Formatting for Print on Demand

Ok, so last week I started talking to you about getting started with CreateSpace. We talked about some things you can do and think about before you really dig into formatting. The last step we talked about was doing one last, careful, super final pass to make sure that text is completely typo-free and just the way you want it.

I should preface the rest of this by saying that there’s actually a lot you can do with interior layout, and if you want to be fancy, you’ll want to find references beyond what I’m going to talk about. This post is about get it done, get it out there, and quit being held back by fear or perfectionism. What I’m going for is a nice, clean, legible read, because I really believe it’s your story that matters. But if you want to dive into the fancy stuff on your first time out, go for it. One book I’ve seen recommended may times is Aaron Shepard’s Perfect Pages. That book deals a lot more with the ins and outs of making Word do what you want it to than it does about design type things. I’m sure there are tons of books and blog posts out there if you poke around long enough.

Hopefully you’ve been looking through some books to see what the insides look like, and to think about what kinds of extra information you’ll add. This is your space. As long as you don’t wind up costing your customer too much money, you can add promo for your other works, the works of your peers, a bio, etc. You should definitely leave a little room to tell the reader where to find you online so they’ll know where to go for more info about your future work.

A quick word about margins, which we didn’t get into the other day. I used equal margins on each side, partly because I had read somewhere that just in case the printing got a little off, it seemed a safe thing to do. In retrospect, I think I might have a wider inside (gutter) margin next time around. If you want to do that, in Word, you’ll go to File, Page Setup, Gutter Position Left, set the Gutter amount that you want (1/4″?), for Multiple Pages select “Mirror Margins.” Don’t be surprised if you page count has changed.

You’ll want to go through that section at the beginning of the book before the story actually starts, the “front matter.” Use Insert, Break, Section Break Next Page to make each page a new section. Use this method for any blank pages you want to add to make text fall on odd or even pages.  For example, the title page is on the right-hand side, or an odd page. The copyright info is usually on an even numbered page. Page 1, the way CreateSpace is counting, is the first page of your document. You can’t print anything on the inside cover (save it for your autograph).

When you start Chapter 1, make sure that’s the start of a new section. All Chapters should be the beginning of a new section (meaning there should be a section break, not a page break.) Continue to scroll through your document. Now you’re looking to make sure each chapter starts on an odd page, and if it doesn’t you’ll add extra section breaks as above. Remember to always work from beginning to end of your document. Each blank page should be its own section, and each new chapter should be the start of a new section. This is probably the most tedious part of the whole thing. This is about page numbering, which we’ll get to later.

Once you’ve added all your blank pages and you’re SURE about your page count, you can go back to CreateSpace to make the cover template. That’s as easy as entering your book size and number of pages and downloading a zip file. What you do with this, I don’t know. I sent mine to Robin and she sent me back a cover. (I ❤ Robin.) CreateSpace has some kind of cover creator thing for you DIYers. Remember to look at some books on your shelf to see what goes on a cover. You’ll probably at least want a short blurb for the back. CreateSpace will take care of your barcode, and the blank spot you leave for that is on your template.

Now you’re going to add headers. Go to File, Page Setup, Layout tab, and under Headers and footers check the box for Different odd and even. Also check the box for Different first page. In your document, skip to the Chapter 1 page. Select View, Header and Footer. A menu bar pops up and so does a text box where your header should be. Page down to the header of the next page. Use your regular old alignment buttons to center the text and type your name. Page down to the third page of your book, center the text and type your title. Now page through the rest of the section. You should have your book title on the odd pages and your name on the even pages.

Hover over the buttons on that little menu bar until you find the one that says Link to Previous. When that button is live, the section that you’re in takes the information from the section before it. Go through and click that button for every section. Go back to Chapter 1 and make sure that what you have is

  • your title on odd pages
  • your name on even pages
  • no headers on blank pages or “Chapter” pages

All of the headers and footers in the “front matter” section should be blank (but only if you’re doing it my way–you can actually do whatever you want). If they’re not, check those link to previous buttons and make sure they’re not activated.

Next step is to add page numbers. Go to the first page of your story, Chapter 1. If you’ve lost your footer box and menu, go to View, Header and Footer to get it back. Click in the footer and click the button for Format Page Number. Select Starts at and put in 1 so that this is where you start counting pages (story pages, for the reader, not actual pages for the printer). If you find there’s a 1 in the footer box in your document, delete it.  Go to the next page’s footer. This time, click the Insert Page Number button. Use the alignment buttons to center the number. Check page 3 and see if there’s a page number.

Page through your document. You should have no page numbers on blank and “Chapter” pages (because those are all the first page of a section). All other pages should have consecutive numbers. If this is not the case, play with it.

If you want page numbers on your “Chapter” pages (I have them, because the convention of not having them annoys me as a reader, but it is more common not to have them), that’s doable. You just have to unlink your sections and insert page numbers on the “Chapter” pages. It’s a pain in the butt.

Double check your front matter section and make sure all headers and footers are blank. Double check that all your headers and footers on blank and “Chapter” pages are empty. Double check, again, that all blank pages fall on the left, or even, and that all new chapters start on right or odd pages. And when you’re done checking, check again.

Another thing that’s worth mentioning is your curly quotes and apostrophes. When characters interrupt each other, as they often do, Word has a habit of making the end quote turn the wrong way. (“Hey, wait a min–“) Additionally, make sure any apostrophes at the beginnings of words are turned properly. When you type a word like ’cause, Word always puts the apostrophe the wrong way. These are things I now fix as I type, but had to go back through and fix when formatting for epublishing and print for Book 1. Make sure your double hyphens became em-dashes (the long, unbroken ones). There are probably other common things to look out for, but these are the ones I can think of and you probably worked a lot of this out when formatting for e anyway.

