Choosing the Right Specs for Your Book

Stacks of books in libraryWhy are book specs so important? Not only do they contribute to the look and feel of your book, but they also influence how much it costs to print—which affects your retail price and, in turn, whether or not your book is competitive with comparable titles.

What follows are the typical types of book specs you’ll need to choose and what to keep in mind when you make your selections.

Trim Size

Trim size refers to the size of your book. You’ll find the most popular options on our trim sizes page. When it comes to deciding which trim size is best for your book, take a look at comparable books, as you’ll want to fit within the norms of your genre.

Having a book that’s bigger or smaller than others could make it more difficult for your book to neatly fit on your readers’ bookshelves. If you’d like a trim size larger than 8.5 x 11 (or 11 x 8.5), bear in mind that these sizes can increase print costs and make shipping in standard packaging difficult.

How “buyable” your book is will affect your bottom line, and should be factored into each decision along the way.


Your format choices are paperback, hardcover, and hardcover with a dust jacket. Again, consider what your audience expects and can afford. Paperback is always the best option financially, but some books (such as coffee-table books or children’s books) are meant to be printed as hardcovers.

Paper Weight

If you’re unfamiliar with paper weights and how they’ll affect your book, don’t be afraid to ask. Guessing incorrectly might result in basing your pricing on an unsustainable choice.

For example, we can accommodate 50# paper for color interiors, which is the cheapest option, but 50# is only feasible for books that are mostly text with minimal pops of color throughout. Printing full-color photographs or illustrations on 50# paper will look muddy and bleed through to the opposite side of the page.

While you have many options in book printing, not all of them are the best option for your book.


When you make the decision about the binding for your book, consider how the reader will interact with your book’s content. A novel or memoir is read in linear fashion—maybe even multiple times—unlike a cookbook, for example, that readers will likely open to the same page repeatedly, which wears on the binding over time.

While some people like to opt for a sewn binding because it seems “better,” this binding is unnecessary unless durability is a concern. Please note that adhesive bindings are very durable, but authors of cookbooks, coffee-table books, or children’s books may want to consider additional durability based on how their books are meant to be handled.

Other Considerations for Your Book Specs

Start with what you envision for your book first, rather than what you think is least expensive. You can always choose more cost-effective options later, and you might be surprised by what’s most affordable. Just because local copy shops use plastic spiral bindings doesn’t mean that spiral bindings are the cheapest option in offset printing—in fact, the opposite is true.

When choosing your book specs, you should always consider the budget of your readers and what’s best for your publication. Keep your book’s aesthetic within the expectations of your genre, which means researching comparable titles.

While printing signatures are important when it comes to the actual printing of your book, don’t obsess over your final page count. While it’s best to keep your page count at a multiple of eight, which is an industry standard, you should write and format your book without this in mind until the very end. You can always add a few pages of content if need be (e.g., a page to thank your Kickstarter backers), or we will add blank pages to complete printing signatures if your file isn’t divisible by eight.

How Can Help

We’re here to guide you through the process of choosing the book specs that work best for you—and your readers. If you have an example of a book you’d like to match in terms of materials and binding, you can send us a copy (we can even send it back!), and we’ll let you know which of our offerings are most comparable to your sample.

Send us an email with any questions about book specs, or to learn how we can help with your project.

Have questions? Not sure where to start? Give us a call!