How to prepare your Kindle text for a print edition – Part 1: book size and typeface

While making an ebook is pretty straightforward, putting it into print is a pain. In traditional publishing houses, it’s an entire department’s job – because there’s a lot of invisible fiddling you need to do. (It used to be my job too, which is why I know.)

But it is possible to do it well, given the right instructions. I’ll walk you through what I did to get the text of My Memories of a Future Life ready for print. Be prepared – this will get pathologically nitpicky. And this stage is not about how the text reads – it’s about how it looks. Yes, to writers that’s the tail wagging the dog. Get over it now.

It’s quite a big job so I’ll split it in two posts. Today: choosing the size of the book and the typeface.

What size do you want the book to be?

Choose this first, because that governs how much you get on a page. Nail Your Novel is a short book at 40,000 words, and the first time I put it out was at 6×9. That made it look flimsy, so when I redesigned the interior I sized it down to 5×8 where the thickness and size feel just right.

My Memories of a Future Life, on the other hand, is a whopping 103,000 words. It would be rather chunky at 5×8 and expensive to produce because of the weight – which means I would have had to charge a lot more and everyone would think I was being greedy. Many literary novels are now being produced in 6×9 size, or even bigger – so it fits nicely with the genre.

If you use CreateSpace you can download a Word template for the interior. It sets up page sizes and margins so that everything looks right and you can do your fiddling in Word. Catherine Ryan Howard’s book Self-Printed has a detailed section on how to do this. There are other POD companies besides CreateSpace, but they’re not as easy to use. I used CreateSpace but with a design program, PagePlus, because it’s what I do my covers in and because my version of Word doesn’t make PDFs. (For CreateSpace and Lulu you submit your book on a PDF.)

PagePlus sets automatic margins as well, but the default ones are too narrow so I customise them. If you’re using anything other than CreateSpace’s template I suggest you check your margins too. They may have been set up for leaflets, not paperback books.

Before you finalise your margins, whack some dummy text onto the page, print it out and put it over an existing book of the same size to check it looks okay.

Important: get your margins right now. If you change them later you’ll have to redo a lot of tedious checking.


When you formatted the Kindle or ebook edition you probably established a style for the book…. didn’t you? You’re consistent about when you use single or double quotes, proper em dashes and so on? You checked you had curly quotes and not ticks, including on the apostrophes? You’ve never thought about it? Go and fix them now. They’ll make your book look a lot more professional.


Choose this next. And make your decision final. Every typeface is a slightly different width, even if it’s the same height.

Don’t use Times, it makes a book page look like a business proposal.

Obviously don’t use any of the fancy curly things that seem to have been supplied to design party invitations.

Get down a few novels in your genre (tastes in typefaces may vary between genres) and choose typefaces that look like them. I used Century Schoolbook BT for My Memories of a Future Life.

Italics: flat feet bad

Check what the font’s italics look like. A lot of computers come with the Roman version of fonts but not the italics, and when you hit the little I icon it slants them. True italics have curled serifs (the little feet), and slanted feet look wrong. If you haven’t got the italic version of your font there are free places to download it – I found my itals here.  Do this now too, for the mysterious tedium-avoidance reason I will explain.

Italics: curly feet good

Typesize and spacing

Most books are set in 12pt, or 11.5pt. Again, compare with other published books in your genre (for instance, literary can afford to go slightly smaller than YA).

If your book is 6×9 the page is quite wide, so you might want a bigger typeface or wider leading (space between the lines) to make it more readable. You can fine-tune this by editing the paragraph style – I set the leading as a percentage of the pointsize. So I had 11.5pt type on a leading that was a niftily precise 14.375pt – or 125% of the point size.

And each typeface has different properties. Some have tall ascenders and descenders (vertical strokes). So if you change from one font at 11.5pt it might look much smaller and less readable than another, so you might need to use it bigger. Before you finalise, print a page out and fold it around a book of the same size to see how it looks in the flesh.

When you’ve decided, run your text in and typeset it.

Part 2 tomorrow: chapter heads… and the really nitpicky stage

Have you released one of your books in print form? Did you do the production yourself? If you have any tips to add for this stage, I’d love to hear them!

HELP IS AT HAND… If reading all this has given you an intolerable migraine, I can format your book for you! Email me on RozMorrisWriter at gmail dotcom.

 My Memories of a Future Life: episodes 1 and 2 available now. Episode 3 on 12th September. Print edition end September. Do you like podcasts? You can listen to or download, free, the first 4 chapters


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  1. #1 by Gregg Huestis on September 9, 2011 - 1:12 pm


    Thanks so much for the blog post. I am going to read it and part 2 (if I can find it). I have had some of the same headaches with getting my books into Kindle format and have them look good at the same time.


