Understanding Book Layouts and Page Margins

by | Sep 14, 2021

When authors decide to format their own books, they don’t pick the best book layout. It’s important to stay within formatting conventions because printed books have existed for a long while. Longstanding habits of readers and accepted trade practices have come to dictate that we follow these formatting guides unless we have a pretty good reason not to.

I talk to a lot of authors and look at hundreds of self-published books, and the ones that are problematic jump out at me. For instance, last year I was judging the annual book competition for a local publishing group, and I found formatting and book construction mistakes in many of the books produced by amateur publishers.

Today, I want to look at one of the most common of these mistakes, and show you easy ways to avoid it. This has to do with page margins—how to do them right and how not to do them wrong.


  1. Small Measurements = Big Difference
  2. The Job of Page Margins
  3. What About Gutter Margins?
  4. Outside Margins
  5. Top and Bottom Margins
  6. CreateSpace Margin Recommendations
tbd book layout template cta2

Small Measurements = Big Difference

I’m not going to deny that book designers are detail freaks. Who else would want the job? There are so many tiny details and decisions that go into formatting a book that you pretty much have to be someone who enjoys working on that scale to appreciate book design.

Some of these changes—ones that seem to make a significant difference to me—may involve differences of a hundredth of an inch one way or the other. When you’re dealing with typography, you get used to the effect of these small changes.

And that’s true for the decisions you make about margins, too. So in the rest of the article, I’m going to talk about small measurements. You’ll need to be able to measure the elements of your page accurately in order to implement these suggestions.

The Job of Page Margins

Let’s talk for a moment about what we expect from our page margins. After all, they have a job to do too, even though they are blank areas on the page, something that designers refer to as “negative space.”

Here are some of the jobs margins have to do:

  • provide room for the reader to hold the book comfortably
  • show the entire type block area easily, without “disappearing” into the gutter (see below)
  • give a feeling of openness, making the book inviting to read
  • providing space for running heads (or running feet), page numbers or other navigation aids

What About Gutter Margins?

Once you’ve decided what your book size will be, the next order of business is to position the text block on the page. This refers to the tall column of type that makes up your text pages.

In most cases, people seem to want to put the text in the middle of the page. That’s understandable if all you’ve ever done with your word processor or layout program is create single-page documents or short reports that are stapled or clipped together.

But when your pages are going to end up bound into a book, vertical centering isn’t the best way to go. That’s because the pages of a book, when you’re reading it, aren’t flat the way a single piece of paper is. They curve in toward the binding, don’t they?

Because your printed book isn’t going to open completely flat, we always leave more room on the inside margins of our pages.

We even have a language for referring to this inside margin, whether it’s the left side of the page (right-hand, or odd-numbered pages) or the right (left-hand, even-numbered pages). That inside margin is referred to as the “gutter” margin.

Outside Margins

Okay, so we know the gutter (or inside) margin on bound books has to be larger than the outer margin, but how much? Let’s take a 6″ x 9″ book as an example. For a typical novel or narrative nonfiction book of about 200 pages, I would start off with an outside margin of .75″ and a gutter margin of .875″.

Remember that because our margins aren’t even, our pages are asymmetrical, although if you look at your book as a series of two-page spreads, the whole layout is neatly and symmetrically arranged around the spine at the center.

One of the common mistakes in self-formatted books is making these margins too small. And it seems to me, just from the books I’ve been seeing, that these margins are getting smaller all the time, and I have a suspicion why that would be.

As you know, print on demand vendors like Amazon, Lightning Source, and others base their printing fees on the number of pages in your book. I think this has led some authors to try to find ways to get more words on each page to save printing costs.

Hey, I realize that when you’re publishing your own books you have to watch your budget and your profitability carefully, but this is not the way to do it. You’ll end up with a book that’s hard to hold and not that pleasant to read, and that’s not a good outcome.

Shrinking your margins is a crude way to jam more words on a page. Instead, try experimenting with different fonts. It’s surprising how much variation you can find in fonts of the same size. For instance, square-serif fonts like Memphis take up a lot more space than a typical old-style font like Garamond.

