Turning Your Manuscript into a Paperback

I’ve had a few requests for details about how I paginate my print books, so here goes. Below you’ll find a 50-minute video of me walking through my pagination routine. It’s not quite everything, but I show 95% of what’s involved for a few sample chapters. From there, it’s just a matter of repeating the steps throughout the book. Once you do a few of these, it comes very naturally. You’ll also find that the process speeds up with practice.

First, download the CS 6 templates (I use the 5×8 template in the video, but you can use either one):

The 5 x 8 Template for CreateSpace

The 6 x 9 Template for CreateSpace

For older versions of InDesign, use these IDML Templates:

The 5 x 8 Template for CreateSpace

The 6 x 9 Template for CreateSpace

To watch the video, you might want to make it bigger by expanding it or going to YouTube:

My favorite place to upload the finished PDF is CreateSpace. Check them out here. The service is completely free to use. You can even “proof” your work online without having to order a copy, though I highly recommend ordering a physical proof and going through every page one more time. A proof copy will cost you around $7, shipped, for a standard 300-page book.

I hope this is useful. If so, let me know. And if you want to make improvements to the template files and share them with others, feel free.

Also, if you want to see the results in person, you can snag a paperback copy of The Shell Collector right here. You’ll notice that I use the cream interior and the matte cover options, which I think look a lot more professional than white page interiors or glossy covers.

60 responses to “Turning Your Manuscript into a Paperback”

  1. Seriously awesome.

    I’m about to finish my first .mobi shortly (full page images inside are giving me some trouble)

    After that is create space time. Thanks for this.

    Art is mostly done: http://www.cindercast.com

    1. I’m working on one of these for making changes to your .mobi / .epub using Calibre and Sigil.

      And that artwork is brilliant, man.

      1. Kind of you to say so. It feels like I’ve been ‘finishing’ this story for a while now… But maybe the first one takes the longest. (Hopefully).

        I was testing a mobi on my iPhone in the kindle app so see how a possible cover looked… It has nice company


  2. I’m looking forward to seeing a convert to .mobi or/and epub soon! I’ve been having a frustrating time with Indesign to keep the formatting the same as the PDF version. So far it hasn’t worked. Hopefully you have some pointers for how to create a epub version of a paperback book (especially if it has images).

  3. Hey Hugh, don’t you have excellent formatters. I used Jason for my last book at your recommendation, and he was fabulous. So why are you doing this yourself now? If you don’t mind me asking.

    1. I love the Polgarus team. I use them for all my ebook formatting. But I enjoy doing the print myself. There are more design decisions to be made.

      I think it’s also useful for authors to understand and know how to do as much as possible, even when they get to the point that they can hire out freelance work. It gives you an understanding and appreciation for what you’re asking people to do and a common language for discussing the work.

      My attitude in any career is to know as much as possible. Why wouldn’t you? Painters should understand dyes and color theory and phi and how to stretch canvases and apply gesso and maintain their brushes. Most art instruction begins with a study of the history of art. I like that.

      1. It’s a great attitude Hugh, one that I really admire.

        I’ve just finished the first draft of my first novel, and still have all the formatting stuff to learn, both for ebooks and for print (I’m 90% certain I’ll use Ceate Space). People keep asking about an audio version too … something else to learn about!

        Thanks for the making and sharing the video, will defintely watch that, closer to the time.

      2. How can you tell if the person you hire is doing reasonable work in reasonable time if you don’t understand anything about what they are doing?

        You don’t have to be able to do the work (although it helps if you can), but you need to be able to understand what’s involved.

  4. Great guide. Basically what I do myself.

  5. Excellent and useful vid – thanks! I’m looking forward to the Sigil/Calibre one as well, it’s like negotiating a minefield, getting those tricky apps to work just so.

  6. Cheers, Hugh. This is useful.

  7. Thats really useful Hugh, thanks. What version of indesign are you using? the templates wont open on my cs4 version as it says its missing plugins (all gobbledy gook to me!)

    1. I’m having exactly the same problem with CS5.

      1. I’m using CS6. Not sure if there’s a way for me to save a backwards-compatible version, but I’ll check.

        1. Olav Martin Kvern Avatar
          Olav Martin Kvern

          Hi Hugh,

          Save as IDML–choose File>Save As, choose the InDesign CS4 or Later option from the Format dropdown menu, and then click the Save button to save the file. Properly updated CS4, CS5, and CS5.5 versions of InDesign will be able to open the IDML file.


          Olav Martin Kvern

          1. Thanks, I’ll try the new(old) templates later. My copy of the shell collector just arrived! How many words is it Hugh? Just to get an idea of what mine would look like size wise in the 5×8 size.

