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I plan on self-publishing a book with dimensions with a width of 5.5", a height of 8.25", and using the font Cardo.

Can anyone suggest, generally speaking, numerical values for the (1) text height (inches), (2) text width (inches), (3) odd side margin (pts), and (4) even side margin (pts)? Also, would 11pt be okay for the font size?

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    After your edit.. I feel the need to stress... There aren't any tried and true "formulas" for stuff like this. It's really more art than science in general. We can't design this for you.
    – Scott
    Commented Jul 13, 2023 at 2:00
  • @Scott Wasn't asking for a design. Perhaps you might suggest where one may obtain information on appropriate odd and even-side margins since nobody seems to have addressed that original request in their answers.
    – user177942
    Commented Jul 13, 2023 at 7:21
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    I think you are missing the point of all the answers, @mlchristians. There is no "one size fits everything". There are no "universal" margin sizes. You seem to be seeking a set formula for something which does not have a set formula. You can just as easily make margins 2" wide.. or 3" wide ... or 1" wide... it is not going to alter reproduction. It's all about the design aesthetic and art. It's not a scientific calculation which has one singular answer. If you really can't seem to accept that there's no single answer... set your margins to 1", then 1.25" for the gutter.
    – Scott
    Commented Jul 13, 2023 at 8:23

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There aren't any tried and true "formulas" for stuff like this. It's really more art than science in general. There are some general missteps to avoid - i.e. too small type, not enough leading, too tight margins, etc - but what is "too small" or "too tight" has to be determined visually. It's often based upon a typeface and an audience.

One has to look at a page and then determine if margins are sufficient to allow comfortable line lengths and visual tracking by readers. In addition, one has to consider page count. Greater page counts will have more creep. This will change margins from a technical standpoint. You'll want to keep text out of gutters so it can easily be read.


In "blanket" type size terms... 11pt ain't "bad" but depends greatly upon the typeface. And older audiences would more easily read something larger, like 12pt or 13pt... remember nature has a way of really altering vision past 40-45 years of age, making it difficult for some to see smaller type as they age. (Even for those who have never needed glasses.) A younger audience may be able to read as small as 9pts comfortably.

Leading will also play a large role. Most software will default to 120% for leading. Again, depending upon the audience 120% may not be enough leading.


Opinion:

I'm not familiar with Cardo. That is to say, I've never used it in my work. However, merely looking at the Google spec' page.. 16px(pts) is way too small for readability in print. In fact, the 21px size on the spec page would be more in line for adequate readability... but I've never set any body copy at anything even close to 21pts. So, I'd have to install the font and test (via printouts).

Just based on that spec page..

enter image description here

11pt Cardo may require a magnifying glass to actually read.

Even if set it at some ridiculous size like 18-21pts...

enter image description here

I still don't like it. For my taste, it's too tight. Cardo really needs more letter spacing in my opinion. I realize one can increase letter-spacing in most apps. But if the typeface itself needs this as a "global" adjustment, I tend to go find some other typeface.


In broad, general terms, using a go-to serif typeface I like for text - Stone Informal .... for a relatively young audience (20-40) I'll use 11pt type with 16pts leading. For an older audience (40+) I tend to default to 12pt type with 17pts leading. Realize I like Stone Informal because it has a larger x-height and counters and looks larger than it actually may be set at. These are not "rules" or set in stone. It's merely my preference for the work I do. It may not fit your specific piece.

I keep hearing Jack Butler in my head.... 220-221 ... whatever it takes...

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  • Hum. You are using px, not pts. But the question is unclear if it is going to be printed or not.
    – Rafael
    Commented Jul 13, 2023 at 4:25
  • The Google font spec page uses px. I can't change that. But in most instances px does translate to pts.
    – Scott
    Commented Jul 13, 2023 at 4:36
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No one can tell you just like that. It is a relative thing based on taste, type of paper, number of pages, longitude of paragraphs, spacing, columns, budget, images, margins, etc.

If you want to self-do it, print some sample pages at real size and choose. You can even use them to make a sample A-B test with some friends and relatives.


11pts in general is a good size, If you want some reafirming answer, yes, 11pts is Ok. But that could be not what you need.

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When in doubt, make a mockup. Take a few pages from your book formatted for that page size, print it out, trim to size, and mock up your book. See if the font feels too big, how the margins feel, etc.

Font: I usually go for 10 to 11, but that can change depending on font. Just like shoes and clothes, some fonts run big or small.

Margins: Having made self-published books with margins that came out too big and too small on occasion, this is where the mockup will be most useful. Err on the side of padding out the inside margin of your pages slightly more than you think. If you're using a service like Blurb, they have templates that have pre-built margins that are generally pretty reliable.

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One important aspect of book design you have not mentioned is justification. Are you planning on full justification or ragged right? This will have a big impact on how your inside gutters look — two justified adjacent margins look different than a rag right and a justified margin.

The other factor in justification is does your chosen typeface justify well? To help you decide print out some sample spreads and look at the justified pages for whitespace gaps and multiple hyphens.

When designing a book the designer has to read various versions in order to see how all the elements go together on the printed page.

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