Top and Bottom Margins

The top and bottom margins of your page will vary depending on whether you use running heads or running feet or neither, and where you put your page numbers (“folios” in book lingo).

For a book design with running heads and folios that are centered at the bottom of the page on a 6″ x 9″ book, try .75″ bottom margin and .5″ top margins for a start.

In any case, for a 6″ x 9″ trade book, you’re going to want to end up with 30 to 35 lines per page in most cases. And the margins I’ve suggested here will give you a line that’s about 28 picas long. Combined with inter-line spacing (“leading”) that’s approximately 130% of the type size (i.e. 11 point type with about 14 points leading), you will have pages that are easy to read and look the way they’re supposed to.

KDP Print Margin Recommendations

You can find the recommendations from Amazon on how to set your margins on the page How to Create an Interior PDF of Your Book.

Keep in mind that the “minimum” margin of .25″ that Amazon refers to is too small for most books. This margin measurement is meant to create a “safe area” so that nothing on your page is in danger of getting trimmed off.

With these recommendations and a firm understanding of how margins work as part of your page layout, you’ll be ready to create good-looking books.

General Book Formatting Best Practices

Knowing the basics of general book formatting and the best practices can save you a ton of time. The Atticus software is another great option that helps you create professional print books and ebooks.

Need a Book Layout Template for MS Word or Mac?

tbd book layout template cta2

Photo: bigstockphoto.com.


  1. Sherryl L Kaster

    I’m wondering, how much space there should be between the end of the word and the edge of the page on the first page and the edge of the page and the beginning of the word on the next page for a title that is centered across 2 pages in a 25 sheet, 80# Cover perfect bind booklet?


  2. Heather O'Hara

    I am formatting a very long book using the LEGEND template. I have just completed the last pages and I need to change the margins and perhaps the font, font size and spacing to get it down to 800 pages or less. I have already adjusted the margins to: Top: 0.83 | Bottom: 0.5 | Inside: 0.92 | Outside: 0.65 … But I am still over my page limit–870 pages to be exact! So, I’ve got to do something to get it down to 800 pages, keeping in mind that the inside margin also needs to be increased … What would you suggest the new margins be, as well as the font, font size, and spacing? Thank you in advance for your help.. H.

  3. Michelle

    I have created an appointment diary with a custom size of 15.6cm x 23.4cm Portrait. I have been given conflicting advise on margins I need to use. I understand I need to set the margins to ‘mirror’ but I don’t know what the top, bottom, inside and outside margins need to be. At this point I will be printing a wiro bound diary. Can you please let me know what margins to use?

    • Joel Friedlander

      Hi Michelle,

      Your trim size is 6.14″ x 9.21″. In a book of this size I would usually recommend minimum .75″ margins, and a little more on the gutter (binding) side. However, an appointment diary is quite different from a novel or nonfiction book, and I would probably reduce the margins to about .5″, again with slightly more on the gutter side to compensate for the curve of the binding.

  4. Shahid Mahmud

    While your comments on margins (particularly the ones about gutter margins needing to be the largest) may make intuitive sense, they are not correct. Actually, a part of your comment is, but part of it is factually incorrect in relation to traditional typesetting standards.

    The gutter margins need to be sufficient so that the spine (or the readers eyes) are not strained while reading. However, traditionally, gutter spines have also been the smallest of the margins, since the recto and verso pages laid together, each with a large gutter spine, will create an unpleasingly blank look to the center of the book.

    In most earlier works published the gutter was the smallest, followed by the top margin. The Thumb margin (outer margin) was traditionally the largest.

    Some of the best designed books in modern times follow the same rules, if one wants to get precise (perhaps anally so), there is an actual historical formula for calculating the relative width of each margin.

    btw, Robert Bringhurts’s excellent book ‘The Elements of Typographic Style’ discuss many of these in detail.