  8. […] just released this fantastic video telling you how, and all of the templates he uses, to turn a manuscript into a book ready for self […]

  9. All that great writing *and* you have time to make videos like these? You rock, Hugh. Thanks.

  10. I was daunted to try InDesign for formatting The Demon of Histlewick Downs, but I shouldn’t have been. Though I’d never used the program before, it only took me a couple days to get familiar enough with it to get a result I’m really happy with, and that was including using the CreateSpace-specified measurements to create my own template. That said, this video would still have saved me considerable time, and I’ll likely refer to it when formatting my next novel. I particularly love the ease of adding drop caps and running titles. My biggest complaint was having to suppress those headers and page numbers on chapter title pages, instead of simply being able to specify a separate format for those pages. And beware, because once you designate those suppressed pages, any additional editing can move the suppressions to the wrong pages. Careful proofing is critical!

    Also, instead of copying directly from Word, you could save your book as “webpage, filtered” to get rid of all that Word formatting before transferring to InDesign. Oh, and if you want to use specialty fonts for headings, make sure that font is “free for commercial use.”

    1. I use Master pages and apply them to the book pages. Thus title pages and such have a Master without page number and header applied, while pages in the story have a Master with page number and header.

  11. Thank-you so much for this tutorial, Hugh. Print has always been one of the harder things for me to try and figure out. I’ve done enough .mobis to consider myself well-versed, and Scrivener has made it pretty easy for me to get a template that I like saved and ready to go. But getting all the pages to look just right for a print PDF has been a challenge. I’m definitely going to give my next paperback edition a shot with this technique. Shell Collector looks beautiful! Again, thank-you, and your blog is one of the best.

  12. Awesome, Hugh! Lots of helpful tips in here.

    Is there any way you could post a 5.25 x 8 template? I prefer the size in between the others posted since all the trades I own are that size.

  13. Great video. Any suggestions on converting a print book with intricate design in chapter headings to the various flavors of e-book?

    1. I think ebooks are best left simple, personally. I try to avoid graphics unless they are absolutely crucial (like maps). But that’s just me.

    2. In my experience, it is important to keep ebook formats as simple as possible. Since people will be reading your ebook on a mutlitude of devices with different fonts, different screen sizes, different ways of rendering symbols, etc, tryng to make an ebook look a certain way (that is, trying to preserve the print layout) is very likely to backfire. Most likely you will end up with a mess on many devices.

      Amazon has some good tips and tutorials on this.

  14. That was such a nice video and watching it I felt so happy. And then I almost cried in frustration.Happy because of the “kerning” demonstration. And sad because I wish I saw this video six months ago.

    Last month, after five months of daily craziness, I managed to published five 200+ page nonfiction paperbacks (with illustrations) as a passion project for an author I admire (I’ve set up an indie imprint for him — in fact I even referenced you as inspiration when I wrote the “Why Shabda Press” blog post). Anyway, in the process of publishing the author’s books I had to learn InDesign from scratch via youtube, but I didn’t find anything at the level of detail that you provided just now. And I think, at the thirst that’s out there for InDesign videos, yours has just become a future classic.

    So I went through those books page by page and did the balancing manually solely by dropping or lifting lines with line breaks — and it’s still not perfect. No modification of textbox size or spacing (I thought — for some weird reason — you were’t allowed to do that) and, certainly, no kerning!!! When I think about how much time I spent hunting for places to manually drop stuff I want to stab myself — and I just wished I could move those chapter headers up and down but just didn’t dare — I thought they should always be spaced the same. Good thing I was listening to the Self-Publishing Podcast while doing it and learned something, otherwise I’d really have to kill myself for wasting so much time…

    Anyway, thanks a million for taking the time to just give, give, give…

    All the best,

  15. […] just released this fantastic video telling you how, and sharing all of the templates he uses, to turn a manuscript into a book ready for self […]

  16. […] Turning Your Manuscript into a Paperback | Hugh Howey […]

  17. Being a bit of a gearhead, I lashed up a script to extract the HTML from an eBook and use XSLT to turn it into typesetter markup. For basic layouts, it works better than I had a right to expect. The results look better than anything short of InDesign, and who can afford that? :-D It helps that I’m using a consistent CSS to format the eBooks.

    We (the co-op I’m in) will be releasing print books early in 2015.

  18. Jennifer Daydreamer Avatar
    Jennifer Daydreamer

    I am so grateful for this. Thank you.

  19. You’ve managed to get InDesign to work for you, but you’re creating twice as much work as necessary because you really do not seem to know how to use the program.and are not taking advantage of all the ways InDesign makes page design much easier than you have here.

