If you plan to publish independently—and have no money to spare—you will need to look at paperback book design at some stage!
This is a quick write-up while I have all of this fresh in my head. I’ll add more links and images later. Promise :)!
I found the book design advice out in the wild confusing at best, so here is what I plan to do for the paperback edition of The Fragments, The Spheres Book One.
I decided to print with KDP first and close any gaps in distribution with Ingram. (I also plan to have a limited hardcover edition printed locally, but that is a topic for another day.)
My manuscript is about 146k words long and contains full-page illustrations, so printing prices are a factor and need to be balanced with a ‘quality feel’ and readability standards. (I don’t expect to make much money, so I am not so fussed about royalties. What I am fussed about is staying within my budget.)
Do not use MS Word. I have no idea why KDP and other platforms are pushing the idea that Word is a layout—or writing—application. I write in Scrivener, and the most affordable, quality layout app I could find is Affinity Publisher by Serif. Both should fit into even the smallest budget.
I recommend What Are the Standard Book Sizes in Publishing? on the Reedsy blog for a crash course in trim-sizes.
I chose the trade paperback format in 5.5” x 8.5”. The size recommended for my genre by Ingram. It is relatively affordable and suits my word count. Plus, I don’t like the bigger 6” x 9”, and the 5.5” x 8.5” (21.59cm x 13.97cm) will translate to European Demy size 216mm X 135mm without too much fuss. (She says now.)
(I felt tempted to use the smaller 5” x 8” trim size—all the paperbacks on my bookshelf are 5” x 8”—and I hope I will not regret the slightly larger 5.5” x 8.5”… . In the end, I went and chose the middle of the recommended range form 5” x 8” to 6” x 9”.
I’ll continue with US inches rather than ‘sensible’ metrics because it makes it easier with KDP.
Margins, Fonts and Baseline
KDP’s page Set Trim Size, Bleed, and Margins states the minimum or safe margins for KDP paperbacks. Your body text margin will need to be a few baselines larger to allow for running heads and page numbers.
Margins, fonts and baselines go hand in hand, and I decided to begin with the body font, font size and leading. I use Adobe Caslon Pro (via my creative cloud subscription) in 11pt with a 120% leading which translates to a 13.2pt baseline. A top and bottom margin of 0.75” gives me four baselines to place page numbers and section headers. I keep the inner margin to 0.75” and the outer gutter to 0.65”. The bleed is the standard 0.125”
It took me several rounds of trial and error (and printouts), but the current layout allows for 38 lines of text in the main body with 10 to 13 words per line and around 450 words per page with a nice amount of white space. This is well within the recommendations for a manuscript my size and in my genre.
Update a few days later: The margins above are still my preferred set-up, but after I cleaned the manuscript up further, making sure that the part and chapter title pages start on odd pages, my pages count blew out to over 500 pages. So… I needed to compromise and reduce the top and bottom margins to 0.65″ to gain one more line of text per page, now 39. The reduced my page count of 483 pages and allows me some wriggle room to place the full page illustrations. There are other ways to save pages—more about this in the next post—but for me this solution is the lesser evil … . Well, onwards and upwards.
Book dimensions and spine
The last thing to check is the spine—the approx. 480 pages translate to a 1.1” wide (2.8cm) spine in my paperweight—Black ink and 55# (90 GSM) white paper. That is substantial without feeling like a brick (I hope.)
In hindsight, I should have tried to slim down the manuscript further … maybe aiming for 120k words. Having said this, not a single first reader complained about the length, and I had already thrown away about 50k words while writing the final draft.
Scrivener, Affinity Publisher and Styles
The Scrivener styles migrated well to Affinity Publisher—I used the RTF format to migrate the manuscript, not bothering with the images (the illustrations will need to be redone for the print layout anyway)—but I shouldn’t have fiddled with the styles settings in the Scrivener editor … . I had to clean up quite a bit in Affinity Publisher.
So, I have set a new target for the second book at around 120k words and will review the styles I just imported from Book One (ARGH!).
While you are here, I started a new #100dayproject, and it is all about making progress on Book Two. I’ll post weekly updates on my Writing Blog and day-to-day snippets on @Freitagbooks. See you around.