Typesetting Your Own Book (Maybe)

Have you finished writing your book and wondering how to format it for the printer? There are people and companies out there that offer typesetting, the act of formatting a manuscript for printing, as a service. Some charge a little. Some charge a lot. Some offer typesetting as a single service. Others offer it as part of a publishing package.

For me, when I had my first book released, I wasn't sure what the printer's specs would be nor did I understand yet what was involved. I wanted a turnkey solution to take what I wrote to a printer. Eventually, I began doing research, talking with others, and learning what it took to be 100% self-published without relying on these service packages. These days, I release my books without the assistance of others, with the exception of my excellent cover artist friend who designs my latest covers.

With this post, I want to share what typesetting configurations I use when setting my book up for printing with Ingram Spark.


Disclaimer: These settings work for books printed at the size I chose and will likely differ if you opt to print your book with a different binding size. Likewise, these are my settings with Ingram Spark's printing service. If you print your book through someone else then you may experience a slight difference in their requirements.


First off, I do all of my typesetting in Microsoft Word. If you use other word editors like Google Docs or OpenOffice then these settings will still probably work but may look different, have different options, or be found in different places. If you are familiar enough with your respective tools then you will likely know where to find these settings or should be able to find easily enough with a quick Google search but I will not be discussing those differences here. This article will only discuss the Microsoft Word settings and values I use to accomplish my typesetting for my books.

The first real setting I make is the page size. The page size needs to roughly be the same size as the book binding size you want the printer to use. For example, my latest book, The Ascension Legacy - Book V: Conquest & Conflict, is listed as a 6"x9" perfect bound paperback. Now, what may seem counterintuitive, is that I set my "Paper size" to a Width of 6.15" and a Height of 9.25", which you may have noticed is slightly bigger than the actual book size. This is by design on recommendation from Ingram Spark.

Microsoft Word Page Setup - Paper tab

Image 1: Paper Size 6.15" x 9.25"

Once I have my paper size, next I adjust the margins for those pages. All margins are set to 0.5" (or half an inch for the uninitiated). This means that the words will not extend beyond half an inch from any given page edge. When you subtract half an inch from the sizes specified on the Paper tab above then you are left with a print area for each page that fairly fits within the 6" x 9" size of the final product.

Microsoft Word Page Setup - Margins tab

Image 2: Margins 0.5" All Around

The other important thing to take note of in the Margins tab is the "Gutter position". Sure, if you were paying attention to the image then you would have notice a Gutter margin that was also set to 0.5" but the Gutter position is not a length but a direction. Looking at the image above, you will notice that I have the Gutter position set to "Left". Essentially, this setting tells Word that the left side of the odd numbered pages will be the side used for binding the book, i.e. where the book's spine will be. By setting this, the book content will be shifted within the boundaries of the page size to ensure that the words don't bleed into the wedge created near where each page is bound to the spine.

By setting these settings alone you can start to get a good idea of how many pages your final book will be. There's still more to be managed before we can call our typesetting complete but this should start to give you an idea of what the final product will look like.

Next up, I adjust the Layout tab. The Page Setup window has a lot of the options we need so why not adjust them all while this is open. No point in bouncing back and fourth, right? For the most part, not a lot gets changed in here if you still have things set to the Microsoft defaults. The key thing on this tab that is changed is that the checkboxes under "Headers and footers" are checked for both "Different odd and even" and "Different first page".

Microsoft Word Page Setup - Layout tab

Image 3: Headers and footers

Basically, the first checkbox means that odd number pages can have one header and footer while even number pages can have a different header and footer. Typically speaking, all footers are simply the page numbers but the headers are often different. One side will typically have the book name and the other will contain the author's name. This checkbox is how you can accomplish that in MS Word.

The second checkbox just means that the first page will not automatically inherit the same header and footer as other pages. This is to prevent the first few pages in a book that generally are reserved for print details, personal acknowledgements, etc. from getting page numbers and other header content not usually applied to those pages.

