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A Step-By-Step Guide to Formatting Your Book’s Interior


Has the idea for a novel recently hi-jacked your subconscious, or have you been drafting your dream on sticky notes since they were invented? Either way, it is time to get your idea in final print. To transform those notes into a tangible book, you will first need an interior file.


Abandon thy typewriter. You know it won’t get you a PDF file unless you scan the pages (and even then, those PDFs would not be suitable for printing), but the bells and whistles of graphic programs may already be giving you a migraine. While there are a bevy of programs awaiting your perusal, there are indeed choices for keeping it simple. Microsoft Word is a sophisticated program that lends simple and professional aesthetic touches to the formatting of your interior file.


One common mistake is leaving the page size at 8.5″ x 11″. When trimming to the preferred trim size, the margins no longer meet requirement. Alas, here’s what you need to know to ensure your dream is not halted during a technical file review.


Depending on your version of Microsoft Word, the locations and titles of the below tabs may vary. For the purposes of this article, we are using 2007.


Page Layout


Once you get started with formatting your book, there are several areas in this tab you will need to examine. Primarily, Margins and Size.


(click images to enlarge)



Size: Click here and then visit the area that allows you to enter more paper sizes so you can ensure that your correct width and height are entered.


Once more, with feeling: Page Layout – Size – More paper sizes. Set your width and height based on your book’s final trim size. The rest can be left at default unless you have anything fancy to do. Be sure to apply this to the “Whole document” prior to proceeding.




A quick note about bleed: Bleed simply means you have elements extending all the way to the edges of a page. If you are submitting your book with any images or elements that bleed, you will add .125″ to the width and .25″ to the height. For the trim size of 6″ x 9″ plus bleed, you will size your file at 6.125″ x 9.25″.


Margins: Simply put, the necessary updates to your margins can be found under Page Layout – Margins – Custom Margins.


Customize your margins based upon the submission requirements for your page count, and whether you are including bleed. For example, for a 152-page book, you will need at least .75″ gutter margins.




You will need to format both gutter (inside) margins and outside margins. The outside margins include the top, bottom, and the outside edges of the pages.


Gutter margins: Picture an open book. The gutter margins are the area in the spine/binding region of your open book. These should mirror each other, having the same distance on both sides. You can typically select Mirror Margins in the Multiple Pages area and then set your preferred size for the gutter margins. Remember: the inside margins and gutter margins are the same thing. Set just your gutter margin to eliminate redundancy. The inside margin area can be left at “0”.


When reviewing your pages one at a time, remember that the first page is going to appear on the right in your open book. The next will appear on the left, and so on.


Outside margins: Top, bottom and outside margins will appear more consistent if you keep them the same size. Please review the requirements for your page size, as this will differ slightly if you are including bleed. If you are not including bleed, the requirement is at least .25″ for all text, but we recommend .5″ so that the text can be easily read.




Recap: Set at least .5″ for the top, bottom, and outside margins. Next to Multiple Pages, select Mirror Margins. Set your gutter margin dependent upon your page count. Setting your gutter margins larger is fine; just don’t set them smaller than the requirements below:


  • 24 to 150 pages .375″

151 to 300 pages .5″

301 to 500 pages .625″

501 to 700 pages .75″

701 to 828 pages .875″




Now that we’ve covered the logistics, let’s focus on a few aesthetic options. You’re going to spend time in the Insert tab so we’ll give you a minute to get acquainted prior to reading on. Ready? Ok, us too.




Page numbering and headers: Prior to typing your book, we recommend adding your page numbers or your headers. If you add them later, it can disrupt other formatting preferences you might have. To insert these, please visit Insert and view the available header andfooter options. It is common to include a header at the top and a page number in the bottom or footer area.


If you do not want your header to show on the first page, visit Header – Edit header – and then click on “Different First Page” so that this one stands out. The “Different First Page” preference will fall under the options in this section.


Drop caps: How do you feel about drop caps in a story? If you’re a fan, visit Insert – Drop Cap. As a potential note, you will need to have a written paragraph in order to use this action. This is a fun option for the beginning of a new chapter.


A few formatting dos and don’ts for your book:


  • Return (Enter) key: We advise against hitting Enter to begin text on a new page. Instead, visit Insert and then Page Break. If you hit the Enter key to begin Chapter 2 on a new page, this formatting will not hold if you later decide to add two new paragraphs to Chapter 1. We also recommend visiting Page Layout ? Breaks to play with the available options. These will typically provide smoother transitions and will result in fewer conversion errors.


  • With this being said, using the spacing key to advance to the next line is also not advised. The text will flow there naturally as you type. Hitting Enter will bring you to a new line to begin your next paragraph.




Additional aesthetic choices can be made in the Home tab.


Indenting: You can determine your preferred level of indentation under the Home – Paragraph section by looking for these buttons.




Line spacing: Double-spacing between lines is not necessary. It is more common for a document to be single-spaced. If you must double-space, here’s what you should do: in theHome tab, visit the Paragraph section. Next to the centering and justifying options, there will be a section with a blue vertical arrow with 4 lines and a drop-down for you to select your preference.


Paragraph spacing: The line spacing button even allows you to add a space after each paragraph, which is a smart formatting choice as you will likely be taking this action regardless.


Under the Home – Paragraph tab we also recommend justifying your text. While some prefer to have the text left-justified, we recommend choosing the option that justifies the text on all sides, making each line begin and end in the same position. If you find that the text appears out of alignment when reaching the end of your paragraph hit Enter.


Saving your file as a PDF


The final hurdle of achieving the file you were envisioning is saving your document as a PDF. The Resources article Creating a PDF for Print should assist you with saving your document into a PDF.


As always, it has been a pleasure facilitating your creativity. With hope, you can now focus on the nooks and crannies of your story, rather than the intricacies of a complicated program. We wish you the best of luck on your creative endeavors.


Kelly loves her CreateSpace team and the authors who fuel the indie publishing process. She is passionate about ISBNs, margins, and the artistic endeavors of the writers who scamper across her desk.


You may also be interested in…


Self-Published Authors: Don’t Make These 5 Newbie Book Layout Mistakes

Interior Templates


Thanks for the helpful advice, Kelly








“We share what we know, so that we all may grow.”