    I have nothing against people wanting large gutter margins at the expense of outer margins. What I do object to is claims that that is the correct way to design books. It is not..and never has been. It is an option one may follow, but if one is looking to design a book that that conforms to traditional standards, it is not the right option.

    Traditionally the gutter is the smaller margins, but sufficient to comfortably read an open book The outer margin is larger, traditionally with enough space to comfortably place ones thumb on it while keeping the book open

    • Joel Friedlander


      Thanks for your comment, but I guess we’ll just have to disagree. I’ve read quite a few book design books and frankly, many of their suggestions for page layout (especially the ones using the “golden section”) don’t result in what I would consider an attractive, modern book interior.

      My recommendation is also aimed primarily at indie authors, who tend to publish almost exclusively via print on demand, and I’ve found these books to generally have much tighter spines than a normal offset-printed trade book, requiring more than the normal gutter margin.

      But I appreciate your input and sure some readers will find it interesting.

      • Jack Burley

        Of course we need to have sufficient margins in the spine as not to lose content. However…

        Shahid is entirely correct. It’s fine to have a different opinion, but if we’re talking about the time-honoured standards of book layout; Shahid is absolutley right.

        Top margin – 1/9th the page height.
        Bottom margin – 2/9th the page height.

        Inside margin – 1/9th the page width.
        Outside margin – 29th the page width.

        Easy to draw this guide/type-block with just a straight edge and a pencil. You don’t even need to measure it if you do it properly.

        See here for details:

        • Jack Burley

          That’s not taking into account artistic license of course. There will be plenty of valid reasons to do all sorts of interesting things with a page layout.

          If the content/brief calls for it, you could easily argue to put text deliberately in the spine.

          As always – content first. Make the design relevant. Keep it simple.

  5. Anonymous Guest

    Look,since it is a 5″X8″ book,so it will be 64 times bigger than a 0.625″X1″ book of similar type and 25 times bigger than a 1″X1.6″ book of similar type,no other differences

    • Joel Friedlander

      I’ve never seen a book that’s 0.625″ x 1″ and would have trouble finding it, if indeed such a thing even exists.

  6. sj

    Hi, I’m following up on Alex’s comment–excerpted below.

    I designed a book with 20 different layout pages for one publisher who uses a .167 gutter in 6×9 trim size. Then the author had to switch to another publisher, who wants pages perfectly centered on page, as Alex seems to describe. I’m using Quark 2016 and I don’t have a lot of experience with design. Does this mean I have to go into every master page and set all text boxes at the minimum gutter—.002?


    You say “Because your printed book isn’t going to open completely flat, we always leave more room on the inside margins of our pages.”

    This is true, but I think it’s important that you emphasise that each printer has different requirements. In the case of Lulu, they require that the left and right margins must be equal (likewise top and bottom) so following that having a larger inner margin would result in the book being rejected–a potentially costly waste of time.

    Joel Friedlander says
    AUGUST 24, 2014 AT 12:59 PM

    Alex, it’s unfortunate that Lulu puts those kinds of restrictions on the books you print there, and it’s another reason why I don’t use their services. But thanks for pointing it out, that’s very useful.

    • Joel Friedlander

      sj, a book with a gutter margin of .167″ (if that’s what you mean) would be almost unreadable, and that’s why I recommend a minimum gutter margin of .75″ in most cases.

      I haven’t used Quark for years, but yes, the master pages would need to be adjusted for the new margins, but heck, it’s a lot easier to fix a few masters than to fix every page in the book manually, right?

      • sj

        Thanks for your response. Yes, “inside margin” is .75″. No, .167″ is an offset in the “column guide.” Anyway, turns out there was a miscommunication and all’s well and swell. Thank you.

  7. Ian

    Hi there,

    Been searching for confirmation for booklet printing query.

    Customer supplied A5 finished PDFs to produce 60pp saddle stitched portrait booklet. However many pages were landscape with folio centres at the foot of page which is normal.
    I printed booklet with folios to the outside fore-edge and portrait folios obviously at the bottom. Would you say this is correct. Now customer says he wanted every left hand page to have folio in at spine? Never have I seen a folio there. Any comments greatly appreciated.

