How to Lay Out a Book Manuscript in Microsoft Word

Updated April 17, 2017

When you have written a novel, short story, or non-fiction book and are ready to have it printed, you need to know the basics of laying out the book on a word processor. Some self-publishing companies will do this job for you for a fee. However, you can do it yourself, if you know your way around MS Word. Depending on the version of MS Word that you have, navigating your way around may be a bit different but the tools are basically the same.

Choose the size that you want your book. Typical sizes for a book are 8.5 x 11 and 6 x 9. 6 x 9. These are the standard size for most self-published books. The larger size of the two is used for picture books, textbooks, and other non-fiction manuscripts.

Use the “Page Setup” feature to set your book size. Click on “File” and then “Page Setup”. From there go to “Paper Size” and choose your book size. Be sure to click “Apply to Whole Document”.

Set your margins to at least .75 on all sides. Click the box that asks if you want “Mirror Margins”. Mirror margins will set your manuscript up to be viewed like book pages. While in the “Page Setup” feature, set your gutter to at least 0.1. The gutter is the crease in the middle of the book, where the spine of the book is.

Move from page to page within your document by breaking pages, not by hitting the "Enter" key until you come to a new page. This is important when your document gets converted to PDF (which it will have to be before being printed). Go to “Insert”, then “Break”. Once there, hit “Page Break”.

Separate your front matter, body of your manuscript, and your back matter with Section breaks. This is important when you go to create your headers and footers. Following the steps in Step 4, navigate to the “Break” feature. Once there, hit “Section Break, Next Page”. You can also use Section Breaks to separate chapters if you want.

Create a header and footer, if desired. Typically, the header of a manuscript will list the title of the book and the author’s name. You can put the title on every even page (left) and the author on every odd page (right). Navigate to the “View” feature and click on “Header and Footer”. A little box should pop up and your page should go dim, showing the header at the top of the page. Type directly into the header. You can format the text to the size you want.

Insert page numbers into your footer. Once you pull up the header and footer, you can switch back and forth between them by clicking on the “Switch between header and footer button”. Hover the arrow over the buttons located on the toolbar that pops up so that you can see what each button does. Click on the “Insert Page Numbers” to insert your page numbering feature.

Specify section breaks within your headers and footers. You typically do not want the title and author or page numbers to appear on the front and back matter pages. This is why you made section breaks. Navigate to the first page of your body text (where you want the title, etc. to appear) and double click on your header (this is just another way to open the header/footer toolbox window). You should have already created Section breaks. Your front matter will be Section 1. Your body text will be Section 2. When in the body text header, click the box on the floating toolbar that says “Same as Previous”. You do not want this header to be "Same as Previous".


The header and footers can get tricky depending on the version of Word that you are using. Consult your manual or Help feature for more tips. Learn the basics of writing Front Matter and Back Matter.


Don’t forget to save your work frequently.

Things You'll Need

  • Manuscript
  • Microsoft Word
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About the Author

Karen Silvestri is an English professor at Palm Beach State College in Lake Worth, Fla., and has been writing professionally since 1997. She also leads workshops on memoir writing, journaling, creative writing and poetry in her community and online. Silvestri holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, and studied business and education at the graduate level.