does size matter?

Manipulations is 6×9, whereas The Little Prince is the classic 4×7

I’m old. I’ll admit that. Growing up in South Bethlehem we walked to the library at Webster and 4th street for books. Later, when we were older, we’d head over the “New Street” bridge and go to the big library. Or the AAUW book sale on bag day. I can still pack a paper bag with books and not have it rip! Our parents would have been broke if we didn’t.

The library mostly had hardback books. They were big and heavy carrying them the mile and a half home. The huge joy came when we were allowed to take our carefully saved money and go “up”-town to the Moravian Book Store (“Down”-town was 3rd Street. Now it’s all downtown.) Or even better when we got to go to the Waldenbooks in the Whitehall Mall in the late 60s.

Screenshot of Nancy Drew titles for the 50s & 60s. As a designer, I applaud their attempt at uniformity, but you can see that they weren’t 100% successful. But remember, at this point in time they were probably using linotype and had to set up/dismantle for each run. So close was good enough.

My prized collection of Nancy Drew books were hardbacks of varying vintages. Some were yellow, some blue. (Wonder what happened to them? Probably got passed on to the next tween in line.) I had lots of books, and some series. I didn’t realize at the time that there were formulas and they just cranking these things out to get your money. Carolyne Keen who wrote Nancy Drew was a pseudonym for many ghostwriters.

In junior high school, I fell in love with the paperback book. It was small, it fit in my purse (we didn’t carry backpacks), and I could hide my multiple copies from mom. For fifty cents you could buy a Dark Shadows novel. (My favorite show was “Dark Shadows” and I’d rush home from school to watch it.) At one point I may have had all of them. I was too young to know about marketing tie-ins and that Marilyn Ross was a guy with a lot of pseudonyms churning out books like an assembly line.

So why am I telling you all this nonsense? On Valentine’s Day, Parisian Phoenix will release their first contemporary romance novel Trapped by Seneca Blue. (The author’s name is a pseudonym.) When Angel first gave me the project she assumed it was going to be 6×9 like all the other Parisian Phoenix titles. Most books today fall in that larger book size—called trade paperbacks—but there really isn’t a standard size.

I, on the other hand, assumed it was going to be a paperback romance like my mom devoured or my beloved Dark Shadows titles from the 60s. So I went to the website of the printer and looked at their sizes and it was there. 4×7, The classic pocket paperback. I set up the book and sent it off to Angel via PDF. You can’t tell the size of something on a pdf on a screen.

It wasn’t until the residents of Plastiqueville and photographer Joan Zachary began shooting the cover that the discussion of size even occurred. It’s been occurring ever since.

We’ve settled on 4×7. I was willing to change it. There was a multitude of sizes between 4×7 and 6×9 to pick from. I believe in my soul that this book needs to be smaller. It’s a read in one-night old-school paperback romance. Will people still buy a 4×6 book? Do people still want to stuff a book in their pocket or under their pillow? And most importantly what will it do to the price? The days of the fifty-cent novel are long gone.

This shall be an experiment. If it fails blame it on the art director and her nostalgia for the pocket paperback.

Published by gfhendricks

Designer, educator, seeker of hidden typography

2 thoughts on “does size matter?

  1. Reblogged this on Angel Ackerman and commented:

    Thursdays are my catch up days for work at my little publishing company, Parisian Phoenix. Today, the art director surprised me with this blog post about paperback book size.

    Despite being concerned about what the small size will do to the cost of the book, smaller book means more pages, I am legitimately super excited that we are experimenting with reviving the classic pocket guilty paperback.


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