How to Design A Book    Chapter 1 of 7

Chapter 1

Book Formatting: The Start of Book Design

Writing comes with choices around characters, dialogue, setting, and plot (to name a few), but once you finish writing and have had your book professionally edited, it’s time to publish, which comes with many additional choices: one of the most important of which is your book design. Many consider cover design to be your book’s first impression, and it most certainly is, but equally, your book’s interior design delivers its own impression. While both reflect a book’s professionalism and pique readers’ interest, they also communicate your story and enable your book to be accessible. We’ll discuss both interior and cover design in depth in this course, but before we dive in, let’s take a moment to mention the role format plays in your book’s design as well, because there are many format choices available that will impact your book’s design evolution:

Print or Ebook

First of all, at IngramSpark, we believe in print AND ebook, not just one or the other. We offer publishing options for both and here’s why:

Reading Preferences
Similar to how you may have a personal format preference, so might your readers, and you shouldn't assume you know how they prefer to consume your content unless you've already tested it. One of the best ways to maximize your book's potential success is to offer it in multiple formats. Limiting your book to one format reduces your audience based on how they like to read and also how they like to shop. If a reader exclusively looks for books in Apple’s online store, he/she won't find your print book. Alternatively, if he/she is exclusively looking for books at the local independent bookstore, he/she won't find your ebook.

And then you have hybrid readers. Naturally, some readers are dedicated to a particular style of reading and rarely deviate from that preference, however, many consistent ebook readers also regularly purchase print books. These hybrid readers seem to make buying choices situationally, using e-readers and tablets as a supplement to traditional print books. For instance, an avid reader might enjoy a physical paperback for reading at a park or while relaxing at home, then switch to an e-reader while traveling with limited luggage space or in a dark area where frontlit screens come in handy.

Market Testing
Because ebooks can be less expensive to produce, some authors use them to help determine interest in their content before committing to a printed version or use them as free digital giveaways to help build their author platform before producing print copies.

Certain genres in particular have been adopted by digital readers, including science fiction, paranormal fiction, and romance. Many of the greatest independent publishing success stories originated in these niche interest groups and developed a dedicated fan base before spilling into the general market of readers.

So when it comes to ebooks vs print books, consider how your book fits into the situational preferences of your particular audience. Many authors publish their books in a single format only, and while this approach might also work for your book, the prevailing philosophy supports publishing your book in as many different formats as possible, with the goal of making your book accessible to as many different readers as possible. Fortunately, IngramSpark supports hardcovers, paperbacks, and ebooks, all from the same platform. Additionally, the beauty of print-on-demand publishing is that your books are printed when they're ordered, so you don't have excess inventory or risk producing unsold copies and there’s opportunity to test the market with print books the same as with ebooks.

Paperback or Hardcover

The perfect-bound trade paperback is the most commonly printed book in the publishing world. Its compact, lightweight shape makes it inexpensive to ship, which combined with its modest production cost, has made the paperback the print format of choice for publishers. Furthermore, many people who habitually read on-the-go prefer paperbacks, since they are portable and easier to hold than heavier books.

An alternative to the perfect-bound paperback for short books (4 to 48 pages) is the saddle stitch paperback, also called a booklet or chapbook. These follow the same binding procedure as perfect-bound paperback books, except that the pages are bound to the cover with staples rather than glue. The saddle stitching process saves costs in binding, but books printed in this fashion cannot have any spine text.

Because saddle stitch paperbacks cannot be easily identified while spine-out on a shelf, they sell best when featured on a spinner or table display. This is a common format for collections of poetry, instruction manuals, or pocket-sized field guides.

IngramSpark also offers hardcover binding in a variety of sizes, with or without a dust jacket. If chosen, the dust jacket wraps around the rigid cover, with inside flaps on the left and right. The extra space afforded by the flaps of the dust jacket can be used for the book’s description, author bio, extra artwork, or positive reviews recommending the book to readers.

Books typically found in the hardcover format are larger books such as children's picture books, textbooks, cookbooks, and art anthologies for their sturdiness and resistance to shelf wear, but hardcover binding can also be used to great effect in small formats such as gift books, novellas, and poetry. Most debut titles in the fiction, history, biography, science, and social studies genres first appear on bookstore shelves as hardcovers with a dust jacket.

