Choosing the Best Trim Size | Blurb Blog

Choosing the Best Trim Size
11 Jul 2017

Choosing the Best Trim Size

It doesn’t matter what people say: We totally judge a book by its cover. But consciously or unconsciously, the size of a book influences our impressions about its contents, too.

When we’re holding a book, we’re trained by all the other books we’ve ever held to have a set of expectations about what’s inside. When creating your project, it’s helpful to keep in mind where it fits in the wider collection of books on your shelf or even on the market. Trying to choose a trim size from so many options can feel daunting, but it doesn’t have to! Even though the creative possibilities are endless, different sizes and formats serve different types of content better than others. Check out our handy guide below to get a sense of where your work might fit best.

PHOTO BOOKS

SMALL SQUARE 7×7 in (18×18 cm)

Common industry uses: Gift books, inspirational books, personal albums, children’s books

Best for: Personal photography, illustrations, children’s content, short volumes in a collection, gifts

STANDARD PORTRAIT 8×10 in (20×25 cm)

Common industry uses: Cookbooks, how-to guides, children’s books, history books, textbooks, photography, illustration

Best for: Highly visual content whose images are crucial to the purpose of the book. There is plenty of page room to make an impact with both words and pictures.

STANDARD LANDSCAPE 10×8 in (25×20 cm)

Common industry uses: Photography collections, children’s books, history books, textbooks, photography, illustration

Best for: Content with a lot of horizontal images. Since more images and charts are often landscape (wider than they are tall), the shape of the book works well with the shape of the content. There is plenty of page room for both words and pictures without unnecessary white space around photos perpendicular to the shape of the page.

LARGE SQUARE 12×12 in (30×30 cm)

Common industry uses: Art books, coffee table books, children’s books, albums

Best for: Detailed visual content. This large format gives plenty of space for pictures and illustrations to reveal all their detail.

LARGE LANDSCAPE 13×11 in (33×28 cm)

Common industry uses: Art books, coffee table books, children’s books, albums

Best for: Detailed visual content. This large format gives plenty of space for pictures and illustrations to reveal all their detail, only it harmonizes with content that has a wider or landscape orientation.

TRADE BOOKS

5×8 in (13×20 cm)

Common industry uses: Novels, poetry, field guides, manuals, short-story collections

Best for: Written content that’s intended to be shareable and portable. This size gets its advantage by the number of inexpensive pages, not by individual page size.

6×9 (15×23 cm)

Common industry uses: Essays, histories, memoirs, biographies, illustrated field guides, other types of non-fiction

Best for: Text content that with the occasional photograph or illustration. The slightly larger page balances portability with extra room for charts and graphs and photographs that support the text.

8×10 in (20×25 cm)

Common industry uses: Cookbooks, travel books, city guides, photo essays, how-to guides

Best for: Long content that depends on photos and illustrations. With a lower page price than the photography book of the same size, it’s a balance of quality and price for highly visual, but long, content. Standard Color printing renders images surprisingly well, considering per-page price is half to one third that of a photo book.

MAGAZINE

These come in standard sizes and papers, but they feel very different to hold. Even though they both offer that glossy, newsstand-quality experience, the difference in price and feel matters a lot.

ECONOMY MAGAZINE 8.5×11 in (22×28 cm)

Common industry uses: Monthly serial magazines, catalogs, leave-behinds, marketing material, experimental projects, Kickstarter incentives

Best for: Content that is highly visual, but is intended for a wider audience, where several sets of several copies is part of the project’s purpose.

PREMIUM MAGAZINE 8.5×11 in (22×28 cm)

Common industry uses: Quarterly publications, art publications, special edition publications, city guides, travel guides

Best for: More robust serial or special edition content, shorter softcover publications that have as much or more image content as it does text.

Remember, you’re not locked into any of these. They are not hard-and-fast rules. Sometimes the most memorable and creative surprises come from breaking the “rules”. Short holiday recipe collections might make a great one-off gift magazine, and you might be surprised about what a large trade book can do for your photography, especially when you consider how affordable it is to share or sell many copies. Consider smaller editions of your photography collection or children’s book for different audiences, or taking your collection of blog essays to the smallest possible trade format as an inexpensive experiment. You are your book’s creator, and sometimes the easiest “rules” to break are the ones with which you’re most familiar. Go for it. Try something new and find your fit on the shelf.

Have any creative suggestions for trim sizes? Share them in the comments below!


Jessica Ruscello

Jessica is writer, teacher, and photographer who makes her mark with empty coffee cups, ink spills, and red lipstick. She’s passionate about creativity, people, and the written word. She believes anything worth doing is worth doing beautifully. When not chasing the perfect sentence, she’s stalking Bay Area beauty camera in-hand, amazed and grateful that she gets to call San Francisco her home.