This article is concerned with different book sizes for printed books. If you are looking for tips on formatting for electronic books then take a look at the following articles instead:
There are very few “rules” about book sizes, but there are a number of conventions that are good to know about. (All sizes quoted in this article are width x height.)
The only real rule is that mass market books have to be 4-1/4″ x 7″. These books are often sold through racks at point of purchase sites in supermarkets, airports, drugstores and the like and their size is an essential part of the way they are distributed. These are not usually self-published books, so you probably won’t have to worry about considering this size.
Trade paperbacks, a pretty loose category of books, are often in the 5-1/2″ x 8-1/2″ to 6″ x 9″ range. This page proportion—for instance in the 6″ x 9″ size—of 2:3 has long been considered an ideal for a book page, and you can create good looking books at different sizes but in the same page proportions. Most self-published books are trade paperbacks.
Manuals and workbooks are larger and, depending on the printing equipment being used to produce them, are in the 8″ x 10″ to 8-1/2″ x 11″ range. This size is also good for directories and instructional books with lots of graphics or detailed drawings to follow. It lends itself to a 2-column text layout which is an efficient use of space.
Novels appear in lots of different sizes but for a shorter book I prefer smaller sizes that seem to be more intimate a reading experience. 5-1/2″ x 8-1/2″ is probably the most popular size, but 5-1/4″ x 8″ is also a charming size for these books. Memoirs are similar sizes. Longer novels move to 6″ x 9″ to avoid becoming overly bulky at smaller sizes. Short story collections or collections of essays are generally the same size as novels and memoirs.
General nonfiction titles seem to come out in 6″ x 9″ making this size arguably the most popular of all. It’s also the most widely used size for hardcover books. When more room is needed on the page, for instance for sidebars or pull quotes, 7″ x 10″ is a frequent solution.
Photography or art books don’t conform to any particular size. They can be very small, or big and heavy “coffee-table” books. Many artists and photographers prefer books that are square or nearly square. This allows both horizontal and vertical pictures to have about the same amount of white space on the page.