Friday, May 25, 2018

How big should your book pages be?

(chart from CreateSpace)


Until this week, all of my printed books had common 6x9-inch pages. A few years ago I saw a book written by a friend that had larger pages. The pages were "airy" with large margins surrounding the text. I liked the appearance and thought I might try big pages some day--and then forgot about the idea until a few weeks ago.



Since January I've been working on a book about Donald Trump. I originally planned to publish it around March first. But I kept needing to write more and the date slipped. I had planned to have about 50,000 words. My final number was 88,701.

Publishers Weekly analyzed data from Amazon.com and declared that the median average "word count" for books is 64,531 words, which translates to about 290 paper pages. While a mean average might be more useful than the median (half of the books have more words, half have fewer), the number from PW is still useful. It’s probably best for new writers not to stray too far from the average.

Most printers can produce books with as many as 800 to
1,000 pages, but books with more than 500 pages are unusual. With nonfiction, you need to have enough pages to cover your topic adequately. Don’t skimp, or pad.
  • The book should not be so big that it will be priced a lot higher than its competitors or seem like “too much to read.”
  • It should not be so short that it seems incomplete, or doesn’t offer value for its cost.

The form of a book affects the acceptability of its size. A printed book with 600 pages could be heavy to carry and difficult to lay flat (and expensive to print and ship). 

The cost of each additional page printed is insignificant. The cost of each e-page is zero. There is a prejudice against very thin books, so try for a minimum of about 120 pages. Thin books just don’t seem like real books, and the printing on the book’s spine will be tiny.

Novels can be much longer than nonfiction. Tolstoy’s War and Peace is about 1,300 pages long, and some of Rowling’s Harry Potter books have over 700 pages.

A book’s page count is not final until it is ready to be printed. Many factors determine how many words fit on a page, including page size, type size, line spacing, margins, headers, number and size of illustrations, front and back matter, etc.

Despite the amazing recent growth in ebook sales, most books sold are still pbooks. Each piece of paper in a pbook costs money, and if you use a self-publishing company (as opposed to a printer), you can get really ripped off on paper charges.

Lightning Source is the dominant Print-On-Demand company, producing books for publishers of all types and sizes, including my own Silver Sands Books. I sometimes use CreateSpace (part of Amazon) and its prices are similar.

[NOTE: some prices below are out-of-date, but should be fairly close to current prices.]


At Lightning Source one copy of a 300-page paperback will cost $5.35. If you add two pages (one piece of paper) the price goes up by three cents. Pricing-per-page seems very logical to me, but that's not the way some self-publishing companies work.

Here's the wacky price chart from E-BookTime.com: (Despite the company's name, it also produces pbooks.)





Prices are based on page ranges, not the actual number of pages. When you exceed a range by just one page, the minimum retail price goes up two bucks, and the author's wholesale price goes up $1.40.

The company says it provides "
Book publishing that is . . . affordable." A 351-page paperback selling for $20.95 is waaaaay overpriced for most genres. High pricing can make your book noncompetitive.


(above) Infinity Publishing's book pricing is strange. Its suggested cover price for a book with 129 pages is a buck more than the price for a book with 128 pages. The author pays 54 cents per book for the additional page. Page number 129 is printed on a very expensive piece of paper. Independent self-publishers who have Lightning Source print their books pay .013 for an additional page. Ironically, Infinity's $149 Extended Distribution Package uses Lightning Source to print the books. Infinity pays Lightning .013 cents (or maybe less) for page number 129, but charges authors 54 cents! That's a nice markup. Infinity also says that its own printing and fulfillment are better than Lightningbut they are willing to use Lightning anyway.


(above) Xlibris also has an inflated and weird "delta" between page ranges. As shown above, a 107-page paperback book will sell for $15.99 and the hardcover will sell for $24.99. If you add just one page more, the price goes up $4 or $5. The difference in the manufacturing cost is tiny, and can't possibly justify the difference in cover price.

The price for a paperback with 398 pages is $19.99 (just like the 108-page book), but, at 400 pages the retail price jumps four bucks to $23.99, and that price holds all the way to 800 pages. Xlibris gives away 400 pages for "free," but charges four or five bucks for one page! Xlibris books are printed by Lightning Source, so the price per additional page is insignificant.

You want to sell pbooks and if you want people to buy them, the price is important. Choose your printing partner carefully. If you must use a self-pubco, pay attention to the page count, including the pages added by the company. 


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An 8.5-by-11-inch manuscript page holds about twice as many words as a common 6-by-9-inch book page. A 200-page manuscript can yield a 400-page book (with no graphics), and have about 100,000 words.





Anyway, my book ended up with nearly 90,000 words. With .6-inch margins on the bottoms and sides and 1.6 inches at the top, that would've taken 392 pages.

I decided to use jumbo-ish 7x10-inch pages and the page total was reduced to 306 pages. I could have reduced type size and top margins, but I chose not to.

You may be surprised to learn that page size does NOT affect the cost you pay for printing (unless you pick something outlandish). By employing bigger pages I was able to keep my cost low and the selling price at a reasonable-and-profitable $15.95. The jumbo format gives the book a distinctive look.

I'm writing this sentence at 9:26 AM on Friday May 25, 2017. My first copy of the book will probably arrive in three or four hours. I hope I'll be pleased, not horrified.






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