Your masterpiece is finally completed! After pouring your heart and soul into your first foray into authorship, you are ready to embark on the self-publishing journey. So, now the big question that looms before you: paperback vs. hardcover?

Hardcover books are still preferred for certain book genres, namely textbooks, children’s books, first-edition fiction, and coffee table books. However, a clear preference for paperback in recent years has taken some of the wind out of the hardcover’s sails — and sales.

The decision to create a hardcover vs. paperback rests on such matters as calculating profit, determining how your book will be utilized or consumed, and what cover type is standard for your particular genre. To navigate all this, let’s consider the main features and drawbacks of the paperback vs. hardcover options.

Paperback vs. Hardcover Comparison

Researching paperback vs. hardcover preferences can be a bit confounding. Since a case can be made for either option, the type of cover you eventually decide on will largely be based on personal preference and the vision you have for your book.

However, some practical considerations will influence the final selection between paperback vs. hardcover. Some of the nuanced considerations you’ll be mulling over in the hardcover vs. paperback debate include:

  • Costs
  • Genre
  • Function
  • Cover art
  • Aesthetics

Why Are Paperback Books Cheaper than Hardcover Books?

Book consumers are well aware of the higher price tag that hardcover books carry. The lower cost of publishing a paperback vs. hardcover is based on the lower cost of materials as well as the ability to mass-produce a paperback book. The lower cost of a paperback book translates to a lower retail price, and the lighter weight of the paperback vs. hardcover is reflected in a lower shipping cost.

Hardcovers involve more manual labor to produce, in addition to higher material costs and a more complicated printing process. This is due to the cost of the heavy cardboard used to make the cover, the layers of casing, binding, and mesh, and the high-quality glossy paper that creates the dust jacket.

Cost is just one consideration you’ll face when trying to decide between the paperback vs. hardcover options. For example, although a paperback costs less to produce than a hardcover, the revenues on hardcover books are higher in the long run based on the number of copies sold.

Based on the KDP cost calculator, the average costs of each type of cover are:

  • Hardcover books: $8.95
  • Paperback books: $4.30

Pros & Cons of Paperbacks vs. Hardcovers

When discerning whether to publish your book with a hardcover vs. paperback cover, here are some pros and cons of each option to help you make an informed decision:

Paperback Books

A paperback or softcover book uses a heavy cardstock, either glossy or matte, to protect the interior content. Some paperback books feature flaps to contain the book details and author bio. Additionally, the extra cover space provides for artwork and graphics.

We all love to cuddle up with a great paperback, don’t we? And for good reason:


  • Paperback editions are lightweight, more portable, and have lower shipping costs
  • They are pliable, making them easy to bend and pack into tight spaces
  • Paperbacks are the ideal choice for book clubs as the cost for members is lower
  • Paperbacks cost about half of what hardcover books cost to publish, so retail at a lower price
  • People who like to annotate their books feel freer to mark up a paperback

Then again, the paperback does have a few drawbacks:


  • Paperback covers don’t wear as well and may become damaged
  • Paperbacks don’t have the status of hardcover books
  • There is much more competition in the paperback category
  • Paperbacks have a lower resale value


Hardcover Books

Self-publishing hardcover books can be accomplished using a couple of different methods.

One method uses 2.5mm-3.5mm thick cardboard over which a coated paper is wrapped that contains the cover art design. The other is a clothbound, or case-bound, cover in which a durable cloth is applied to the cardboard, and the cover art is applied directly to the cloth. Either of these versions can sport a dust jacket, which features the glossy cover art and interior flaps.

Who doesn’t love the look of a classy hardbound book? Here’s why:


  • Hardback books have a premium look and seem more professional
  • Hardcover books make nice gifts
  • Hardcover books usually use higher-quality paper for the pages
  • Hardcovers are much more durable and will last longer
  • With a dust jacket, hardcovers are like getting two covers in one
  • Hardcover books command a higher retail price and, thus can be more profitable
  • Collectors prefer the hardcover version of a book

On the other hand, there are some downsides to printing hardcover books:


  • Hardcovers are pricey, costing upwards of double the price of a paperback cover
  • Hardcover books are heavier and bulkier, making them more cumbersome to carry around
  • Hardcover books have higher shipping costs due to the added weight
  • Dust jackets can become torn or damaged, which diminishes the aesthetic value

Should I Print a Hardcover or Paperback Book?

When approaching the point of your book project when big decisions about book design must be made, the question of hardcover vs. paperback is one of the biggies. Why? You must consider several factors, including cost differences, profitability, genre, and aesthetics before pulling the trigger. Some considerations include:


The genre of your book can dictate whether you select hardcover vs. paperback. For instance, cookbooks are best published as hardcover books so they will hold up well under the demands of the kitchen. Coffee table books are much more striking in hardcover form, and biographies are more commanding in their appeal when published in hardcover form. On the other hand, a romance novel is perfectly suited to paperback.

Book Cover Art

Your amazing book cover art may not have the same visual impact in paperback form. While a simply drawn illustrated book cover translates well to a paperback cover, it may seem oddly weak in hardcover form. As well, a dramatic cover design for a thriller is more captivating in hardcover form with a high gloss dust jacket than on the more muted paperback cover.


It’s easy for writers to get tangled up with the question of dollars and cents when it comes to calculating the costs and royalties of a paperback book vs. a hardcover. As a rule, a 250-page 6×9 paperback will cost about $4.00 to print. With a $14.95 retail list price, the royalty is about $5.00 per unit sold. A 250-page 6×9 hardbound book will have costs that range from $9-$13 based on whether there is a dust jacket and the type of binding used. The royalty paid for the hardcover based on those details could range from $4-$6.50 per unit sold.


The decision you make about which type of cover to use could hinge on its functionality. Is it a cookbook that will be handled a lot in the kitchen? If so, a hardcover would be a better option. Is it a romance novel that your reader will want to curl up with? If so, a paperback is best. A coffee table book? Hardcover, hands down.

The Emergence of eBooks

If you are still torn about whether to use a paperback vs. hardcover for your book, why not consider the eBook format? The eBook phenomenon continues to drive huge revenues on bookseller platforms, making publishing an eBook a safe bet.

Agonizing over the pros and cons between a paperback and a hardcover needn’t be a harrowing step of the self-publishing process. Many authors solve this dilemma by offering their books in all three formats: paperback, hardcover, and eBook.

Not Sure if Paperback, Hardcover, or Even eBook is Best?

So, which option is better in the great paperback vs. hardcover debate?

Clearly, the decision about which cover to select for your amazing new book is not all that clear. This is where some valuable publishing expertise can be worth its weight in gold.

Partnering with Gatekeeper Press for your book project immediately takes the stress out of this important publishing endeavor.

We will help you make the best choice for not only your cover but for all the decisions that factor into creating a high-quality final product. Additionally, the team at Gatekeeper Press can help you self-publish hardcover or paperback with our expert publishing services, as well as eBook publishing services.

Visit Gatekeeper Press today for our full spectrum of publishing services and contact us to get started.