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I am preparing to print a book and need to select dimensions for the paper and the the top and side margins.

I have seen this article about page construction, which describes various antique methods, but I am not sure if any of the ratios would suite a novel.

What variables should I consider when selecting these measurements? Are there any industry standard measurements or any common ratios to use as a guideline?

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1) Are you self-publishing? 2) Hardcover, softcover, trade paperback? –  Lauren Ipsum Jan 29 '12 at 13:15
    
It is self-published, will have a cover made from heavy paper, and be about 3 to 4 cm thick. –  Village Jan 29 '12 at 13:48
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As Lauren points out, it's best to ask the self-publishing service or printer you're using about the page sizes and binding options they provide. However, here are some more general page size considerations.

Obviously, one of the main ones is cost. Aside from having fewer/larger pages to save paper on margins, you can also cut costs by using page dimensions that your printer's press sheets will divide evenly into.

The size of the press sheets depends on the paper stock you choose and what your printer's presses can handle. You should discuss this with them after you've chosen a paper stock, but otherwise sheetfed paper usually comes in dimensions that are a multiple of the North American ANSI A 8.5x11" "letter" size (or the ISO A4 210x297mm size in other regions).

The most common page size for books is 6x9" (about 350 words per page). Other standard sizes that will be cheaper to print in North America include 5.5x8.5 (about 300 wpp) and 8.5x11.

If you want to do the page layouts yourself, I would recommend reading Grid systems in graphic design by Müller-Brockmann,¹ which is the seminal work on grid systems in typography and is a must-read. It covers everything from choosing font sizes, the effect of different line lengths, choosing leading for different types of work, paragraph spacing, choosing page and margin proportions, etc.

¹ - Grid systems in graphic design was first published in 1961, so it should have passed into the public domain in '89, but with all the stupid copyright extension laws that have since been passed, it's possible that the book won't be public domain until 2028. But I would still try to find a cheaper alternative before shelling out $75 for a new copy.

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Printing on A4, then cutting in half, would make the least cuts. This makes for dimensions of 148 mm by 210 mm (5.83 in by 8.27 in). I've found the Grid Systems and Graphic Design book. It shows ideas on page 51 and 52, but I could not find any suggestions there for specific sizes or ratios for the margins. –  Village Jan 30 '12 at 1:01
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@Village: I don't think specific sizes or ratios are appropriate for an instructional book. Layout design isn't so simple as just picking from a predefined list without consideration for other typographic attributes (e.g. folio placement, leading, typeface, font size, etc.). The book does mention that older books used the Golden ratio, but the takeaway is that your margins should be well balanced but not equal, especially with books since the inner margin will need to be bigger to account for the binding. But there are unfortunately no math formulas for creating harmonious page layouts. –  Lèse majesté Jan 30 '12 at 2:11
    
@Village: Oh, and if this is your first book design, then I'd recommend looking at some professional typset books that are in a style you like and simply emulating one of them. Or you can try dropping the same page into the page layouts from 2-3 different books and pick the best one. Then you can be sure the page dimensions, margins, and the rest of the typography are well-matched. That's what I did when I had to do my first book design. –  Lèse majesté Jan 30 '12 at 15:03
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Ask your printer or the "publisher" (CreateSpace, Lulu, Xlibris) for templates. They should be able to tell you what their requirements are. As an example, with CreateSpace, the length of the book determines the thickness of the spine, and they won't let you go above I think 750 pages.

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The place where I will get the book printed usually prints books in the A4 size, such as catalogs and technical manuals. They can print on A4 paper, then cut to A5 or smaller. –  Village Jan 30 '12 at 1:22
    
I checked the dimensions suggested at CreateSpace and Lulu. CreateSpace just suggests that the outer margins be at least 0.25 in and the inner margins at least 1 in (give the thickness of the book). The other publisher has 2.16 cm inner and 1.91 cm outer marings (the top is also 1.91 cm), but this value is fixed for all books and does not seem to consider the number of papers present. –  Village Jan 30 '12 at 1:22
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