Book Production Tips: What are appropriate margins?

As Shakespeare wrote: “To be or not to be?”,  we know that he was really just asking whether you want your book project to look like a college thesis or have a more beautiful, inviting layout with ample use of  white space, improving readability.

We hear this question frequently from self publishers making their first book.  Attention to details like this will help set your project apart from the graveyard of self published titles that never gain traction due to poor design. We’ve created this basic, brief post to give you some guidance and a few ideas on setting margins for some of the standard page sizes.

From a printing perspective, our answer is quite simple: Typically allow at least 0.5” on all 4 sides, and in some cases, perhaps the spine (gutter) margin should be atleast 0.75”
Always add 1/8” beyond final page size extra for any page that bleeds off the edge.
See diagram below:

If you just follow a printers parameters for margins it will be fine, but it’s possible your text layout may end out looking more like a college thesis instead of an interesting read that I’m sure you hope for.   Filling the page too much without leaving the right amount of white space makes reading more difficult .

Consider “mirrored margins” .

Mirrored Margins
If you open up most professionally produced novels or trade editions, you will typically see that outer and inner margins are not equal measurements, and that left and right hand pages “mirror” each other. You will typically also see that top and bottom margins are not always equal. Here’s a few examples of some of the standard sizes that yield good visual results.  Note the below examples are right hand side pages .