How to self-publish a book (part 2)

Last time we took a broad overview of the world of self-publishing, looking at the technology used and the choices that need to be made, such as the trim size.

This time we look at creating and outputting the interior file – the actual body of the book. In the final part of this guide next month we’ll look at creating a cover file and the process of ordering a proof copy, as well as setting a wholesale price.

The instructions below provide a one-size-fits-all guide and are necessarily simplistic. Some common sense adjustment might be required depending on the content of your book.

Similarly, we’ve tried to make the steps as clear as possible but regretfully this simply isn’t a job that can be undertaken by those in whom computers induce a cold sweat.


To create a book you’ll need to supply two an interior file, and a cover file.

The interior is the entire contents of your book, including front matter (title, copyright, author bio, acknowledgement etc.) and body copy. It can be created using a word processor, and the instructions below are for Microsoft Word 2010, arguably the most popular version of Word in use today. However, you’ll probably need some add-on software to output the right kind of files.

You’ll need to provide what are called “print ready” files. This is a tacit way of saying that the printer will not fix things or add in stuff that’s missing.  If you don’t add page numbers, for example, then your book simply won’t have them. If you get the margins wrong then the book will be printed looking wrong.

Start by making a copy of the word processing file of your book and rename it something like “print master”. Open it for editing, then open the View ribbon and select the Print Layout icon, and the One Page icon in the middle of the ribbon. You can set the zoom level to better view pages if you wish.

Create the usual pages for the front matter. Grab any book to serve as a reference guide, but also see Technophobia in issue 140 of Writers’ Forum, in which I describe this process in more detail with regard to creating an eBook.

At the end of each section of the front matter insert a page break by opening the Insert ribbon and selecting the icon at the left. If you’d like your book to open with a blank page, simply insert a page break right at the beginning of the document.

Getting trim

Next you’ll need to set the book’s trim size, which hopefully you will have chosen after exploring the IngramSpark ( and CreateSpace ( sites mentioned last month.


Switch to the Page Layout ribbon in Word and click the Size icon. Scroll to the bottom and select More Paper Sizes. In the dialog box that appears, ensure the Paper tab is selected and then select Custom Size at the bottom of the Paper Size dropdown list. Then enter the width and height of your chosen trim size in centimetres. (Need to convert inches to centimetres? Just ask Google.)

Click the Margins tab and, under the Pages heading mid-way down the dialog box, select Mirror Margins from the Multiple Pages dropdown list. Ensure Portrait is selected above, and in each of the fields under Margin (Top, Bottom, Inside and Outside), type 1.9. However, in the Gutter field, type 0.33. This is necessary because the gutter is the part of the page that meets the spine, so a slightly larger margin must be allowed and what you type in the gutter field is added to the standard inside margin.

Click the Layout tab and put a tick alongside Different Odd And Even under the Headers and Footers heading.

Click OK when done. Setting the margins in this way has the effect of starting the book with a right-hand page, which is what we need, but it also means the resulting pages may look odd as you scroll through because the margins might not seem to match on each page. This is in fact correct.

Following this you should add automatic page numbering. Double-click at the very bottom of the first page to activate Footer mode, then open the Insert ribbon and click the Quick Parts icon, then Field. In the dialog box that appears scroll down the list of Field Names at the left, then select Page and click the OK button. Centre the page number, and format it how you wish, using the usual text formatting tools. Double-click anywhere in the document body to deactivate footer mode, the scroll down to the second page and repeat the process in the footer there. This will set odd and even page numbering.


You may want to modify the formatting of the body copy to best match the trim size. For example, a font size of 12 point will look huge in a book that’s just 8×5 inches. Aim for around 10-15 words per line when choosing font size, assuming you haven’t chosen an unusually wide or narrow trim size. Additionally, you’ll almost certainly want to shrink the tabs at the start of each paragraph so that the indentation isn’t as large – see issue 140 of Writers’ Forum to learn how to automate this process.

Again, a useful tip is to use an existing book of the same size as a guide as to how things should look.

Try to avoid using the Times New Roman font, which will look amateurish. Georgia or Bookman Old Style are betters. Definitely don’t use a sans serif font like Arial, which is hard to read for long periods. POD printing prefers slightly denser fonts so watch out for fonts that look “thin”. If in doubt do a few test prints on your own printer, and again compare to an existing book of the same or similar trim size.

Depending on the trim size you’ve opted for, you might also want to go back to the step above and adjust the margins so they’re not quite so large, allowing more of the body copy on each page. Be careful, though – generous white space surrounding the text is a basic tenet of good page design.

If your book contains images, ensure they’re embedded and not simply linked. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to do this so the safest solution is simply to insert all the pictures afresh, ensuring the Insert button is selected in the file dialog box each time.

Finally, don’t forget the basics of spell-checking and proof reading. There are few things worse than putting a book into print and spotting a typo as soon as you open a copy. Fixing errors involves uploading a new PDF, which may take your book temporarily off sale. You may be charged a fee, too.


Printing businesses usually require a standard type of PDF referred to as PDF/X-1a. Unfortunately, the only real way to be sure to create this is to use Adobe Acrobat. This is entirely different from the free Acrobat Reader. Acrobat costs around £130 but you might be able to buy an older version on eBay for half that price, or even less, and it’ll function just as well. Additionally, a 30-day free trial of Acrobat is available from and if you only intend to create one book then that might be all you need.


Other PDF creation apps might work. Many people report success with free apps like CutePDF Writer (, but it can be very frustrating to purchase and wait for delivery of a proof copy only to find the fonts are wrong, for example.

Once Acrobat is installed, start the program to ensure it’s registered and activated. Then switch back to Word and, if you’re sure the book looks perfect, select to print the file as if outputting to a printer on your desk. In the list of printers select Adobe PDF. Click Printer Properties underneath. In the dialog box that appears, select PDF/X-1a:2001 from the dropdown list alongside the Default Settings dialog box. Click Edit alongside this and in the new dialog box that appears select Fonts from the list of headings at the left, and remove the tick alongside Subset Embedded Fonts When Percent of Characters Used Is Less Than. Then click OK, then Save in the dialog box.

Click the Add button alongside Adobe PDF Page Size dropdown list and enter the trim size in the Width and Height fields, typing POD Book into the Paper Names size field above and click the Add/Modify button.

Finally, OK, and then the large Print button in the main Word program window to output the PDF ready for uploading, which we’ll cover next month.

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