Formatting for Print

A couple of weeks ago, I started a series on formatting. You can find the posts here and here. I promised to come back and do a post on how to format your interior file for print versions as well. That’s what today’s post is going to be about. As we start out, I’m going to make a couple of assumptions. The first is that you are working in Word or one of the equivalent programs. Yes, InDesign is a much better program and gives you much better control on kernaling and the like, but it is 1) expensive and 2) had a learning curve many find daunting. So, let’s get started.

The first question, even before you start your formatting, that you have to ask is where you are going to turn for printing and distributing your book. There are all sorts of options out there. To me, the two best — and for different reasons — are Createspace and Ingram Spark. The latter can get you into bookstores but the downside is you have to pay to use them and you aren’t guaranteed shelf space in those stores. The second can be completely free or it can cost you a whopping $10 if you buy an ISBN from them. The downside is that Amazon owns Createspace and that means getting into bookstores is going to be much more difficult.

All that considered, you have one more question to answer. Do you really want to spend the time, effort and money (yes, money. Even if you don’t pay someone to go out and try to sell your books to those bookstores, you will have to do it and every hour away from your keyboard is money out of your pocket.) trying to get into those stores? In other words, will the return on investment be worth the money spent to use Ingram Spark?

For me, since the vast majority of my sales come from e-books, I am more than happy using Createspace. It keeps my initial financial outlay down to a minimum, puts the print books in Books in Print, in the Amazon stores and lets me order copies at a discounted price when I need them for events, cons, etc.

So that is my second assumption for this post. Everything I am about to tell you is based on Createspace. If you decide to use Ingram Spark or one of the other services, you will need to check their formatting requirements.

So, how do you format your book for print?

The first thing you do is decide what size you want your book to be. Remember that the more pages you have, the more it will cost to produce and the higher your price will have to be in order to make money. I choose standard trade paperback size of 9 x 6. Now the fun begins.

Take the final version of your book and save it as a new file. Because I have been known to get confused on an occasion or two, I tend to save the files as NameofNovelPrintVersion. Once I’ve done that, I selection all (if you are using a PC, that ctrl A) and then go into layout and change the page size. Save it again. In fact, you should save often — and back up to other media.

Once you have changed your page size, check your front matter. Compare it to other print books in your genre. You want your books to have the same basic layout as those of traditional publishers. Here is how I set up my last several books:

  • Title Page (title only)
  • Also by (list other works)
  • Second title page (title, series, author, publisher, logo, etc.)
  • Copyright page

You can play with fonts and font size on your title pages. The key is to make it look as much like a traditionally published book as possible. In other words, imitate what you see. Also, remember that the font size limitations you had in your e-book go out the window when you move to the print side of things. For example, I have nothing with a font size of more than 16 in an e-book. For a three line title page (title of the book only), I used Minion Pro SmBld with font size of 36. Line spacing before was set to 100 and line spacing was set at multiple (1.15).

Now, before we go any further, each of the above pages had a page break after the last line of text. That means the “Also by” by was on the back of the initial title page and the copyright page on the back of the second title page. The exception is the copyright page. That page has a section break (odd page) instead of a page break after the last line of text. What this does is insert a blank page where needed so your next bit, your dedication, appears on the right hand page of your novel. To insert the section break (odd page), click your layout tab. Then click on “breaks” and scroll down until you see “section breaks” and “odd page”. Click on odd page. You won’t see the additional page in your word document but it will show up when you save your file to pdf.


So now you have a new “section” and this is for your Dedication. Replace the “page break” from your e-book with “new section, odd page” after the last line of your dedication.

In my books, I make a change here from my e-books. Because e-books use your style headings to build the active table of contents, I don’t use Heading 1 (or any other) on “Dedication” in the digital version. However, with the print version, I want “Dedication” to match my chapter headings, so I highlight the word and then apply Heading 1.

And this is where we start changing the formatting from the digital version of the book.

My Heading 1 is set up as follows (for science fiction):

  • Font:
    • Minion Pro SmBld
    • size 20
    • all caps
  • Paragraph:
    • centered
    • spacing before: 100
    • spacing after 50
    • line spacing: multiple 1.15

This drops the heading down the page and gives spacing between the chapter heading and the first paragraph. Once you make this change to your heading settings, it should apply to all your headings in the document. In Word, you can make this change pretty easily by simply right clicking on the heading, choosing “modify” and then enter what you want.

