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Build Your Book - Format a Paperback Manuscript

In this step-by-step video guide, we walk you through formatting a paperback manuscript in Microsoft Word. The information is specific to the 2016 version of Word, but the steps are similar in most versions.

To help ensure that your book meets KDP's basic specifications, follow all the steps in this guide except those marked "advanced." If you want your book to meet the standards many designers follow, complete all the steps. If you want details on any step or prefer written guidance, pause the video and check out the step-by-step instructions. If you want to print all the instructions and tips, download this guide in PDF format:





Setting page size and margins

A few keys terms before you start:

  • Trim size. Your printed book's width and height. The most common trim size for paperbacks in the U.S. is 6" x 9" (15.24 x 22.86 cm), but you have several other options.
  • Bleed. Books with "bleed" have elements that extend to the edge of the page. Accounting for bleed is important because it prevents a white border from appearing at the edge of the page when the book is trimmed. The video and step-by-step instructions explain how to set page size and margins for books with and without bleed.
  • Margins. Every page has three outside margins (top, bottom, and side) and one inside margin (also called the gutter). Margins ensure your text isn’t cut off during manufacturing. Set your page size before you set your margins. Why? Margin size depends on page count and on whether you have elements that bleed. See this chart to find your margin size:

    Page countInside (gutter) marginsOutside margins (no bleed)Outside margins (with bleed)
    24 to 150 pages0.375" (9.6 mm)at least 0.25" (6 mm)(6.4 mm)at least 0.375" (9.4 mm)
    151 to 300 pages0.5" (12.7 mm)at least 0.25" (6 mm)(6.4 mm)at least 0.375" (9.4 mm)
    301 to 500 pages0.625" (15.9 mm)at least 0.25" (6 mm)(6.4 mm) at least 0.375" (9.4 mm)
    501 to 700 pages0.75" (19.1 mm)at least 0.25" (6 mm)(6.4 mm)at least 0.375" (9.4 mm)
    701 to 828 pages0.875" (22.3 mm)at least 0.25" (6 mm)(6.4 mm)at least 0.375" (9.4 mm)

    Step-by-step instructions


    Step-by-step instructions


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Modifying styles for a custom look

Using the styles function in Word can help you ensure your book's font and spacing is consistent. You can use the preset Styles in Microsoft Word or modify them for a custom look. Using styles also saves you time because you don't have to format the font and spacing for each part of your book.



Step-by-step instructions


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Formatting chapters (section breaks and chapter titles)

Why this step matters:

  • Section breaks. To ensure that your content begins on the correct page, use section breaks. Section breaks allow you to change the formatting of a specific section without affecting other sections. Add a section break between the front matter and book body to distinguish these parts of the book. Also, use section breaks so each chapter title page starts on its own page.
  • Chapter titles. When you format each chapter title page, apply the Heading 1 style to each chapter title. In addition to the consistent look that Heading 1 provides throughout your book, using Heading 1 tags the chapter title so that it will appear in the table of contents, which is explained in Step 9.

Step-by-step instructions


Step-by-step instructions


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Formatting front matter

Front matter are the sections that come before the first chapter. Some elements are expected and others are optional, but there is a standard order. Learn more about front matter elements.

Tip: Right-facing pages are odd numbered pages in printed books because the first piece of paper is on the right side, facing up from the open, printed book. The back of the cover is the left-facing page.

Step-by-step instructions


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Adding pagination

Some books have different pagination styles between the front matter (Roman numerals) and book body (Arabic numerals). If you're unsure whether to use different pagination styles (it's not typical for novels), find books with content similar to yours to get an idea of what readers expect. To achieve different pagination styles, you have to use section breaks (see Step 3).

Step-by-step instructions


Step-by-step instructions


Step-by-step instructions


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Adding headers (advanced)

Alternating headers between the book title and author name is common in book design. To achieve different headers for the book content and front matter, you have to set up your file using section breaks (see Step 3).

Step-by-step instructions


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Formatting chapter title pages (advanced)

Using a First Paragraph style and drop caps (a large capital letter typical for the first letter of the first word in a chapter) gives your chapter title page a professional look. If you want to use a drop cap, you might want to create a First Paragraph style with no indentation so that the drop cap lines up with the paragraph alignment.

Step-by-step instructions


Step-by-step instructions


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Adding images (advanced)

This step shows you how to insert images for books with and without bleed. It also shows you how to positon and styles images. Before you insert images, make sure they are high resolution.

Step-by-step instructions


Step-by-step instructions


Step-by-step instructions


Step-by-step instructions


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Creating a table of contents (TOC)

Not all paperbacks have a TOC. If you're unsure whether to include one, find books with content similar to yours to get an idea of what readers expect. If you also want to publish your book in digital format, creating a TOC now will save you time. Why? Because Amazon requires all Kindle eBooks to have a TOC, which allows readers to navigate between chapters easily.

Step-by-step instructions


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Proofing and exporting to PDF

Now that you’re done formatting, it's time to do a final check and adjust some settings to ensure your file works with the KDP website. This includes:

  • Proofreading your manuscript using formatting symbols
  • Flattening transparencies
  • Turning off downsampling to ensure highest resolution images
  • Embedding all fonts
  • Exporting as PDF







Step-by-step instructions


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