Trim Size: What is it? What are my options? What do I need to know? | Self-Publishing Book Trim Size

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What is the trim size?
The trim size is the size of your book. The width, height, and the thickness or spine. You probably can clock a book’s genre by the trim size. Workbooks and planners are closer to the 7×9 range or even a full 8.5 x11 sheet. Children’s book are usually square or landscape. Trade books are these nice rectangles

If you only plan to have an eBook version of your book, you don’t have to think about the trim size. It is only related to the print book.

Knowing the standard trim size for your genre is important. You want to match reader expectations. And trim size will impact your page count. 100,000 words on 8.5×11 is fewer pages than the same word count on 6×9.

The trim size will dictate how many words fit on a page. Because even if your trim size is 6×9 inches, your words won’t occupy that much space. They won’t go all the way to the edges. You need to have what is called a margin. This is a standard buffer space all around the text that insultates it from the edges. It means when the book is printed, and those small variations happen, your words won’t get cut off.

You will also have a bleed. Because if you have a children’s book and your image goes all the way to the edge of your page you need to extend the image a bit so that if there is that slight variation you don’t have a harsh white line.

What are my options?
Each self-publishing platform lists the trim size options for you:

They also have guides and templates to use that tell you the exact amount of margin to include.

You need to look at the books in your genre and measure them. And then see which one you want. Then you need to go and check that your self-publishing platform has that trim size available. Ideally, you want the same trim size in both paperback and hardcover so that you don’t need two different print interior files. That would be super annoying. I made that mistake with my first AYA books, I had the print book in a smaller trim size but then that same trim size was not available in hardcover on any of the POD platforms when I went to add that later.

Also, depending on the paper you want, you may be limited by your trim size options.

In general, for non-fiction or trade fiction, I like 5.5×8.5 or 6×9. Why? I just like the size. Also, fewer decimal points for you to enter again and again or potentially transpose. Also, as of the time of this recording, you can do both paperback and hardback in these sizes across platforms.

When should I have this decision made by?
Before you talk to anyone about your cover art. I know some authors will have the cover made before they even write the book. For some, this adds motivation to finish writing. And maybe that helps you. But you likely need to tell the cover designer the trim size so they know the dimensions they are working with. Sure, they can modify it later but that’s a big headache for everyone. You definitely have to know before you start formatting as the trim size will impact the active area, margin, and bleed for your book.

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