Help! What should my paperback Trim Size be?

Help! What should my paperback trim size be?

There are so many decisions to make when self-publishing a novel! You think you’re at the finish line and then questions you never considered come up.

Formatting your book for paperback printing is one of the more complex parts of the self-publishing process. Even if you hire a professional cover designer and interior formatter, there are still a couple of questions you need to answer. One of the most confusing being: “what is your trim size?” The first time I came upon this, I was like, “I have no idea what trim size even is!

Trim Size: The industry term for the dimensions of your printed paperback book, shown as width x height, usually expressed in inches. It will be the same as your “page size without bleed”

Now comes the tricky part. There are a ton of available options. Amazon KDP lists 16 different trim sizes! Yikes! Which one to choose? When I came to this part of the process, I did my usual research online and couldn’t find any clear resources on this matter. Amazon and other publishing resources weren’t helpful. They just say the “standard trim size is 6 x 9.”

Okay, so you should just go with 6″ x 9″ – right? Not so fast! While 6″ x 9″ might be the most common amongst all printed paperback books, common trim sizes vary by genre. You want to make sure your book fits in well with its contemporary peers from the major publishing houses!

NOTE: If you’re formatting your own cover and interior, be sure to check out your distributor’s file specifications and templates (here are quick links to: Amazon and IngramSpark) . This will actually be slightly larger than the trim size since they do some cutting down during the printing process. So if you choose a 6″ x 9″ trim size, don’t just assume your interior page files should be 6″x9″!


So…what is the usual trim size for contemporary romance novels?

The Quick Answer: Unfortunately, there isn’t a quick answer. Paperback dimensions vary within the genre, so there is no one definitive “romance trim size.” However, based on my research (see details below) there is a specific range that will narrow down your choices: between 5″ – 5.5″ in width and 8″ – 8.5″ in height.

Since I couldn’t find this information online, and I’m too detail oriented to just wing it, I walked around Barnes & Noble with a tape measure. (Yes, really.) To keep you from having to do this, I’m going to share my findings here. NOTE: Since my debut novel is a contemporary romance, I am focusing on the romance genre specifically here. If you are publishing in a different genre, I suggest doing some sleuthing of your own!

I collected the information below through a combination of physical measurements (taken by yours truly) and some seriously unscientific Amazon product page stalking. It is by no means comprehensive, though I tried my best to get a solid sample.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of my actual “data.”

Although I didn’t include the Women’s Fiction genre in these results, a cursory search led me to believe they lean more toward 6″ x 9″. The books labeled Women’s Fiction but overlap strongly with the romance genre, however, reflected the patterns shown above, landing more in the 5″ x 8″ end of the spectrum.

Notable Outliers: L.J. Shen and Penny Reid (including all of the Smartypants Romance books) use a 6″ x 9″ trim size for their paperbacks. Although they were too outnumbered by the authors and books in the smaller size range to make it into my data graphics above, these are two highly successful and prolific names in the indie romance world. Worth noting!

So I suppose the moral of the story is that you should do what makes the most sense for you! The majority of your sales will likely come from eBooks, so (as evidenced by LJ Shen and Penny Reid) having a paperback that doesn’t fit in with its peers won’t make or break you. This information is just to give you a frame of reference, in case you’re data driven like me.

Next Steps:

  • Do your own research. If the books listed above don’t feel comparable to your specific sub genre, or you’re writing in another genre entirely, go forth and seek knowledge! The easiest way to do this is grab a ruler and measure some of the books on your shelf (or at a bookstore). You can also utilize the product information near the bottom of Amazon descriptions – but note that those shipping dimensions aren’t going to exactly match a trim size! Make informed guesses, for instance: Amazon says the dimensions of Fix Her Up are 5.3″ x 8″ but you can safely call this 5.25″ x 8″ (I checked this book and the others I measured in person against Amazon, and I can vouch for this round up/down method!)
  • Format your paperback file. Note that this should only be done after you are completely finished with editing! If you want to hire a professional, I recommend Ines.
  • Design Your Cover. You can utilize any of the great self-service tools available online, or contact me and we can start discussing your project!

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