Selecting paper quality when self-publishing

Ever read a paperback novel and find the paper tearing as you turned the page a little too roughly? Or maybe while reading you wrote a note in the margins only to find you’ve left indentations on the next page? Fortunately, as going through the self-publishing process you can save readers of your book from such annoyances because you get the select the quality of the paper.

Paper quality generally improves with its thickness. So does its price. Paper quality, though, is vital to ensuring your book doesn’t look amateurish. Select too low of a quality, and the ink will bleed through to the other side or form an image on the opposite page because it didn’t have enough time to dry. These problems often occur in newspapers, which use about the lowest quality paper around due to its low price.

When deciding on the quality of paper, two factors come into play. First is if you will be printing solely in black and white or if there will be color. If there is color, you’ll want a higher quality paper than would be necessary for black and white. The second factor is the color of the paper; generally for books you can choose between white or cream. Black and white and some darker inks look fine on cream, but other colors will look odd. For the most professional look, stick with white, especially if printing color photos.

The “good” news is that most self-publishing copies don’t give you too many options where paper quality is concerned. As they want their product to look good when it lands in your hands, they tend to simply have you tell them if you will print anything in color or not and then preselect a paper for you.

If you do have some selection options, be careful – once you decide your paper quality, typically you cannot go back and change it after you print the book. Instead, you’ll need to purchase a new ISBN for it.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.