You need to lay out the text first because LS needs to know the number of pages in order to tell you how wide your spine should be – and you can’t design your cover without knowing the spine width.

LS has two PDFs explaining how to lay out your text – “B&W Int template example” and the same thing but with “(explained)” at the end. These are two of the most useless documents I’ve ever seen. All they tell you to do is set the bleed (the bit that gets chopped off the page so that images are right up against the page edge) to zero and the margins to at least 0.5″ (12.7mm – not 6.375 as one of the documents says). It also tells you that putting images right up against the edges of a black and white book will make the sides of the book look odd. You now know slightly more than if you had read these two documents.

For me, the objective was just to make the text look like a professionally produced book. I wanted it to be clear, readable and standard, while keeping the page count (and therefore the price) as low as possible. Here are my settings for LS and InDesign and (where it’s not obvious) how to choose those settings.

Page size, margins, etc.

When I looked at the books on my shelves, I found that the most common size for a paperback novel is 129 x 198mm. Unfortunately, Lightning Source only offers that size for books printed on white paper, and the standard paper colour for novels is cream (or creme as LS prefers to spell it). Instead, I chose 5” by 8” (127 x 203mm), because it’s close enough in size and available in cream.

You specify your page size when you create the document in InDesign, and you can also do it from File > Document Setup. Set the number of pages as 1, since InDesign will create the right number when you import your text in a few minutes’ time. You should set the bleed and slug to 0” all round. Tick ‘Facing pages’ and ‘Master text frame’. Columns: 1. Gutter: 4.233mm. Top, bottom and outside margins should be 12.7mm (0.5”), and the inside margin should be 18.888mm. I got the inside margin size by looking at some other paperbacks and measuring how close to the spine the text could go before it became difficult to read. I always find it annoying when books are printed with words going so close to the spine that you have to fold the page flat with your fist before you can read it.

Page masters

The way you get the text to flow properly, with margins in all the right places, is to set up page masters. To view or edit the page masters, click on Pages at the top of the floating menu at the right-hand side of the screen. (If Pages isn’t in that menu, you need to change the workspace to ‘Typography’ by clicking on the downward-pointing arrow to the left of the search box in the top-right corner of the screen.) When you click on Pages, a new display appears, with page masters at the top and the pages of your document below. Double-click on a page master to edit it, or right-click and select ‘New master’ to make a new one.

When you look at a master, the margins are indicated (on my computer anyway) by a solid purple line. The margins don’t really mean anything in themselves, though – they just tell you where to position the text box. The size and position of the text box determines where your words will actually go. The edges of the text box are indicated by dashed blue lines. When you first edit your page master, the edges of the text box will be right on top of the margins, so you won’t be able to see them. To edit the text box, use the selection tool (choose it by clicking on the black arrow at the top of the left-hand menu). Once you’ve selected the text box, you can resize it using the handles in the corners, or by entering numbers in the X, Y, W and H box at the top of the screen.

I’ve set up three masters for my book:

  • A-master – for normal text pages. 99% of the book uses this master. The text box is aligned with the margins on the top, left and right sides. It is 168.631mm high. You also need to create text boxes for the page numbers. Do this by clicking on the ‘Type’ tool (the big T in the left-hand menu) and drawing a box 2.565mm high. Make the box on the left-hand page align with the left margin and end with the bottom margin. Make the box on the right-hand page align with the right margin. Once you’ve got your boxes in the right place, add the page number by clicking inside the box, then choosing Type > Insert Special Characters > Markers > Current Page Number. Get the number on the right-hand side to align with the outer margin by double-clicking it and then clicking on “align right” in the menu at the top of the screen.
  • B-master – for the front pages where you have your title, and all the copyright stuff. This is the same as the A-master, except without the page numbers.
  • C-master – for section dividers. My book is divided into twelve days, each beginning with the name of the day about a quarter of the way down the page, and with no page number. It’s the same as the B-master, except that the text box’s upper edge begins 114.097mm from the top of the page. You can set that by entering it next to “Y:” at the top left of the screen. If you do that, change the height to 134.468mm.

Importing your text

The best way to import text from Word is to choose File > Place and tell it where your document is. The cursor will change. Click on the main text box on the first page, and InDesign will import the whole document and create all the necessary pages. It’s simplest if you’ve already set the Word document’s styles and fonts to be as close as possible to those you want InDesign to use, as they’re all imported along with the text. It’s not a big deal though, and it’s easy enough to change them once you get them into InDesign.


I found that the font that’s most readable and attractive, while producing the smallest number of pages, is Minion Pro. This is a font designed for Adobe, based on classic fonts such as Baskerville. It’s what Stieg Larsson’s books use, and is the sole reason everyone finds them so readable.