Your next section will be Chapter 1. Your chapter title/number is Heading 1. If you had added spacing after in your paragraph dialog box for the Heading, you do not need to have more than one line return between the chapter title/number and the first line of your first paragraph.

And this is the next place you can play with your formatting and make it different from your e-book. Again, I suggest you look at books in your genre by traditional publishers and see what they do. You don’t usually see Drop caps in science fiction or fancy fonts, but you might in some fantasy or romance novels. For my SF novels, I small cap the entire first line. Now, when doing this, I sometimes have to play with the spacing in order to make it look right. You can do this in word by highlighting the word or words you need to adjust. Click on the font dialog box and then click on the advanced tab. When that opens, you have the option of changing your spacing and scale. Play with it and see what works best.I usually leave “scale” alone and work only with spacing. (Note: you will need to check this again later, after you have set your margins and gutters. I’m not having you set these yet because your page count is going to change based on how many sections you have and how many blank pages have been included.)

My paragraph settings, which are “Normal” on my style ribbon, are as follows:

  • Justified
  • First line indent 0.3
  • 0 spacing before and after a paragraph
  • line spacing of 1.15 (multiple)

My font is set at Georgia, 11 font size.

For section breaks, you can do pretty much whatever you want. Just remember, if you use an image, you need to embed it in your document and each time you use it, it increases the size of the file and, if you are in the 70% royalty program on Amazon, it will increase the transmission cost per download. Instead of an image, you can use symbols that are part of your font package. Once more, see what the trads in your genre are doing.

Add a section break at the end of the chapter (making sure you removed the page break, if it was already there). Rinse and repeat until you are done with the book.

Now that you have the body of your book formatted, select all and go into your paragraph dialog box. Click on the line and page break tab and make sure you have unclicked widow and orphan control. This is so every page, except for partial pages, end on the same line. Now save your as a PDF. Yes, yes, I know. I haven’t talked about headers and footers. We will in a a moment. Just bear with me. Once you have the PDF file, see how many pages it is. Make a note of the number. Now, go back to your working print file. It is time to set up your margins and gutter.

Createspace at least helps you here.

If your books is 24 – 150 pages:

  • inside margin of 0.375
  • outside margin of 0.25

If your book is 151 -300 pages:

  • inside margin of .5
  • outside margin of 0.25

If your book is 301 – 500 pages:

  • inside margin of 0.625
  • outside margin of 0.25

If your book is 501 – 700 pages:

  • inside margin of 0.75
  • outside margin of 0.25

If your book is 701 – 828 pages

  • inside margin of 0.875
  • outside margin of 0.25

Open your page dialog box. Your first tab should be margins. Choose the appropriate margins from above and fill them in. Choose your orientation (portrait). Where it says “pages”, choose mirror margins. Now click on the “paper” tab. Make sure your page size is appropriately entered. Now click the “layout” tab. Make sure it says a new section starts on the odd page. Under headers and footers, make sure both “different odd and even” and “different first page” are clicked. Press okay and then save your document.

Now, finally, it is time to do your headers and footers and this is where you will see why we switched to section breaks instead of page breaks between chapters. If you look at a traditionally published book, you will see that most do not have headers or footers on the first page of each new chapter. Also look at how they do their headers. Are the author names set out in the same manner as the book title? Some will be and others will not. Some will italicize the author name and cap only the first letter of each word of the author’s name. Now, how do they do the title? Capped? Small caps? Choose which you like best and now we will get to work.

Go to your first chapter. Click insert header. If you are working in one of the later versions of Word, this should take you to the “design” tab. Make sure “different first page”, “different odd & even” and “show document text” are clicked. Now look for “link to previous” and make sure that is not clicked. You do not want headers or footers on your front matter. Once you have that done, scroll to the second page of the chapter. Type in the author name. I have it centered in my manuscript but you can align it however you want. My only reminder is to do what is common in traditional publishing in your genre. Once you have it typed in, highlight it. Make sure it isn’t indented. If so, open the paragraph dialog box and removed first line indent. Also, consider changing the font size slightly to offset your header text from your main text. I drop my font size down to 10 for my headers.

Once you have done that for the author name, scroll down to the third page of the chapter. Type in the title of the book. Repeat the check for indents and font size. Now scroll to the beginning of the document and make sure you haven’t accidentally wound up putting headers in the front matter. If it looks all right, save your document.

