YOUR BOOK’S PAGE COUNT AND SIZE: How Big is TOO Big for Readers?

YOUR BOOK’S PAGE COUNT AND SIZE: How Big is TOO Big for Readers?

Where chocolate and pizza are concerned, my mantra has always been: Better too much than not enough!

However, that’s not at all true for books.

Almost everyone loves cozying up with a good book, whether flopped on their bellies on the beach, or sitting on their backsides by the fire by the fire, or lying on their backs in bed. Print book lovers (which represent most of U.S. readers) will choose a book that is not only enticing, but one that is comfortable to read.

What types of leisure-reading books usually don’t fit this criteria?

Large books (anything larger than 7 x 10)
Heavy books (paperbacks or hardcovers with several hundred pages)

An author contacted me this week asking how much we would charge to publish his book containing (gulp!) 10,000 pages. No, that’s not a typo. I think he perhaps didn’t realize how big that book will be. Let’s do the math, shall we?

As a rough rule of thumb, approximately 460 pages = a 1-inch spine. So, 460 divided by 10,000 = a 21.74-inch spine. The weight of a 10,000-page, 6 x 9 paperback book would be approximately 32 lbs. Picture a reader on the beach, or by the fire, or in bed with that! And, no printer I’ve ever heard of would print a book at that size, or anything close to that.

I know that’s an extreme example but it does introduce the opportunity for a discussion about what exactly is “comfortable” for print book readers.

I, myself, won’t buy a print book for leisure reading that is larger than 7 x 10 inches. If it’s a business book that I’ll be reading sitting up, a larger format is fine. Of course, workbooks are usually larger, and are designed to be written in, so a larger size for those is fine, too. But, for a good beach or bedtime read, it needs to fit nicely in my hands – not too large, not too wide, and not too heavy.

If you have different preferences for your reading materials, I’d love to read them in the comments box below.

Some authors don’t consider the “comfortable read” factor when publishing their books. While I try to help authors avoid publishing more than one volume if they can (to save them money in formatting/design fees), splitting a very large manuscript into more than one volume simply can’t be avoided in some cases.

Aside from the size of the book, there’s also the price to consider. A customer might balk at paying $30 for a huge book, but probably won’t mind spending $15.00 on one half that size, even if it’s still large, knowing the next book in the series will cost the same. Of course, the author would include marketing verbiage and a cover image for Volume 2 at the end of Volume 1. If the reader enjoys Volume 1, they won’t hesitate to buy Volume 2. While, in the end, they’ll have spent $30 total, they didn’t spend $30 up front and they were able to “sample” the series by spending less on Volume 1.

We have published books up to 1,050 pages and I can tell you that books with 150-350 pages sell far better than larger books, mostly because of the price. But, again, a large book’s size plays a factor in a potential buyer’s purchasing decision as well.

Also, if you have a single novel of several hundred pages that can’t be comfortably split into two different stories (volumes), I would encourage you to hire a good editor. While J. K. Rowling was able to pull this off, that was a rare occurrence. The shortest book in the Harry Potter series (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone), at 77,000 words, was 309 pages in hardcover format. The longest (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix), at 257,000 words, was 870 pages. She even received additional press for publishing such long, challenging books for children. Unfortunately, most of us will never be afforded that consideration by our readers.

When publishing your book, consider the length, size, weight, AND minimum list price before making a decision to publish a single book or a series. If you absolutely must publish one volume, and if it’s too large, hire an editor to get your book down to a comfortable size, and affordable price, for your readers.

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Angela Hoy is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, the author of 19 books, and the co-owner of BookLocker.com (one of the original POD publishers that still gets books to market in less than a month), PubPreppers.com (print and ebook design for authors who truly want to self-publish), and Abuzz Press (the publishing co-op that charges no setup fees).

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2 Responses to "YOUR BOOK’S PAGE COUNT AND SIZE: How Big is TOO Big for Readers?"

  1. Johnny Townsend  December 12, 2019 at 6:26 pm

    I agree with all of your points. Some additional personal preferences for me include flexibility. Some paperbacks have covers or paper so stiff the book still isn’t comfortable to hold while reading. That’s often something that can only be determined in a bookstore, not in online shopping. Of course, once you find an author who uses a certain publisher who uses a specific printer, that can affect future purchases.

    One other thing, which I’m not sure is an issue for many other people, is that I hate paper covers on hardcover books. You know, the ones you have to take off while reading the book or they get damaged. The fact is they get damaged anyway. I’m the kind of person who can read a book and still have it look brand new when I’ve finished. But paper covers on hardcover books are tough, even if I’m very careful about putting them aside till I’m finished. The books often arrive with the paper cover already chipped or torn. I like hardcover books that have the cover image imprinted right onto the hard cover. (I’m a real fan of Victorian book covers, but of course, no one can afford to make those anymore.) Some juvenile books imprint the image onto the hard cover, and I wish more books used this method, but again, I expect I’m in the minority on that.

  2. Michael W. Perry, medical writer  December 12, 2019 at 1:58 pm

    If you’re uncertain about your market, publishing a long book in multiple volumes allows you to better test what sales will be like. That’s why Tolkien’s publisher, Unwin, chose to release The Lord of the Rings, which is I believe about 600,000 words, in three volumes. The sales of the first volume gave them a clue to how many of the second volume to print.

    Tolkien’s tale was complete before the first volume was published. But if your book is part of a series where each is complete in itself, doing multiple volumes also lets you test whether going on is worth your time.