a blog by J.M. Cottle
Facebook Twitter Goodreads Newsletter

Formatting the interior of your CreateSpace book

As promised, I am going to tell you how I formatted the interior of my book with LibreOffice.

I chose to use LibreOffice instead of the more usual programs — say, Microsoft Word or InDesign — because I don’t own the usual programs, and because I wanted to see how nice I could make my book look using free software. I’ve spent a little bit of money in order to start up my blog (wouldn’t have done it without Niall Doherty!) but other than the cost of having a website, I am aiming for an overhead-free business. Maybe when I’m making significant money from selling books — or if I find that my books don’t sell at all because I made them with free software and they aren’t good enough for people — then I’ll consider buying some software. For now, free is good enough for me.

Though I did donate to the creator of WriteMonkey, because seriously, I love that program.

Anyway, let’s begin, shall we?

By the way, if you want to learn more or you don’t like the way I’m doing it and want to figure it out yourself, check out Taming OpenOffice/LibreOffice. I don’t think I could have done this if I hadn’t found that site.

Getting started

Open your book in LibreOffice. Before doing anything else, go to the bottom right corner of the screen and change the view to the third one, which makes it look like a book. This is optional but it helped me a lot when visualizing what the final product would look like.

I’m going to tell you exactly what I did, which means that if you follow these instructions, your book will look exactly like mine — or, rather, exactly like I wish I’d made my book, because there are a few small things I would change if I did it again. If you are aren’t too comfortable with LibreOffice, especially the Styles and Formatting dialog, I suggest following the instructions and then going back and tweaking it a bit afterward.

With that in mind, I have a few things that I put at the beginning of my document when I start formatting.

  • The title, of course, comes first.
  • I keep the subtitle and author name in mind, but I don’t type them in just yet.
  • Copyright stuff, which can be as simple or as elaborate as you want. I kept mine simple. CreateSpace will give you a free ISBN if you don’t want to buy it yourself. I used their free ISBN. You can get their free ISBN by starting the process of uploading the files, but don’t actually upload until you’ve put the ISBN into the file. The only thing that is actually necessary in the copyright part, as far as I know, is the copyright, the date, and the person the copyright belongs to.
  • Lastly, I put my dedication.

I also have every chapter heading look like this to begin:
Chapter 1
The Name of the First Chapter

There is one more thing we have to do before we can really start formatting. We have to figure out what size we want our pages and margins to be. I decided to make my book 5″ by 8″, which is the smallest size CreateSpace offers.

The chart on the submission guidelines page will tell you how big your margins have to be for different book lengths. Mine was 78 pages, so I needed the inner margin (where the book is bound) to be at least .375″ and the rest to be .25″. I decided to make the inner margin .88″ and the rest of the margins .5″. The inner margin was a pretty good size, and so was the outside one, but I think I would make the top and bottom margins smaller, because I forgot how much white space headers and footers add. Then again, my book is tiny, so it benefited from the added length of a bit of white space.

Got your numbers ready? Good, it’s time to actually start formatting.

The basics

Hit F11 to bring up the all-important Styles and Formatting dialog. Click on the Page Styles button. The only one listed should be Default. Right click on Default, go to Modify, and go through the tabs entering your information.

Default page style:

  • in the Page tab, put 5″ width, 8″ height
  • .88 left margin, .50 right margin, .40 top and bottom margins (if yours are different, put yours in, not mine)
  • mirrored page layout
  • in the Header tab, check the Header On box, uncheck the Same Content Left/Right box
  • in the Footer tab, check the Footer On box, uncheck the Same Content Left/Right box

Now that we have the default size and layout of the pages set up, it’s time to set up the default look of the text. Select your entire book. Go back to Styles and Formatting, click on the Paragraph Styles button, go to the drop down menu on the right, and choose New Style from Selection. Call this new style Text Body. When you’ve created Text Body, right click on it, go to Modify, and again go through and put in this information.