    Just one example: if you use basic styles in Word, you can import your document rather than cut and paste and do it in a way that you don’t have to go back and change all the styles/formatting in the document. You also are not putting into your styles the features that would save you some work such as making sure all the chapters start on a right hand page and automatically adding the drop caps to the first paragraph.

    Another example: You can remove the Master Page elements without deleting them and you can set up additional Master Pages for section/chapter heads, etc.

    You’re also ignoring some best practices such as lining up your book blocks and you’re weak on terminology — e.g. kerning is space between character not space between words.

    In addition, by putting in extra line breaks, you’re making it more difficult to convert your print book to epub/mobi and you haven’t taken the CreateSpace signatures into account.

    In other words, you do not know this program well enough to teach it and anyone who is watching this needs to be aware of that.

    1. While he could certainly be more efficient, this isn’t exactly the least efficient way to use InDesign. What’s very important to realize is that his Word document is the source for both the print and electronic books. That’s very, very important. And here’s why:

      The only product of the InDesign document is a print-ready PDF. He’s not creating an EPUB from it and therefore does not need to worry about any formatting in the context of ebooks. He only needs to worry about what it looks like on the printed page.

      I can think of more efficient workflows but they’re completely irrelevant to his actual advice which is “so you have a Word document you want to turn into a paperback.”

    2. Totally. In the first take of this video (which I couldn’t use because my desktop resolution was set too high, which made everything impossible to see), I point out from the get-go that I’m not an InDesign expert, and that anyone who is will laugh at how I do things.

      I’m a writer who uses InDesign to create paperback books that people can’t believe are self-published when they see them, and then assume that I’m spending hundreds of dollars to have someone format for me.

      I use a lot of the advanced features in my own work (I paginated two anthologies this year that use a lot more automation), but I wasn’t about to spend several hours showing people how to dig that deep into the program. I wanted to keep this at 45 minutes. My problem, starting out as a writer, was that I couldn’t find a video that showed me how to do exactly what I needed to do. I found all kinds of tutorials that showed — in 30+ parts — how to do everything this program is capable of.

      There are hundreds of thousands of new writers coming on the scene who need to know just this one thing. And the program — while expensive — can be used for free at many libraries and universities. You can sit down with your manuscript on a thumb drive, do the work, and walk away with a PDF on that thumb drive. It’s what I used to do. :)

    3. True, Hugh isn’t an InDesign expert and he certainly misses on some of the finer points, but I like that he’s 1) provided templates and 2) showed us all how he puts together professional looking books.

      I’m a longtime ID user and, though I know more of the advanced techniques, I appreciate the assistance Hugh has provided. I knew I could probably design my own print books, but this just confirms that I WILL.

    4. hope you’ll make your own video and tell us all about the timesavers you use in making books.

  20. After reading this, I looked up InDesign. And I was shocked on two levels:

    1) The price for the whole suit. I can get several books professionally formatted for that much money.

    2) The new Cloud subscription system. I’m not ready for that, and I am most certainly not willing to pay for a program I don’t even own. (Support is said to be bad, too.)

    So are there any alternatives to InDesign?

    1. A free open source alternative to InDesign is: Scribus (Windows, Mac, Linux).

      Found here: http://www.scribus.net/canvas/Scribus

      If you want to give it a try, you should check out the following ten part tutorial explaining how to create POD interiors and covers using Scribus starting here:


      1. Thanks Chris for mentioning my blog posts on Scribus. :-)

        Hugh, thanks for the video. I love seeing how others lay out the interiors of their books, and I still learn more little tips and tricks along the way.

    2. Yes, the most popular Free Software desktop publishing software is called Scribus. The current version is 1.4.4 and I know that InDesign file import wasn’t planned until 1.5 (there’s a testing version of 1.5 but not for Windows). But you can get suggested book margins from CreateSpace and set up a template easily enough.

      The really nice thing about creating book templates is that it’s a moderate amount of tedious work the first time and then you can simply reuse your template with or without modifications in the future, so if you’re doing a lot of print work it’s a real investment.

      1. Thanks! Will check out Scribus.

        Price for InDesign alone is almost 1k Euro, the whole suit at almost 3k Euro… too much for me.

    3. I suppose it comes down to whether you prefer to design your own books or pay someone one to do it. InDesign isn’t cheap, but the CreativeCloud subscription model is a lot cheaper than it used to be (not to mention you can install the CC version legally on multiple machines).

      I’ve chosen to subscribe because I’m a longtime InDesign user already and I love the idea of being able to produce my own books.

