Paperback Formatting: The Ultimate Guide for Self Publishers – The Urban Writers

Does This Come In Paperback? What Every Self Publisher Should Know About Book Formats

Added: Publishing
by The Urban Writers

It's a lovely morning and you're seated in front of your computer, about to manifest your  masterpiece. But after two sentences, a question taps and tugs at your mind like a child seeking the attention of its parents. You can't, and shouldn't, ignore it: what are my chances of succeeding with this book?

According to Creativindie, there's a 0.000625 percent chance that your book will make any real money. Hey, don't turn off your computer just yet. If there's even a chance that you might write a bestseller, then you should reframe your question: what can I do to improve my chances of succeeding with this book?

One crucial factor you must consider is how well you format your book—too many authors rush through this process and pay dearly for it. If your manuscript is not correctly formatted, you'll have a well-written book that just isn't readable.

To make the matter more complex, there are even differences between formatting for ebooks and paperbacks. This article will explain these differences and show you how to get the most out of your paperback.

Do I Need to Publish In Paperback?

One would think that with all the ebooks published yearly, print books would underperform and be phased out. Not so. Statistics show that more people prefer buying physical copies of books than purchasing ebooks.

In the US, 44.5 percent of the population in 2020 purchased only print books, 22.7 percent preferred ebooks, and 32.8 percent of readers purchased both ebooks and print books.

The numbers are much higher in Germany, for example, with 58 percent of the population strictly purchasing print books and only 10.4 percent of the population strictly choosing ebooks.

There is a feeling of satisfaction that people get when they can see, touch, and smell the physical copies of their favorite books, that ebooks, for all its promise of convenience, just can't beat.

Paperbacks are an even more successful medium, since they bridge the gap between hardcovers and ebooks. People want physical books, but they also want affordability.

Books that are published as paperbacks shine in this regard because they allow readers to sort of eat their cake and have it too. Paperbacks achieve this by being inexpensive while still  in print form.

What is Paperback Formatting?

This refers to the manner in which paperbacks are designed and arranged to enhance marketability, readability, and comprehensiveness.


Book Covers (Print vs Ebook)  

There are some differences between designing a book cover for ebooks and doing the same for print. Many authors would use the exact cover design for both formats to save on cost, but this often raises several issues.

One of such eventual problems is that ebooks and paperbacks are presented differently to readers. Ebooks often rely on thumbnails, which are too small to convey detail. As such, your ebook cover design may have to be especially vibrant to catch people's attention.

Also, If you choose to strictly publish your book in e-format, you'll be giving up valuable spine and back cover space that print affords. Reviews and book descriptions are typically on the back cover, while the spine displays the edition of the book and reiterates the names of both the author and the book.

Now, depending on your budget or skill as a designer, you may decide to create your own book cover. There are various apps that make this quite easy for self-publishing authors—Canva, Placeit, and Blurb BookWright are some of them.

However, it's advisable to outsource this job. Your cover design is a crucial part of marketing your book. So you should hire an experienced designer to help you create an attractive book cover.

Maintain the Proper Trim Size

Generally, trim size refers to the length and width of any book. You could choose a large or small trim size, depending on a few factors. Word count, genre, and how your book will be sold (as a mass market book or trade paperbacks) are a few of them.

If you had a high word count, you might want to choose a large trim size so that your book doesn't appear massive and discourage readers. For small word counts, you could choose a small trim size to make your book ample and significant.

You should also take your target audience and niche into consideration. Will your future readers be discouraged by hefty books? Are small works the norm in your niche? These are some of the questions you should answer when deciding on the appropriate trim size.

Mass market books often maintain the standard trim size of  4.25 x 6.87”. Trade paperbacks are less consistent, but they are typically within the range of 5 x 8” and 6 x 9”. Of course, textbooks traditionally have large trim sizes, ranging anywhere from 6 x 9” to 8.5 x 11”.

Front Matter

Front matter refers to the information on the first few pages of your book. This includes the copyright page, title, author's name, table of contents, preface, and foreword.

Only a small portion of your readers will pay any attention to the contents of your front matter (although, most people will read the TOC). Still, it should be properly arranged and edited.

The front matter will either make people positively curious about the rest of your book, or it'll make them give up on reading what you have to say.

Back Matter

This is what appears at the end of your book. Depending on which genre your book belongs to and your personal preference, your back matter can be short or voluminous.

Book description

Say you've written a textbook. Your readers might expect a glossary and an appendix. If it's only a nonfiction book, then you should include a reference section in your back matter. Fiction books often have epilogues, a page that lists other books by the author, and an About The Author page.

If done right, the back matter can enhance the experience of reading your book and get people hooked on you as an author.

Decide on Where to Publish Your Book

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is arguably the best of the lot. One reason for this is that authors are able to reach a significantly large audience by publishing their books on Amazon's KDP.

But there are a few self publishing platforms you could choose from. You can upload your book to Kobo for free, and enjoy a 70 percent royalty rate if your book costs $2.99 or more. If you publish your paperback book with Lulu, you'll get an 80 percent royalty rate.

Other self-publishing companies include Barnes & Noble Press, Apple Books, and Smashwords.

Should I Print On Demand?

Publishing your book in the paperback format is easier and more affordable today than ever before. Print-on-demand (POD) is something important to consider when choosing the right press for your self-published paperback book.

As the name suggests, POD is a publishing strategy which requires that books are printed only when readers order it. For instance, should you receive ten orders for your book, then you need only print ten books, thus keeping your publishing costs manageable.

Outside of this strategy, you might print more books than you are able to sell. Probably more costly and stressful than that is finding the right place to store your paperbacks, while hoping that each one is sold. The cost of inventory quickly adds up and the potential of books getting destroyed is not fun for any author.

The print-on-demand strategy is quite realistic and, thankfully, the growth of technology has made it just as efficient as traditional publishing methods. With the right press, you don’t need to sacrifice things like quality paper, proper formatting, and flawless design.

Other benefits of print-on-demand include:

  1. An ever abundant stock: With POD, you can never run out of books for your readers. Print-on-demand answers the question: what if you can print the exact number of books that your readers will need?

This question will be utterly impractical with any other publishing strategy. But POD helps you say yes to everyone who orders your book.

  1. You can quickly fix your mistakes: After making your book available for purchase, what you'd expect is feedback. While some might be positive, there are bound to be some dissatisfied readers.

With print-on-demand, you can make the necessary changes without recalling your books or promising your readers that corrections will be made in the next edition.

Publishing companies that allow print-on-demand include IngramSpark, Lulu, Amazon KDP, BookBaby, and Luminare Press.

Release Your Book to the World!

If you'd rather let more experienced hands help you correctly format your paperback, The Urban Writers is here for you. Reach out to us for a custom invoice for paperback formatting.

Final Words

Now that you've created an amazing book and honored your readers by checking every box on the list in this article, the odds are in your favor!

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