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How To Design a Book in InDesign (Free Template!)

Design Print

If you're a self-publisher, chances are good that you're designing your own books. Unfortunately the tools we use for writing, like Word, don't always make for great book design. This is a job for industry-standard tools like Adobe InDesign. The good news is that pricing for InDesign has become very reasonable recently, but the bad news is it's still difficult to use. So you might still need a little help to get started.

That's why we've put together this basic how-to. Now you can build a book in InDesign that you can use time and again on as many books as you like!

Before we get started, take advantage of the free template download so you can follow along. Or if you would rather have us design a custom template for you, hit the "Talk to an Expert" button.

Download The InDesign Template › Talk to an Expert ›

Step 1: Getting Started

First let's create a new document. You should create the document using the following settings (as shown in the video above):

  • Intent: Print
  • Facing Pages: Yes
  • Width: 8.25"
  • Height: 10.75"

Leave the rest on their default settings. It's important to add the quote (") at the end of your height and width values, since InDesign defaults to Picas. Your height and width values should be set to 49p6 x 64p6 Picas.

We're using a size that's is smaller than the standard 8.5 x 11 inches, because books are often printed as combos. This means that the cover is a thicker, usually glossy stock while the text pages are a lighter paper.  They are also printed on different presses. Sheet-fed for the glossy, and Web press for the text pages.

Using this smaller size allows us the flexibility to use both presses on the same book.

Step 2: Building Your Master Pages

One powerful feature of InDesign is the ability to setup Master Pages. Think of it as a set of templates that we use to build pages throughout the book. You can build them for any layout you need, and InDesign will let you use them with the click of the mouse. Setting up your Master Pages now will make it easier next time you create a book in InDesign.


We'll keep it simple here and create the following Master Page elements (as shown in the video above):

  • Header
  • Text Box
  • Page number

Double-click "A-Master" in the Pages palette (F12) to enter the Master Page editor. Once there, follow the steps outlined below:

Build your header:

  1. Use the Type Tool (T) to draw a text frame that spans the top of the page's margin area (the purple box). Make it approximately ¼ inch in height.
  2. Do the same thing for the facing page on the Master Page template.
  3. On the left-hand page, add the text "Book Name."
  4. On the right-hand page, add the text "Chapter Name." Set the text to align right.

Build your footer:

  1. Use the Type Tool (T) to draw a text frame that spans the bottom of the page's margin area. Make it approximately ¼ inch in height.
  2. Click inside the text frame. Now choose Type > Insert Special Character > Markers > Current Page Number. You can also use the hot key Ctrl+Alt+Shift+N (Command+Alt_Shift+N on a Mac). You should see an upper-case A appear. This will be your page number when you use this Master Page on actual pages.
  3. Center the page number you created in Step 2.
  4. Duplicate steps 1-3 for the facing page in the Master Page template.

Build your text area:

  1. Now that you have your headers and footers setup, let's create our main text area. Use the Type Tool (T) to draw a text frame between the header and footer. Make it approximately 8 ¾ inches in height on both pages.

Step 3: Create Your Paragraph Styles

Now that we have our Document and Master Pages setup, we can start thinking about our type styles. This is a very important choice. Your decision here will affect your reader's ability to understand your content. We won't go too deep into Paragraph Styles here. If you want to learn more about how to build and use them, check out this page.

Here are some common Paragraph Styles you might need in a Book:

Body Type

Body Type You should always start with your body type. Since more than 80-90% of your book will use this style, it should be your top concern. Use a font that is ledgible in large blocks of small type. Be sure to give it a little breathing room to make it easier on your reader's eyes. For a light novel, I would choose something like Times New Roman or Garamond.


You'll need at least one type of header. This could be a chapter header, section header and a sub-header. Because there is very little type using these styles, it's OK to get a bit more creative with headers.

Page Headers and Footers

It's not a bad idea to make a Paragraph Style for the page headers and footers we created in Step 2. A smaller, italicized version of our Body Type would work here.

Step 4: Make a Cover

With Combo Books it's a good idea to create a separate InDesign document for your covers. Your covers run on a different press and they have bleeds.

To create your cover, repeat the steps laid out in Step 1, but this time add an eighth-inch bleed.

We designed the template provided in the download for saddle-stiched binding. If you want your book perfect-bound, it will need a custom spine width (based on the number of pages and paper thickness). You can learn more about different binding options available by reading this article.

Step 5: Wrapping Up

Now that we have our text template, all that's left to do is write the book! You can compose the book in the InDesign template you created. This would have the advantage of allowing you to compose and design the book at the same time. You can also write the book in your favorite word editor. Then when your done, copy/paste into your InDesign document (or place the file if it is a supported file type).

When you're ready to go, you can export your book as a print-ready PDF file directly from InDesign by choosing File > Adobe PDF Presets > [Press Quality]...

That's It!

That's It! I hope you enjoyed learning how to design a book in InDesign. If you have any questions, feel free to sound off in the comments below. The template pack provided in the download has styles, Master Pages and other goodies. So I recommend downloading it.
Happy creating!