The other key settings required to really finish formatting your work are things like font, font size, and paragraph spacing. While the font may be subjective and different printers may have different preferences, recommendations, or requirements, all of my books are printed in the Calibri font. Like font, font size may differ because different fonts will look different at different sizes. A font that looks normal in Calibri at font size 11 might look very different in Times New Roman font at that same size.

I would recommend always going with the font and font size your printer recommends unless you have a specific need or strong desire to use something else.

Microsoft Word Font Settings

Image 4: Font: Calibri Size: 11

As for the paragraph settings, you can specify things like space between lines, space between paragraphs, and more. Most of these settings will be set to zero (0) with the main change being in the "Line spacing" setting being set to "Double" rather than the default value of "Single". A single spaced line makes for a tightly packed set of text that will reduce the overall page count and thus reduce the overall printing cost but at the same time it also reduces the readability of the text. Double spacing adds pages to the book size but allows your readers to more easily see the content, especially if you opt to use a bigger than normal font.

Microsoft Word Paragraph - Double Line Spacing

Image 5: Paragraph with Double Line Spacing

The settings reflected for my paragraph and font are not the recommended settings that I was originally given with my first book. The first printable draft sent to me included a smaller font and single line spacing. The publisher wanted to produce the book at the cheapest cost to maximize profit margins on sales but I felt the text looked too jumbled and hard to read. I set a requirement for a minimum page count that forced the typesetter at Newman Springs Publishing to increase the font size and line spacing to achieve my goal while still trying to minimize the number of pages to be printed since page count dictated cost and cost dictated retail price. The end result was something that the settings above reflect and I have been very happy with so the decision has been made to maintain those settings for each subsequent release.

Setting up your manuscript with those settings should give you a printable setup. There are other things that you will need to ensure are part of your manuscript like a versions page that lists things like copyright info, ISBN numbers, revision/release details, publisher acknowledgement (even if you self-publish), and whatnot. Your printer may have specific content and formatting requirements for that page so be sure to check with them before submitting anything for final review to save yourself the headache of doing it later.

MS Words allows you to create "sections" in a document. Each section can have different headers and footers. Use this ability to make sure you don't have headers and footers on pages where there shouldn't typically be any. If you're applying these settings to the same document used during editing of your manuscript, make sure you turn off "Show Comments" to avoid any editing notes from appearing in your submitted work, which may also throw off your margins and boundaries.

And once all of that is done, there is one final step to create a printable version to be submitted. Most printers won't accept editable files like .doc, .docx, .txt. or whatever to be printed. Printers will often require a PDF file.

Now, this is where MS Word can fool you if you're not careful. When most people think of taking a Word doc and converting it to a PDF file they think of using the Print command and just printing to a PDF file. While this may sound like an easy and quick solution to create the required PDF file the printer needs, this will result in you not having an accurate print source. The end result will NOT look like the Word doc you've spent this time formatting.

When you print to PDF, the print function does not keep all of the formatting options you've specified. The print to PDF process ignores a lot of these margin, gutter, and other stuff. The proof you get back from the printer will look all out of sorts and will not be viable for retail.

The solution, though, is just as simple as the Print to PDF function. Instead of printing your typeset document, just do a Save As from the File menu in MS Word and in the second box, scroll down to PDF. This simple process will allow MS Word to save your typeset document in the PDF format while retaining ALL of your settings. It will be this file that you will submit to the printer to create your retail ready physical print copies.

But of course, as I've said already, even though these settings work for me with my books printed through Ingram Spark, always check with your printer for their suggestions, recommendations, and/or requirements. I know some of the settings I use did not conform to Ingram's recommendations of the time but were still allowable. If nothing else, the settings detailed here should get you close to where you want to be, if not completely there, and then you can tweak them as you see fit to best fit your work. Just because these settings work for me is not a guarantee that they'll produce the look and layout you want for your book.

1 comment

Ram Rajendra

Thank you, Gary. The information is helpful.

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