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78,762 Views 15 Replies Last post: Sep 13, 2009 11:58 PM by Nate RSS
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Level 2 397 posts since
Jan 8, 2007
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Sep 11, 2009 9:36 PM

6 x 9 Novel Size vs 5.25 x 8? What?

I don't get it. Before I published my books I went to a big chain bookstore and measured the novels, looked at the fonts, spacing counted the amount of words on a line, ect. 5 x 8 and 5.5 x 8.25 were the most used sizes. CS list 6 x 9 as novel size, but all the books I have are 5 x 8 (5.25 x 8 CS size equivalent) or 5.5 x 8.25 (5.5 x 8.5 CS size). Why does CS list this as novel size. All the 6 x 9 books I have are technical manuals and non-fiction books. "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" is 5 x 8", "City of Bones" and "Big Book of Terror" 5.5 x 8.25 and the others all fall between these two sizes. So are CS authors simply choosing 6 x 9 because it's labeled as "novel" or is this really an aesthetic choice?

 

Honestly I rarely see a 6 x 9 novel except when I come here. I know 6 x 9 is used for some novels, but most times when see people reading on a bus or train the novels are falling into the size of 5 x 8 or 5.5 x 8.25. And why are CS standards always a .25 off? Why not just go with the two standard sizes for novels and leave 6 x 9 for technical and whatever else they're used for? CS 7 x 10 is also a great size for technical manuals but 6 x 9 and 8 x 10 seem to be their only standard sizes. Other than that you have to go to the specialty sizes.

 

-Nate

Level 0 5 posts since
Dec 23, 2008
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1. Sep 11, 2009 9:53 PM in response to: Nate
Re: 6 x 9 Novel Size vs 5.25 x 8? What?

Novels can be any size, but the most common sizes are between 5 x 8 and 6 x 9.  I would recommend you take a look at the top 10 best selling paperback novels.  You will see that most of them fit into this range.

 

@publishingguru

publishingguru.blogspot.com

Level 5 15,645 posts since
May 4, 2008
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3. Sep 11, 2009 10:33 PM in response to: Nate
Re: 6 x 9 Novel Size vs 5.25 x 8? What?

Most of the YA fiction we get in for review are the smaller sizes like 5x8, 5.5x8.5 etc, but the "grown up" novels on my bookshelf are mostly 6x9. I've also noticed that the longer books (400pp +) are in 6x9, but the shorter ones are in the smaller formats.

 

(Actually the sizes are a bit different for a lot of the books I have because Australian publishers use different trim sizes to those on CS, but they're pretty close.)

Level 5 15,645 posts since
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5. Sep 11, 2009 10:48 PM in response to: Nate
Re: 6 x 9 Novel Size vs 5.25 x 8? What?

Here's one:

 

Lynda La Plante "The Red Dahlia" (Crime Fiction) is 6x9.4" and is 485pp

Level 5 15,645 posts since
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6. Sep 11, 2009 10:53 PM in response to: Nate
Re: 6 x 9 Novel Size vs 5.25 x 8? What?

Here's another:

 

Julie Catt "Normal" (Memoir) 6x9.4" 249pp (this goes against what I said in a previous post, but the paper stock is slightly heavier than The Red Dahlia so their spine width is a bit misleading).

Level 5 15,645 posts since
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8. Sep 11, 2009 11:28 PM in response to: Nate
Re: 6 x 9 Novel Size vs 5.25 x 8? What?

My examples are just what's on my shelf. If I went to a bookstore I'd probably find all sorts of results. And if I went to a store in the US I'd probably find even more! And here are some more thoughts to mess things up:

 

Marketing is definitely a consideration. Maybe not so much who's reading the books, but where they're reading them. Books people like to curl up in bed with are often bigger because they're easier to hold on to. Books that people like to carry around and read on the bus, at the beach etc, are more likely to be smaller format because they'll fit in a handbag more easily.

 

Strangely, however, every book I've bought at the airport has been the larger size. Which leads me to the when. Maybe books that publishers peg to be bestsellers but go straight to paperback with no hardcover release are bigger so they look good on the front-of-store shelves.

 

I also wonder if reprints get resized.

 

And thinking back to my Stephen King books (which are all packed away so I can't measure them) - these are all smaller format despite their length. But I'm referring to his earlier books - I haven't bought a King book in years! so I don't know what his recent releases look like.

 

I'm thinking some more research is needed here. I'd love to speak to some of the big publishers and ask how they decided what trim size to use for which titles. Maybe there's some interviews online somewhere...

Level 5 13,025 posts since
Aug 22, 2008
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9. Sep 12, 2009 3:08 AM in response to: Nate
Re: 6 x 9 Novel Size vs 5.25 x 8? What?