    • #2 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on September 9, 2011 - 1:55 pm

      Thanks, Greg – part 2 will be up tomorrow so hop back then.

    • #3 by Stationery Explorer on September 10, 2011 - 7:23 am

      Thanks Roz, this is brilliant and, just like Nail Your Novel, spookily well-timed. Looking forward to the next installment.

  2. #4 by Susan Schreyer on September 9, 2011 - 1:24 pm

    Wonderful post, Roz! Formatting a print book has been a huge pain in the patoot for me — and I’ve done three so far. The truth is that’s the case for just about everyone else I know, too, so we’re not alone. Getting one’s book to look “right” is a part of professionalism, so it’s worth the effort.
    Here’s my tip: Don’t forget to build in blank pages. The dedication does not belong on the back of the title page!

    • #5 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on September 9, 2011 - 1:58 pm

      Thank you, Susan – and hello Eddie 🙂
      Blank pages – excellent point. I’d add to that – don’t forget to blank out the folio on the blank page. Blank pages should be totally blank. And if you do something that changes the pagination, check your blanked folios are still where you want them. It’s easy to end up with pages that are unfolioed and also with white boxes covering the folio on pages where you should have one.

  3. #6 by eden baylee on September 9, 2011 - 4:13 pm

    Thanks Roz for putting together this excellent and informative post.

    • #7 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on September 9, 2011 - 8:28 pm

      Eden – wonderful to see you here! It’s always a thrill when people step out of Twitter into an alternate world of blogs.

  4. #8 by Sally on September 9, 2011 - 4:30 pm

    A very useful post Roz! I was thinking recently about what I’ll be doing for my novel in Kindle format, so your advice is timely.

    Interesting what you’ve said about true font italics. It might also be worth adding that some fonts simply don’t render italics very well. For my second book I picked a new Microsoft font called Candara. It’s really nice and modern,and can pass for both a formal and not so formal book, which was right for my purposes. Unfortunately, you can hardly tell at all when the text is italicised, and due to technical reasons I won’t mention as it’d take too long, I didn’t realise this issue until I’d already published it. Oh well, we live and learn!

    • #9 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on September 9, 2011 - 8:29 pm

      Thanks, Sally. That’s a good point about italics. I auditioned quite a few fonts and discarded them because the italics weren’t visible enough. I also rejected quite a few because I didn’t like the shape of the quote marks.

  5. #10 by Daniel R. Marvello on September 9, 2011 - 7:03 pm

    Great tips, Roz. Giving them in the order you need to apply them is very helpful. Speaking of blank pages, I’m guessing you’ll be talking about chapters starting on a recto page in part 2.

    I had to laugh when I read that one “literary can afford to go slightly smaller than YA” when it comes to point size. That seems backwards, given how older people, the ones more likely to be reading the literary work, would appreciate a larger text size. But as you said, publishing conventions are about how the text looks, not how it reads.

    • #11 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on September 9, 2011 - 8:31 pm

      Recto… there speaks the voice of great experience. Yes, I talk about that under ‘how to make blank pages’. ie, don’t use carriage returns.

      It’s so funny you said that about point size. I was thinking as I wrote it that it makes no sense, especially as I’ve just about got to the age where small text is a pest. But when I did a survey of literary novels they were definitely smaller than MG and YA. But the leading was wider – which does make a difference. Especially on books set over the wider page.

  6. #12 by alberta ross on September 10, 2011 - 10:18 am

    Have read these two posts backwards!! but hey I can do it I’m female – have already got books into kindles and they printed by convential printers here in UK – am thinking of putting out an amazon create space one so I think I will use the original print one for create space – will have to watch the sizing as they do appear a little different on create space – it is already PDF’d for the printers – it is checking everything after a different size and changing the cover I think – anyway very good post

    I got told the print was to small in the first book – difficult in poor light ie in bed – I liked it but I also like folk to read the d***** things so second book was not only larger but a different font – which I don’t like but the readers do so what to do?!!! Fonts are a minefield indeed.

    • #13 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on September 11, 2011 - 5:09 pm

      ‘Backwards’… ho ho, Alberta! Yes, we do have to tailor to what the reader needs, regardless of our tastes.

  7. #14 by David mark brown on September 10, 2011 - 3:36 pm

    Thanks, Roz. I’ve just been building up the nerve to tackle Create Space so this is timely. Now I have a better idea of what I’ll be in for, and I’ll revisit when I actually get to it.

