The Beginner’s Guide to Formatting Your Book’s Interior

Working for a publishing company, I receive many questions from authors about the format and layout of their book. And it makes sense. There are so many variables and lingo that the average person could never know how to lay out a book unless it were their job to know.

Because of the complicated processes involved with book interiors, it’s best if you work with a professional. But, if your designer is asking you questions about your preferences, or if you just want to know for your own reference, here are the top nine questions I’m asked most often about book layouts.

1. How big are the standard margins for books?

First, let me start by defining the margins we are talking about. Your regular margins apply to the outside, top, and bottom of the page. There is also a gutter margin (see below for more information on this).

There aren’t necessarily industry standards for margins. However, most printers follow the same format for margins.

The outside margins should be at least .5”, but most books have larger margins for the outside of each page, closer to .75”.

2. What is a gutter margin?

The gutter margin is the inside of the page where your book is bound. Adding this margin will ensure that the words of your book do not fall into your book’s binding.

The gutter margin should be at least .75”, and more if your printer has tight bindings. This means the binding goes farther up on each page.

3. What is the standard order of a book?

Many authors have questions about the order of their book. Should the Introduction come before the Table of Contents? Should the Endnotes go after the Index?

The truth is there is no standard. You want to make sure the book’s interior order creates a good and natural flow for the reader.

At Lucid Books, we have a company standard for how we order our books that we created from our years of experience and preference as readers.

4. Where should my page numbers go?

The only three places a page number can go are at the top outside corner, the bottom outside corner, or the bottom middle.

At Lucid Books, we typically put our page numbers in the bottom middle (unless the author prefers another standard position or another position suits the style of the book better). Middle bottom is typically where our eyes as readers naturally fall.

5. Do I need an index?

This depends on what kind of book you’re writing. Most of the books that have indexes are technical books or books with multiple Scripture references.

The point of an index is to help your reader easily find a particular topic or word mentioned in your book.

So, if you have a book about sewing, you may want to create an index of sewing terms for your readers to quickly access. If your book is a personal memoir, you probably won’t need to direct your readers quickly to certain subjects or words.

6. How do I format citations?

This depends on what style manual you’re following (e.g., APA, Chicago).

At Lucid Books, we follow the Chicago Manual of Style, with a few in-house additions.

Whatever style you want to use, or your publisher requires, you can get the most recent edition of the manual and use that as a guide. There are also many online resources, such as Purdue Owl, that can help you format your citations.

7. What is the difference between perfect bound and trade cloth (case laminate) binding?

You may have heard these terms from your publisher or your printer and been completely confused.

Perfect bound is a paperback. Trade cloth, sometimes referred to as case laminate, is a hardback. It’s that simple.

8. What color format do I need to use for my cover/interior?

This depends on your printer.

Most printers use a CMYK color format. This means that the colors they use to create any specific color are cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black). This is different from RGB, which uses red, green, and blue.

You want to make sure your colors are set to whatever your printer uses, as colors will come out much different than you intended when you use the color codes of one format but print in the other.

9. What font should I use?

This is a rather hard question to answer.

Choosing the optimal font depends on many variables, so I can’t give you one specific font to use. I can tell you that it is best to stay away from sans serif fonts for interiors since they are hard to read in print.

You want to stick to serif fonts. What’s the difference? Sans serif fonts don’t have the small projecting features called “serifs” at the end of strokes. The idea is that serifs help guide the eye along the lines in large blocks of text.

If you want to know more about our publishing process at Lucid Books, or would like to use our publishing expertise for your book, you can fill out our Get Started Form to get your free Partnership Publishing Guide and learn more about publishing with Lucid Books.