There was a discussion recently on a closed Facebook forum for members of the Alliance of Independent Authors as to whether it was possible to typeset your own book, or whether you should pay someone else to do it for you. What was interesting was how many indie authors admitted this was the one area they wouldn’t touch with a barge pole, despite having a ‘do it yourself’ attitude to most self-publishing tasks. Then there were the die-hard enthusiasts like me, claiming it is easy – all it takes is a little knowledge of Word and a willingness to devote yourself to the detail.

Having just finished typesetting Murder at the Maples ready for print, I’ve produced the following guide to typesetting your own book in Word. You can also download my template, which is ready for you to drop your own text, title and name straight into. This template is set to the same size and other parameters as my books – 5×8 inch trim size, generous margins and line spacing – but you can adapt it to suit. What’s perhaps most useful is that some of the hard work is done for you, for example getting the page numbering to start at 1 on what is, in effect, page 7 was something that took me quite a while to work out!

Feel free to ask questions about the guide or template in the comments box below, and I’ll update this guide as and when I learn new ways to improve the template or the process. Happy typesetting!

Typesetting MatM
Screenshot from typesetting Murder at the Maples. I really love this process – it’s so satisfying!

Step 1

First of all you’ll need to open the template. Click here to download it. Also open your final, proofread, perfect version of your book. You REALLY do not want to be making any text changes after typesetting your book, so don’t even think about doing this until it’s as perfect as you can get it.

Check the initial settings are correct by going to Page Layout and clicking on the arrow for Page Setup

Page set up

Above you can see the settings for margins and orientation. If you want to alter your existing Word doc instead of using a template, you can use these settings as a guide. Don’t forget Mirror Margins. This is what will make your recto and verso pages sit together as mirror images. Don’t know what recto and verso mean? Read on.

Page set up Paper

The next tab shows you the settings for Paper. This is where you’ll need to change the size if you are not going for a 5 x 8 inch trim. Ignore the other options here.

The final dialogue is for Layout. The template will have the following settings:

Header: 0.8cm, Footer: 0.6cm, Vertical alignment: Top

Un-check different first page if it’s checked.

You’ve now got your document set up as a book. Yippee! Now it needs some text.

Step 2

Ignore the title pages for now and go to first page of the text of novel (numbered page 1 in the template, with Chapter 1 at the top) and copy and paste your text into here from your proofread master copy.

Select all the body text (but not preliminary title pages, so you’ll have to do this manually and not with Select-All) and choose the font you wish to use for your book. I use Sabon, which can be downloaded, along with many other professional fonts, at Dafont. Don’t worry if your book has different fonts or styles within the text – changing the font should not lose any italic or bold formatting (although we will check this later), and you can change specific sections on your final check-through.

With all the body text selected, click on the arrow for Paragraph in the top toolbar.

Paragraph set up Indents & Spacing

As in the image above, you might find the alignment changes to something like Centered – you don’t want this, so change it now to Justified. Outline level should be Body Text, and then follow the settings in the box above.  Indentation, none. Don’t add space between paragraphs should be unchecked.

Under line spacing, select multiple and type 1.04 in the ‘At’ box. NB: Play around with this to find the line spacing you like for the font you are using. For Sabon, my personal favourite, 1.04 works well but it may not be as effective for other fonts.

Paragraph set up Line & Page Breaks

For Line and Page Breaks, only click Don’t Hyphenate, leave Widow and Orphan control unchecked. You will do this manually, but if Word does it for you, you won’t have even text on each page. Trust me!

Now you should have all your body text in the right font, with the right margins and line spacing. Next go through each chapter and define the styles for different paragraphs. For example, the first paragraph of each chapter should have no indentation, so I use a style I’ve called ‘First Para’. Defining styles is beyond my scope in this post, but it’s really easy and if you search on YouTube you’ll find loads of short tutorial videos. I define styles for Body text – which has an indented first line, but is otherwise the same as First Para – and Breaks (for those 3 stars you placed between sections) and also a style for my chapter headings which tells the next line of text to start a certain distance beneath the heading. This saves me having to do lots of carriage returns – I can simply click on the chapter heading and choose ‘Chapter’ from the Styles box (under Home tab), and Word automatically shifts the text around and formats the chapter heading to whatever font size and format I’ve set. If you’re really stuck, here’s my quick tip:

Put the first chapter title into the style you like, select it, then right click on it and go to Styles and choose ‘Save Selection as New Quick Style’. Give it a name, like Chapter Heading. Do the same for the first paragraph (no indent) and second, or body, paragraphs. Now these new styles should show up in the box called Styles, and you can simply select your text and choose the new style.

NB: A word about styles and consistency. Many people think typesetting your own work is really difficult, but clearly it isn’t. What it takes is a small amount of knowledge of Word (or whichever software you are using) and the willingness to spend time making it uniform. Using styles means that if you suddenly decide to make your chapter headings a bit bigger, or make them all italic, all you have to do is modify the Chapter Heading style once. That’s right – once only, and all the chapter headings in your document will change. If you choose to ignore using styles you’re making a lot more work for yourself and run the risk of not having a consistent design flowing all the way through your book.

Step 3

Now it’s time for the fine-tuning. With your master document open alongside, double check all italics and bold text are intact. Check for windows and orphans – basically just words left alone on one page at the end of paragraphs or sections – and adjust as necessary. If you want drop capitals at the start of your chapters, select the first letter, click on the Insert tab, and you’ll see the button for Drop Cap right there. Easy!

Step 4

Once you’ve been through the manuscript and made sure it looks the way you want it to, turn your attention to the prelims. These are the pages at the front of the book before the main body begins. Remember that the first page appears on the right (recto) and then next page is on the back of this (verso). It’s customary to have your prelims as follows:

First page: Title and author

Reverse of this: Copyright (there is a sample copyright on the template)

Third page: Repeat of title and author with publisher or imprint

Reverse of this: Blank or ‘also by this author’ or reviews/praise.

Fifth page: Dedication, if including

Reverse of this page: Blank

Seventh page: Chapter One or Prologue, numbered as page 1.

Don’t forget to add end-matter too. An Acknowledgements page is included in the template, but you can have any number of material at the end of your book: also by this author lists; an excerpt of your next book; notes on the text; or book-club questions. Can’t Live Without was all about a list, and at the end of the book I printed a blank ‘Write Your Own Can’t Live Without List’ section, which I thought was kind of fun. Remember every extra page will eat into your profit, though, so don’t get carried away!

Step 5

That’s pretty much it, to be honest. Once you’re happy with the layout, save your document as a pdf ‘standard for publishing online and printing’. View the pdf in the Two Up layout, so you can see what the printed book will look like with the recto and verso pages together. See how the margins allow for the gutter in the centre of the book so you can read the text nicely without having to break the spine? Make sure the numbering works, check chapter headings are consistent – well, you know what to do. Check, check and double-check. And then check again. When you’re happy, you have the interior file for uploading to CreateSpace or Lightning Source, or whoever you’re printing with. Good luck!