Formatting your manuscript for paperback publication

Paperback Books

Paperback Books

Formatting your manuscript for paperback publication with CreateSpace (CS) is a completely different project from formatting it for Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).

You can save yourself a lot of work by approaching paperback publication correctly. I tackled both projects without much forethought and it created a ton of extra work for me. I just sat down and started typing my manuscript. I should have formatted MS Word first before I typed a single letter. This would have saved me hours of work later in reformatting the manuscript to get it correct.

In addition, I formatted my manuscript for Kindle first in order to get it up and published. Then I used that draft to work in CreateSpace. Big mistake. The formatting for KDP is completely different, more complicated in some ways. Many of the formatting steps required for electronic publishing are unnecessary for a paperback. In fact, they get in the way, as I was to discover.

Upon completion of your manuscript, including copy editing and proofreading, the first thing you need to do is to make a copy and label it so you can easily identify on which version you are working. This is extremely important. Keep the original untouched, make a copy, and then work on that copy so that you always have the original to go back to should you make mistakes and need to start over.

OK, onto formatting your manuscript for paperback.

Create an account on CS and follow the instructions provided. Here is a great link that tells you all about what is required:

First, you provide the title of your work. Next, you will require an ISBN. If you do not have your own (see previous post here for information on ISBNs), Amazon will provide one for you. As you complete each step, the little red circle adjacent to it will change to a green check-mark indicating that it has been properly completed. Each time you return to CS and log in, you need only to click on your book title to be taken to the next step.

Then, select the size of the book desired. I selected 6”x9” because it is common, a convenient size to carry about, and offers the widest distribution options. If your book has illustrations or pictures, you must allow for “bleed” to determine the exact trim size (click on the link for more information.) Next, select the interior type and paper color. Using colors in the book’s interior becomes prohibitively expensive. For that reason, I eliminated the color from several images I have in my work, and I am printing in B&W.

So far, so simple.

Divide your manuscript into three parts: the front matter, the body, and the back matter. This is a good idea, since each part can be formatted differently. For example, for the front matter (everything that comes before page one), the pagination can be eliminated completely, or a different font such as small roman numerals can be used. The copyright page, in particular, can require several different size fonts and, in some instances, italics.

In MS Word in the Page Layout pane, select the size of the book desired. The same tab also controls the margin settings (click here for more information on margins.) When a book is bound, the area in the center is known as the gutter. The gutter margins vary depending on the thickness of the book, the more pages, the larger the gutter margin needs to be. This is important for the dimensions  of the book cover. That is for another post.

For the body file, I choose to use page numbers centered in the footer. For the header, I choose to use different headers for odd and even pages. For odd pages, those on the right, I am using the chapter number and chapter title, and for even pages, I am using only the book title.

The use of chapter numbers and titles in the header requires that each chapter, i.e. section, be formatted separately. Originally, I had separated my chapters using page breaks. When it came time to include running headings I had to change each page break to a section break. Here’s a link to an explanation of the differences between the two. This was a major adjustments I had to make, one that took me hours to correct.

Highlight the header by double-clicking on the space above the page text. This will open the “Design” pane. In it, you will find a check box for different odd and even pages, so you can have different headings on alternate pages. From this pane, you can also insert page numbers at either the top or bottom, left, right, or centered, as you desire. You will also note a “link to previous” option in the navigation tab. This is crucial. It will light up, tying sections together. In order to change headings from one chapter to the next, this link must be turned off manually for each chapter.

This is as far as I’ve gotten. I am continuing to format my paperback and will keep you updated on my progress. Meanwhile, here are some cool links that may help:

If you open these links, you’ll find additional information available from the CS forums. I hope this helps.FotoFlexer_Photo Quill

4 Responses to “Formatting your manuscript for paperback publication”

    • tmcgann

      I got back to you on WordPress. I am so thankful for this post. It has helped immensely. I would like to stay in touch, with your permission. You seem to be a wealth of knowledge and I’m a thirsty man.


Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)