Since the 2012 Kindle gold rush, many authors ignored print books entirely, focusing only on digital eBook sales. People thought that print books were unimportant and that their sales would eventually wither and die.
That didn’t happen, though—and it probably won’t. Although digital sales have surged, print books are still incredibly popular. So authors who ignore print are ignoring a lot of potential sales.
Why Print Books Matter
Publishers Weekly, a magazine for the traditional publishing industry, reported in 2016 that ebook sales were starting to see a decline, blaming “digital fatigue.” Even today, a mere 34% of book-buying households actually own a dedicated e-reader device. The Publishers Weekly article concluded that:
“Since consumers almost always have the option to read books in physical formats, they are indicating a preference to return to print.”
That’s not strictly correct, as many consumers don’t always have the option to read the books they want in physical formats…due to the fact that independent or self-published authors often don’t choose to put their books out in print format!
Thousands of readers still love and prefer print books. Authors who ignore print are ignoring potential readers and potential sales. The option of buying the print version of a book makes the book more appealing to readers, who appreciate the choice.
So if you’ve avoided the print route so far, now may be a good time explore your options.
Being in KDP Select doesn’t limit you here; that exclusivity contract only applies to digital ebooks.
You can sell your print books wherever you like while using KDP Print on Demand (POD) publishing.
KDP Print Formatting Guide
In the past, self-publishing a print book was expensive and risky. Plenty of authors (and publishers) were left with towering piles of unsold books that they had invested considerable sums of money in.
But today, with POD (print-on-demand) technology, books are printed as they are ordered (and paid for) by readers. The only cost to the author/publisher is for the cover design and the formatting. Print-on-demand is an incredible breakthrough for authors because it allows you to tap into the massive market for print books at minimal cost and maximum profit.
You now have a number of options for self-publishing print books, from IngramSpark to Amazon’s own KDP Print on Demand platform. The easiest for indie authors to use is KDP Print, Amazon’s long-standing print-on-demand arm (it used to be called CreateSpace, but Amazon shut down CreateSpace in 2018 and moved all their printing services over to KDP).
Using KDP to Print Books
KDP allows you to upload a formatted manuscript to create a print book. It will even check your files to make sure they will print properly. It lists print books alongside their Kindle versions on Amazon itself and makes the whole process painless.
All you need to do is sign up with KDP (using an Amazon account) at kdp.amazon.com, then upload your formatted manuscript and book cover design.
Need help making a book cover? Check out our free guide on how to find a book cover designer.
Formatting a Print Book for KDP
Formatting a print book for KDP can be learned quite quickly, and you can do everything in Microsoft Word, or InDesign if you want to make it extra professional. It does involve jumping a few hurdles, though, and those hurdles are the reason that so many self-published authors don’t have print versions of their books.
Yet even these requirements aren’t particularly difficult. You can learn to design your own print files yourself, or hire someone to do it for you for $100 or less.
You’ll have multiple advantages when you publish your print book with KDP:
- Another source of income: KDP pays you royalties for every print book sold every month.
- A physical copy of your book to send to reviewers, book bloggers, and others who can help promote your book.
- The ability to set up a book giveaway on Goodreads (a good way to get in front of a lot of potential new readers).
- Increased credibility. The existence of a print book gives you and your brand more authority.
Cover Designs for Print Books
No matter which formats you decide to publish your book in, you can’t get around the fact that you need a great cover—it’s your book’s shop window. Check out our article on hiring a good cover designer here.
Unlike a Kindle book cover, you need a full “jacket”—a front, spine, and back—in order to publish a print book. All experienced cover designers are familiar with this process.
Before you order your cover, though, you’ll need to format your book. That’s because the size of the cover is determined by the size of the finished book.
So let’s get on with understanding how to format your book for print.
How to Format a KDP Print Book File
Far too many authors have tried to get their book into the format required by KDP only to give up in despair.
Hang in there!
It’s true that there are a few formatting quirks, but once you get your head around them, you’ll be formatting your books in under an hour!
KDP helpfully provides free Word templates for authors to use, which can be a good place to start.
It’s a good idea to look at them, but you don’t have to use them. You can apply the principles they contain to your existing manuscript.