    • Joel Friedlander

      Ian, I don’t think it’s common to place folios at the gutter because they are hard to see and difficult to use to navigate the book. The combination of horizontal and vertical layouts in the same book is likely the cause of the confusion, but I’m sure you showed the client a proof before you printed the job, right?

      • Ian

        Hi Joel
        Thank you for replying
        Unfortunately I didn’t show proof as this was a straightforward d job to be produced over 3 days
        I usually do in all case but I know now I should have but I did telephone him as he only replies to emails hours later to explain that all folios when turned would be at the fore-edge of each page but whether he understood who knows?
        He implied that members know how to turn pages it’s “only a handbook” was his reply
        So I continued to print
        What do you think
        Thank you
        Ps been doing this for 45 years

  8. Elyse Guttenberg

    Hi Joel and thank you so much for your articles. I recently purchased one of your templates, Sparks, for a novel. It’s very user friendly and thank you for that, but I have a question on the font. I noticed that it uses Times New Roman but I had read a number of articles recommending against that. In your response on August 14 to a question above, you wrote, “… The other thing that surprised me was that all the (templates) I found were either generic, barely-designed Times Roman-based layouts that looked terrible…”

    I wrote to your customer service asking about the choice of fonts and they wrote back, “Spark utilizes Times New Roman because it’s a 2 way template. This assures that you don’t have to format the manuscript twice. Times New Roman is am eBook safe font.”

    Could you please comment?

    • Joel Friedlander

      Elyse, the decision to use Times New Roman in that template was intentional, and it’s the only one of our templates that does so. I’m sorry you didn’t receive a reply sooner, but keep in mind you can also change the font if you like since the templates produce regular Word files.

  9. Mary

    Createspace is very non-rigorous when it comes to talking about gutters. Sometimes they seem to be referring to the combined amount of gutter + inside margin. Sometimes, not. And your discussion here seems to also mix the two. Their own template for book size 8 x 10 gives a gutter of .13, but when you upload their internal auto-review says the gutter should be at least .5, but gives no mention of inside margin. Someone needs to spell out the relationship of gutter to inside margin, not mixing the terms, and giving examples, in a chart, with numbers in it.

    • Joel Friedlander


      In practice, there is no difference between the “gutter margin” and the “inside margin” since both refer to exactly the same thing. Also keep in mind that prepress imaging at the printer or POD vendor is going to also account for “creep” in the thickness of the book by moving page images away from the spine to account for the thickness of folded signatures.

      In any event, I would not use an inside margin less than .5″ and prefer 5 picas, or .83″. Hope that helps.

      • Mary

        Some light is finally beginning to filter down to me on this subject. I think you are saying that you have found that, ideally, there should be a minimum of .83 inches between the edge of the paper and the start of the text on the bound-side of the page. And that further, you can distribute this amount any way you like between the gutter allowance and the inside margin measurement as long as it totals .83 inches.

        I am so grateful you answered!

  10. Patrick

    Thank you for this article. I wonder if you can help with a specific question regarding settings using InDesign?

    I have just received a proof copy from CreateSpace for a coloring book and some of the drawings are not as crisp as I would like, I think this has happened because of the way I was creating the interior PDF. I had 300dpi images in the original Pages/Mac document, but the PDF exported at best quality from Pages (Mac’s document software) was not good enough for print. So, I thought I would try InDesign which hopefully should be better.

    The book is 8.5″ x 8.5″, 120 pages Black & White, the pages are predominantly images for coloring in, but there are also several text pages. When I created the document in Pages, I had 0.5″ margins set for Top/Bottom/Outside and 0.62″ for Inside. Looking at the proof copy, I think an increase of 0.125″ all round would not go amiss – 0.625″ and 0.75″.

    However, I’m not certain exactly how to set the document to do this. Is the following correct when I create a New Document?

