Self-publishing how to–PART 7

Formatting the interior-2

From Rick:

In this part of the tutorial we’ll cover headers and footers for PRINT BOOKS. Remember, though, that this does not apply to e-books, which have NO headers or footers.

Before we begin, let’s answer the question of whether you need these. You certainly do not need both a header and a footer, but the option is yours. Note that using both a header and a footer may increase your page count a little or a lot depending on the size of the header and footer and the top and bottom margins.

The thing to remember here is that you want a finished product the looks good. Therefore, you don’t want to try to cram as much onto the page as you can by making the margins too narrow. At the same time, you don’t want huge margins. Here are the top and bottom margins I used for the two print books I’ve done.


PFFW: Top=0.75, Bottom=0.75
WWA: Top=1.0, Bottom=0.75


At the very least, you DO need page numbers. Whether you put these in your header or footer doesn’t matter. Making them look professional does matter. You can center the page number in the footer, but it’s uncommon to see centered page numbers in the header, where they are normally offset.

Pay close attention to how these are offset. In all books, the ODD numbered page always appears on the RIGHT side of books, and the page numbers go on the OUTSIDE of the page.

To clarify, if you put the page numbers in the footer and offset your page numbers, then when you open a book, the page number on the left-hand page will be an EVEN number in the LOWER LEFT CORNER. Likewise, the right-hand page number will be an ODD one in the LOWER RIGHT CORNER of the page. Offset page numbers in the header, they go in the upper left (EVEN) and upper right (ODD) corners respectively.

For offset page numbers, remember: EVEN=LEFT, ODD=RIGHT

Another thing to check is that your even page numbers are NOT left-indented. I made this mistake on the Write Well Award book and fortunately caught it in the electronic proof before I ordered a hardcopy proof

Make sure offset page numbers fall all the way to outside margins. If in doubt, look at some print books from regular publishers to see how they’re done and be sure yours follow suit.


A running head is the term for a repeated header. There are a couple of ways to do running heads. One is to put just the book’s title in the header (centered). Another is to alternate the title and author name. If you chose the latter, put the TITLE on the ODD pages (on the right-hand page), and the AUTHOR on the EVEN pages (left-hand page).

There is a longstanding rule in book design that you do NOT put a running head on the first page of a chapter. You also never put a running head on the title or front matter pages (copyright and introductory pages, etc.). Check the reference below.


Now, that’s consider the proper, professional way. If you’re an indie author, you can certain choose to follow this. However, it is time consuming to do this.

I will go on record as saying that I do not feel it’s necessary to worry about it because few will care (or even know the difference). Old, hardcore readers may notice, but will likely not care. Picky reviewers may notice, but unless those particular reviewers have an ax to grind against self-published authors, they likely will not mention it if the even notice. Your readers are interested in the content and whether you can tell a good story that’s well written and properly edited. Honestly, if the only thing a reader can find to complain about is my improper running heads, then I figure I’ve done my job well enough.

And remember that this ONLY applies to PRINT books. However, you should be sure that you don’t start your headers until the second page of the main book. Or, don’t use running heads at all. Just use page numbers. In a novel, what purpose do running heads serve? To remind the reader of the title and author in case he forgot? Does a print book look less any professional without a header?

I can see a reason to use running heads in an anthology to help the reader know which story is where, but if I had done that in the WWA book, it would have made for a lot of extra work because it has 36 stories in it.

I’m going to make an admission here. While I was writing this post, I checked the running head in WWA (yes, I used one, centered), and I realized that I have it on every page except the title page. Did I mess up? The question is whether it looks stupid. I don’t think it does, but I suspect that next year I’ll just leave it off because readers know what they’re reading and don’t need a reminder of it every page. And by deleting the header, I can reduce the top margin to 0.75, but that makes the book only 8 pages shorter (it was 392 pages).

Keep your life simple: Leave out the running heads, and for your page numbers center them in the footer. No one except a book designer will complain. You probably won’t have any of them buying your book anyway.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.