One thing to keep in mind when designing cover images for these formats is the extra bleed space required by hardcover templates, due to the paper cover wrapping around the entire book.

Having a hardback edition as well as a paperback and ebook edition of your title set up and enabled for global distribution in your IngramSpark account allows consumers and retailers the opportunity to choose which format of your book they'd like to buy. Libraries generally prefer to purchase hardcover copies of books because they stand up better to repeated use. By having your book in multiple formats (ebook, paperback, and hardcover), you guarantee that you're not alienating any of your potential distribution outlets or readers based on format.

5.5x8” or 7x10”

The question isn’t either/or regarding just these two trim sizes, but trim size in general (the width and height of your book). You’ll need to consider your book’s trim size early on if you decide to publish a print book, and certainly before you begin designing.

Here are some questions you should ask yourself when choosing your trim size based on other books:

  1. What is the best trim size for YOUR category according to customer purchase habits within the last year?
  2. What sizes are established publishers using for their books in your category?
  3. How will the trim size affect a book industry professional's opinion of your book (including booksellers, libraries, and book reviewers)?
  4. Does the trim size you chose dramatically impact the page count and print pricing of your book?

We can't tell you what trim size you should make your book. As a publisher, that is your call. However, you can see what established publishers are doing with their trim sizes in your category. Book buyers, booksellers, librarians, and even some savvy consumers are “trained” to think of traditionally published books as the standard for professionalism.

Since books with smaller page dimensions can hold less text on each page than books with larger page dimensions, the smaller version of a given book will have more total pages than the larger version of that same book. The total number of pages determines a book’s spine width, so authors can adjust page size to give their books a thinner or thicker shelf presence. Typically, books with fewer pages tend to be published in smaller formats to make them feel more substantial, while books with more pages tend to be published in larger formats to keep the spine from being too thick. It’s important to note: the interior should be finished and finalized before you design the cover, specifically because the interior will influence your book’s final spine width.

Use IngramSpark's Spine Width Calculator

One reason to choose one trim size over another would be print pricing. For example, a 6x9 book will take up fewer pages than a 5x8 book. If the smaller trim size pushes your page count to a point where you cannot afford to print the book, then the larger print size makes more sense. But just defaulting to a certain trim size because you like the size is not a great idea.

In the end, it all comes down to some combination of taste and cost, along with what's right for your genre. We encourage you to visit your local bookstore, go to the area your book would be shelved, and find books similar in subject matter to your own. Don't choose an 8.5x11 trim size if all the books like yours are 6x9. 

The beauty of your trim size and binding options with IngramSpark is that your book has the opportunity to look no different than traditionally published books, so make printing choices that help you maintain a level of professionalism. You can still choose to print in any available size you wish, but you should know what the market is looking for right now before designing your book.

More Format Options Affecting Your Book’s Design

Paper Weight: During IngramSpark's title setup process, you'll be able to choose the weight of the paper used in printing your book, depending on your budget and what will suit the feel of the book itself.

Paper Color: For a black & white book, you can select white or crème paper (crème is most commonly used for fiction and creative non-fiction, and white for nonfiction books like how-tos). If you choose a color book, you can select premium color or standard color.

Cover Finish: You’ll also be able to choose between cover finishes—gloss, matte, or digital cloth. Matte covers have a soft feel, no glare, and look polished. Gloss Covers have a high shine and smooth finish. Digital Cloth™ covers have a subtle, cloth-like look but are not actually cloth. This option is also available with or without a dust jacket.

While choosing your format may not be as interesting as interior or cover design, it’s an essential first step and helps lend to your book’s overall professionalism in the design realm. Now on to interior design!

This chapter was compiled from the following posts on the IngramSpark blog:

Picking a Popular Trim Size for Your Book by Amy Collins, President of New Shelves Books

Ebooks vs Print Books by IngramSpark Staff

Paperback vs Hardcover by IngramSpark Staff

The Pros of Hardback Books by IngramSpark Staff

How to Print a Book with IngramSpark by IngramSpark Staff