How to Make a Book in Indesign

We can't help you write one, but we can help you lay it out!
Total time: 150 minutes 

So you've written that book and want to self-publish it using InDesign? Maybe you're starting a small press and looking to layout your first book? Whatever the reason for needing to make a book in InDesign, we've got you covered!

This beginner's level guide will show you the basics like:

  • Layout your book in individual chapters and sections
  • Edit the look and feel of your manuscript
  • Create title pages and copyright pages
  • Make a preset for future book projects
  • Publish your book as a PDF and EPUB

Note: For this guide, I used selections from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein as example chapters and text.

We're going to walk you through making your book in InDesign step-by-step. Our goal here is to make this process as uncomplicated as possible, while still making sure you end up with a great book layout!

Once you better understand the process of making a book in InDesign, then I encourage you to get creative with some of these steps.

So let's begin!

Adobe InDesignAdobe InDesign ×1

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Two File Folders for InDesign Book Layout

Before you even begin laying out your book in InDesign, you should create two file folders. Make sure you put them somewhere easy to access on your computer (preferably your desktop).

Two types of file folders to create:

  1. Book chapters folder - containing each chapter of your book manuscript saved separately as a Word document.
Frankenstein Chapter files

This will help us preserve the formatting of your text (italics, bold, etc.) when we import it, and it will help us divide it later when we go to export the finished book.

  1. InDesign Files Folder - right now this is empty; however, soon it will be full of all the book files we create in InDesign.
InDesign Preset New Document

Making a preset will make the process go a lot faster as we create each new chapter file and help ensure that each will be identical. You can access this screen by default when opening InDesign for the first time, but we'll show how to get there from inside the application.

  • Go to File > New > Document....

In the "New Document" screen, select a default preset that you are going to revise and save. You'll notice that by default InDesign uses picas as its unit measurement. You can change this to Inches by selecting the drop-down arrow under Units and selecting Inches. You can always change the measurements later too.

Now you can begin to set up the layout for the pages of your book.

Width and Height

This is the size you want your book to be. Think about the ideal height and width of your book. A good standard setting is a height of 8.5 inches and a width of 5.5 inches. This is a standard sheet of paper, folded in half.

Pages

  • Set Pages to 1. (Don't worry. This will change as we put in the text.)
  • Set Start # to 1.
  • Make sure Facing Pages is checked. (It's a book after all!)
  • Make sure Primary Text Frame is checked. (This will ensure that we can control the text flow from page to page using our master pages.)

Columns

  • Set Columns to 1. Unless, of course, you're laying out a magazine or newspaper that uses multiple columns on a single page. -Set Column Gutter to 0.5 - 0.75 inch. This essentially changes the space between the facing pages when we use only one column.

Margins

Margins are the distance from the edge of each side of the page to your text.

  • Uncheck the little lock button to set different margin measurements.
  • Set 0.5 inch margins on all sides, except the Inside margin of your book.
  • Set the Inside margin a bit higher to 0.75 inch.

Bleed and Slug

A bleed occurs when something in a document goes to the edge of the page and extends beyond the trim edge, leaving no margin. We will set a 0.125 inch bleed on all sides, which is the standard.

A slug contains information like a title and date used to identify a document. The slug information does not get printed. It's not necessary for now and can be added later.

Create

Don't forget to name your preset something like "My Book." Once your InDesign "Preset" settings are set, you're good to go!

  • Select Create.
Chapter 1 layout in InDesign

Before we begin, let's make sure we have all the tools we'll need to layout the book. Change the tools presets from Essentials to Book at the top right of the InDesign window (see below).

Book Preset Tools InDesign

You should now have access to a variety of book-specific tools within InDesign, such as "Paragraph Styles" and the master pages spread.

Layout Chapter 1

Drag the file into InDesign document

It's going to be so easy to put your first chapter into InDesign, you're hardly going to believe it!

  1. Open the folder you created earlier that contains all of your manuscript chapters.
  2. Click and drag the Chapter 1 file directly into the text box on the screen. (InDesign will do some work converting it, so it may take a few seconds to appear.)

