Hit the Books with Dan Milnor: What’s in a Trade Book?

The Trade Book is a trusted format used by writers, artists, designers, and entrepreneurs at every career level—with good reason. It checks the right boxes for all kinds of book projects. Quality materials. Flexible design. Priced to sell. It might just be the key to your next portfolio, travel journal, cookbook, memoir, poetry book, or gallery guide. Let’s take a closer look.

1. What is a Trade Book?

Trade Books are a beautiful, strategic, versatile format, designed to look and feel like books you’d find in a bookstore. You have a choice of materials and standard trim sizes (5×8, 6×9, and 8×10 inches), so you can find the perfect balance between cost and print quality. They are available in softcover and hardcover (with ImageWrap or dust jacket). You can also sell Trade Books in the Blurb Bookstore, on Amazon, and via Ingram distribution channels worldwide to reach a larger audience. 

2. How is a Trade Book different from a Photo Book?

Both formats allow for total creative control and for any design or content you have in mind, but the formats are physically quite different. First, the material choices—such as paper type. Trade Books offer color and black and white printing options for both Standard and Economy levels. The Standard color or black and white printing offers rich blacks and deep colors, good for any image, while the Economy option is most useful for things like text, illustration, or a low-fi look. Second, the price point. Trade Books are priced lower than Photo Books, which gives the author more freedom to set a competitive price if selling the book is critical. 

3. What would I use a Trade Book for?

This is where things get interesting. Trade Books are perfect for projects you intend to sell. Because they cost less than Photo Books, you can keep the price point of your publication low, allowing for greater markup and sales. A Trade Book can be the perfect “sidekick” publication or companion to a Photo Book. Perhaps you have behind-the-scenes material from your project that you don’t want to include in the main volume. And if you’ve ever thought of keeping a journal, Blurb Notebooks are produced in Trade Book format.

4. What material choices do I have?

The good news is that you have many choices. There are three cover types available for Trade Books: softcover, hardcover with ImageWrap, and hardcover with dust jacket. As for paper, you also have Standard and Economy options for both color and black and white printing. Regardless of your book content, there is a paper type suited to your needs and budget.

5. Which subjects work well with Trade Books?

A Trade Book can be used for almost any style of content, but I have seen a few categories stand out. Cookbooks, how-to books, children’s books, travel journals, zines, novels, poetry, and even portfolios or marketing materials. Again, with the range of materials available, you can make just about anything.

6. Are there advantages or disadvantages to selling Trade Books?

There are several factors that make Trade Books perfect for selling. First, the price point. Using Trade Book format, an author can print a beautiful yet affordable publication, which they can sell at an advantageous price point. Next, the standardized sizes of Trade Books allow them to be sold worldwide via Ingram. There really are no disadvantages. However, if your goal is to design a coffee-table-style photography book with high-end, archival paper, then a Blurb Photo Book is the way to go.

7. Which other products utilize Trade Book format?

Great question. You can also make a notebook or journal as a Trade Book. The great thing about making a Blurb journal is that you can design it like you would a regular book, using your photography, writing, and illustrations. You can also mix and match the journal page styles with blank, lined, square or dot grid backgrounds.

8. Is there one paper type that you recommend for photography?

My only real suggestion for paper is for those of you interested in making a primarily visual Trade Book. If you want to make a book featuring your photography, illustrations, and designs, then I recommend using the Standard paper options as opposed to the Economy options.

9. What if I can’t decide between a Photo Book or Trade Book?  

Great bookmaking typically comes after experimentation. So, if you haven’t used either format before, I suggest you test both projects. They are very different book types, and one is not better than the other, only different. Plus, these formats work well as a team and complement each other nicely. Use both, use them together.

10. Do I have to design my Trade Book differently from my Photo Book?

No, you do not. Keep the same things in mind. Create a striking cover, mind your margins, choose the right paper, don’t forget your typography, and make sure whatever you create is readable. The only thing you might do differently is to add more pages. The cost-per-page with a Trade Book is very low, so don’t be shy about adding pages and making a thicker book.

Ready to make your own trade book? Start your project today.


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