What should my print book look like?

Look at any of the popular print-on-demand sites like Lulu, CreateSpace, BookBaby or Ingram Spark, and you’re likely to find a dizzying array of shapes and sizes, paper types and finishes you can select for your book. Which ones should you choose?

The single most important factor is making sure your book looks professionally produced. If it looks amateurish, potential buyers are likely to be put off, no matter how good the actual content is. Most people do judge a book by how it looks.

Whether you’re publishing a genre novel, a self-help or business book, a memoir, or a literary novel, spend some time in your local library or bookshop researching what your type of book looks like. What paper has the publisher used; what kinds of cover designs are current; what size does the book generally come in? Take note of the things you’d like for your own book, and then see what’s on offer at the print-on-demand sites.

Paper type
Most text-based books are printed on buff-coloured paper, rather than pure white (like photocopying paper). Depending on your print-on-demand provider, this type of paper is referred to as ‘crème’ or ‘cream’ or sometimes ‘natural’. The ‘weight’ of the paper (how thick and opaque it is) is also important. A really thin paper printed on both sides will show through text from the other side. A good weight for most text-based books is 75 to 80 grams per square metre (gsm).

Cover stock
Covers are printed on thick card, preferably around 220 to 270 gsm. A lighter cover stock might be cheaper, but the thinner the card, the more likely it is to curl at the edges.

Your print-on-demand provider may also offer matte or glossy cover stock. A matte cover has a duller finish, but is quite tactile and can have a more artistic feel. (Many literary novels, and also crime novels, are printed with matte covers.) A glossy cover will show off bright colours more vividly, and is more common for romance and science fiction. Draw on your research about current fashions in your book type, think about what cover image you want, and choose your cover stock accordingly.

Some providers also offer hardback books. These can look great, but be aware that hardbacks usually require slip covers, which means the cover design will be more complex and expensive.

Size
The table below shows the most-used book sizes for novels, and their availability through the major print-on-demand sites.

You can also use this table to discuss your requirements with your local digital or offset printer.

Australian book sizes
CreateSpace Lulu BookBaby Ingram Spark
B Format (198x128mm) Yes No No Yes
Internal 89 gsm white or cream 75 gsm white
Cover 219 gsm 245 gsm
C Format (234x153mm) Yes No No Yes
Internal 89 gsm white or cream 75 gsm white
81 gsm cream
Cover 219 gsm 245 gsm
A Format (181x111mm) No No No Yes
Internal 75 gsm white
Cover 245 gsm

 

American book sizes
CreateSpace Lulu BookBaby Ingram Spark
Trade (6×9”) Yes Yes Yes Yes
Internal 89 gsm white or cream 90 gsm cream 75-120 gsm cream or white 75 gsm white
81 gsm cream
Cover 219gsm 270gsm 219gsm 245gsm
Pocket (4.25×6.87”) No Yes Yes No
Internal 75 gsm cream 75-90 gsm cream or white
Cover 270 gsm cover 219 gsm
Digest (5.5×8.5”) Yes Yes Yes Yes
Internal 89 gsm white or cream 75 gsm cream 75-120 gsm cream or white 75 gsm white
81 gsm cream
Cover 219 gsm 270 gsm 219 gsm 245 gsm

ebookedit’s standard print-on-demand templates cover Australian B Format and United States Trade sizes. However, we can also cater for any other size book your chosen print-on-demand provider will produce.