Basic Book Design/Number of Pages

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Keep Out Of Trouble Rules[edit]

  1. For books printed on offset presses, total pages must be multiples of 8, 16, or 32, (e.g., 224 pages, not 220 pages). Ask your printer if you save money by using a multiple of 32.
  2. For documents printed on laser printers (including Xerox Docutech printers), any number of pages is possible.
  3. Minimize front and back matter, e.g., titles pages. Don't include items such as half-title pages unless you know the right way to design them.
  4. Ask your printer to use recycled paper and soy-based ink.

Traditional Rules[edit]

See the Chicago Manual of Style (1.4-58, 1.82-91) to design the front and back matter pages.

Commentary[edit]

Offset presses print books in signatures of eight, sixteen, or thirty-two pages. E.g., a book can be 224 pages, but not 220 pages. Ask your printer what their presses do.

It may be cheaper to print a 224-page book instead of a 216-page book. 224 pages is seven thirty-two-page signatures (a signature is a set of pages printed together). 216 pages is eight signatures: six thirty-two-page signatures, one sixteen-page signature, and one eight-page signature. I.e., the printing press needs to be set up only seven times for a 224-page book, but has to be set up eight times for a 216-page book. Each set-up costs money.

Xerox Docutech printers (used for small runs of under 500 books) don't print in signatures, so can print any number of pages.

Excessive Front and Back Pages[edit]

Why books start with sixteen pages of title pages, contents, acknowledgements, dedication, quotations, etc. makes no sense to me. Every page costs money. Do readers want to spend an extra dollar for pages they don't read?

Ten pages of forewords and introductions will confuse the reader—is he or she supposed to read all that? Or can the reader skip all that and start with Chapter 1?

Nobody reads the acknowledgements, except the handful of people you acknowledge. Put it on the copyright page.

Nobody reads the excerpted reviews sometimes included in the front of paperbacks. The reader knows that all the excerpts will praise the book, so why read them?

Don't stretch a small book by using a large font size, wide leading, wide margins, blank pages at the end, etc. Small books can be just as good as big books. Many of the best books ever written are under 100 pages.

Environmental Issues[edit]

Ask your printer to use recycled paper and soy ink. Some printers will do this for no extra cost. Put the recycled logo on your back cover or title page. You could also ask for FSC-certified paper.