Often, it’s quicker, easier, and less confusing to do it that way! You know your own manuscript and can change it easily, while applying your text to someone else’s template can get confusing if you’re not a Word master.
If you open up several of the templates, you’ll see that they have some interesting things in common. That’s because there are things we need to do in a print book that we don’t in a digital book.
This involves a bit of jargon, but don’t worry—you’ll get the hang of the vocabulary soon.
The trim size is the book’s physical size.
When’s the last time you saw a print book that was 8.5 x 11 inches? Not often, right?
Print books are usually much smaller than printer paper. So the Word document of a print book template should look smaller than it usually does if you create a new Word document.
We don’t have to concern ourselves with this for Kindle, so it can come as a bit of a shock to authors to realize that they have to think about the size they want their book to be for paperback. KDP has a limited range of trim sizes, known as “industry standard sizes” because they’re the ones used throughout the publishing industry.
The most popular is 6” x 9”. That means the book is 6” wide and 9” tall (depth isn’t measured at this stage). It’s a fairly chunky size, not exactly suitable for slipping into a purse.
5” x 8” and 5.5” x 8.5” are the next most popular sizes and are sometimes called “trade paperback” size. They are a good size for carrying around and are favored by novelists for that reason.
The other popular size is 8” x 10”, often used for manuals and other nonfiction.
One thing to bear in mind when deciding on your book’s trim size is that the cost of your book to the reader will depend largely on its number of pages. It is worth considering going for a 6” x 9” over a 5” x 8” in order to reduce the number of pages.
Again, margins aren’t something we need to worry about when formatting for Kindle, but they’re crucial for print. Margins are the space around the edge of the page where there are no words.
Most Word docs have even margins on the left and right and also at the top and bottom. But a print manuscript is unlike any other Word document—its margins are different on different sides; they’re non-symmetrical.
Pick up a print book and leaf through it. You should notice that it is laid out in what is known as “mirror image” format. The pages aren’t the same on the right and left. The pages on the left are generally even-numbered, while the pages on the right are odd-numbered.
Left-hand pages tend to have a narrow left-hand margin and a wide right-hand margin. Right-hand pages have the opposite: a wide left-hand margin and narrow right-hand margin.
These unequal mirror margins are what make the magic happens in print formatting, because they leave space for the book’s binding.
Styles are part of Word’s built-in formatting tools. They’re incredibly useful, and worth taking the time to learn to use right!
For formatting, they make life much simpler. KDP print templates use one particular style for all chapter headings. This gives consistency throughout the book and enables us to add an automatic table of contents at the beginning, complete with page numbers.
Styles also mean that we can make tweaks to the entire book’s formatting if we need to—say, to reduce the number of pages.
In a professional print book, chapters start on a new page, and there are other times when you’ll want to start a new part of the book on a clean page, so to speak.
Not using section breaks is where many authors go badly wrong with their print formatting. Among other things, sections allow us to control page numbers and headers/footers, giving a professional look.
Word has built-in tools to make this clean and straightforward; these may be new to you, but they’re easy to get the hang of.
And that’s it! If you can get to grips with these few things, you can get to grips with formatting for KDP print.
KDP Formatting Step-By-Step in Word
There are some industry-standard things that we need to do to create a quality print layout. Fortunately, we can set up a lot of them in the same place within Word!
The safest way to do this without wrecking your manuscript is to make a copy of your current work-in-progress. Then, you can do your formatting work on the copy.
All you have to do is follow this step-by-step KDP Print formatting guide and your manuscript will be ready to print. If you’d like, you can download our free MS Word nonfiction print book template.
Open that copy and bring up the PAGE LAYOUT > PAGE SETUP menu. It’s on the ribbon after “Insert.” In the Page Setup box are three tabs across the top:
We’ll be making changes to all of these.
Set the margins as 0.76” on the top, bottom, and inside and 0.5” on the outside.
Then set the gutter as 0.13”.
In the “Pages” area, set it to MIRROR MARGINS.
And make sure these settings apply to WHOLE DOCUMENT at the bottom by selecting that in the dropdown.
