I am preparing to print a book and need to select dimensions for the paper and the the top and side margins.
I have seen this article about page construction, which describes various antique methods, but I am not sure if any of the ratios would suite a novel.
What variables should I consider when selecting these measurements? Are there any industry standard measurements or any common ratios to use as a guideline?
As Lauren points out, it’s best to ask the self-publishing service or printer you’re using about the page sizes and binding options they provide. However, here are some more general page size considerations.
Obviously, one of the main ones is cost. Aside from having fewer/larger pages to save paper on margins, you can also cut costs by using page dimensions that your printer’s press sheets will divide evenly into.
The size of the press sheets depends on the paper stock you choose and what your printer’s presses can handle. You should discuss this with them after you’ve chosen a paper stock, but otherwise sheetfed paper usually comes in dimensions that are a multiple of the North American ANSI A 8.5×11″ “letter” size (or the ISO A4 210x297mm size in other regions).
If you want to do the page layouts yourself, I would recommend reading Grid systems in graphic design by Müller-Brockmann,¹ which is the seminal work on grid systems in typography and is a must-read. It covers everything from choosing font sizes, the effect of different line lengths, choosing leading for different types of work, paragraph spacing, choosing page and margin proportions, etc.
¹ – Grid systems in graphic design was first published in 1961, so it should have passed into the public domain in ’89, but with all the stupid copyright extension laws that have since been passed, it’s possible that the book won’t be public domain until 2028. But I would still try to find a cheaper alternative before shelling out $75 for a new copy.