Text Body paragraph style:

  • under Indents and Spacing, first line indent .20″
  • fixed line spacing .20″
  • under Alignment: justified
  • Font: Palatino Linotype, 10pt

Now all of your text should look the same. And it looks pretty good, right? Palatino Linotype is a nice clean font for printing. But we don’t want all of our text to look the same. For example, we want a title page — the very first page we see when we open our book. Most books have other stuff in the beginning, like quotations from reviewers and lists of other things published by the same author, but I don’t have that stuff. I’m starting out with a title page.

The first few pages

Go back to Styles and Formatting, choose Paragraph Styles, and click on Apply Mode. From the list, select the pre-made style called Title. Click on the title of your book to apply the style. The pre-made style is kind of boring, right? I thought it was, so I changed it to match the fonts I used on the cover of my book. Right click on Title, go to Modify, and make these changes.

Title paragraph style:

  • Organizer tab, choose next style: Subtitle
  • Indents and Spacing, put 1.75″ above, .08″ below
  • Alignment: center
  • Font: Bookman Old Style, bold, 16pt
  • Position tab: expanded by 2pt

Click at the end of your title and hit enter. Type in your subtitle. It should be in the pre-made Subtitle style, which is again kind of boring. Right click on the Subtitle style in the Styles and Formatting dialog, and go to Modify.

Subtitle paragraph style:

  • next style: Subtitle
  • above: 0, below: 0
  • .24″ line spacing
  • alignment: center
  • Palatino Linotype, regular, 11pt
  • expanded 2pt

That’s better. Hit enter 10 times and type in the author name, still in the Subtitle style. Now that looks like a nice title page, doesn’t it?

Put the cursor after the author name, and go to Insert > Manual Break and select Page Break. This will put your copyright stuff on a new page. It should still be in your Text Body style, so just highlight it and change the alignment  to right instead of left. You might notice that there’s a header on this page, but don’t worry about it. We’ll get rid of that later.

Insert another manual page break, hit enter 8 times, and your dedication should be on its own page, still in the Text Body style. Highlight it, put it in italics, and change the alignment to right.

Right now you should have this:

  • page 1: title page
  • page 2: copyright
  • page 3: dedication and the start of the first chapter

Chapter pages

I wanted my chapter pages to look a certain way. I had a specific vision, and I did hours and hours of research and fiddling to get it to look just the way I wanted. I’m quite pleased with the results, and I’m happy to show you how simple it actually is to create.

Let’s do this!

Go back to Paragraph Styles in Styles and Formatting. Create a new style from selection called Chapter Number. Then create another new style from selection called Chapter Title. Now go back and modify each one, like this.

Chapter Number paragraph style:

  • next style: Chapter Title
  • 1.25″ above
  • line spacing .24″
  • alignment: center
  • Tahoma, regular, 13pt
  • Font Effects tab: capitals
  • expanded 1pt

Chapter Title paragraph style:

  • next style: Text Body
  • 1.25″ below
  • line spacing .24″
  • alignment: center
  • Tahoma, bold, 15pt
  • Font Effects tab: capitals
  • expanded 1pt

The only tedious part of my formatting method is that now, you have to manually apply your new Chapter Number and Chapter Title styles. The advantage to writing your book directly in LibreOffice is that you could do this as you go along, but I cannot write in LibreOffice. There’s too much distraction on the screen. I much prefer spending three minutes going through and applying chapter heading styles by hand to hours of frustration while writing.

To do this, use Ctrl+F and search for Chapter. Unless your book talks about chapters a lot, this should make it easy to find just your chapter headings. Use the Apply Mode and apply the Chapter Number style to your “chapter 1” and “chapter 2” stuff, and apply the Chapter Title style to your titles.

When you’re done applying the styles, your chapter headings will have a lot of space around them, but they won’t start on a new page. I wanted every chapter to start on a new page. To do this, we need to make a new Page Style. Go to Page Styles, make a new style from selection, name it Chapter, and modify.