Once you’re all done, you should be able to Print to PDF. If you don’t have a program installed that allows you to do this, you might try something like PDF Creator or other free program. Google is your friend. Then you’re in for another round or two of just get your eyeballs on it and make sure it’s perfect before uploading.

We’re running long, but if you’re actually doing this, I know you just want me to finish it out.

Once you upload your PDF and your cover, it takes a day or few for CreateSpace to look it over and make sure it’s not going to be crappy in some way. Basically they’re checking to make sure you’ve followed the submission requirements, that all your text is in the printable area, stuff like that. Once it’s been accepted by them, you’ll order your proof.

What you pay for your proof is the cost you were quoted based on the page count. You’ll probably pay about the same for shipping via media mail. This should take about 7-10 days depending on how the mail is, although the site quotes longer. Once you get your book, after you’re done oohing, ahhing, stroking it, taking pictures of it, etc., you’ll want to actually crack it open and make sure everything turned out ok.

Go back to CreateSpace and approve your book. Make sure you’ve got your price set the way you want and that you’ve enrolled in ProPlan if you want (you can go free right now and add that later if you choose), and that you’ve opted into the Expanded Distribution Channel if you choose and have done ProPlan. Your book should show up on Amazon within a few days. If you entered your title exactly as your DTP title, your Kindle and paperback versions should link up automatically. If your page finishes building and they don’t, contact DTP customer service and let them know.

There’s a lot more that can be learned on the subject than what I’ve told you, which is mainly the highlights of what I remember having to learn when I did this, only once, about six months ago. But I hope it helps move you toward getting a print edition out there.

My book uses 12pt Times New Roman with 1/2″ margins, no gutter. Headings, headers, and footers are done in Engravers MT. I did no kerning of the text at all. The text is left-justified. If you’d like to see how that came out, you can Look Inside the Book on Amazon.


Filed under self-publishing

8 responses to “Formatting for Print on Demand

  1. Wow. You know the timing of this post couldn’t have been better for me personally, Susan. Since I’ve already dealt with a lot of this before, in having Staples print a few draft copies for my own use, I actually don’t feel overwhelmed, thank God, but what a great summary/wrap-up to use as a reference for all this tedious “grunt work” we all wish we had interns to do for us.

    I’m printing this out and saving it – which I don’t do very often at all. THANK YOU!

  2. David Hoyt

    One other thing. If you want to book-design layouts for smaller devices (e.g. kindle) have small margins. Reading pages with big margins make the text really small or forces the reader to move the page back and forth. You might want to create PDFs for multiple page sizes. With modern word processors you can do an acceptable job quickly. If you are aiming at the kindle, you don’t really need much. The user can pick the display size so the kindle will do anything it wants, regardless on how much care you put into the design.
    There are also packages that make quality book design much easier (e.g. Adobe). But this is probably too much work for most self publishing. Using the software is pretty easy, but understanding book design is an art form. In really quality books the designer is usually credited in the colophon. It’s not so common these days, because software has made it easy to do an okay job without much skill.

  3. Hey, I know this is a late comment, but I was playing around with Word to get Jon Eli’s book ready for print. I know you said that a chapter should always start with an odd numbered page and should have a blank page before it if a chapter ends on an odd page. It makes total sense, but when I started looking at traditionally published books, I found some of them starting chapters on both sides. I thought I would check out what “The King” did, and I noticed Stephen King’s books start chapters on both sides. So is always starting on the right side (odd numbers) something that’s just asthetically more pleasing to the eye? I’ll admit, I was shocked to see Stephen King’s books doing otherwise, but that just proves that I never noticed it before. Do people notice that stuff?

    • The chapter starting page thing is yet another matter of personal choice. There are books I’ve read where the chapters don’t even start on a new page, but follow right after the text of the last chapter with only a bit of space between. I’m thinking maybe at least some of Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth mass market paperbacks were like that. Very long books.

      I think that as indies we’re very much trying to do things the “right” way because we have this idea that people are looking for “unprofessional” things in our books. And to some extent I think that’s a valid concern. But it’s page/layout design. As long as you come out with a clean, readable product, I really don’t think it should matter, and for any decision you make you should be able to find a traditional published, professionally designed book that shows precedent for that decision.

      One decision I made, the only one I can think of that someone’s actually remarked on, was not to justify the text. Some people think that the clean line along the right side of the page makes the text more transparent, less noticeable to the reader that she’s reading, and that a ragged right edge is distracting. Unfortunately, I find the use of hyphens that so often happens in justified text hampers my reading. (I’m not a super reader. It’s not so easy for me.)

      So I chose not to do that. I have so much dialogue in my work that I was going to have a lot of raggedness, I did find new books in my library with ragged edged text. In layout design, as in creating the story, I decided to make the book I wanted to read.

      Hope that helps.

  4. Keeping those blank pages from numbering is the biggest pain when you’re trying to keep all chapters on the right side. I guess that’s why you use section breaks instead of page breaks, right? But I’ll get it done, because I think Jon wanted it that way, and it’s his book I’m working on right now.

    I like the justified right side better, but I’m like you, the hyphens bother me. However, I think there’s an option to turn that off so it won’t do hyphens at all to break up words. I’ll have to play around with it a bit. If it looks like there’s going to be bunches of stretched out words, then it would look better with the ragged edges. The only book I can find with ragged edges on my shelf is a self published book. But I can find several trad books with chapters starting on both sides. So, yeah, it’s a matter of choice. And this time it will be Jon’s choice. After I get his done, I’m going to start on one of mine. Eventually….

  5. What software do you usually use for formatting? When I format my client’s novel, I always use MS Word because the features are very easy but then I also realized that Adobe InDesign can really saved you a lot of time especially when it comes to formatting the odd and even page numbers.


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