Formatting your Book for Print

Whether you are looking to produce physical or digital copies of your book, there are several decisions you’ll need to make. Formatting your book is a big step, you finally get to enjoy the fruits of your labour.

Most of the options we will discuss below refer to printed books, but there are similar considerations to be made for digital formatting.

Trim Sizes

Trim sizes refer to the format of the finished book once the physical copy has been bound. The format you choose is closely linked to the retail price you want to charge.

The four UK industry standard sizes for books are:

  • A format: 178mm x 111mm
  • B format: 198mm x 129mm
  • Demy: 216mm x 135mm
  • Royal: 234mm x 153mm


The extent refers to the number of pages in your book. It must not be an odd number an extents are calculated in multiples of 16.

This is why you may often see blank pages at the start and end of commercial books.

Paper Weight

Generally speaking, the heaver the paper the higher the quality. The weight of paper is measured in gsm (grams per square meter). Papers with a higher gsm tend to be more opaque, meaning less of the ink on the reverse page will show through onto the page you are reading.

Different papers will be better suited to different types of books. The option you choose will also have a big impact on the weight and bulkiness of your book, which in turn can affect the cost of transportation and sale of your book. Heaver weight paper also means you will need a wider spine to hold it all together, which could also impact your cover design.

Finishing Touches

Varnish offers protection and a coating to the printed cover. It is clear and provides a professional finish in ether gloss or matt.

Lamination is another option in which plastic film is applied and can also be used to create a number of effects.

Gloss Varnish

This is a lacquer that coats the book cover. It protects against general wear and tear and gives a high gloss finish to your cover.

Matt Varnish

Matt varnish is similar to gloss but instead provide a more subtle matt finish.

Gloss Laminate

This is very high impact and hard wearing. Colours become more vibrant and much more protection.

Matt Laminate

This offers a more subtle finish to your cover. It will not provide the same protection as gloss lamination but it is a more popular choice due to its smooth quality finish.

Soft-Touch Laminate

Similar to matt lamination, soft-touch has a premium feel and feels like rubber to touch.

Formatting your Book Cover

Why stop there? There are several other options that can be used to make your book stand our from the rest of the store.

Spot UV

You can apply gloss varnish to a specific area of your cover, such as the title or an image. We’ve seen this work well against a matt laminate cover as the contrast between the two accentuates the effect.


This is where you can apply pressure to distort the surface and raise a specific area of the cover for greater emphasis or to created a textured effect. Similarly, de-bossing creates a hollow or a dip in the cover

When formatting your book, these decisions have a huge impact upon your finished product, and can therefore influence whether or not someone decides to buy your book. Do your research before hand and you can always find examples of formats you do like.

Digital considerations are similar, so whichever way you begin formatting your book, it’s worth making sure you understand the process.

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