    Intent: Print

    Number of Pages: 120
    Start Page No.: 1

    Facing Pages: Selected
    Primary Text Frame: Deselected

    Page Size: 8.5″ x 8.5″ (Portrait)

    Columns Number: 1
    Gutter: 0

    Margins –
    Top: 0.625″
    Inside: 0.75″
    Outside: 0.625″

    Bleed: all 0 as there are no bleed images
    Slug: 0

    Appreciate any help you are able to give :-)

  11. Hans

    Lets not forget the Canons of page design that are old as Gutenberg and his bible and the design principles that been around for hundred of years.

    • Joel Friedlander

      Hans, good to know those canons, but they don’t produce modern-looking pages for today’s books, in my experience.

  12. Livingstone

    Hello Joel, thank you in InDesign I have: Gutter, Top. Bottom, Outside and Inside. What should the measurements of inside be equal to? Outside

    • Joel Friedlander

      Livingstone, in InDesign’s Layout/Margins and Columns dialog, you only have to deal with top, bottom, inside, and outside margins. The “inside” margins on a document set up with facing pages is the “gutter” margin.

      • Pravesh Kumar

        Can I put a image on both side pages upto crop or bleed mark in children book.
        Will Lightning Source pass this or not?

  13. John Glass

    Joel, thanks a ton for all of your info. You make this whole process a little easier.

    Have you had lots of questions over the years about Word’s mirrored margins? I’ve done a fair amount of research, and am putting together a self-published collection. I have the book size, and I know about the binding, etc. that goes with margins. But . . . on Word 2011, when you choose the margins, there is INSIDE, OUTSIDE, LEFT, RIGHT, and also GUTTER. “Inside” always means the gutter, right? The inside part of the book, correct? Why do they add this extra option in there?

    I’m also confused as to why there are two different margin setups, and both can be different, even after you type everything in. On “Page Setup” there is a margin area, and on the regular Word document page there is a margin area.

    Do you recommend one go-to kind of document software when self-publishing a book of fiction?

    Sorry, all of this is probably in your self-publishing kit, which I just noticed, and that I’ll probably wind up buying.

    John Glass

    • Joel Friedlander

      John, we’ve solved the problems with book layout in Word with our predesigned templates, check them out here where you can also download our Formatting Guide: https://www.bookdesigntemplates.com

  14. Bennett

    Hi Joel,

    If you are doing a layout for a 6×9 hardcover and would also like to do a layout for a 6×9 softcover, would you need to do another layout, despite the fact the book is the exact same dimension size?

    • Joel Friedlander

      Bennett, there should be no difference in the file. In fact, the most common way to do this is to print all the interiors (book blocks) and then bind some in paper, and the remainder as casebound books. So the interior is identical in both bindings.

  15. Hassan Mudane

    Hi Joel—-
    Thanks for your article, its helpful and i wish to read it more! so i want to ask you just i’m processing for writing book which i title “Fanka Guusha’ it means the art of success. i completed it all but the problem is publication and cover page of the book because, i live in Somalia where there is no basic facilities at all. Sir what can you help me? what advice did you give in order to complete my book? any response, Please let me know by send me email.

    Thank you,
    Hassan Mudane

  16. Eliza

    I realize this is an older post, but I wanted to point out something. My inside margin is exactly the same as my outside margin for this reason: I have physically measured all the traditionally published paperbacks in my book’s genre that I could get my hands on, and only one out of dozens had a larger gutter than the outside margin. It may be better to have different margins on different types of books, but for my genre, equal margins seems to be the norm.

    • Struan

      I think the extra bit of the inside margin might be the ‘out of sight’ area for trapping the pages in place..?

      • Joel Friedlander

        Exactly right. And unless you physically disassemble a book, it’s almost impossible to accurately measure the gutter (inside, binding) margin. I recommend a larger gutter margin partially because most people reading this blog use print on demand, and the spines on POD books seem to me to be stiffer and less pliable than offset printed books.

