How to Properly Format and Self-Publish Your Book
What's In This Article
- Print On Demand
- Page Design - Fonts, Formatting and Arrangement
- Copyright Page Example
- Designing the Cover
- Types of Book Covers
- Types of Spines
- Methods of Distribution
- ISBN Numbers
- What is the Cost of Printing Books?
- Important Steps Before Publishing
I have personally created and published two paperback books and several product manuals using the self-publishing methods that I'll explain in this article.
I'll teach you how to self-publish your own book, including proper page layout, font usage, designing your cover and methods of distribution.
I used Lulu.com to create two of my books and Create Space for the last one. They both are platforms for self-publishing and they have many tools to help make the job easy. Some of the details in this article are based on Lulu but most of what I'll teach you applies to formatting and preparing your book for any self-publishing platform.
Formatting the pages correctly can be done with a good word processor. I use Microsoft Word, which has the necessary features that help you create a "print image" of the pages of your book exactly as you want it to appear in the final printed form. I'll explain all this in detail below.
Once you have everything done you can upload your book for publishing. There's no fee for this. You only pay when you actually decide to order a printed copy of your book. This is known as Print-On-Demand.
Print On Demand
If you don't want to spend a dime you can just let other people buy your book. But I don't recommend that. You should get a printed copy so you can confirm that you did everything right.
I actually bought several copies as I continued to improve my book. I kept making changes after reviewing a real copy just because I didn't like how one thing or another turned out. So I made changes, ordered another printed copy, and then repeated the process. I did that until I was satisfied.
You only pay for the copies you order and you pay only the printing costs. When other people order it they pay the retail price that you set, and you get a commission from the difference. You can specify the commission. Just don't be greedy or else the retail price will be too high and it won't sell.
Lulu and Create Space will fulfill all your sales so you don't need to be involved with order taking and distribution.
Page Layout Design - Fonts, Formatting and Arrangement
Microsoft Word is a great tool for creating a true print image of the pages of your book. It lets you set the page size, margins, fonts, font size, etc. So you can concentrate on writing your book and Word takes care of the formatting.
The suggested font to use for the main text of your book is 12 point Times New Roman. Don't play around with using uncommon fonts as you may have trouble with printing. Some fonts don't reproduce as expected in the final print process.
Headings should be larger. I use 18 to 24 point depending on how much text is used in my headings. You can experiment with that to make your headings look pleasing to the eye. The text for headings should be a Sans Serif font. That means they are block letters. They are without (sans) the curvy lines (serif) like that of Times New Roman.
Note that Serif is easier to read, as the curves tend to let the readers eye flow easier. But headings do not need this. On the contrary, you want headings to stand out.
So use a "San Serif type" for headings. A good example is Arial, although you can use Tahoma or Verdana too. These are all very common and you won't run into any issues with it looking different in the actual printed book than it looks on your screen.
Page Formatting and Setup
Page Setup is an important part of setting MS Word to format the pages properly to fit the size you plan for your book. The most common size for books to be sold by retail stores is 6" by 9". So I'll give you the specs for that.
You want to have almost a one-inch margin on the top, bottom and sides. This white space allows for errors with cutting pages for binding as well as leaving room so that the text on your pages does not seem to become clustered.
You also want to allow a little more room towards the spine. This is called the gutter and its purpose is to compensate for the spine when opening the book, especially in thick books. Otherwise the text may be hard to see near the spine without flattening out the book, which can cause damage to the binding.
So how do you specify all this?
In MS Word, click the "File" link and then select "Page Setup" from the pull-down list. You'll see all the fields for these settings as shown in the following screenshot image.
In the above example, I have set all margins to 0.9" and I added 0.2" for the gutter.
The header and footer can also be positioned. Since the top and bottom white space is almost an inch according to my settings, I allow the header and footer text to fall right in the middle of that space by setting it to be 0.5" from the edge as shown in this image.
Make sure you set the checkmark for "Mirror margins." This will make it handle the gutter on the left or the right depending if it is an odd or even numbered page, respectively.
Also apply the settings to the "whole document" so your settings are uniform throughout your book.
You need to have a minimum of 32 pages for a 6x9 size book. The max is 740 pages.
Other book sizes have slightly higher minimum page count requirements.
But if you want to have global distribution for sale in retail stores you need to use a 6x9 book. So let's concentrate on that.
If you are making a book for your own enjoyment, then the page positioning does not really matter and you can do what you want.
But if you want to make your book available for distribution and possibly sell in bookstores, then you need to follow strict rules. There are specific requirements. Here’s a list. . .
