What sort of paper should my book have?
I’m often asked by authors whether they should choose the white or cream paper option at print on demand services such as Amazon KDP and IngramSpark:
The short answer is that it doesn’t matter, and it’s up to you! (I’m assuming here that your book does not need colour inside, in which case a different grade of white paper is used, and cream is not an option.) But there are some conventions.
Typically, cream (also called crème) paper is used for fiction and for narrative non-fiction such as memoirs. White is far more common for other sorts of non-fiction, such as how-to and business books. But the choice is always yours – cream perhaps offers a subtle, more literary note. The cream on offer from these providers is generally less strong in tone than traditional offset litho cream paper stock anyway: for print on demand (POD), it offers just a nuance. Note IngramSpark also offers ‘groundwood’ (US and UK only), a creamier paper similar to that used in mass-market paperbacks; it is more opaque but lighter in weight. They recommend it for ‘trade books, reader guides, and academic trade titles’.
There is perhaps a small practical aspect, too. Cream paper is a little bit thicker, which would then mean your book is slightly thicker (and the spine is therefore different, so it’s important to share your paper choice with your cover designer) – which you might want in order to make a smallish book have more heft. Naturally, heavier books cost more to ship, at least in bulk.
A 200-page paperback would result in the following spine variations by paper:
KDP, white (90 gsm)– 11.44 mm
KDP, cream (90 gsm) – 12.70 mm
IngramSpark, cream (74 gsm) – 11.63 mm
IngramSpark, white (74 gsm) – 10.77 mm
IngramSpark, groundwood (56.2 gsm in the US, 65 gsm in the UK)
Of course, the advantage with POD is that you can try both and see which you prefer (you can change the settings for a book, but at Ingram this may incur a revision charge).
If paper is more important to your project – for example, to create a book that’s more an object of beauty in itself than POD options can really offer – you will need to go to traditional printers. More on that another time, perhaps!
This week’s link: If you want to try out Amazon’s advertising program for your books, Dave Chesson offers a free course on how to use it.
‘gsm’ refers to grams per square metre; standard office photocopier paper is typically 80 or 90 gsm.