page count shifts to 505 pages! A simple 3 point adjustment of the font adds 140 pages. Even changing the font itself impacts the page count. If I switch from Optima to Baskerville, the page count drops to 334.

Now consider changing the paper size. If I drop down to 5.5 x 8.5, the page count climbs to 388.

The difference may seem minor, but adding those extra 25 pages increases the print cost by about $0.40. Again, that may not seem like much, but it illustrates how every small change does impact your print costs.

Get more about designing your book in our Format and Layout article.

Which Font is Right for your Book?

It depends largely on the book size and the intended audience. Again, there are some common and often used fonts that will help you decide:

Book TypeFonts
Fiction (Novels, Trade Paperbacks)Baskerville
Minion Pro
Textbooks, Manuals, WorkbooksGaramond
Times New Roman
Franklin Gothic
Graphic NovelsAnime Ace BB
Photo Books, LookbooksTrebuchet

Please note that selecting a font for your book is a huge topic and I’ve offered only a handful of my favorite fonts among those that are widely accepted within the industry. What you need to do is pick the font that you think will be most comfortable for your readers, fit with your book’s style and genre, and give you the most bang for your buck at the book size you’re using.

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Getting it Right

There’s no magic formula or perfect answer. And I could write pages upon pages of suggestions. Ideas. Rules.

You don’t need those.

What you need is the knowledge to make an educated decision about the print-on-demand product you choose for your book. So here’s what you should be thinking about:

  1. Your Genre and Your Niche
  2. The Font You’ll Use
  3. The Length You’re Aiming For

Balance these three things, and I’m confident you’ll end up with a book that looks at home on any bookshelf.

12 thoughts on “Choosing the Right Book Size”

  1. Hi. I would like to publish my childrens picture book (ages 2-5) with Lulu. Which size would you reccomend?
    Thank you

    1. Hi Rona,
      I usually recommend the Square size (8.5×8.5 in) for children’s books. We also offer a 9×7 in landscape that makes a great children’s book. Or you can go with the traditional ‘large’ size with 8.5×11 or A4.
      The best thing to do is to look up some children’s books that are similar to what you’re making and check their specs. That should give you a good idea of what readers will be expecting.

  2. Team Lulu thanks for the reply. The store is UK based, and I’ve selected the following:

    Product Line: Value
    Binding: Perfect Bound Paperback
    Product Size: Royal
    Interior Color: Full-color
    Paper Quality: 74 gsm
    Cover Finish: Gloss
    Shipping Origin: Global

    But when publishing is completed I see this on my author page:

    Paperback, 52 Pages This item has not been rated yet
    the Science Of Being Seen
    Price: £9.99 (excl. VAT)
    Prints in 3-5 business days
    Only ships from North America

    So… I’m struggling how to understand how to create an edition which ships from the UK.

    1. Hi Kevin,
      After checking with our print team, I have good news!
      The product set up you have will ship from the UK. We’ve been adding products to our UK printer and the Value line of books was recently updated to include Royal size.
      It’s just the message you see that’s inaccurate. We’re working on doing a number of updates on at the moment, and updating that messaging is included.

  3. Any chance of an explanation of which sizes print outside the US?

    I’ve just created a new book project, published it and found it is only printed Stateside. Not a lot of use in the UK/

    1. Hi Kevin,
      Based on the region you select for your account/store, you’ll see available sizes and binding combinations on the Create page.
      The Standard print books are US only, as the paper type they use is only available through our US printers.

  4. Thanks. I am getting closer to publishing my 90 k novel and I am laying it out now and this is helpful.

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