The total number of pages in your book needs to be a multiple of 4. So add blank pages if you don't end up with this.
The last page needs to be blank on both sides to allow for retail markings that are automatically printed on that page. This can be counted as the last two pages.
The first page is for the title only. The reverse of that page should remain blank.
The next page is the description page, which shows the title and more info about the book, such as author name, publisher name, a short description, etc.
The reverse of the description page is the copyright page. The layout of this is very important. I'll explain details below.
Then comes the table of contents as a right hand page. This is optional and can continue on as many pages as required. MS Word helps place the proper page numbers in here for you when you use its tool.
You may want to include a Foreword on the next right hand page.
You may want to add an Acknowledgements Page after that, again on the next right-hand page.
Finally, on the next right hand page you can start your content of your book. I like to start all chapters on a right-hand page, although this is not a requirement.
Individual Page Titles
I also like to stick with a rule of placing the book's title on the top of every even numbered page (left hand page), and the chapter name on the top of each odd numbered page, except for the first page of the chapter where you probably have it anyway.
MS Word has a feature where you can have it propagate the even and odd pages titles throughout the entire book for you. To do this, specify that the headers and footers should be different on odd and even pages as I've done in this sample screenshot...
Notice how I checked off "different first page." That allows you to make the first page of each chapter different. I prefer not to display the chapter name in the title field on the first page of each chapter because I already have the name in big letters anyway on that page.
Remember to use chapter breaks at the end of each chapter to make all this work properly.
MS Word also can create an index for you. If you decide to include an index, this should be placed at the end of your book.
The use of MS Word is not the subject of this discussion. And you may be using another word processor anyway. So I suggest you learn the features and use the power of the program you use to get the most advantage out of it. It'll be very much worth your time.
Average Words Per Page
Thanks to a question from one of my readers in the comments, I added this info.
Using my suggested format of margins that are almost one inch, 12-pt fonts, and a 6x9 book, you should average about 280 words per page. You would have a 100-page book if you wrote 28,000 words.
The number of words per page is highly variable. My book had a few pages with as many as 340 words.
Many things influence the number of words per page...
- Average word length
- Formatting and white space
- Number of paragraph breaks
- Inclusion of images
You can get more words on a page by making the margins smaller, but there are reasons for using the values I recommended. People find it easier to read when their eyes can rest. The extra white space helps. If you full a page from top to bottom and left to right with words, it becomes overwhelming. So leave the white space all around.
If you have a huge book you may think that you want to use a smaller font to keep the cost down. The number of pages affects the cost. But keep in mind that the 12 pt font also makes it easy to read. So judge wisely if you plan to use text with smaller fonts.
Copyright Page Example
The copyright page, which goes behind the description page and is a left-handed page, contains the copyright information.
The Copyright Page needs specific information. See my example page below as you follow along...
On top is the title. Below the title is your copyright notice. Below that you can list some tags that indicate what the book relates to.
Below that is a short explanation of your rights and reproduction limitation.
Below that is an optional Library of Congress control number. I suggest you apply for that, as I did with my book. You can apply for a Preassigned Control Number (PCN) at www.loc.gov/publish/pcn/. They explain the process of applying for a PCN on their site.
Below that you should list your ISBN number if you already have it. When you purchase a distribution package from Lulu then will give you one and you need to go back and edit your book to include this information on your copyright page.
At the bottom you should mention where the book is printed, such as “Printed in the United States of America” if you are using Lulu.
Below is the copyright page that I used in my book. You can simply follow the same layout and just replace everything with your own information.
Designing the Cover
If you don't feel you are very good with artwork design, Lulu has online tools that help you create a cover.
You can select from a library of sample art for your cover background design and then position your title, subtitle and author name where you want them to appear. You can choose the color and font of the text as well.
You can also enter text to appear on the back cover and on the spine. They will put all this together to create the print image of the entire cover.
Use Your Own Cover Art
If you are into designing your own artwork, you can actually create your cover with any good Paint Shop software and upload the front and back covers. That's what I did.
That's my front cover at the right. After I completed it I just uploaded it. I did the same with the rear cover.
Lulu helps with completing the spine of your book when you upload your cover images. Based on the thickness of the book (number of pages) their program automatically determines what font sizes you can use on the spine. They give you a choice of a few that will fit properly.
Create Space also has an automatic spine helper when you use their cover creation tool.
