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  • Writer's pictureEmma Bradley

It’s Not The Size That Matters…

… it’s how long you spend trying to get it right that makes all the difference.

UPDATE: I am on my third edit of this post because I keep finding new information I want to share!

(image courtesy of

So, trim sizes. But first, an update.

I have finally (nearly, almost, maybe just one more for safety’s sake) finished the initial final read-through of Super-Secret Project! There are still tweaks and updates to make of course, bits to query, double check, fine-tune, panic about and so on – but I have finally been comfortable enough with the state of it to start looking at *cue spooky horror intro voice* TRIM SIZES.

Technically, what I'm going to go into is interior formatting, rather than just trim sizes, but this part of the process baffled me, I won’t lie. Although I had my brief brush with self-publishing previously, that was in the KDP/Createspace days, where you selected the size you wanted your book to be and it generated a handy template.

I will most likely be publishing on KDP so that the books are funneled straight from them to fulfill any orders on Amazon, but this will be my first foray into the world of Ingram Spark.

So, I read through their (Ingram's) interior formatting help guide, and set about cobbling together a word document.

In short, I discovered:

Trim Size – literally the size your finished book will be, where the big guillotine goes snip snip (that is of course, assuming it’s a big guillotine and not some kind of fancy multi-chopping machine, but I guess the latter is most likely nowadays!)

Margins – the white space between the edge of the actual book and the edges of the text.

Bleed – I’m still getting my head around this bit, but initially I thought bleed seemed to be translation for ‘room for error’, but also the help guide said bleed wasn’t mandatory on basic black and white interior printing. After checking the KDP portal while generating my KDP interior doc, it explained that bleed is if you have text or images that need to cross the margin and reach the very edge of the page after printing (so for my purely text-based book, not necessary).

I had a play around with the word document and it took me a few tries, but on average most books seem to have about 10 words per line, give or take a few and making allowances for word length, so I’m going to assume (until I’ve had the document double checked), that I’ve managed it!

I FINALLY have a print-size document of my book! *angels sing, streamers, minions throwing bananas, etcetera*

Of course, as wonderful as this is (and trust me, it feels amazing), then comes yet more formatting.

Following that, I've been scanning through the document, resizing my ridiculously over-sized chapter headings, tweaking the page numbers, and generally looking for wasted space. I soon found this absolute gem:

Given that it’s actually there to build suspense in the story and end the chapter on somewhat of a sarky note, I’m tempted to keep it on it’s own page for emphasis, but I guess you’ll have to buy the book to find out! (Clearly, my marketing techniques still need work...)

There's more to internal formatting than I’m including here, but in terms of the basics, it seems to be as much about trusting your choices as it is needing to know what bit you have to do next.

Based on other books already published that I feel could be similar to mine, I went for a 198mm x 129mm trim size, with 15mm margins. I will also be measuring the margins in those books to make sure I haven’t somehow mucked up my calculations.

I then moved on to doing the KDP version, using their handy template. Once you're logged into your KDP portal, you can go through the process and download a .zip file full of different sized templates for you to copy or use as needed. I chose 5.06" x 7.91" (12.85 x 19.84 cm), the slightest variation in size to the Ingram one, but one difference I found was that they had 1.93cm margins, so I've amended my Ingram one to match this until I've had a chance to measure some actual books!

All of this sounds quite specific, but it’s all for a really good cause – once I’ve done this and it’s 100%, it means I can go to my cover designer with the interior file's page count, and they’ll know exactly what size to make the cover document, adjusting for spine width, location of various cover imagery and so on.

Imagine if your book went to print, and your name was accidentally stretched halfway between the spine and the front cover, because you hadn’t calculated right? (Yes, okay, these are currently the worries that keep me up at night, but diligence now saves agony later!)

So, the stats translated to mm for ease of reference:

Ingram interior file - 198mm x 129mm trim size, with 190mm margins

KDP interior file - 129mm x 198mm trim size, with 190mm margins (you'll notice that with the KDP numbers rounded up or down, they become the same!)

ADDITION after posting: I've since done even MORE research after posting this, and would like to refer you to as this has answered SO MANY of my questions already. If I can't get cream paper then I will also be moving to a bigger trim size, but loving the reassurance that I should be able to use my KDP interior template for Ingram if the sizing is the same, and that I can check proofs before anything is final.

There is a real possibility I've entirely cocked this up, but still, I'm doing it! Plus, after final checks to these measurements and sizes, the cover can be made *eeek!*

I’ll leave you swilling in the wonder that is interior formatting, but in the next post we’ll look at colours and shapes, semantics and sellables, and basically be asking “do we judge a book by its cover?” and, if so, how on earth do we make sure we get a good one!

(Unless I end up having a flap, in which case the next one will be 'coping with having a flap when self-doubt creeps in and you forget how commas work', THEN covers).

Until then, happy reading and writing!

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