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  • Writer's pictureJohn Lim

MF 241 : A primer on paperback dimensions and cover art

Updated: Jun 22, 2022

On this episode, we take a look at paperback dimensions and cover art. More at

Moving Forward is also available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher Radio, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Amazon Music.

Part 1: To real, or not to real, that isn’t the question

I’m going to take a moment to get on my soapbox and rant. Last week, a friend of mine who has been listening to this mini-series and is currently working on his book, texted me. He was feeling a deflated because he got into a conversation with a work colleague and the person remarked that print-on-demand or self-published books aren’t “real books.” I was pretty ticked off hearing about this. If you’ve been working on your book and have those around you know about it you may, unfortunately, hear similar statements.

Let me put on my lawyer hat for a minute and deconstruct the argument that print-on-demand books aren’t “real books.” Here’s a basic definition of “book.”

That’s it? Where’s the magic seal proclaiming it a book?

By definition, a print-on-demand book is a book. If we expand the definition to include e-books and audiobooks, then a self-published book has even more avenues that make it “real.”

I’m guessing this person is referring to an age-old stigma against self-published books. Specifically, the idea that they aren’t vetted, selected or released by a publisher and because it’s a lower barrier to self-publish than to pitch your book to a publisher, this somehow diminishes its validity.

I’m not here to debate the merits of traditional vs self-publishing. I believe both pathways are valid, each with pros and cons. I went the self-publishing route and I know many authors who’ve gone that route. I also know many people who have gone the traditional publishing route, including my friend Alissa Carpenter (episode 226).

Whether you decide to self-publish or go through a publisher, is a personal and professional decision for you as an author. But to say that going the self-publishing route diminishes the validity of your work as a “book” is absurd.

Case in point: here’s a book that you may have heard of that found great success as a self-published book. In fact, it started out as a series of blogs before it was compiled into a book that Andy Weir self-published. It later got picked up by a publisher and was adapted into a hit motion picture.

There are many more examples of self-published books that are revered, critically acclaimed, and beloved.

Yes, it’s true that there are a lot of crappy self-published books but there are many crappy traditionally published books.

How you get your book out to the world is up to you. Whether you go traditional or self-published, you will have to work hard and invest a lot of time, effort, and energy into making it worth your time.

Finally, when you decide to do something, whether it’s writing a book, launching a podcast or do anything out of the box, you will sometimes find naysayers who will say uninformed quips or make snap judgments. Don’t let those few voices prevent you from pursuing your goals and dreams.

Part 2: The basics on paperback dimensions and book covers

[NOTE: the books mentioned in this episode are out of print. For more, check out episode 388.]

In addition to writing your manuscript, as a self-published author, you’ll have to put in the time and effort to design the exterior of your book. This includes deciding the size of your paperback (if you decide to release a paperback) and designing the cover art.

Today, we’re going to take a look at both.

Paperback dimensions

As you’re working on your manuscript, you should start thinking about the format. Ebooks are now one of the most common formats as they are hugely popular for readers and generally, a little easier to publish for authors. I recommend that in addition to an ebook version, you should also release a paperback. A paperback will require a little more effort and time but it’s worth it. I can tell you from my experience, I’ve had a near equal number of paperbacks as ebooks sales.

If you decide to release a paperback, you’ll want to decide on a size. 6″ x 9″ is the most popular and common size for most paperback books. You’ll want to take a look at books on your shelves or in stores and get an idea of what size you want to release yours in.

If you decide to use Amazon’s KDP platform, you’ll find some handy resources on sizing.

Cover design

You’ll also want to think about a cover for your book. The cover, along with your title, will be the first impression that readers will get of your book. There are many ways you can go about designing a cover that fits into any budget range.

If you have resources to invest in your cover art, you may want to outsource your cover design. You can find freelance artists on sites like Fiverr and Upwork. You may also know talented graphic artists and illustrators within your network to help you design your perfect cover.

If you have a limited or no budget, you have some great DIY options.

Amazon’s KDP cover platform

If you decide to use Amazon’s KDP platform, they have a free cover designer with templates, graphics, and fonts. It’s fairly user-friendly and offers a lot of great options. Amazon also has a list of freelance editors, cover designers, and other book-service professionals.


Canva is a fantastic online graphic design platform with a ton of free options and templates. I downloaded the 6″ x 9″ template from KDP and uploaded it to Canva. You can do this as well though you will have to wait until you finish your book to get the page count for an accurate spine. From there, it was a matter of adding the right graphics, fonts, and pictures to bring the cover to life.


I’ll cover design specs in greater detail in future episodes but for now, start thinking about whether you want to release a paperback version of your book and start thinking about your cover design.

[NOTE: the books mentioned in this episode and in the book writing series are out of print. I am leaving these episodes mostly as is and strictly for informational and instructional purposes only. I have retracted my story from the book discussed in this episode and its sequel with full reservation of my copyright. For more, check out episode 388.]

Part 3: What I’m reading

One Lucky Bastard: Tales from Tinseltown by Roger Moore (**): This is a retrospective by actor Roger Moore, famous for playing James Bond and The Saint, on his long tenure as an actor. He details encounters, anecdotes, and stories of the many personalities he’s met throughout his career, including larger than life characters and many quirky ones in between. I enjoyed Moore’s witty writing style and self-deprecating sense of humor but would have liked a little more depth and detail to his story. The book reads like a light breezy conversation.


Scrivener (available for Mac, Win, IOS) is a book writing program that auto formats for self-publishing on Amazon’s KDP and other platforms. It’s a great tool with rich features that allow co-writers to collaborate through Dropbox. Scrivener has a bit of a learning curve but I’ve been a fan since 2017 and have talked to many authors who use it as their go-to. If you’re interested in Scrivener, you can use the coupon code MOVINGFORWARD to get 20% off your purchase (for Mac or Win). It’s a one-time license fee and available for Mac, Win, IOS.

Note: this section contains affiliate links and coupon codes for which the author may receive some compensation.

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