How to Typeset a Book in Indesign

A critical element that helps you reap immense rewards is the typesetting of your book. This article will share a couple of highly useful tips on how to typeset your book in Indesign.

I recommend Adobe InDesign. Word’s capabilities are limited, while Latex has a bit of a learning curve if you’re not familiar with regular expressions. But, let’s get started by considering the nature of compelling typesetting.

The Nature of Great Typesetting

Most people don’t appreciate how powerful typesetting can be because the best typesetting works on a subliminal level. It’s akin to bespoke clothes — they’re so well-made, they don’t call attention to themselves. Great typesetting is ‘’invisible.’’

Typesetting makes the reading experience an enjoyable one. So, it’s indispensable.

Now, let’s explore the steps in using InDesign to typeset your books.

How to Typeset a Book in InDesign: A Step-by-Step Process

Let’s assume you’ll be typesetting a paperback version of your new book. It’s helpful to have a print or digital book as a model — one whose typesetting you want yours to look like.

The following are the steps:

  1. Set up a new document for your book. Click on File > New > Document

Check Facing pages. Set the number of pages. Set the number of start page to 1 and Set Intent to Print.

Select custom from the Page Size drop-down menu.

Type B-Format Paperback into the textbox. The format is a standard industry size.

Set the Width and Height to reflect the size you want to model.

For example, a book of size 6”x”9. This implies a width of 6 inches and a height of 9 inches. It is the standard book size. While one of 5.5” x 8.5” is a tad shorter and less in width too. It’s vital to let you know that a 6”x9” offers on average 20% more text space, at an additional cost of about 5% relate to the 5.5”x8.5’’ sized-book. Note that the width is the first value in the size.

Click Add

Click OK

All the steps above have helped you create a Custom Page Size, which you can reuse for other projects in the future.

  1. Set the Margins and the Bleeds. Before you set both. I’ll explain what they mean. The Margin refers to the edges of a page. The blank rectangular portion that surrounds the part that has printed matter. It’s a part that you need to be careful about because if it’s either too small or too large, it makes readability difficult.

As an example, for a book of size 5.5 x 8.5, I’ll recommend margins: Top 0.75, Bottom 0.75, Outside edge 0.75 (all three 19mm each), and Inside Binding edge 1.00’’ (25mm) and Page Bleed (each side) 0.125” (3.1mm)

You can think of the bleed as a portion of a printed page that provides a “margin of error.” It’s extra space that’s added to the edge of the portion to be printed, which is later trimmed off. Say your page size is 11”x 8.5”. You could add a bleed of 0.125. So, the page will need to be set at 11.25” x 8.75”

  1. Click OK.
  2. Set up, Masters. Masters are the main lever and workhorse for smart typesetting. From Pages, InDesign inserts “A Master” for you. It’s the default that houses most of the body content. Right-click to rename it.

When a text frame is placed within a Master, it will not be centered. Click View. Then Rulers, to drag the Guide to the right 196 mm, and a second Guide to the left 64 mm.

  1. What you add to the Master will be automatically shown on all the pages that have the Master applied to them. To add beautiful page numbering, for example: Scroll down to the bottom left of the page. From Tools, select T, to create a small text frame.  Set it at the center of the guide, with its top resting on the bottom margin. Choose the font you want and insert the kind of glyph you like.

Select the Type Tool and click the frame.

Next, go to Type > Insert Special Character > Markers > Current Page Number.

Set the font type, its size, and adjust its orientation to the center. Set the color to black. You can easily do the above, using the Character Formatting Controls at the top of the screen.

  1. To add the page Title and Chapter headings, follow the process above. Instead of having the text frame below, it’d now be above. You’ll paste the text frames on the top of each page, of the Master, at the center.
  2. Add the text frame for the main text of the book. Select the T, tool, as usual, and create a text frame with a width and height for the body content. Naturally, it’d be the largest frame. Its Y-axis will run from the left edge of the page to the right edge, and it’d start under the page title. Copy and paste in a similar position on the second page. In the bottom right-hand corner of the first page, there’s a tiny box, click on it and click on the text frame on the next page to connect both frames together.
  3. You’ll need to create a second Master for pages where a chapter has just started. Follow the process outlined earlier.  Since it’s for chapter beginnings, the text will start lower on the page after the chapter heading.
  4. Finally, insert the body content. First, ensure the Masters are applied to all pages. Select Apply Master to Pages from the Pages drop-down menu. Then, copy and paste your content. The frame will be filled with text. At the bottom right corner, you’ll see a small plus sign — it shows the content has overflown its frame. Click on it and click on the next frame, and InDesign will automatically make the adjustment for you. From Styles, you can save the masters for reuse on other books in the future.


Adobe’s InDesign is what the professionals use. You could get started with a trial version to test out the features. If your book’s cover attracts people, it’s the typesetting that’ll keep them glued. So, give it your best.

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