  17. Justin

    Hi Joel,

    I have a narrative non-fiction at 60k words and would like to use a 6 by 9in layout however the last 50 pages transition into diagrams for a scientific theory based off of the narrative. Because of this, 7 by 10in would hold the sketches and diagrams better. So my dilemma is that I am going to go with 7 by 10in but can’t quite find the right margins for the first 200 pages that contain the narrative non-fiction. Im either with margins that are small but have 400 words per page or margins to big giving the feel of to much negative space. I am stubborn so I want to figure this out.

    Thanks for you help,


  18. Jason

    I’m a bit confused about something. The interior pages are obviously smaller than the exterior hardcover. How do I figure out what size I should make my page (Open Office)? Or do I use the exterior size, e.g. 5.5 x 8.5 or 6 x 9, and add extra margin for the printer to trim to size before binding?

    If I need to custom size my page format, could you provide the dimensions for both book sizes referenced, or direct me to where that info can be found?

    Thank you.
    Confused but determined indie,

  19. Alex Stargazer

    Hello Joel:

    You say “Because your printed book isn’t going to open completely flat, we always leave more room on the inside margins of our pages.”

    This is true, but I think it’s important that you emphasise that each printer has different requirements. In the case of Lulu, they require that the left and right margins must be equal (likewise top and bottom) so following that having a larger inner margin would result in the book being rejected–a potentially costly waste of time.

    • Joel Friedlander

      Alex, it’s unfortunate that Lulu puts those kinds of restrictions on the books you print there, and it’s another reason why I don’t use their services. But thanks for pointing it out, that’s very useful.

      • Alex Stargazer

        Hey Joel:

        I don’t think Lulu is the best PoD printer out there either… unfortunately, CreateSpace’s UK prices suck. Which is quite amazing, since the UK book market is one of the most competitive in the world. Hopefully Lulu will get some more competition soon.

  20. Joseph

    Hi. Help me please, I need create a novels book 5.5 x 8.5 which size margin I need. Right now I have top, bottom 0.5 and inside outside 0.75.
    Thank you

  21. TLynn

    Still confused.
    Here, you write here “…we know the gutter (or inside) margin on bound books has to be larger than the outer margin… I would start off with an outside margin of .75″ and a gutter margin of .875.″
    But on 9 Mar 2010 (Book Page Layout for a Long Narrative) you wrote, “You want to keep the inside margin—the one in the gutter or at the binding—smaller than the outside, because when the book is held open this will essentially double in size, combining the inside margins of both pages in a space in the middle of the book.”
    Please clarify. When should the gutter margin be larger, and when should it be smaller?

    • Joel Friedlander


      That’s a good catch, and one of the difficulties of writing on the same subject over a period of years. And keep in mind that some of these guidelines change depending on the kind of printing you’re doing. What I’ve found recently is that the books from print on demand suppliers have “tighter” spines than books from offset printers. Consequently, I always make the gutter margins on books intended for print on demand larger to make sure the type doesn’t disappear into the gutter, making it difficult to read. On books intended for offset it depends on the number of pages (longer books need more gutter margins) and kind of binding (perfect binding creates tighter spines than notch or Smythe-sewn bindings). I hope that gives you some guidance. I will go back and edit the article you pointed out, and my thanks for that.

  22. Vikk

    Great article. Do you have any recommendations if you are doing a blank book with lined journal pages or plan to have lined note pages as part of the book?

    I’ve looked at your templates and have a couple but didn’t see any that address this type of book. I’m trying to use a Createspace template but I am wondering if I need to change the margins, the gutters in particular.


    • Joel Friedlander

      Vikk, you may need to change the margins to make sure users can actually write comfortably in the book. My suggestion is to set the book up and have a sample printed at CreateSpace so you can examine it. That will quickly tell you whether you need any adjustments or not.

      • Vikk

        Wow, thank you again for such a quick reply. You nailed my concerns. I’m using the formatted template for the 5.5 x 8.5 size. Left gutters is 0.14″ with all the other margins at .76″ except for the outside which is at 0.6″. I’ll stop searching as I’ve already used up several hours and go ahead and finish making my adjustments and then order the sample as you suggest. Thank you, again.