Note that you can open the document, and copy/paste it directly into the text box - but it will likely lose all of its formating. Importing the file itself, such as we have done, is the best way to retain the formatting.

You don't have to manually add pages to the InDesign document; it's done automatically.

Edit chapter 1 look

If you would like your opening chapter to begin in the middle of the first page, then simply click and drag your text box from the top down to your desired location.

Text Middle of Page InDesign

If you need to add images to your chapter, then check our guides on inserting images in InDesign and using text wrapping in InDesign.

Paragraph Styles Options Window InDesign

In order to make your book look the way you want, you need to set a preset paragraph style that we can use for each chapter. Once we set the style, we'll never have to set it again! You may want to experiment with different settings to find the one that best suits your book.

Edit Normal Paragraph Style
  • In the "Paragraph Styles" pane on the right, right-click Normal and select Edit "Normal"...

I'm going to walk you through some of the tabs (on the left) and highlight what you'll need to change there.

General

  • Change Style Name to something like "Book Chapter Text"

This will help us when we need to reuse it.

Basic Character Formats

Here is where you'll change general things like the font and font size. (Please don't use Comic Sans!) Note that "Leading" is the space between the lines (18 is usually good).

Indents and Spacing

The only thing you'll likely need to set here is the First Line Indent. A good standard indent is .25 inch, but see what you prefer.

Hyphenation

You'll notice that when you inserted the text into InDesign it likely automatically hyphenated the text when it reached the end of the line. We can make it so that does not happen or change how it happens.

  • Deselect "Hyphenate" if you don't want to use them.
  • Use the slider to set the priority from having Better Spacing in the text, to having Fewer Hyphens overall.
Slider for hyphens in InDesign

Feel free to browse around the other tabs in the "Paragraph Style Options" window, but for the purposes of this guide, those are the basic ones that you'll be looking to set.

-Click OK

Arrow to Book Chapter Text InDesign

You'll want to set the paragraph style to your chapter text.

  1. Double-click the text box to have your cursor appear.
  2. Select all the text in your chapter by going to Edit > Select All or hitting command + A if you using a Mac.
  3. In the "Paragraph Styles" pane on the right, click the name of the paragraph style you just set ("Book Chapter Text").

Now, your chapter text should automatically change depending on what you selected.

Chapter One Sample Book InDesign

Now that our text is all set, we want to create a nice looking chapter heading to indicate the chapters for our book. As with anything I show you in this guide, feel free to add your own flair to the design of this.

  1. Create a text box by clicking the text button (T) on the left.
  2. Click and drag a text box across the page so it will fit your chapter heading.
  3. Use the text tools at the top of the screen to set your desired font and font size.
  4. Write out your chapter name or number.
  5. Choose where to align the text using the alignment tool at the top-right of the screen.

If you want to use subheaders (like mine pictured above), then just repeat the steps with different placements and smaller font sizes.

Page Number on Master Page InDesign

We have a whole guide dedicated to inserting page numbers in InDesign, but I'll walk you through the basics here.

  1. Double-click your first "Master Page" near the top right of the screen.
    A-Master Page in InDesign
  2. Draw a text box across the bottom of your master page, much like you did when creating the chapter heading - only smaller.
    Text Box across the bottom of page InDesign
  3. Right-click in the text box.
  4. Go to Insert Special Character > Markers > Current Page Number

You can change things like font, font size, and alignment to get the page number to look the way you want.

Repeat for the second master page

  1. Select the text box with your page number.
  2. Copy it by pressing command + C or going to Edit > Copy.
  3. Paste it by pressing command + V or going to Edit > Paste.
  4. Drag the new text box to the second master page and place it in the same location as the first page.
    Mirrored Text Boxes in InDesign

Now your page numbers should carry over into your book chapter. For even more advanced options, like starting at a different page number, see our guide on inserting page numbers in InDesign.

Delete Page Numbers in InDesign

Because we reformatted our text earlier, there might be some blank pages at the end of your chapter. You'll want to delete those.

  1. In the upper toolbar, go to Layout > Pages > Delete Pages.
  2. Type in the page numbers you want to delete using a - between the page numbers, as shown in the step image.

You should have already saved this file in your InDesign Book Files folder earlier, so let's just make sure we update it.