Font size

I counted the number of lines in some of my paperback books, and the average number of words per line, and found that I got about the same numbers by setting Minion Pro at 10pt on 12pt line spacing. You can set this throughout the book by just pressing CTRL+A to select all the text, and then choosing the font and size at the top of the screen.

Paragraph styles

It’s easier to keep everything consistent and neat if you use paragraph styles. You can define and apply these by clicking “Paragraph styles” towards the bottom of the right-hand menu. If it’s not there, change the workspace to “Typography”, as explained above. To edit a style, double-click the style name. Since mine was imported from Word, the style name for most of the text was ‘Normal’. I also defined styles for titles, section names and chapter headings.

Here are the bits of the “Normal” style you need to define. If I don’t mention one of the headings, it’s because you don’t need to check or change anything in it.

Basic character formats:

  • Font family – Minion Pro
  • Size – 10pt
  • Leading – 12pt
  • Kerning – metrics
  • Tracking – 0
  • Ligatures – tick

Indents and spacing:

  • Alignment – left justify
  • Balance ragged lines – tick
  • Indents and spaces – all 0
  • Align to grid – none


  • I have my first tab set at about 4mm. I found it easier to specify no indents, and then put a tab at the beginning of each paragraph when I’m producing the Word version. The first paragraph of a chapter or after a blank line shouldn’t be indented. All the other paragraphs should begin with a tab. Remember, only leave a blank line between paragraphs if you mean to indicate a break – to show time has elapsed or you have moved to a different location.


  • Hyphenate – tick
  • Words with at least 6 letters
  • After first 3 letters
  • Before last 3 letters
  • Hyphen limit 0 hyphens
  • Hyphenation zone – 6.35mm
  • Drag the bar to the middle, between “better spacing” and “fewer hyphens”
  • Hyphenate capitalised words – tick
  • Hyphenate last word – untick
  • Hyphenate across column – untick

Justification (min, desired, max)

  • Word spacing – 90, 100, 110
  • Letter spacing – -5%, 0%, 5%
  • Glyph scaling – 98, 100, 102
  • Auto-leading – 120%
  • Single word justification – Full justify
  • Composer – Adobe paragraph composer

Paragraph style for chapter headings

Here’s what I did for my chapter headings. To create a paragraph style, click the icon that looks a bit like a Post-It note underneath the list of styles. I called this style “ChapterTitle”.


  • Based on – Normal
  • Next style – Normal

Basic character formats:

  • Case – all caps

Indents and spacing:

  • Alignment – centre
  • Space before – 16.933mm
  • Space after – 12.7mm

Keep options:

  • Keep with next 4 lines (this prevents your chapter titles from getting marooned at the bottom of a page)


  • Hyphenate – untick

Style for section titles

You probably won’t have section titles. I set mine to the same font as the title on the front cover: Baskerville Old Face. The size is 20pt and the leading is 24pt.

Applying paragraph styles

If you didn’t set up and use paragraph styles in your original Word document, press CTRL+A to select all your text and the choose “Normal” from the list of paragraph styles you’ve defined. This will make all your paragraphs look the same. You can then go through the document looking for chapter titles. Whenever you find one, click on it and choose “ChapterTitle” as your paragraph style. That way, if you decide to change anything about the way your document looks – perhaps the book’s too short and you want to increase the font size – you can just edit the paragraph style and it will instantly apply the change throughout the whole book.

The stuff at the front

At the moment, your book starts right in with the first chapter, so you need to add all the usual bits at the front. To do this, choose Pages from the menu on the right-hand side of the screen, then right-click on the first page and choose “Insert pages…”. Insert six pages, before page 1, using B-master (so that page numbers won’t appear on them).

This seems to be the standard approach:

  • First page – just the title, fairly large and centred, or a brief biog of the author
  • Second page – blank
  • Third page – the title, the author and the publisher, large and nicely laid out
  • Fourth page – copyright notices (see earlier)
  • Fifth page – acknowledgements
  • Sixth page – blank or the title again
  • Seventh page – the beginning of the novel


Go to the end and check that there are enough pages to accommodate all your text. Usually, by this point your text will have shrunk, what with all the hyphenation and so on. Delete any blank pages at the back, but make sure there is an even number of pages – although I think InDesign will do this for you.

It’s a good idea to scroll through the whole book and just make sure that every page looks fine. Making changes after you’ve had your proof copy costs £22.50 plus VAT.

Producing the PDF

Now you’re ready to produce the file that you’ll send to Lightning Source. Select File > Adobe PDF presets > [PDF/X-1a:2001]. The filename needs to be your book’s ISBN number followed by “_txt.pdf” (i.e. 9780956965608_txt.pdf, for mine). Then click “Export” – I didn’t need to change any of the settings here.

That’s it. You have your text file ready to upload.

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