What Size Book Cover Do I Need?If you are printing your book, whether you are working with a publisher or you are self-publishing, you will have many book and cover size options from which to choose.

For some authors, there is a book size they prefer. For others, the subject matter may dictate an appropriate size for the book. For example, a novel will work well as a 6” by 9” book, but this size would be too small for a book on photography.

If you are not sure about what size is appropriate for your book, go to a bookstore or the library and look at a number of books in the same genre as your book and make notes on the range of sizes and see what you y like best.

If you have a book with a low word count, a smaller book size will mean fewer words per page and will help increase the book’s thickness. On the other hand, a larger book size will mean a thinner book, which can be useful when a book has an above-average word count and you wish to keep the book from being too thick.

Ideally, you will want to have a book size and thickness so the book spine is wide enough for the title and author’s name to be easily read. Slim books mean having to squeeze the title and author’s name on the spine, and also mean the book will not be very visible in a bookstore’s shelf. A wider spine allows for a larger canvas, which means room for larger lettering and greater visibility in retail stores or library book shelves.

Typical book sizes and classifications

Type of Book
(width x height
in inches
Notes and Uses
Mass market
4.25 x 7
Sold at airports, grocery stores.
Trade paperbacks
5.5 x 8.5 to
6 x 9
Widely used for self-published books.
8 x 10 to
8.5 x 11
Instructional books, illustrated or how-to books.
6 x 9, 5.5 x 8.5,
5.25 x 8
6 x 9 is great for longer novels and 5.25 x 8 is a good size for memoirs and poetry.
Short Story Collections
6 x 9, 5.5 x 8.5,
5.25 x 8
6 x 9 is a good size for larger collections.
General nonfiction
6 x 9
6 x 9 is very popular, but 7 x 10 is useful for books that have sidebars or need room for illustrations.
Photography/art books
Many art and photography books are square, but often landscape photography books will use a more horizontal format.

Spine width

There are three factors that determine the spine width of your book spine, which are:

  • Type of binding (i.e., hardbound or perfect bound)
  • Paper stock and thickness (i.e., 60 pound, 70 pound, 80 pound uncoated versus coated stock)
  • Number of actual pages

I recommend that authors always work closely with the printing company, publisher or publishing platform in order to determine the exact width of the spine. The spine width will be based on the number of pages, paper stock and binding that has been selected and calculated.

While there are standard paper weights and types, there is some variation between different paper manufacturers and it is always best to calculate using the publisher’s or printing company’s actual paper stock.

Many of the online publishing platforms will have a calculator for the spine thickness that will give you the exact thickness based on the book specifications you select. If you are working with a book publisher or a printer, you will need to get the book’s specifications from the publisher or the printer in writing so you can share this information with your cover designer.

Book specifications

Book printing specifications are the description of the trim (final) size of the book, spine width, dust jacket size, printing process and other printing information that is essential to the book cover designer.

Specifications are necessary to create artwork that is the proper size and in the correct format for the printing process to be used in the printing of the book.

Book specifications will also include bleed size, trim size, printing process (digital, offset, etc.) and whether or not the file should include trim marks.

The book specifications from the publisher or printer should be in written form and shared with the book cover designer so there are no errors or assumptions.

What happens when incorrect printing specifications are used?

Let’s say that I am given directions to create a 6” by 9” printed cover with a 0.75” wide spine, for a perfect bound book. Later, after I have completed the work and the author takes the digital artwork file to the printer or publishing platform, the author and/or publisher determine that the book dimensions are really 5.25” x 8” or the spine width is wider because of a different paper stock being used.

The printer or the publishing platform cannot automatically change or correct the artwork file, since the file has all the elements in one layer and the new size and proportions will be different. There will be delays in the book production while the artwork is corrected by the book designer and this will be an additional expense and delay.

Never communicate book printings specifications over the phone as this will lead to mistakes that will be costly to correct.

Printing template/guide

Most publishers and book printers will provide a book cover template or guide. This template is usually a PDF file, which visually shows the exact trim size, bleeds, spine and other information that helps book designers create cover artwork that will fit perfectly.

When I have a template provided by the printer or publisher, I can build the book cover artwork quickly and there will be no surprises when the printer receives the digital artwork file.

Book cover design types

The four most common types of printed book covers are:

Hardcovers with dust jacket

If you are printing a hardcover (case bound) book with a dust jacket, we will need the exact specifications or a template we can follow to make sure we allow for the dust jacket flaps, folds, and other factors. Keep in mind the book size you choose for the page size is always smaller than the hardcover that will wrap around the pages.

Having a template for the book cover and/or dust jacket from the printer or the publisher is the only way to make sure there I can create artwork that will be the correct size.

Perfect bound covers

If you are printing a soft bound book, also called perfect bound, we will need to know the trim size and the spine width. Your printer or publisher will provide a template or they may provide exact specifications for us to follow.

Perfect bound covers with fold-in flaps

If you are printing a soft bound book which has fold-in flaps, we will need a template or exact specifications so we know exactly where the scoring/folding line will go and how large to make the fold-in flaps.

Other covers

In the case of comb bound, plastic bound, spiral or Wire-O binding, we will need to know the cover trim size and what your printer is allowing for the punching or drilling margin on the cover so we can allow for this in our design.

Print cover artwork resolution

All book cover artwork at Elegant Book Design is created at 300 dpi. This resolution allows us to easily scale the artwork for other uses such as bookmarks, posters, postcards, websites and ebook covers.

Before any design work is started, I will confirm with the author the exact book cover size and specifications so the artwork will match the exact specifications of the printer, publisher or publishing platform.

Print cover artwork files

The printing industry is fairly standardized in terms of the pre-press process. Typically, printers require a high resolution, printing PDF where all images and type are combined into one file. However, I recommend that authors check with the publisher or printer to find out exactly what type of file is acceptable so there are no delays or additional costs for remaking and resending files.

Sample high resolution PDF file

To see an example of a 6 x 9 book cover design, which is 300 dpi and saved as a PDF, please click here. The file size is 1.2 Megabytes.

Ebook cover sizes

Please see What Size Should I Make My Ebook Cover for details about ebook cover sizes, width to height ratios, file types and other information about ebook publishing.