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Understanding Book Elements: Trim Size

Created on: Oct 28, 2010 8:15 AM by CreateSpaceResources - Last Modified:  Feb 18, 2011 11:16 AM by CreateSpaceResources

Understanding Book Elements: Trim Size

By Shawn, CreateSpace Graphic Arts Specialist


When you sat down to write your book, you probably had a clear goal in mind. Whether you were writing a technical manual about how to repair cars or the next great American novel, your brain had a clear message it was ready to convey.



So now it's time to publish, and you're facing questions about how the design details of your published work will convey your message. Trim size, fonts, paper colors, background colors, and imagery are all things to consider when choosing your book's design elements. What to do? In the first of several posts, we're going to tackle the basics of making design decisions about your book.




First, let's discuss trim sizes. The trim size of your book is its final size after it is printed and bound. Books are printed on larger sheets of paper and then trimmed to the correct size after they are assembled. This ensures a clean cut for every page and a neat presentation before it is shipped to the buyer.



There are a plethora of sizes to choose from: 5.25 x 8, 6 x 9, 7 x 10, 8 x 10...the list goes on. The physical variation may seem slight, but the differences are huge when it comes to reader perception.



So how do you choose the best size for your title? The best way I have found to determine the trim size of your book is to think about how the reader will ultimately use the book. There are three main categories I look at when consulting on trim sizes with members: fiction, nonfiction and manuals/workbooks (These categories exclude children's books, which have their own set of rules that we'll cover in a future article).



Fiction titles should typically aim for smaller trim sizes. Remember that the reader will likely be reading this for pleasure. Commonly, they're reading while lounging in their favorite chair, by the pool, on the subway commuting to work, and many other places. These titles typically have the smallest trim sizes. 5 x 8, 5.25 x 8 and 6 x 9 are very popular here and work well in the finished product.



Nonfiction titles such as memoirs tend to lend themselves to mid-range trim sizes. These typically would be around 6 x 9 but no larger than 7 x 10. 7 x 10 would be more appropriate if you're looking to run a photo of the person the book is written about on the front cover. It's common to see a larger book with a larger face on it, especially if that person is already a celebrity. It tends to jump out at a prospective buyer and catch their attention.



Technical Manuals and Workbooks should go for the larger sizes. 7 x 10 and 8 x 10 work really well here, because the reader is likely to have the book open on a table, and the larger size helps the book to lie flat. For instance, if a person is working on a car, he will need the book open next to him to reference the materials as he is working. These trim sizes help achieve that. These trim sizes also work well for technical drawings because it is much easier to fit the drawings to scale and include the detail needed. Cookbooks also work well in these sizes. While they don't have technical drawings or maps, the increased sizes do provide a nice space for readers to write important notes about your recipes, and it gives you ample space to show off your good eats.



Now that you've identified what range of trim size would work best, here are a few tips to further help you decide on the trim size you should go with:


  • If you have any pictures in the book, especially those with a lot of detail, go with a larger trim size in the range that is appropriate for your genre. Larger trim sizes give you a larger printable area on the inside of your book, giving you more room for your images.If you'll be using a larger font size in your book, go with a larger trim size. I often see books that have larger type, but a small trim size. This causes books to jump in page count, which can increase printing costs and perhaps lead you to raise your list price. If you increase your trim size slightly it will allow for fewer pages and lower costs overall.


  • "Negative space" is a term used in the design world to talk about any area that does not have text or an image on it. Designers use this to draw a reader's eye to the text or images on the page by giving a blank border around the content. Think of jewelry or luxury car advertisements in a magazine that are very sparse and simple. It is to draw the eye to the ad's focal point, which is the product. The simple design and layout gives the product an elegant feeling. The same technique can be used to draw attention to your book. If your words are crammed into every usable inch of paper, it can often give the reader the feeling that the book is stuffy, hard to read and dense. If you go with a larger trim size in the range that is appropriate for your genre, you can use negative space around the words on the page to give the book more of an airy, light and rich feeling. The same can be done for the line spacing on the page. When you do this, it invites the reader to dive into the page and keep going. In many cases, it reduces the strain on the eyes and subconsciously encourages readers to read further because they feel like they are making faster progress.


  • CreateSpace's Expanded Distribution Channel (EDC) offers you the potential to distribute your book to a larger audience through more outlets including retailers, bookstores, libraries, academic institutions, wholesalers, and distributors. While CreateSpace offers you the ability to choose a trim size from 4" x 6" to 8.5" x 11.69", these distributors sometimes only accept certain industry-standard trim sizes. These standards can change, so be sure to consult CreateSpace's trim sizes to see which are industry-standard before making a final decision.


If you've already chosen a trim size for your book, share your story in the comments. Why did you decide on a particular trim size?



Shawn is a member of the CreateSpace Art Services team. He is an expert in graphic design and the technology that drives it.



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