Trim size, schim size. Who cares, right?


If you don’t want your book to scream “self-published/indie published/homemade” when you give it a potential reader, then you need to do everything that you can to ensure that it has a professional finish to it.  One of the big decisions that you’ll have to make before you can format your book and get a professional cover design is to choose the trim size for your title.

Trim size is the size that the paper of your will be cut down to, or, basically, how big your book is going to be when it is printed.  Just browsing the list of trim sizes available through companies like Lightning Source, Createspace or Lulu can be really daunting, so I thought today I would share my top tips for choosing the best trim size for your title that you can.

So, to get started, take out your ruler, go to your bookcase and measure some of the books that fit into the genre that your book fits into.  If you don’t have any books from your genre on your bookcase, you’ll need to take your ruler to the local bookshop and measure some.  (That being said, if you don’t own any books in the genre you are interested in writing in, is that really the right genre for you?) Once you have surveyed books in your genre, there should be one combination that really stands out as the most common trim size for books of that genre.

The next step is to visit the website of the company that you would like to use to ‘publish’ your book and check that they offer that size or something very similar.  With Diary of a Penguin-napper, I considered Createspace, Lightning Source and Lulu as possible printers for my title. I was really keen on using Lulu because I know that they are able to print copies of books ordered in Melbourne (which would save time and postage costs). However, when I looked at the trim sizes that they offered, I realised that Lulu didn’t offer the trim size that I really wanted, so I ended up publishing with the other two instead.

As I try approach my writing with a business hat on, I really wanted the best price for the number of pages and the trim size that I wanted.  The trim size of your book will have an impact on the costs, so this is another place where you need to do your research.  For me, per book, Createspace offered the best price per copy easily.  However, because I’m in Australia, the postage from the US is both turtle-slow and cripplingly expensive. To give you an idea, to get the books  in a reasonable amount of time, the cost of postage per book is about the same as the cost of the book.  Because of this, I ended up going through the process of publishing through Lightning Source in addition to Createspace.  Whilst they are much more expensive per book, they have a print centre based in Melbourne and the postage is around $10-$20 rather than $200+.

The final thing that I did before I settled on a trim size and a publisher/printer was to get a proof copy printed by each the printers that I was considering.  As you can see from the photo, the Createspace (centre) and the Lightning Source (right) books look very similar.  The only difference between them, which doesn’t show up in the photograph very well, is that the Createspace copy is a gloss finish, whilst the Lightning Source copy is matt (and looks/feels far superior!)  Lulu (left) didn’t offer the trim size I wanted (hence the plain cover) and the overall quality wasn’t as good as the others, so that helped me to make the final decision.

While ultimately trim size won’t have an impact on the quality of your writing or finished novel, it does have an impact on how others will view your book.  I’ve seen a couple of self-published books, for example, that are 6″ x 9″ trim (and that perhaps should be  5.06″ x 7.81″ instead) and they stand out as being awkwardly sized and a bit less professional than  their traditionally published counterparts.  Choosing the best trim size for your title isn’t something that should take a long time, but it is something that you will have to look at for a long time after your books have been printed – so it’s worth doing right!


2 thoughts on “Trim size, schim size. Who cares, right?

  1. Sally, it’s a good post, you make a very good point, but as I am in Australia and plan to publish with Amazon later in the year, would you please tell me what you meant by ‘postage is around $10-20, instead of $200’? I thought books bought on Amazon cost about $6.00 postage each if the buyer is in Australia.

    • franklybooks

      Hi Danielle – Thanks for stopping by! What I should have said is that postage is around $10-$20 per order, instead of $200 per order. When I order books for my own stock, I usually buy them in batches of around 50 books at a time. For 50 books from Lightning Source, they are printed in Melbourne so the postage for the whole box costs me somewhere between $10-20. For a box of 50 books from Amazon in the US, it costs me $200+ for postage.

      When one of my Australian readers buys one of my books from Amazon for $9.95, the postage to Australia is currently around $10 per book – which is really craaaaazy!

      Hopefully that helps clarify things! S

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