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My Self-Publishing Adventure, Episode Nine – Formatting your book for Paperback Publication

Formatting your book for paperback publication can be something of a pain, but if you have written it in Word, or are at least marginally familiar with the program, you can do it yourself in a few hours. There is no need to pay someone else to format your manuscript. Unfortunately, I could find no comprehensive guidance on this, none that I considered clear, anyway. After a bit of trial and error, however, I think I have it figured out. I wanted to share this because I suspect other writers may find it helpful.

I initially self-published my first two books as e-books. Friends and relatives kept asking when they would be ‘real’ books so they could read them. Not everyone owns an e-reader and many people simply prefer to read a hard copy. Others who have read my e-books also asked about when the print versions would be released because they wanted to have them. I confess that as much as I love my Kindle, I too like the feel of a printed book, and there is a certain sense of ownership to having a physical book (or music album, for that matter) that I don’t seem to enjoy with having only the digital version. So, after some deliberation, I decided to publish my first two novels as trade paperbacks.

I’m doing so through CreateSpace, a self-publishing service affiliated with This isn’t a plug for them, but they seemed to offer the best option in terms of cost and distribution. They also allow you to load your Word document directly, so the conversion is easy. The publishing is free, but other than your first proof copy of your first book, you have to pay for the copies you order, and, with shipping, the cost is not much less than what you will need to charge others for your printed books.

It is important to realize that when you format for print, what you see is what you get. The pages in your book will look exactly like the pages in your formatted document. This is entirely different from formatting for e-books, which will adjust the lines and size of the displayed page to the device being used and the options set by the user.

One of the first things you will need to do to prepare your book for printing is to decide the trim size (the physical size of the book) that you prefer. I went with 8”x5” because I have several traditionally published books of that size on my shelves. All the guidance I’m sharing with you now assumes you will be using this trim size. If you are not, some modifications may be necessary. I am also using an older version of Word so some of the screen shots may be different from what you see when you format your own document. So, with those qualifications said, let’s begin.

Open your manuscript and save it under a different file name. You don’t want to risk messing up your original in case you need to start over.

Now select ‘all’ (Edit/Select All) and apply the font you want. The default for CreateSpace seems to be Book Antiqua 11. I went with this and I think it looks fine.

Easy so far, right? It gets trickier, but you can handle it.

Select ‘all’ again and then Format/Paragraph. For print publication, you will need to justify alignment, single space the text and apply indents of 0.2” to the first line of each paragraph. This is how it looks in my version of Word.

Now go to the Line and Page Breaks tab and check the Window/Orphan control box. Unselect all the others.

From here on it gets a little more complicated. Go to File/Page Setup… Here you will need to make several changes. I applied the following margin settings for my books: top 0.7”, bottom 0.6”, inside 0.1”, outside 0.5”, gutter 0.75”. These seemed to provide the best overall appearance. The Gutter will vary depending on the length of the book. Mine are about 340 pages. Books with more than 600 pages will need a larger gutter. Also, be sure to select a portrait orientation and mirror margins. Apply these settings to the whole document.

Now go to the Paper tab. This is where you select your trim size. If you are going with 5”x8”, this is what is will look like. Don’t forget to apply this to the whole document.

Go to the Layout tab. By starting sections on odd pages, you ensure each chapter will begin on a page on the right side of the book (odd numbered page). Headers and footers should be different between odd and even pages and different on the first page. Apply these settings to the whole document.

You are almost there, but the last things you must do are the trickiest. Insert section breaks where you need them. For mine, I did this between the front matter, between each chapter, and after the last chapter. To do this, just go to the spots where you need to create a break and select Insert/Break – Section Break, Next Page.

Once you have done that, it is a good time to make some cosmetic changes. If you applied the same font and alignment to everything, you may wish to change this for things such as your book title, dedication, and chapter headings. You can change the font and alignment as you wish. I chose a 22 point font and center alignment for my chapter headings. I also created four blank lines above and below each chapter heading so that the final version looks like this. (The image is low-resolution, but you can see the spacing.)

Now apply the appropriate headers and footers to each section. Do this with care to make sure these are linked to the previous ones where needed and not linked if they should not be. You will use these to add text and page numbers. There seems to be no standard convention for this, so I opted to center the author name in the header of even numbered pages, the book title on the odd numbered pages, and the page number centered in the footer of each page. Again, this low-resolution screen shot from Word is not good for reading, but you can see where the headers and footers are placed. You may choose to place these differently in your books.

The last step for formatting your book for print is critical. Some of your chapters will probably not begin on odd numbered pages, although they will be numbered as such because we told Word that each section begins on an odd numbered page. Check page numbers and insert blank pages where needed. Go through the entire document and locate any section breaks that are not preceded by an even numbered page. Another thing to look for is gutter placement. It should alternate from left to right on each page. You will probably note some errors. To fix these, just insert a page break (Insert/Break – Page Break) before the applicable section break to create a blank page.

Now just review the file to make sure the book looks they way it should. Remember, what you see is what you get.

Now that you know your trim size and the number of pages, you can finalize your cover. I won’t go through this in detail because this post is already long and people use a wide assortment of different tools for creating covers. CreateSpace provides a template to help you make sure your cover is sized right, though, and this is very useful. Note that CreateSpace only allows PDF files for the cover so you will need to convert your ‘.png’ files (or whatever you have) to PDF format and they should be 300 dots per inch (DPI) or higher. I used Gimp and PowerPoint to create my cover art and then imported it to the Open Office Drawing program to create the PDF file. There may be an easier way to do this, but probably not with the software that I have.

That’s it. When you are done, you should have a book ready for final proof reading. Make sure to do this before you publish!

Good luck.

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