That gives us our magic mirror margins; they’ll be at the correct width for most books up to around 300 pages. (For larger books, play with the gutter and inside margin and run it through KDP Print to check it.)
Next, click the PAPER tab at the top of the box. We need to set it to the book’s trim size.
In the “Paper Size” box, scroll down to the bottom of the list of available sizes and click CUSTOM SIZE. Then type in 6 and 9 in the Width and Height boxes. That’s all we need to do in this tab.
Click LAYOUT next.
Here, we can adjust where the headers, footers, and page numbers will sit.
In the “Section” area at the top, you can choose whether or not you want all chapters to begin on right-hand pages.
There are no hard and fast rules here, but nonfiction books will often choose this. It enables readers to find chapters more easily and presents clear definition between subjects. Many Big 5 fiction books also choose this, but it’s not required, as readers aren’t usually jumping between chapters.
For our purpose, let’s assume we’re formatting a novel and choose EVEN PAGE. (If we chose ODD PAGE, it would force chapters to always start on odd pages, throwing in an essential blank page between chapters where necessary.)
Click the checkboxes DIFFERENT ODD AND EVEN and DIFFERENT FIRST PAGE. This will give us complete control over page numbers and headers/footers.
For instance, it enables us to have the book’s title in the header on even pages and the chapter name on odd pages. Chapter title pages don’t have any headers—but if the page numbers are in the footer, they can have a footer.
Type in 0.3 in the Header and Footer boxes. This gives enough space at the top and bottom of the page to allow for a header and footer with a little space between it and the text.
Believe it or not, that’s the most technical part done with! Your manuscript is now set up as a proper book. All it needs now is a bit of tweaking.
Next, we’ll add section breaks, page numbers, headers/footers, and a few stylistic tweaks.
Adding Styles and Sections
If you don’t work with Styles already, go through your manuscript to see if most of it is in the NORMAL style.
If it isn’t, the best thing would be to click CTRL + A to select all the text. Then click NORMAL in the Styles box.
This runs the risk of losing some formatting you may have already added (like italics), so be sure you’re working on a copy of your manuscript so you don’t lose anything important.
Once everything is one style, go through and make chapter headings the HEADING 1 style. If you have sub-headings, you can make those Heading 2, Heading 3, etc.
At the start of each chapter, you need to add a Section Break. Turn on SHOW/HIDE on the ribbon so you can see the formatting marks.
You may have page breaks between chapters at the moment. Go through and delete those and replace them with section breaks.
Put your cursor at the top of the page and click PAGE LAYOUT > BREAKS > NEW PAGE. This means that chapters will start on the next page after the previous chapter, whether that’s an odd or an even-numbered page.
Note: If you’re formatting a nonfiction book, you may want to choose ODD PAGE instead, which will force Word to begin each chapter on an odd, right-hand page, even if the previous chapter also ends on an odd-numbered page. It will put an invisible blank page in between, which will only show up when you convert the document into PDF format.
We’re going to put these section breaks to good use when we add page numbers.
Adding Page Numbers
As we’re imagining that we’re formatting a novel, let’s add the page numbers to the center of the footer. (If this was a nonfiction book, we might still do them this way, but we could choose to put them at the outer edges of the header instead.)
Double-click in the footer—that’s the blank area at the bottom of the page. This should bring up the Design toolbar on the ribbon.
Click on PAGE NUMBER, then hover over BOTTOM OF PAGE and select PAGE NUMBER 2, the one in the center. This will add a simple number with no formatting. Delete the line space that Word automatically (annoyingly!) adds after it, so it won’t sit too far from the edge of the page.
As we are using different Odd/Even pages in our page setup, you’ll need to do this three times: for a chapter title page, the following even page, and the odd page. But, after that, the rest of the document will follow the pattern without needing help!
Most novels have the author name on left-hand, even-numbered pages, and the book title on right-hand, odd-numbered pages.
Double-click in the header on any even-numbered page that isn’t a chapter title page. Type in your name. In novels, this is often centered, sometimes in capitals, sometimes in a different font. I like to use a smaller font size than the rest of the novel—generally size 10 if the novel uses size 11 or 12.
