By George Kittredge
Over at Self-Help-Book-Reviews.com, a reader sent in this inquiry.
"Right now my story is 400 pages at size 12 arial. The page is 8 1/2 x 11 with 1 inch border. This is too big though. What is a good size for a self-published book?"
This is an interesting question with no clear, specific answer. Like most questions in the book publishing business, the answers usually begin with "It depends." However, there are several issues that a soon-to-be-author may want to consider when determining how big his or her book should be. Here are some ideas to think about.
1. Most manuscripts are developed on 8 1/2 x 11 size paper and double spaced. This is done to make it easier to proofread and edit. With this is mind, the following information may be helpful. But note, that even these numbers will vary depending upon the font and type used and the border size.
- 8 1/2 x 11, double spaced can generate about 300 words per page.
- 8 1/2 x 11, single spaced (double column) can generate about 500 words per page.
- 7 x 9, single spaced can generate about 320 words per page.
- 5 1/2 x 8 single spaced can generate about 200 words per page.
So, using these numbers only as a guide, a 400 page, 8 1/2 x 11, double spaced manuscript could create approximately a 600 page, 5 1/2 x 8 size book, but only a 375 page, 7 x 9 size book.
2. Perhaps a better way to get an idea of how big your book will be is to cut and paste several pages of your manuscript (say 10 pages) onto a size layout of what your book is going to be. Be sure to adjust to a correct border size and gutter. See how many pages are created in the layout. If your ten manuscript pages created eight layout pages, then a good estimate for size generated from your 400 page double spaced manuscript might be around 320 single spaced pages.
3. Remember too, that the number of pages in your published book will be more than just the content from your manuscript. There will be additional pages - what we call "front and rear matter." Front matter could include a title page, copyright page, dedications, testimonials, table of contents, etc. Rear matter could include an index, author bio, order information page, etc. So keep in mind, that the peripheral pages around your core content could add another 12 to 20 pages, depending upon what you want to include.
4. Another big factor in page count is if there are any illustrations or photos. Obviously, the larger and more illustrations you have, the greater the final page count. Using the cut and paste method, mentioned earlier, that include a number of images may be helpful. And if you are working with a page layout designer, they may be able to give you an idea as to a final page count.
So how big should your book really be?
4. What kind of book is your book? Fiction? Non-fiction? Poetry? Short stories? Unless you are writing a lengthy textbook or a large book that contains illustrations or photos (often called a coffee table book), you most likely should be thinking of a smaller page size (something like 7 x 9 or 5 1/2 x 8) when trying to determine how many pages your published book will be. Talk to a book printer. A printer will be able to give you an idea of what the "optimum" paper sizes are - that is, what paper size gives you more pages with less paper waste. If you are using a print-on-demand printing process, the less wasted paper the better, and the lower your cost to print will be.
5. Check out the bookstores. Go to the sections that have books similar to your genre - and see how how many pages and the page sizes these books are. But beware, some of the books have been printed using offset presses (usually through the large, traditional publishers). This enables the printer to use larger paper sheets and allows greater flexibility in what paper size can be used.
And on a final note, here's another factor you should probably consider when determining the length of the book.
Ask yourself (and perhaps others who review your manuscript) this question. Does my book hold the reader's attention, interest and enthusiasm through to the last page? Are there places where I could shorten or that I could eliminate that would improve my book. If you identify some spots where the interest fact may wane or the pace you want to maintain slows, some editorial "tightening" may be in order.