Chapter page style:

  • next style: Default
  • uncheck Header On box

Here’s the real magic: go to Paragraph Styles and modify Chapter Number. In the Text Flow tab under Breaks check Insert. Under Type, select Page. Check the With Page Style box and select Chapter.

All of a sudden, all of your chapters start on a new page! Amazing.

Go back to the beginning of the book. If you and I have been doing the same things, your first chapter should start on page four, right after the dedication page. But if you’re picky like me, you don’t want your first chapter to start on the back of the dedication page. I wanted the back of the dedication page to be blank, and I wanted the first chapter to start on a right hand page.

Fortunately, we need to use a page break anyway in order to have page numbers starting with Chapter 1 instead of starting on the title page, so we can do this easily. Click in front of the words “Chapter 1”, go to Insert > Manual Break, select Page, change the style to Chapter, and then say Change Page Number to 1. Now Chapter 1 starts on a right hand side, and the page numbers are prepared to start on the correct page. We just have to pick a place to display them.

Headers, footers, and lack thereof

Remember how the first few pages have headers and footers, just like the rest of the pages? We don’t want those to be there. To get rid of them, go to Page Styles, create a new style from selection named Front Matter, and modify it.

Front Matter page style:

  • next style: Front Matter
  • uncheck Header On box
  • uncheck Footer On box

Using Apply Mode, apply Front Matter to the first page — the title page. Because we said that the next style should be Front Matter, it should make the copyright page, dedication page, and blank page into Front Matter too. You may have to manually apply Front Matter to the blank page, because it might want to be in the Chapter style.

Once we’ve protected the first few pages from headers and footers, we can actually make the headers and footers. I wanted the book title to be on the top of every left hand page, and the chapter title to be on the top of every right hand page. To do this, click on a left hand page header, type in the title, go to Paragraph Styles, modify the pre-made Header style, and make sure it’s applied to the header on the left hand pages. (We told the Default page style that we were not going to have the same content on the left and right hand pages, so it might not already be applied.)

Header paragraph style:

  • line spacing: single
  • Tahoma, regular, 7pt
  • capitals
  • expanded 1pt

To put the chapter title in the header of every right hand page, click on a right hand page header and go to Insert > Fields > Other > Document. Select Chapter from the Document column, and select Chapter Name from the column on the right. Insert. If nothing appears, go to Tools > Outline Numbering and make sure Level 1 is the paragraph style Chapter Title. Now every right hand page will have the current chapter title in it. Make sure that the Header paragraph style is applied, then align the header to the right.

Finally, it’s time for the footer, where we’ll put the page numbers. Because we have left and right hand pages for both the Default page style and the Chapter page style, we have to insert the page numbers in four different places:

  • Click in a left hand Default page footer. Go to Insert > Fields > Page Number.
  • Repeat in a right hand Default page footer.
  • Repeat in a left hand Chapter page footer.
  • Repeat in a right hand Chapter page footer.

As  you go along, make sure the right hand footers are right aligned, the left hand footers are left aligned, and the pre-made Footer paragraph style is applied in all four places. When you’re done, modify the Footer paragraph style to make it match the Header style.

Footer paragraph style:

  • line spacing: single
  • Tahoma, regular, 7pt
  • expanded 1pt

Tidying up

With everything in place, read through your entire book. You may want to wait a day or two before starting this, if your book is long. Make sure everything looks right. Add italics if you’ve used them in the text. Check for widows, which are places where a single line gets stuck at the top of an otherwise empty page, such as on the last page of a chapter. If you have some of those, modify the Text Body paragraph style, go to Text Flow, check the Widow Control box, and choose how many lines you would like to see at the top of otherwise empty pages. I chose three. I think two lines look almost as lonely and small as one line. (Twoooo can be as bad as one…)

If everything looks good, go to File > Export as PDF. CreateSpace uses PDF files for the interior of the book.

Rejoice, for the hardest part is over. When you’re done rejoicing and you’re ready to get back to work, return to my other post for further instruction.

If you have any questions, let me know. I have done a lot of messing around in LibreOffice and I might be able to help!

Say something