  • Go to File > Save.

And your first chapter is all saved and ready to go! It only gets easier from here to finish making your book in InDesign!

Chapter Two InDesign

Before you make any changes, create a new save file.

  • Go to File > Save as.
  • Name it something like "Chapter 2".

Now, all we have to do is edit it in our next chapter's text.

  1. Change the chapter heading to something like "Chapter Two."
  2. Select all the text in your chapter by going to Edit > Select All or hitting command + A if you're using a Mac.
  3. Delete.
  4. Open up your folder containing the Word documents of your chapter files.
  5. Drag the next chapter into the text box in InDesign.
  6. With all the text selected, click "Book Chapter Text" (or whatever you named your paragraph preset) in the "Paragraph Styles" pane on the right.
  7. Delete extra pages (see step 8 above).
  8. Review to make sure there are no errors.

Repeat step 10 (above) for each chapter in your book, making sure you create a new save file for each.

Once you've completed each chapter and saved them, we can begin to create all of those bookish goodies that go into books like title pages, copyright pages, bios, etc.

Frankenstein Mary Shelley in InDesign

Instead of editing your chapter, now you're going to create a whole new document by going to File > New > Document and selecting your Book preset from which to work.

As I mentioned before, you can be as creative as your heart desires when making your title page in InDesign. I'll show you a basic one.

Title:

  1. Create a text box by clicking the text button (T) on the left.
  2. Click and drag a text box across the page so it will fit your title.
  3. Use the text tools at the top of the screen to set your desired font and font size. (Use a bigger font size for your title, e.g. 48.)
  4. Write out the title of your book.
  5. Choose where to align the title using the alignment tool at the top-right of the screen. (Centering it might be best.)

Author:

Repeat the process for the title near the bottom of your page. Use a smaller font size for the author's name.

Add a new page to your title page document by going to Layout > Pages > Add Page.

So what information do you include on a copyright page? Generally things like:

  • Year of printing
  • Who holds the copyright
  • ISBN (if any)
  • Address
  • Where it's printed
  • Etc.

There are a variety of good templates out there that you can simply edit for your book and paste into your InDesign copyright page.

If you want a dedication page:

  • Add another page to your document.
  • Create a text box across the document for dedication.
  • Add dedication. (E.g., "for my mother...")

For other pages:

If you want to add additional pages like a bio, then you'll simply repeat versions of the above steps to save those new pages with your chapter files.

Save each as a simple name like "Copyright Pages" or "Bio Page."

Document Numbering Options InDesign

Now that we've got all of our components saved and ready to go, we need to combine them into a book.

  • Go to File > New > Book
  • Name your book
  • Click Save

In the small box showing the title of your new book:

  • Drag the InDesign files from your file folder into the box in the order in which they should be printed.
    Chapter Files for Book InDesign

You might need to change how the page numbers begin (see above).

  • Double-click on your first chapter.
  • Select Start Page Numbering at... and change it to 1.
Export as a PDF InDesign

We're getting close! Your book is all ready to get exported as a printable copy for a printer.

  1. Make sure you don't have just one section of your book project selected.
  2. Click on the little button that looks like four horizontal lines near the top-right of the book project window.
  3. Select Export to PDF.
  4. Check presets.
  5. Save it as something like "Frankenstein_Print."

To save as an EPUB:

An EPUB file is like a digitally published version of your book that can be read online in things like Kindle or Apple Books. You'll likely want a version of your new book as an EPUB too.

  1. Go back to the book project window and click the four horizontal lines again.
  2. Select Export to EPUB.
  3. Save it as something like "Frankenstein-Digital-Print."
  4. Check presets.
  5. Click Save.

If you're using a Mac, then your Apple Books application might pop up to show you what your book looks like!

For your cover

Because this is a beginner's guide that is already quite long, I don't want to go into making a cover here. If you choose to publish your book through a self-publisher or through Amazon's Kindle-direct program, for example, they will have their own tools for helping you make your cover.

Stack of books

However you decide to share your work with the world, we wish you the best of luck!

If you do decide to publish your book through Amazon, we've got a great guide on how to do it.