Notice that Word will have added this header to every even-numbered page…but not the odd-numbered pages. Double-click in the header of an odd-numbered page and type in the book title. This should be replicated throughout the document.
Extra Stylistic Touches
To give your book a special little something, you can add some additional elements that give it a truly custom look.
A quick look at some print books should reveal something you may never have noticed before: a book often has two title pages. There is an old publishing tradition of having a “half title” page before the main title page.
Authors who want to look very professional and traditional keep to this tradition, though it’s not strictly necessary.
But you do need a good title page of some sort. Try to emulate your book’s cover in the layout and font choices, the way traditional publishers do.
Print novels, unlike digital books, don’t have to have a table of contents. You can add one if you want to, though. For instance, the Harry Potter books have them.
Chapter Title Pages
You don’t have to use the word “Chapter” in your chapter titles. Lots of novels just use the number of the chapter. Do use a Heading style though, so they all stay consistent.
Many traditionally published books set the chapter titles about a third of the way down the page. You can adjust this by right-clicking on the style on the ribbon and choosing MODIFY, then PARAGRAPH.
Click a few times in the SPACING > BEFORE box to move the text down the page. Modifying the style will ensure that all chapter titles sit at the same place on the page.
Some books use a dropped capital (“drop cap”) at the beginning of chapters—that’s that big, fancy first letter you sometimes see. You can add this by putting your cursor anywhere in the initial paragraph and clicking INSERT > DROP CAP on the ribbon.
Note: A two-line drop cap can be easier to manage than a three-line if you tend to use short paragraphs!
If you don’t like drop caps, consider changing the first three to five words in each chapter to use ALL-CAPS.
Fonts and Glyphs
Glyphs are a visual or pictoral font used below a chapter name. They can look quite stylish, especially if not over-used!
Microsoft Office comes with pre-loaded fonts, some of which can be utilized for this. Webdings and the Wingdings family are excellent.
For example, this sample uses “ab” on the keyboard in the Wingdings 2 font:
You can also download other fonts from places such as Google Fonts and FontSquirrel.com. Just check that they are allowed for use in print books. You may have to give credit on the copyright page of your book.
While on the subject of fonts, this is where some authors can betray their lack of design training. Many authors find it irresistibly tempting to go old-school PowerPoint and include multiple fonts, sizes, borders, and varieties of clipart.
Professional book designers recommend using a maximum of two fonts—especially on any one page. So that would be one font for body text and another for chapter titles and subtitles.
You might want to choose a different font for your title page, to match your book cover, but that’s the limit!
Uploading to KDP Print
When you’re happy with the formatting, upload your manuscript to KDP and run it through their Interior Reviewer. This is an invaluable aid in letting you know that your book will look good in print.
If you pass the Interior Reviewer, all you need to do is upload your book jacket. For that, give your designer the book’s trim size and the total number of pages and he or she will be able to make the jacket the correct size.
When you receive your cover, upload it to KDP and allow them to do final checks. You will receive an email to let you know if it has been approved, usually within 1–2 days.
KDP Print gives you an option to proof your book online, but if you can, it’s better to order a physical proof copy. There’s a cost to do so, but if you’re in or near the US, it’s not too expensive.
It’s surprising how many typos jump out when you’re looking through a print book as opposed to checking it online!
Where People Sometimes Go Wrong
Here are the most common stumbling points that people report when trying to get their book on KDP:
- Not using Styles—this causes a lack of consistency throughout the book.
- Using page breaks instead of section breaks—this can throw the headers and footers out of whack.
- Not formatting the book’s interior to KDP’s print standards.
- Not using good software to convert from Word to PDF. Word is better at converting to a PDF than it used to be—but it’s still not awesome, and it’s especially bad if your book contains images.Word automatically compresses images when converting to PDF so, if you have a nonfiction book with images and complicated formatting, consider using a third-party service or plugin to convert your manuscript to high-quality PDF format. I like http://www.freepdfconvert.com—it’s free if you only use it occasionally.
- Not embedding fonts in the Word document. Go into WORD OPTIONS > SAVE from the Office button and click on the checkbox for EMBED FONTS IN THE FILE. Deselect the DO NOT EMBED COMMON SYSTEM FONTS box.This will ensure that your fonts carry over to the PDF when you create it.