  8. #16 by Marilyn Levinson on September 11, 2011 - 3:45 pm

    Thanks so much for this useful post. I’ll be referring to it.

  9. #18 by susielindau on September 12, 2011 - 3:37 pm

    Great advice! Thanks for sharing~

  10. #20 by tianodesign on September 18, 2011 - 3:10 pm

    As a print book designer I’m still not exactly ready to applaud the advent of ebooks generally and Kindle editions in particular. That said, I’m a bit of a technology junkie and get a kick out of any new gadget. I’ll admit to being alarmed at the thought that ebooks may be moving into the first tier and print second. Seems to me, the prestige of being published still resides in a printed edition and that e-editions are a way perhaps to stretch one’s audience wit a minimum of investment (forgetting about how much I’d’ve loved all my textbooks on a Kindle when I was a college student some years back).

    One thing I think it behooves authors, especially self-publishing ones to consider–in addition to the fact that a printed book is still the gold standard as far as really “being a published writer”–is that a print book is itself an art object, at least potentially, when done correctly. That adds something to your book. There’s none of that with ebooks. At least not as long as reading an ebook has do-it-yourself functions–adjustment of typefaces and their size, for instance.

    A good print book designer strives to make your book accessible, comfortably readable, to your readers. I marry typefaces to the interior text for any number of reasons specific to your text: the historical period you’re writing about and the time and place a typeface originated, the sense of what you’re book is about and the air a particular type throws off, to name two possibilities.

    When I design and execute a book’s cover (actually, a back cover/spine/front cover whole), I see it as an opportunity to suggest, to make promises about, what the reader will find inside. My interior pages (and your writing) then must keep those promises both in terms of content and form. But, of course, I work backward from your writing.

    Taking this all into account, the best I can suggest to you when going head-first–leading with a Kindle edition rather than print–is to make sure your textfiles are clean, with no stray coding. But print is still the place to be, I truly believe. For those who want to say they are self-publishing, taking the DIY route, to minimize costs, I understand. But I also want to remind you that a choice to self-publish, while the potential rewards are indeed more generous than being published traditionally, is very clearly a choice to go into business as a publisher. And if you penny ante the basic making of the product you will sell, your book, you put yourself in a distinctly uphill trek to attract readers willing to pay for your book.

    • #21 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on September 18, 2011 - 6:38 pm

      Beautifully argued, Steve. This shows there is a lot more to typography and design than simply picking what, to a layman’s eye, looks nice. Just as writers know there’s a lot more to what we do than simply making ourselves clear.

  11. #22 by stephentianobookdesigner on September 18, 2011 - 8:33 pm

    Thank you, Roz. I’m not a full-scale book shepherd, mind you, but I’ve learned over time that some things can’t be chintzed on–the competition is too great and it shows disrespect to prospective readers. I’ll be able to get on-board with ebooks and Kindle editions when the tools exist to preserve good design. If only PDF were the ebook document type.

    • #23 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on September 18, 2011 - 11:17 pm

      I hear you, Steve. There are books I’ve had ARCs for in PDF and they are a lot prettier than Kindle. But there are advantages for the Kindle book – and other ebooks – too. Agree about not cheating the reader – you and all the writers here are on the same page.

  12. #24 by vallypee on November 18, 2012 - 8:50 am

    Roz, this is really useful. I have self published all my books first through, and I must say their tutorials helped me immensely. I had no idea before about mirror margins, drop caps for the first lines of the chapters, section breaks etc etc. before I embarked on the formatting journey. I loved doing it, though and was very proud with my finished product, but there are still things I need to learn and as always, software changes and I have to re-learn a few things. One thing I would add to your very useful post is making sure that the first page of chapter is always an ‘odd’ page. It just looks so much better if it’s on the right side as you turn the page. It’s not always easy to manage, but I’ve done it for my books. I agree too about fonts. I like Book Antiqua (not sure if that is a Windows font, but it comes on Macs as standard). I tend to use either 11 or 12 point and just increase the line spacing slightly to make the text easy on the eye. It has built in curlies on the italics too! Thanks again for this. I’ll be reading the next one too!.

    • #25 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on November 18, 2012 - 1:19 pm

      Oh good point about starting on a RH page, although you don’t have to do it for every chapter. Books and sections must start on a RH page, but chapters don’t necessarily have to. And it’s easy to fiddle – simply insert a blank. Thanks for the comment and good luck with your book!

  13. #26 by on January 11, 2013 - 8:53 pm

    “How to prepare your Kindle text for a print edition – Part
    1: book size and typeface Nail Your Novel” was a
    superb read and I personally was indeed truly content to discover the blog.

    Thanks a lot,Stephen

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