Page numbers are next. These can go up in the header or down in the footer. I put them in the footer because that is easier to do. So, go to “insert” select page number, and basically repeat what you did for your headers. Once you have them aligned how you want, make sure there is no first line indent. Match your font size with your header font size. You have one more step. If your page number doesn’t say “2” on the second page of the chapter, click on “page number” and then “format page numbers”. The dialog box that opens up lets you choose what number to start with. Choose 1 — it won’t show since first page is different — and save. Make sure it works. If not, choose 2.

You’re almost done. Skip ahead to your next chapter. If your headers and footers aren’t there, don’t panic. Double click in the header section of your page and that will open up the design ribbon. Now you can click link to previous section. That should import all your settings from the first chapter. If you have done it right, you will have no header or footer on the first page of the chapter but those should be in place after that page, complete with correct page numbers. Check the rest of your document and save.

Now it is time to save as a PDF again. This time, when you save, you want to go back and check your formatting as it imported in. Pay close attention to how your first line of each chapter looks — did your special formatting carry over as you thought it would or do you need to go back and play with it? Does each page look right or do you need to tweak the formatting some. One problem that can happen on occasions is weird full justification of a short sentence. This happens when you accidentally put in a soft return (ie, you accidentally hit “enter” while holding “shift”). All you have to do is go to the end of that paragraph in your Word doc and erase the soft return and then hit “enter”.

Tweak as needed, until you are satisfied with how the document looks.

One more thing. You don’t need all the end matter in a print book that you have in an e-book. You have already listed your other work at the beginning of the novel. So there is no need to list it all again. You can add a “Note from the Author” or “About the Author” if you want, but you don’t have to. I do, simply because I don’t like the book ending with the last page of the novel and there being no chance to thank the reader. Again, and I know I sound like a broken record, check what the trads in your genre are doing.

In other words, copy, copy, copy but make yours look better than the trads.

Save our your final version in both DOC and PDF. You will upload the PDF version to Createspace — or whoever you chose to do your POD versions. Now you wait for them to tell you whether you passed review or not. When you have, download the PDF file they have compiled. Make sure nothing happened to your formatting and your book still looks the way you want it to. If you haven’t been doing this for awhile and aren’t comfortable with it — and even if you are — go ahead and order a hard copy proof of your book as well. See if you like how it looks in print. If not, change it.

In other words, don’t rely on the downloaded proof. I had a book where the downloaded proof looked great but when the printed version got here, my 250 page book was something like 125 pages. The font had screwed up somehow and you needed a magnifying glass to read it. Fortunately, I caught it before it was released into the wild. Believe me, it is better to spend $5 or so plus shipping to avoid that sort of headache.

I know this is a super-long post but there is no easy and quick way to handle this. Now I’m off for coffee and food.










22 responses to “Formatting for Print

  1. I want to underline one point you made above–the first step in doing any formatting is to make a copy of the document. I have learned through bitter experience to always keep what I call the “clean copy” of the entire manuscript. That has all the edits and the chapter titles, but no formatting for either e-book or print book. I do nothing with that version except to copy it. That way no matter how bad I screw up, I can always start over from scratch with a new copy. It seems obvious, but it took me quite a bit of blood, sweat, toil, and tears to make it a habit.

    • I used to do it that way — the “blank” copy to start with. But I”m lazy. I write now in the e-book format and then save it out as a second document when I get ready to go to print.

  2. Laura M

    Thank you, Amanda. This is so timely. I’ve been planning to tackle POD for one of my books while the WIP is out with beta readers, and that is about to happen very soon, or there will be h*ll to pay.

  3. What Laura said. I’m going to try a print version of the Alexi omnibus, and this helps a huge lot!

  4. Pingback: Nocturnal Lives » Formatting for Print

  5. Hmm. I do the ebook first – and then format the print version, since I try to start chapters with at least half of a blank page between the end of a chapter and the start of the next.

    • I’m not sure what you’re trying to say about the half page. Do you mean on the digital format? If so, why not just put in a page break and start the new chapter on a new screen? If you mean on the print, the section break, odd page, will do the same, especially if you add in lead spacing on your headings.

      • A break between chapters for the print edition. So – a chapter ends. If it ends at the bottom of the page, then I like to put in a blank page before the next chapter. Sort of a rest for the eyes of the reader. If the chapter ends somewhere in the top of the quarter of the page, then I leave the rest of the page blank and start a new chapter on the following page.

