So you want to bind a book. There are only three small, tiny, eensie-weensie steps that you have to follow, and they’re nearly guaranteed to not make you want to pull your hair out or chop your novel in half (unless you have a stack cutter, in which case you really will be cutting your novel in half).
Step 1: Preparation
Remember that lovely manuscript that you spent a frustrated number of hours toiling away at all November, and maybe even finishing since then? Well, it still needs work. No, I’m not talking about editing (though a spellcheck or two wouldn’t hurt), I’m talking about formatting.
Depending on the program that you use, this could be anywhere from easy (in which case I envy you), to maddening (which is about what I experienced my first time – though that could always have been operator error).
Unless you happen to have access to a stack cutter or feel like spending hours cutting paper and having frayed edges, you’re going to want to format your novel with a page size of 5.5” (width) by 8.5” (height). (The astute among you may have noticed that that’s a standard sheet of paper folded in half, and you get a gold star).
That is the only hard-and-fast suggestion, though I have a few others. I had 0.25” margins all the way around (though if you’re using this for Serious Editing, you may want more). I had my font come out to 10 pt or 11 pt (and if you aren’t using Open Office, that should be as easy as setting the font to that point). I don’t think I had any special line spacing, though 1.5 or 2.0 could be useful for editing and eating up the spare reams of paper that you have laying around.
I differentiated between left and right pages, so that I could have different headers, and so that my page numbers would appear in the correct corner. This isn’t hard, especially on Open Office (formatting not for printing is really easy there, actually). I had the book title on the left page and my name on the right.
I did do chapters in mine, and formatted each chapter title page differently. It was a little work, but not too much, and I like the look of it. There are real chapters!
I threw in a few extra pages, just for giggles and grins. I had a copyright page up front (“No stealing!”), and a few pages for notes in the back. I also had text on the back cover, but since I’m firmly against spoilers (*SPOILER ALERT* Section 2 is on printing *END SPOILER ALERT*) it’s all joke text. The cover is rather plain, but it serves well.
And that’s really it. The formatting seems to be easy, because it is…on the screen. Now we just have to get it to look the same in meatspace (Spoiler: it won’t (though it could be close)).
So, on to printing!
Step 2: Printing
So now you think your novel is all properly formatted, it’s time to start printing.
Don’t get ahead of yourself, though! You shouldn’t just open up your novel and press “print”. There still more work to do (of course).
First of all, you’re going to want to print two “pages” per sheet (which is why we set the page size the way we did), and you’re going to want to print on both sides of the paper. Depending on how fancy your printer is, this could be really easy, but for those of us with low-end laser jets, it’s tedious. (I don’t recommend printing your novel on an inkjet – you will go through more than one cartridge of ink, and that’s expensive!)
If you can do two-sided printing, set that up, but make sure you set things up to print correctly. The goal is to fold the piece of paper in half and get four pages of a novel, so the front of the piece of paper should have pages 2 and 3, and the back should have pages 4 and 1 (both of those are left to right). You can enable this by printing in booklet mode, and if your software is awesome (read: correctly functional), you should be able to set it up to print the entire manuscript in booklet mode repeating every four pages.
Of course, that’s only one side of the paper. However you do it, you’ll have to print on one side, then put that back in the printer and print on the other (unless you’re one of the lucky few with two-sided printing capabilities from the get-go).
Here is my advice on how to get through this with the minimum amount of difficulty:
- Choose eight pages of your novel to print. This will be two “booklets”, enough to see that the process is correct.
- Print them out so that one side prints correctly (pages 2 and 3, and 6 and 7). Then, put them back in the printer as they came out (i.e., face down or up, and text direction the same). This isn’t necessarily the correct orientation, but it at least means that you don’t have to wonder if you flipped it and rotated it, or just flipped it.
- Print the other sides. If you’re very, very lucky, it’ll all print fine. If it doesn’t, play with ways to turn the paper so that it does print right. You may have to flip it, or turn it.
- When it’s printing on the front and back in the correct orientation, make sure that it’s printing the right booklets. In other words, make sure that pages 1 and 4 are on the back of pages 2 and 3. If they’re not, then you’ll have to print backwards when printing the backs, or change the order of the stack of papers you feed in.
Test until you get it right. When you’re sure that it works, you can print your novel.And that’s it! Now you can print out every page of your manuscript, hope that they don’t go everywhere and get out of order, and pray that there aren’t any obvious spelling mistakes or page break errors.
Now for the truly fun part…folding and gluing! (These will be detailed in another blag post at a later date.)