If you do decide to upload your own artwork, you will need to create ready-to-use files for the front and rear covers in the proper format. You've got to do this right or it won't fit. Here are the specifications you need to use for your cover image files...
- Must be JPG, GIF or PNG.
- Must be 300 dpi or better.
- Add a quarter inch to allow for bleed. 1875 by 2775 pixels for a 6x9 book.
- May be color or black and white.
Types of Book Covers
There are three options for the cover of your book, Paperback, Casewrap, and Dust Jacket.
- Paperback is soft covered and can have three kinds of spines. See below.
- Casewrap has the cover image printed right on the hard cover.
- A Dust Jacket Cover is a separate paper cover around the hard-covered book. Cover art is printed on the jacket. The jacket has flaps that wrap inside the front and rear covers. Short text info can be printed on the front and rear flaps.
Types of Spines
Spines on a hard-covered book can have text printed on them, such as the book's title and author name. Lulu calculates the width of the spine automatically based on the number of pages in your book.
There are three different types of spines that can be selected for a paperback book as listed below. Only the perfect bound books can have text printed on the spine.
- Perfect Bound - Glued flat spine that you can place some text on.
- Coil Bound - Useful for books that require opening flat. Such as work books.
- Saddle Stitch - Stitched thread holds book together.
Methods of Distribution
If you publish with Lulu and you want to make your book available on Amazon in addition to Lulu's site, the cost is a reasonable $25 to put your published book into what they call "marketREACH Distribution."
You can also purchase "extendedREACH Distribution" or "globalREACH Distribution"
ExtendedREACH Distribution lists your book in databases in the US and the UK.
GlobalREACH Distribution makes your book available online on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online book sites.
GlobalREACH also lists your book with the Ingram Book Company, which allows any bookstore to purchase your book to stock their shelves. But you have to make your own efforts with promotion, such as getting book signings and distributing press releases.
If you publish on Create Space your book with automatically be available worldwide through Amazon because they own Create Space.
If you do decide to purchase the ExtendedREACH or GlobalREACH Distribution with Lulu, you will have an ISBN number assigned.
The cost of Lulu's various distribution packages kept changing over the years, so you need to check their site for the latest information.
Create Space, on the other hand, assigns a free ISBN number and provides worldwide distribution.
The bar code for your ISBN number will automatically be printed on the back cover of your book. So leave room for it if you create your own cover. The ISBN is assigned by the U.S. ISBN Agency so your book is listed in Bowkers Books-in-Print.
What is the Cost of Printing Books?
Everything you do to create your book on Lulu’s website or on Create Space is free. The only charges are for ordering actual printed copies. Lulu also has a charge for purchasing one of the distribution packages described above.
When you buy your own books you only pay printing charges, not your own royalty. Printing costs vary depending on the size of the book, number of pages, the type of binding, and the paper grade you choose. As an example, a 200-page 6x9 perfect bound paperback using publisher grade paper costs $5.50 for a single copy.
You select the retail price when you decide to publish. You base this on the amount of royalty you want. The retail price is based on the total of three things:
- The cost of printing
- Commission for publishing
- Your royalty
Important Steps Before Publishing
I didn't mention this yet, and it may go without saying, but please do yourself a favor and proofread your manuscript before you waste money ordering your first copy. MS Word has a spelling checker, a grammar checker, and a thesaurus. So use them.
Many times I discover that I don't catch my own errors. That seems to be a common problem for many of us because our brain already knows what it meant, so it "sees" the words as they were meant instead of what's on the page. So have a friend or two proofread for you.
I actually paid for a few printed copies at first to hand out to good friends so they could proofread an actual paperback copy for me. I recommend you do the same. They even made notes in them that turned out to be very useful feedback.
There is a big difference between publishing articles online and publishing a printed book. You can make changes and even add text when you publish on sites such as on HubPages. But obviously you can't do that with a book. So you've got to put more effort into getting it right before you pull the trigger by clicking the "publish" button.
I suggest that you print a sample of your book for yourself. Check it. Review everything. Not only proofread for spelling and typos, but also pay attention to the general way it looks to the eye.
You can make changes and upload a new file. Then order another sample and review it again. I've done that several times, over and over, uploading changes each time. Trust me, it's worth it. Because once you finalize it and publish your book, you can't make changes anymore.
So that's it. Now you know everything to get your book completed and published. When you put effort into the process it will pay off for all the work you've already done writing your book.
Here's the final result of my book on Amazon...
An insightful discussion with inspiration for those who want to settle down and get past commitment issues.
Available in paperback and on Kindle.
© 2011 Glenn Stok