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What size paperback is best?

This is a question that I seem to come back to every couple of years. This time I decided to attack the problem properly.

The first paperback Hague Publishing put out was Barry Dean's The Garden of Emily Washburn. This was sized at 5" x 7 13/16" (12.8 x 19.8cm), and from memory was based on a quick visit to our local bookshop to see what they were stocking. When it came time to put out our second book I thought I'd address it a little more scientifically and approached Google for advice on the most popular size for Trade Publications. The answer was a resounding 6" x 9", which is the size we've generally stuck to for the last couple of years. However, I have never understood why 6x9 is so popular, because it is really too large for comfortable reading, and particularly when a bookseller friend of mine has pointed out on multiple occasions that that format is not a popular size in Australia, and simply won't fit on his shelves. So with the impending release of Leonie Roger's Amethyst Pledge, the first book in a new trilogy, I thought I'd dig a little deeper.

The Book Printing Company states that: the most common (trim) sizes for Trade paperbacks  in Australia are:

  • 5 x 8 inches (203 x 127mm)
  • 5.5 x 8.5 inches (216 x 140mm)
  • 6 x 9 inches (229 x 152mm)

After a couple of minutes work I was able to locate examples of the three sizes in my own bookcase.

In my personal opinion, the 5 x 8" looks by far the better, so why are people using 6 x 9". Well, unsurprisingly, it all comes down to cost, and the fact that our books tend to have more words in them than they did 20 years ago.

Wikibooks points out that smaller books lose disproportionately more space to margins, increasing the cost. A 6"x 9" book has nearly 20% more text space. But a 6"x 9" book costs only about 5% more than a 5.5" x 8.5" book. The result is a 15% cost savings.

In reality the difference in printing costs are negligible. As on 5 Nov 2019 Ingram charges $89.20 AUS for 10 paperback books of 230 pages 5" x 8", and only $91.55 for a 6" x 9" book of the same number of pages. Taking into account that the 6x9 book can hold considerably more words and there you have it.

In Australia we are also restricted to ensuring that the printed book is less than 1.5 cm, to allow us to post it at the cheaper 'paper rate' of $5. If the envelope goes over 2cm it falls into the parcel rate of $11.

I've now done some preliminary formatting of Amethyst Pledge and it looks like using the same font size, spacing, and margins as we did for the Frontier Series the 5 x 8" format will still only require 220 pages, and as we can go to 250 pages we can probably tweak the size of the type up a bit to improve readability.

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