The two "conventional" and most commonly-used sizes for perfect-bound trade paperbacks are 5.5x8.5 and 6x9.  Any digital press and finishing system can handle those two sizes, so nearly all short run and on-demand book printers (including CS) offer those two sizes.  Both sizes are economical to imposition and print on sheet-fed presses.  6x9 is also a very common hardcover size, so many self-publishers like it because we can produce both versions from the same page layout.  Mainstream publishers often choose 6x9 if the initial release is going to be in trade paperback format rather than hardcover, because the larger size has a higher perceived value to book buyers and it can be packed/distributed using the same equipment/supplies as similarly-sized hardcover releases.  Looking at my book shelves, more than half the books on them are 6x9 (but 80 percent of those are non-fiction -- most of the fiction paperbacks I see are 5.5x8.5).  In terms of quality, CS books compare favorably to trade paperbacks.

 

In contrast, most of the paperback books you see people reading on buses and trains (and that are sold by retailers) are probably mass market paperbacks -- smaller in size, lower priced, lower quality paper, thinner cover stock, and softer/weaker binding than trade paperbacks.  MMPs are produced on web-fed offset presses which utilize different production processes and page imposition than print-on-demand, so the 4x7-to-5x8 sizes are the most economical to print and finish-- whereas with a sheet-fed digital press, nearly half the paper used to produce those smaller sizes would be trimmed off (wasteful and costly to manage).  In addition, mass market paperbacks are shipped to retailers in large volume, and it is accepted/expected that a large quantity of unsold product will be stripped (covers torn off and returned by retailer for credit, and the books pulped) -- so the economics of volume shipping and the specs of the equipment used to render a huge number of books on the back-end also make the smaller trim sizes desirable for those, whereas none of that is an issue with print-on-demand.

 

Bottom line, the trim sizes that are available from CS were probably not chosen arbitrarily -- economics were almost surely a factor.  As I see it, we (self-publishers) are selling a higher quality printed product than most of the books you see people reading on buses and trains -- and we are definitely forced to price it accordingly.  For me at least, CS is offering the right trim sizes to support that.

Level 5 13,025 posts since
Aug 22, 2008
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11. Sep 12, 2009 10:25 AM in response to: Nate
Re: 6 x 9 Novel Size vs 5.25 x 8? What?

Nate wrote: "Lighthouse, do me a favor and see if your 5.5x8.5 books are actually 5.5x8.25. I do see tons of 5.5x8.25 books on the shelves."

 

Looking only at the trade paperbacks I have (higher quality paper, thicker cover stock, stiffer binding -- comparable to CS books) . . . about half are 6x9 (mostly non-fiction), 15% are 5.5x8.5 (mostly fiction, a growing portion of which came from other authors here), and 10% are some larger format (mostly technical/manuals).  The remaining 25% are not quite 5.5x8.25 as you wondered about (I only found a few trade paperbacks that size), but are closer to 5.25x8.25 (which CS and Lightning Source don't offer, but my local press does).

 

I inquired about that, and was told it has much to do with the source paper size (and whether it is sheet-fed or web-fed), and whether the finishing equipment operates in-line (binding and trimming each book as it is printed, which is probably what happens with on-demand printing) or off-line (producing short run quantities of a given book from page flats already printed and stacked, which is what my local press does).  With this process, certain set-ups are apparently more economical and have less waste (4.25x7, 5.25x8.25, 6x9, 7x10), and are therefore preferred for short-run operations.  He also mentioned that the set-up/equipment for 5.25x8.25 is capable of producing books over 2 inches thick -- so when a book is made that is considerably thinner, less of the spine/gutter has to be milled and the actual finished size may be an eighth-inch or more wider (i.e., 5.375+).  So I wonder if the books you're seeing are less than 400 pages, might have actually been set-up for 5.25x8.25, and were made in a production run rather than one-at-a-time on-demand?

Level 5 13,025 posts since
Aug 22, 2008
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13. Sep 13, 2009 11:03 AM in response to: Nate
Re: 6 x 9 Novel Size vs 5.25 x 8? What?

I think I saw a couple of other threads here recently that mentioned/requested comic size.  My thought (when I read them) was that it should be technically feasible for CS to produce that size, so it's probably a case of convincing them that it would be worthwhile/profitable.

 

My understanding is that printers that offer that trim size (and that use digital presses to print it) are building the pages with a 6x9 live area -- so the layout has a very large bleed and trim margin compared to most books.  Given the high volume of questions, problems, and complaints that come up regarding the live areas, trim, and bleed on covers (which are comparatively simple), or even the page margin settings in Word (which are simpler still), CS may figure that the specs associated with a 6.625x10.25 page layout would be too much of an "exception" and too complex to bother with.

 

Of course, graphic novelists who'd use this size may have better design tools and a better grasp of technical requirements than the average CS author.  That, plus a decent comic page template, could make it workable.  Good luck.

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