Deciding on the Format for Your Book, from Gini Graham Scott



 by Gini Graham Scott

Author of 150+ Plus Books

Including Self-Publishing Secrets: How to Write, Publish, and Market a Best-Seller or Use Your Book to Build Your Business

Once your manuscript is ready as a Word document, the next step is deciding on the format for your book – hardcover, paperback, or e-book.

Deciding on the Format – Print or E-Book

Sometimes writers decide to only publish an e-book, which is fine, though you are missing out on the market for people who like a physical book, and you will have more opportunities for reviews if you publish in both print and e-book formats.

Another reason to publish both a print and an e-book is you already have the necessary interior and the front cover already completed.  All you additionally need to do is to set up a back cover and, if the book is large enough, the title and author copy for the spine.  This back cover can be relatively easy to set up if you just include two or three main elements — a block of text for your copy, which includes the book description, and optionally, an author’s bio, and your photo if you want to include that.  Normally, the publisher will add the ISBN number in a box set aside for that, so you don’t have to add that.

Publishing a Print Book

When you publish a print book, the most common format is a paperback, which you can publish on both CreateSpace and IngramSpark, as well as through independent printers and publishing companies.  But if you want a hardcover book, you have to publish with IngramSpark or an independent printer/publishing company.  However, you can use the same interior with both, though your cover setup will differ slightly, since you have to allow for some extra space on the edges for the hardback cover binding.

Hardcover versus Paperback

In deciding on whether to publish in hardcover, paperback, or both, take into consideration the cost for both retail and your own purchase price.  A hardcover is good for certain types of books, such as children’s picture books, library books, and gift-books, because they will either get a lot of wear — as do picture books and library books, or because they look more elegant when you show them off or give them as presents.  But otherwise, paperbacks are more common, since they sell for less, and if you are going to buy your own books, hardbacks cost more because they are more expensive to print.

Generally, it will cost about $2-3 more to buy an author’s copy of your hardcover book, and when you add in the mark-up for the distributor and retailer, that translates into charging at least $10 more for a hardback copy at retail, though $15 to $20 more is common for retail pricing.  For instance, a paperback that retails for $14.95  will often cost $24.95 to $34.95 if a hardback.  So consumers more typically will opt for the paperback, so you’ll sell more of those.

What Size to Choose

As for size, the most popular format is a 6”x9” book, though you can select other sizes.  The other most common sizes include a 5 ½”x8 ½”, 7”x10”, 8”x10”, or 8 ½”x11 ½” size.  The smaller 5 ½”x8 ½” format might be a good choice, if you have a small number of pages and want a book that someone can easily carry around with them, such as in a pocket or purse.  A 7”x10” or 8”x10” format is good, if your book has illustrations and charts, so they show up better. The 8 ½” x 11 ½” size is good for workbooks, manuals, and instructional materials, or if you want to turn a regular sized PDF into a book.  You can choose any number of custom sizes, though you will find some limitations in the sizes available when you select a template, such as in using CreateSpace.

Print-on-Demand Versus Printing a Run of Books

Sometimes the question comes up as to whether to go with a print-on-demand publisher, such as the two that are most popular — CreateSpace and IngramSpark, or opt for a short run with a regular printer/publisher.  Today, most self-publishers choose the print-on-demand (POD) option, because it is less expensive and therefore less risky, because you aren’t paying several hundred or thousand dollars up front to print up at least 100 to 500 books for a typical initial run.  However, the cost per book will be a little more than the cost of a book in a print-run, because you are printing fewer books at a time and POD pricing is based on printing individual books.  The advantage with a print-on-demand publisher is that once you set up your master for publication, you can print any number of copies — even no copies, if you just want to post your book for sale.

But, while the cost per copy may generally be somewhat less for a print-run than for print-on-demand books, you have to figure on the cost of getting the minimum number of copies and determine if you have a way to sell them.  If not, the safer approach is to use POD publishing, at least in the beginning before you build up a large number of sales.  And that’s what most self-publishers do now.  They select a print-on-demand arrangement and order however many books they want to sell — or minimally they purchase one or two display copies to use in taking orders from customers.

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GINI GRAHAM SCOTT, Ph.D., J.D., is a nationally known writer, consultant, speaker, and seminar leader, specializing in social trends, popular business, and self-help books. She has published over 50 books with major publishers, and has published over 100 books through her company Changemakers Publishing on multiple platforms, including print, e-books, audiobooks, and online courses.  She has worked with dozens of clients on writing and publishing memoirs, self-help, business books, and film scripts, and she has helped clients self-publish on both CreateSpace and IngramSpark.  Her websites include and