  23. TLynn

    Confused. You write here about making the gutter margin wider as it slopes in, but on 9 Mar 2010 (Book Page Layout for a Long Narrative) you wrote, “You want to keep the inside margin—the one in the gutter or at the binding—smaller than the outside, because when the book is held open this will essentially double in size, combining the inside margins of both pages in a space in the middle of the book.” Please clarify.

    • Marius

      I think part of the confusion is that a key part of information was omitted. That part being, that a margin design should account for recto and verso pages being viewed together when a book is opened. Only in this context inner and outer margins should be discussed and designed. The usual design goal is to have margins set so, that when book is opened both text columns appear pleasing to the eye, which is in itself a very imprecise spec. A good initial approach is to have left and right outer margins equal and have a sum of inner margins (when viewed in an opened book, so account for gutter) equal in width to an outer margin. Try that as a starting point and modify from there.

  24. Safaa

    Hi Joel,

    Thanks so much for the article! Very informative :)

    Just wanted to ask a question regarding LS printing. This is my first time self-publishing and I’ve chosen to go with LS, your article on CreateSpace vs LS was an excellent read (so thank you for that as well! :D)
    I’ve read articles and heard from people that LS can be very strict when it comes to accepting book files. I have not yet submitted mine in as I’m very meticulously trying to ensure I do everything correctly the first time. I also read your article on cleaning up book files for help on that :) Your blog has become my #1 place for info now!!

    I would just like to know exactly what I’m supposed to do once the book is ready to send for printing. I know I have to convert it to pdf, but am not entirely sure how to do so and what steps to take. I’m also not sure whether I’m supposed to adjust the margins according to the page size in mind before sending to them or whether they will take care of this.

    Any help will be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks so much!

  25. E.S. Ivy

    I really appreciate your informative posts! I was surprised to find that the gutter margins I’ve measured on middle grade novels are smaller than what you recommend, but maybe that’s because they have fewer pages and so it’s easier to open the book wider.

    • Joel Friedlander

      E.S. it’s also very difficult to accurately measure the gutter margin unless you break the spine or disassemble the book. But a little more room there will help your readers. But thinner books or more flexible bindings can also help.

      • E.S. Ivy

        You know, I thought I was getting around that problem by adding the measurment of outer margin to the width of the type column, and then subtracting the sum from the width of the paperback, to come up with the gutter margin. However, while reading your answer it occurred to me that the difference in measurement is so small it could be measurement error (I found that many of my measurements varied per page.) So – I’m going to go with the larger measurement to be safe. Thanks!

  26. Jaime Buckley

    Thank you for all that feedback and the great article (as always). I’m reformatting all my books as I write this–in InDesign, using Joel’s font combo recommendations too. Took out the art for now–will do special printings once I have the “right” art created as I always wanted.

    For now, the layout and fonts are my art =)

  27. Joe

    Great post, very informative on book layouts. This is just what I needed, Thanks!

  28. Jo Michaels (@WriteJoMichaels)

    You’re so right when you talk about book designers being detail-oriented with a strong understanding of typography. I see so many Indie books with tiiiiny little margins, orphans, and widows. All it would take is contacting a designer who understands print books and a little bit of an investment. Well done. Shared on my blog! WRITE ON!

  29. Alan Drabke

    Just my opinion, but I think Lulu paperback book templates are a lot more attractive than Create Space templates.

    • Michael N. Marcus

      Don’t pick a printer just because of its templates.

      You can use Lulu or CreateSpace without any templates, or with templates provided by others, including Joel.

      Keep in mind that Lulu’s printing prices are very expensive, making it hard to be competitive and make a profit.

    • Joel Friedlander

      When we were developing the templates for our BookDesignTemplates site I downloaded every single book template I could find online. For one thing, there aren’t very many of them (hey, it’s not that easy to do in Word, anyway). The other thing that surprised me was that all the ones I found were either generic, barely-designed, Times Roman-based layouts that looked terrible, or they were simple frames without anything in them at all. Check out the ones at the link above, I think you’ll be surprised.

