Print Book Formatting: Using Templates

If reading my instructionals makes you want to weep, there is another option. Both Lulu and CreateSpace provide templates where you simply copy and paste each chapter of your book into a Word document with pre-set formatting.

I’m less than impressed with Lulu’s effort which, amongst other things, displays headers on the first page of a chapter. CreateSpace, on the other hand, provide both blank templates (simply set to the right page size and appropriate margins) and templates with sample formatted content:

These are impressively set out and mostly follow typesetting conventions, such as lack of header on the first page of a chapter. However, even these are far from perfect. Bizarrely, they’ve correctly omitted page numbers in the prelims but not managed the same for the back matter. Similarly, the first line of each chapter is correctly flush against the left-hand margin. However, after a two-line break in text, it’s incorrectly indented.

Even if you use a template, you should still do the following:

  • Remove tabs used to indent paragraphs.
  • Reduce spacing after punctuation from two to one spaces.
  • Replace hyphens with em and en dashes where appropriate.
  • Replace spaces in dots of ellipses with non-breaking ones.
  • Decide on your margins if you don’t like the ones on your template.
  • Decide on your paragraph style.
  • If you’re using indented style, check the indent is missing from the first line of every chapter and after a break, even if that break’s created by simply pressing Enter a couple of times.
  • If you’re using block style, remove the indents and alter space between paragraphs.
  • Correctly insert and position any images you have.
  • Personalise your prelims and back matter. Most templates give basic title pages and examples of other pages, such as Contents but you’ll need to adapt them to the material you have.
  • If your printer works in multiples of sixteen, play around with the number of page to ensure you don’t have a dozen or so blank at the end of your book. If you’re using CreateSpace, you won’t need to do this because they work in multiples of just two.
  • Check and correct the headers and footers on the template where necessary.
  • Tidy up widows, orphans, rivers and any other awkward-looking lines of type.
  • Convert your document to PDF if the printer requires it.

I have instructions for doing all the above in my guides. Simply navigate to the section you want using the menu in the right-hand sidebar.

As you can see, even with a template, there’s still a significant amount of work needed to create a really professional-looking book. Complex formatting is still required and given this, I prefer to stay away from templates and do all my formatting from scratch. That way, if things go wrong, I at least have some awareness of the stages I need to backtrack through to put it right. In my experience, trying to decipher someone else’s pre-programmed instructions to Word is a much harder task.

However, for those who don’t want to develop a lifelong relationship with one of Microsoft’s quirkier programs, templates can be a godsend. You could, if you chose, simply drop your text in any old how and keep your fingers crossed. Your book won’t be quite as polished as it would if you’d followed all the stages I suggest. However, providing the original template has reasonable formatting and at least a nod to typesetting conventions, you should end up with a decent enough internal layout.

I could not, of course, comment on the ethical and legal position of downloading a CreateSpace template if you have no intention of publishing via that service. This is mainly because I’ve no idea what the legal situation is. However, technically, it’s possible for anyone to download and use one providing they have your book size.

If you have an image-based book, provide design tools and templates. I’d advice using them or hiring a professional typesetter.