- Not using images with high enough resolutions. If your book uses images, you may find it failing the Interior Reviewer. The only way around it is to reoptimize your images (which can cause them to reduce in size) or to obtain higher quality images.
- Allowing Word to handle images. When adding images, never paste them into Word; always insert them via the Insert toolbar on the ribbon (INSERT > PICTURE).Never allow Word to compress images and don’t adjust them in Word itself. For the best results, use other software to alter the size—Photoshop or the GIMP is the best here.
- Not formatting the cover to KDP’s paperback cover requirements.
- Not ordering a physical proof copy. This can be a particular problem if you use images in your book. KDP will give you a warning if any images are less than 300dpi, though you can get away with 200dpi in most cases. If you don’t order a physical proof, though, you won’t be sure everything worked out right until you start getting reviews that complain about blurry images in your book.
Tips for Print Book Publishing
A number of elements contribute to making a truly professional-quality print book.
It comes down to a choice of a serif or a sans serif font. That means a font with or without the little bits that stick out from the edges of letters. You can see them in particular at the edges of the ‘T’ in a serif font.
Microsoft’s default font for Office used to be Times New Roman. This was back when many Word documents ended up being printed, so they used a serif font, which is easier on the eye than a sans serif when printed.
Today, fewer documents are read in printed format, as many people have switched to doing most things online and on handheld devices. So Microsoft’s default font is now Calibri, which is a sans serif font.
Sans serif literally means “without serifs.” Sans serif fonts are more rounded and are clearer to read online and on tablets and smartphones.
For paperbacks, serif fonts are the ones to choose. You can still use Times New Roman if you like; it’s still in Word, it’s just not the default anymore.
If you want something a little different, there are both free and paid fonts available online. Just be careful to read the license agreements to be sure you are allowed to use any of the fonts you choose in print publications.
Avoid gimmicky, fancy, or handwriting-style fonts in books. Readability is reduced with fancy fonts. So it’s best to reserve them only for accents in small doses.
Think of the “For Dummies” books. They are modern, humorous, and quirky. They use a fancy font for their main headings, but easy-to-read standard fonts for the main body of their books.
So if you do want to choose a font with a difference, take your lead from successful publishers and limit it to short main headings only.
If you use KDPs free ISBN option or their cover design software (including any of their stock images), then you won’t be able to sell your print book anywhere other than CreateSpace/Amazon.
If you use your own ISBN and book jacket, you can sell your book elsewhere and/or make it available through other POD services such as Ingram Source.
Check, check, and triple check your formatted manuscript! Get as many pairs of eyes on it as possible.
Books in traditional publishing houses tend to go through seven rounds of checking, done by editors, proofreaders, etc.—and yet they still expect there to be a typo every one to two pages in the finished book. People make mistakes!
As indies, we don’t tend to have as many people checking our books, so more typos can slip through. These can be more noticeable in print books than in ebooks—for some reason, we’re just mentally conditioned to notice glitches more in print.
So do order a physical proof copy if you can and go through it line by line looking for errors and omissions—there almost certainly will be some!
If you find any, correct them in the manuscript and upload it again to KDP. It’s quick and easy.
You can join Michelle’s professional print formatting course at a 40% discount here: https://www.udemy.com/how-to-get-your-book-on-createspace/?couponCode=TCKPUB
Check out these articles on creating a professional book:
- How to Find an Editor for Your Book with Step-by-Step Instructions
- How to Get an ISBN for Your Book Without Getting Ripped Off
- How Self Published Authors Get Paid for Paperback Sales
Michelle Campbell-Scott is the author of the bestselling books Goodreads for Authors, Make Your Book Work Harder, and The 10-Day Skin Brushing Detox. She is a former teacher and trainer, chicken keeper, and field archer. She started her career in public relations. Then, while her children were growing, she did any work she could get that allowed her to be at home with them. That included writing, course creation, editing, book indexing, book formatting, document and presentation production, and more. After becoming a teacher and then an IT trainer, she still freelanced, writing and creating courses for others before eventually taking the plunge to create her own books and courses.