Planning to create a paperback or hardcover version of your book?

Well, congratulations! I’m excited for you~ I know how it feels to have a print version of your book in your hands. It’s really incredible :D

Thus, I totally understand how you want this book to be perfect. There are many choices you have to make when publishing your paperbacks and hardcovers. Here are my opinions based on the research I’ve done.

[Self-Publishing Tips] 5 Choices You Must Make When Publishing Your Print Books

Paperback vs Hardcover

Firstly, you need to understand the differences between paperbacks and hardcovers.

As their names suggest, paperbacks use paper covers while hardcovers literally have hard covers. Paperbacks are light, compact and portable. They can be stuffed into the corner of your bag. Hardcovers are strong, beautiful and more durable. They’re regarded as collector’s items. Also, hardcovers are usually larger than paperbacks (width, height and depth). Hence, they’ll stand taller on your bookshelves and take up more space.

Here are the pros and cons of paperback and hardcover books:

(+) More durable
(+) Better print quality
(+) Collector’s item: Great as gifts
(+) Covers aren’t likely to get damaged
(-) More expensive
(-) Heavy to carry around

(+) Cheaper
(+) Portable: easier & lighter to carry around
(+) Great for traveling
(-) Less durable
(-) Lower print quality
(-) Covers may get damaged

I feel that as an author, you should create both paperback and hardcover so readers can choose between them. By offering both options, you’re giving readers the power of choice. It also shows that you appreciate and respect them.

To make your life easier, you can use the same trim size so you only use 1 manuscript and 1 book cover design for both paperback and hardcover. If you prioritize your readers, you can choose a smaller trim size for paperback and a bigger trim size for hardcover. This is the norm and one of the reasons why readers buy one format over the other.

In my case, my book cover designer charges different prices for paperback and hardcover. So if I create hardcovers in the future, I’ll probably use different trim sizes. This way, my paperback is smaller and my hardcover is bigger (and I can use a bigger font too!).

Now that you know the definitions of paperbacks and hardcovers, let’s move on to the choices you have to make when publishing them.

Photo by Studio 7042 on Pexels

1. Trim Sizes

Trim size determines the page count of your book. The smaller the trim size, the more pages to be printed. Likewise, a bigger trim size would result in fewer pages to be printed. This also affects your book’s spine. A book with more pages will have a thicker spine and will appear more substantial on the bookshelf.

Depending on the platform and printer you choose, the trim sizes will be different. Here are the available trim sizes for Amazon KDP and IngramSpark.

For me, I will definitely offer print books on Amazon KDP but I’m still unsure about IngramSpark (because shipping fees for returned books to my country are expensive). Nevertheless, I don’t want to eradicate that option completely. So just in case I offer print books via IngramSpark in the future, I decided to choose trim sizes that are available on both Amazon KDP and IngramSpark. For example,

  • 5″ x 8″
  • 5.25″ x 8″
  • 5.5″ x 8.5″
  • 6″ x 9″
Reedsy - Real-World Book Trim Sizes

Source: Reedsy

2. Paper Type: Cream vs White

This is quite obvious. I don’t think there’s a debate on what’s right here.

If you look at your bookshelf, you probably notice that

  • Fiction books: Cream paper
  • Non-Fiction books: White paper

Cream paper is usually used for fiction books because it’s easier on the eyes to read, especially since fiction is mostly text. Non-fiction books like textbooks use white paper because they usually include images, pictures, charts and graphs.

(+) Used for most novels
(+) Warm & cozy: nostalgia for bibliophiles
(+) Less glare & strain for greater reading comfort

(+) Usually used for textbooks & non-fiction
(+) Clean & professional
(-) Faint glare when reading

Photo by marysse93 on Pixabay

3. Cover Type: Matte vs Glossy

And this is the greatest debate authors struggle with.

Some authors prefer matte covers while others prefer glossy. Unlike paper type where there’s a clear answer for fiction and non-fiction books, the line is blurred here.

There’s no right or wrong answer. But simply, what cover you prefer.

Now, pull a few books off your shelf. See, touch and experience the differences between matte and glossy covers.

(+) Non-shiny: less reflective of light which gives a more natural look to cover art
(+) Smooth & feels nice to the touch
(-) Colors are muted
(-) Lower contrast for darker colors

(+) Vibrant: make colors pop
(+) Smooth to the touch
(-) Shiny: more reflective of light
(-) Imperfections are more obvious (eg. indents, scratches, fingerprints)

Precisely because every book cover design is unique, I suggest that you order proof copies of both matte and glossy covers. Note that you can’t order both covers at the same time. You’ll need to check out 1 cover type. After you receive the proof copy, you can change to another cover type and ship it again. (Yeah, I know how troublesome this is. Shipping fees to my country are high too and I have to pay twice ><;;)

Photo by uroburos on Pixabay

4. Bleed: Yes or No

According to Amazon KDP, bleed is a printing term that refers to when printed objects on a page, such as images, illustrations, background color, or graphics, extend past where the publication will be trimmed. Setting your bleed properly ensures printed objects reach all the way to the edge of the page. Accounting for bleed is important because it prevents a white border from appearing at the edge of the page when the book is trimmed.

Note that all book covers on KDP require bleed. However, you can choose whether your interior has bleed or not. Bleed is only supported for fixed-format files like print-ready PDFs.

(+) Intended printed objects across pages
(+) Images or background colors run all the way to the edge of the page

No Bleed
(+) Intended unprinted white borders around the page edges
(+) Content staying inside the pages, not near the edges

Amazon KDP - Bleed Book Interior File Setup

Source: Amazon KDP

5. Font

Here’s another headache for authors: What font should be used for paperbacks and hardcovers?

Again, this is entirely at your discretion.

You might choose fancy fonts for headings in your fiction books and professional fonts for headings in your non-fiction books. But for body text, I strongly encourage you to use legible fonts because body text makes up the bulk of most pages in a book.

Also, take into account font licensing. Ensure that the license for the font allows commercial use. You’re selling a book after all.

Check out my article on factors when choosing fonts for your self-published paperbacks and hardcovers.

Photo by Free-Photos on Pixabay

Bonus Tip: Estimate Your Printing Cost & Edit Accordingly

Before you finalize any choice, I strongly recommend you to use the calculator offered by your printer to estimate the printing cost. Every choice, from trim size to paper type, will affect the printing cost.

Therefore, you need to strike a balance between making your book appear substantial on a bookshelf and ensuring that printing costs don’t eat into your royalties.

Photo by Katie Harp on Pexels

Now It’s Your Turn

How was your experience when publishing your print books? What choices have you made? Why did you make those choices?


Copyright © 2017-2024
Nicole C. W. All Rights Reserved.

Want to receive updates?

Join My Newsletter Now


Be the first to know about hot new releases, tips from my blog and more.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This