      On top of all this, Hugh’s tutorial was fantastic. :-)

  21. […] just released this fantastic video telling you how, and sharing all of the templates he uses, to turn a manuscript into a book ready for self […]

  22. I see the program is $700 to buy, though there seems to be a $20 a month option. But for poor people like me there is a free option out there too.
    Scribus is a free and open source software system that has almost everything you can find in commercial software. The range of page layouts it offers is comparable to those of Adobe InDesign and QuarkXPress (above), but unlike them it can be downloaded for free. Besides layout, Scribus is made for typesetting and preparing files for professional-grade image-setting appliances. One of its main strengths is making PDF files with animation and interactive presentations. The user can also employ Scribus to design small books, brochures, newspapers and newsletters.
    Just listing this one because it is one i will be trying this weekend. If it is junk, I will let you know.

  23. Awesome Hugh. I just went through this.

    Last request. Cover export for both formats, what resolution you use, if you bother with cmyk, and if you bother with spine calculations for the createspace version.

    Thanks again.

  24. Hugh,

    I’m able to open your templates just fine in InDesign CC, but I appear to be missing the following fonts:

    28 Days Later
    TW Cen MT Condensed Extra Bold
    Trajan Pro

    Can you tell me where you got those?


    1. Probably from DaFont, but you can just replace them with something else if you want.

  25. Very generous Hugh. Thank you. Ive read too many books on how to, that left us not knowing ‘how to.’ lol. Your explanations are clear….

    have two questions,

    the 5% that is not in the details/video you so well put together for us all here, will we be able to figure that %5 out intuitively by following the other 95%?

    Second question, if there is poetry in the book, how do you make sure the end of each line, stops where it is supposed to? In the MS word doc, there are line breaks/returns in the appropriate places. But in formatting for ebook and POD, is there a special something that needs to be done? I imagine quite a few people sometimes may have special page breaks in dialogue for instance, as well as for the occasional poem…

    Thanks HH. Very cool

    1. That 5% is more advanced stuff that you don’t really need to know. You’ll probably learn it as you dig deeper.

      For poetry, if you want ultimate control, you can always create separate text boxes and place those on top of your existing text boxes. Or you can use the many spacing and tab options within the paragraph editor right at the top of the screen. It’s really easy.

      1. thanks HH, you are helpful.

  26. There are many tools to write with, one very portable unit I have seen is called a Pomera Dm20, with its’ folding keyboard and 2 second turn on time, I might have to give it a shot. I see one on Ebay right now….might have to pull the lever on this one. The idea of something you can carry in your pocket, but open up almost full size on a desk or your lap to write. Hmmmm.
    Anyone ever use the Pomera?
    The Hemingwrite looks cool, but bigger than a macbook air and 500 bucks, can’t see it catching on for that price. Can by a used macbook that does a hundred times more for that price.
    Just some random thoughts on the ‘perfect’ writing tool

  27. […] third and final video for your book creation. Earlier, I went over creating your print interior using InDesign. I also showed you one way to edit your ebook. Now I’m going to do a quick and dirty book […]

  28. […] Turning Your Manuscript Into A Paperback Hugh Howey put together a great video showing his process for laying out the internals of a paperback. His process is similar to my own, very much worth a watch. […]

  29. […] is the program I learned at about midnight after watching this tutorial. After that I have, other than finishing a few minor notes, finished typesetting the whole […]

  30. […] format your own books and even produce your own cover. Hugh Howey, indie-author extraordinaire has a great series on how to set up a book and cover using […]

  31. If only I had seen this a week ago! I need to check your blog more often. I just spent literal days trying to get my print book formatting just right. I tried scrivener first, then moved on to InDesign. Still, I just couldn’t get it right. Wound up using someone else’s Word to do it. But it was a pain, and I spent many frustrating hours on it. Thanks for doing this tutorial.

  32. Fabulous tutorial! I am interested to know how you created the video. Is it a video screen capture?

  33. […] caused me nothing but pain.  There are better tutorials.  As it turned out (too late to help me) Hugh Howey recently did one, complete with what is likely a good template.  I spent hours, probably 15 or so, […]

  34. Hello, this doesn’t look too bad, but how long does it really take to format a long novel? because I just finished doing 2 for createspace with a template and open office and by the time i was done i nearly had a nervous breakdown, snapped, and trashed the place lol.

    So, would this be good software to invest in to find EASY AND QUICK ways to format for createspace?

    and where is a good place to get templates and macros and plugins and hoobity whabity stuff i might need?

    i’m on a VERY tight budget, so this has to be the perfect solution for the person with no money and bad health.

    hmmmm? advice? i liked your video, it looks good, but need MORE advice :)

  35. […] For hard copy publication, Createspace requires a correctly formatted PDF file. There are different ways to get from manuscript to PDF. People with that skill set swear by InDesign, but I am not one of them. In the following, I will be telling you how to format using Word. If you want to use InDesign, Hugh Howey has a video tutorial here. […]

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