Printing Your Self-Published Book: Choosing Your Book’s Dimensions and Binding

Now that the FAQ’s about printers have been answered, Trish Romanchuk, the Book Division Mangager at Blitzprint, will answer questions about the book itself.

Help! My printer is asking a lot of questions about my book – what size I want it to be, what binding I want to use, the type of paper I want inside the book and for the cover. What do I need to know in order to make these decisions?

The first thing that I am going to recommend is that you think about what type of book you have. Is it a novel, a self help book, a family history, etc?

Once you have determined what kind of book you are dealing with, think about other books that you have seen in that genre. What did you like? What didn’t you like? Don’t be afraid to walk into a book store and spend an afternoon going through those books, and writing notes about those things. That will help you out a lot. It is a lot easier to make decisions if you know what you like.

For book sizes, your most economical sizes often are between 5 x 8 and 6 x 9. They tend to give you a great bang for your buck in size. Anything smaller will be cost less; anything larger will cost more.

With digital printing, typically we will print 2 pages, back to back, multiple times up on a sheet. If you go larger than 6 x 9, you will get less on a sheet. With a size like 4 x 7, you will get more up on a sheet.

Are the sizes always written ‘width x height’ as in 5″ wide by 8″ tall?


If you get more on a sheet with 4 x 7 book, why are the 5 x 8 to 6 x 9 dimensions the ‘best bang for your buck?’

Those sizes are the most common bookshelf sizes and when you compare the number of words per page that you get with the pricing, they tend to be the value sizes.

Typical book sizes are 4 x 7, 5 x 7, 5 x 8, 5.5 x 8.5, 6 x 9 and 8.5 x 11. If you want your book to be wider than 9.5”, you will have to go from a normal digital or offset press up to a large format offset press. That will cause a price jump that can be quite noticeable.

Are novels usually 4 x 7? Are there any other “usually’s?”

Typically, the 4 x 7 size is referred to as a pocket book; 5 x 8 through 6 x 9 are common novel sizes. Most family histories I see come through are 8.5 x 11. With that being said, don’t let these ‘usually’s’ or ‘typically’s’ limit you. Make your book the size that you like. It is, after all, your book.

Of course, if you’re going to try to market your book, try to stay realistic with your sizes. People may not want to pay more money for your book just becauseit is a unique size.

What do I need to know about binding?

There are a few types of binding that you will see on a normal basis.

Perfect Binding – Soft Cover:

This is where the pages of your book are together in a book block and are glued to your paper cover.

Things to watch for: make sure your printer does a single side book laminate on the cover and make sure they do hinge scores on the cover.

The single side laminate protects your book, and if done properly, will be a shield that will also protect your edges and corners, giving your book a lot more longevity.

A hinge score is a score mark (a notch made in your book cover that will not damage the cover surface, but allows for folding without a large amount of breakage in the fibers of the paper) that goes perpendicular to your spine on the front and back cover. This makes it easier for people to open your book without worrying about creasing the cover, or having the cover rip away from the glue bind as a result of repeated tugging on it. Essentially, it creates a place where your cover can naturally fold open.

The perfect bind is good for books that are 36 to 1000 pages, although you can go up to 1200. Ideally, if you are printing digitally, you want the paper stock (more on paper in a later post) for this type of book to be uncoated. An uncoated stock provides a better bond between your paper and the glue that does the binding work. Perfect bind is the only type of bind that has issues that result from using a coated stock for the majority of pages in the book.

What’s the difference between coated and uncoated paper stock?

Uncoated paper is just paper, no coatings. The coating on coated paper gives a certain level of sheen.

When would a person want to use coated paper?

The only time you will want to use coated paper is if you are printing color or photographs. The colors really stand out on coated paper. With that being said, if you are dealing with a good printer who is using good machines and you provide them with great files, you could print your book on any type of paper and have it look good.

So in the case of an illustrated children’s book (lots of color), I would want to use coated stock so the colors really stand out. And if I use coated stock, it’s preferable not to perfect bind it. Is that correct?

There is a way around that. When your book is formatted, make sure there is no color on the area of the pages where the glue goes. Leave 1/8 – 1/4″ blank on the bind edge side.

Saddle Stitch Binding – Soft Cover:

This is a bind where your book is printed up in signatures and then put together with the cover, scored in the center, folded, and then stapled up the fold. This is a common bind for children’s books and multiple paged booklets.

Once again, you want to be sure that you have a single sided laminate on the cover to protect your book.

These books need to have a number of pages that is divisible by 4 (12, 16, 20, etc) and no more than 80 pages.

The covers on these books are notorious for popping open a little bit when laying flat. This “pop”will last quite awhile, but eventually the paper will relax, and your book will lay flat. Just don’t expect that to happen right away. Once again, think of kids books.

For paper, the sky is really the limit with these books.

A quick note about Hard Cover (Case Bound) books:

For hard cover books, you can put pretty much any text weight paper in the interior, and you won’t have to worry too much.

There are multiple ways of binding hard cover books, but for simplicity’s sake, let’s stick to the idea that you are looking for the simplest and cheapest way to bind your book. That would be to perfect bind it with glue.

However, remember that if you are looking for an economical choice and you aren’t ordering books in the thousands, any hardcover option will be much pricier than a soft cover.

In order to keep this post to Tidbit size, we ask that you take the week to digest this new information and tune in next Wednesday for the rest of Trish’s answer to this HUGE question.

Trish Romanchuk is the manager of the Book Division for Blitzprint Inc. For more information on their book printing products and services, please visit their website, or contact Trish directly at

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2 Responses to Printing Your Self-Published Book: Choosing Your Book’s Dimensions and Binding

  1. I am presently in the middle stages in preparing my third pocket size Maths Puzzle book. My first 2 books were size 4.75 in x 7 in and the text font was ARIAL. I am seriously thinking of changing both size & font in my new book. What size & font do you recommend…especial since I would also like to be e-book available?
    Thank you

    • maxinespence says:

      Oh, Gordon. I must apologize for my tardy reply — over two years! Ack!! As you no doubt figured out, I have not been spending any time in the blogosphere for a good, long time. I imagine you have already made your decisions re: size and font. (If not, your procrastination is on par with my own!) I wouldn’t have had any words of wisdom for you in that department, anyway. I’m currently researching doing a print-on-demand project in CreateSpace on Amazon. There’s a lot of good information there concerning size and font and a whole lot of other things if that route is of interest to you. Check it out!

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