  30. Michael N. Marcus

    One of my basic rules of thumb is that the a book’s outside margins must be large enough to comfortably fit human thumbs without covering up any text. It’s really annoying to have to constantly re-position pages while reading through a book.

    Paper is one of the least expensive parts of publishing, and if a book requires 10 or 20 more pages to be more attractive and more comfortable to read, it’s a worthwhile investment.

    While paper is not expensive, it’s not free, so keep printing costs in mind while evaluating suppliers. Each page from Lightning Source or CreateSpace costs the same, but other companies have wacky price schedules.

    With Infinity Publishing, a reader pays a buck more for a book with 129 pages than one with 128 pages and the author pays 54 cents more. Page number 129 is printed on a very expensive piece of paper.

    Xlibris also has an inflated and weird “delta” between page ranges. A 107-page paperback book will sell for $15.99 and the hardcover will sell for $24.99. If you add just one page more, the price goes up $4 or $5. The difference in the manufacturing cost is tiny, and can’t possibly justify the difference in cover price.

    The price for a paperback with 398 pages is $19.99 (just like the 108-page book), but, at 400 pages the retail price jumps four bucks to $23.99, and that price holds all the way to 800 pages.

    Xlibris gives away 400 pages for “free,” but charges four or five bucks for one page!

    Xlibris books are printed by Lightning Source, so the price per additional page is $.013 (or maybe even less if they get a discount).

    Sadly, both amateur and professional publishers seem to strive to save pages, dollars (and maybe also trees) and the result is often awful.

    The sample books that Infinity Publishing and DiggyPOD distribute to impress potential author/customers have barely enough margin room for a child’s pinky — let alone an adult’s thumb. Some magazines, including Bloomberg Business Week, are guilty of the same sin.

    Amateur book formatters should spend some time walking around an art gallery or even viewing the websites of companies that sell art prints.

    For example, Pablo Picasso created “Petite Fleurs” with ample white space or air around the image, and even the hands and forearms are mere outlines around white space to further emphasize the color of the flowers held in the hands.

    The folks at Art.com provide additional white space in the matte that surrounds the print in a frame. https://cache2.artprintimages.com/p/LRG/53/5378/1JCJG00Z/art-print/pablo-picasso-petite-fleurs.jpg

    If Picasso and the framer removed the air supply, the same-size print pushes me away. The print with ample air draws me in.

    Eyes—like noses—need air.

    Michael N. Marcus

    • Joel Friedlander

      It’s interesting how print on demand has changed the way we think about book production. Historically, when books were all printed offset, paper was the most costly part of any printing project. More than the labor or the binding.

      Using the minimum amount of paper for any specific project was so important that we would always try to get as large a first run as possible so we could order our paper by the “carload.”

      This would allow our production staff to create a sheet size that was exactly right for the book and the equipment it would print on, and we would have the paper custom made to that exact size, simply to eliminate any waste whatsoever.

      Of course, this had nothing to do with the design of the book, which is what’s under discussion in this article, and Michael’s points about margin size are good ones.

      • Daphne Caudle

        Dear Mr. Friedlander:

        I have been reading your good posts with suggestions and ideas on formatting, publishing and related information. I have written some poetry and I am in the process of writing my first novel. I love to write! I am a paralegal of 12 years by profession with hopes of passing my TExES exam in the very near future to teach special education inasmuch as I have already earned my Bachelor of Arts in Child and Family Studies with a minor in special populations. I am not yet attempting to make writing my full-time career. I simply love to write. While I am writing, my brain takes a vacation from the every day stressors of life and I can think creatively without distraction. Do you have a publisher of preference? Thank you for all of your postings which are useful to individuals such as myself.

        • Joel Friedlander

          Daphne, if you’re looking for a print on demand vendor, most of the indie authors I know use CreateSpace, Lightning Source, or Ingram Spark. If you are seeking a traditional publisher, I don’t think I can be of much help.


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