Setting your margins

Next up in our layout design class is page size and margins! This is fairly straightforward, but there are a few important aspects to consider.

First things first: you have to set your page size. Many self-publishing sites give you options as to how big your book can be, so pick a size off the list and open up your manuscript to set the page size.

Click the Page Layout menu, then the Size button. At the bottom of the list, click More Paper Sizes.


That will open a dialog box that allows you to set exactly what your page width and length should be. Enter the dimensions, click OK, and there you go!

size box

Now for the margins. Pick up any book, and you’ll see that there’s not the school-standard one-inch margin all the way around. Also, keep in mind that your pages will be seen side-by-side, not individually, so you’ll want to set inside and outside margins, rather than right and left margins. Here’s what you need to do:

Go back to your Page Layout menu and click the Margins button, then hit Custom Margins at the bottom of the menu.


That will bring up your margins dialog box. About halfway down, you’ll see a drop-down menu next to Multiple pages. Select Mirror Margins, and the Margins section will change to inside/outside margins.

margins box

Now, it may look like my example above is a bunch of arbitrary decimal numbers, but there is some method to it. The bottom margin in books tends to be slightly larger than the top margin–it weights the page to the eye just right. So my top margin is 3/4 inch, and my bottom margin is 7/8 inch.

When setting the inside and outside margins, consider that the inside needs to be big enough that the binding won’t hide the words. I set mine to 1 inch to give plenty of space so the reader won’t have to strain to read the words on the inside of the pages.

The outside margin needs to be big enough that your reader has a place to hold the book, but not so huge that you have an enormous strip of useless white space on the outside of each page. I went with 5/8 inch.

Play around with different margin sizes and see what look you like best. And don’t forget–you’ll most likely have headers and footers in your top and bottom margins, so that will affect the look of it. We’ll cover setting those up on Friday.

Happy Wednesday, everybody!



  1. You are so, so helpful! I am having a mock-up of my manuscript printed and bound through blurb for my grandmother, who is 91 and wants to see this book finished before she dies. I don’t know how long it might take to get it through an actual publisher, so I’m taking a shortcut to make sure she gets to hold it in her hands. Hopefully someday there will be a real book in a bookstore, complete with illustrations and professional formatting, but for now your help is super timely and I really appreciate it!

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