        • Okay, I think I see what you are saying and the section break/odd page does basically the same thing. Also, you get that “eye break” if your chapter ends on the bottom of the left-hand page by setting your Heading 1 up to have the space before and after. It gives enough lead in and after the chapter title for what you want.

  6. Uncle Lar

    Begs the question, why go to print at all? Any number of new indie authors have done quite well for themselves staying strictly with e-books.
    To answer my own question, I can come up with two major and a minor yet significant reasons for paper copies.
    1. Promotion and pocket money at cons and book signings. Trying to sell a computer file at an in person meet and greet is awkward at best. And attempting to sign electrons an exercise in frustration.
    2. Obviously, getting your work into traditional book stores is a whole other market, one that is difficult at best for an independent, but I expect will become more doable over time. I have heard credible rumors that Amazon itself is considering getting into the physical brick and mortar book store market.
    3. Minor, yet important to some egos, is the ability to hand a real book to certain, usually older, friends and family who will never accept your success as an author without tangible evidence. And showing them a printout of your yearly Amazon bank deposits is a bit tacky.

    • The simple answer, Uncle Lar, is appearances. If you have print versions out there, even if they don’t really sell, you still give the appearance of being a “real” author. If you get audio out as well, you solidify that appearance even more. And it does, from what I’ve seen both personally and from what others have told me, help increase sales of the digital files. People seem more willing to take a risk on you if you get those print books out there and make yourself look like a “real writer”. Shrug.

      • Uncle Lar

        I certainly agree with that assessment, but have a hunch it’s in the nature of a transient one. We are after all still in the midst of that long talked about transition to a paperless society. All of my reading takes place either on computer screen or a dedicated e-book reader. But with millennials I understand that reading mostly takes place on their smartphones.
        As for audiobooks, a fairly new and I predict burgeoning market. Great way for multitaskers to fill the dead time lost to a long commute, or engaged in relatively mindless but necessary tasks that don’t require your full attention. And no formatting required. You just need to find that one special voice.

    • On your first point, in-person sales are a big point for many people. I know a small press that goes to events like Renaissance Faires and SCA events as well as the more traditional book events and signings. They definitely want the physical copies then, because while a POD book stretches the suspension of disbelief quite a bit, e-books break it entirely. 😉

    • I agree with all of those reasons. I give away more print versions than I sell, but I think the fact that I have them to give away is one of the best marketing tools I have. I like having a supply in my trunk and being able to hand them out. Plus I think that having multiple formats available looks more professional. I have all of my novels in e-book, print, and audiobook.

    • Warren

      Another reason for doing a print version is that it establishes a price point for the book that is higher than the price for the ebook. That way your add copy at Amazon can show an SRP of, say, $18 for the print book – discounted by 30% on Amazon to $12.6. {You save $5.40!} And then the ebook can be priced at $3.49 with a note telling the buyer that they save 81% by purchasing the ebook. This makes the ebook look like a really good deal and can help to encourage people to give your book a try.

  7. Christopher M. Chupik

    This is one of those posts I’ll need to check back with when I’m ready for self-pubbing. Thank you, once again, for sharing your hard-won wisdom, Amanda.

  8. Peter Wilson’s A Few Notes on Book De­sign can be a useful read for some people, especially if you’re doing layout for other people. (Though it comes from the LaTeX typesetting world, this booklet is tech-neutral and applies no matter what software you’re using.)

  9. One benefit of using the Expanded Distribution option at CreateSpace is that the book then goes into Baker & Taylor (a distributor used by many, many bookstores), and from Baker & Taylor to places such as Powell’s, Mysterious Galaxy Books, B&N, etc.

    If you have purchased a $10 ISBN, the publisher of record is your own imprint – not CreateSpace – so you do not trigger the brick-and-mortar boycott of CreateSpace.

    Caution on using the inner margin recommended by CreateSpace for the various page lengths. CS books tend to be very tightly bound, and I have found that the inner margin needs to be a bit more generous to prevent the type from disappearing down the page into the binding.

    • All good points. I am in the expanded distro. While it gets you in the catalog, it doesn’t really help get you on the shelves of most stores. As for the inner margin, I tend to increase mine slightly — and that is why I always recommend getting the printed proof. Something may look good in the pdf but suck royally in print.