Writing a book and preparing it for self-publication are two related but distinctly different things. Authors are wordsmiths that can craft compelling stories or organize interesting content into books that cover every topic imaginable. But for self-publishing authors, turning a manuscript into a refined format that will make their book look great is a little more challenging. There are so many details that writers may not have ever considered before. So today we take a look at how to address adding page numbers to your manuscript. We also discuss the pitfalls and reasoning behind page number format conventions so you can send your book off to the printer with confidence that readers will love everything about it, including how you handled putting the numbers on the page.
Formatting Standards: Why it Matters
As a self-publishing author, you have the ability to write and format your book in any way you see fit. But readers expect certain details to be consistent in books that they read. Book covers have a certain look and feel depending on the genre of the book. The colors and cover designs typically reflect the tone of the book and the way authors handle extra pages like the Table of Contents or an Index to a nonfiction book are familiar in most books. Formatting standards have developed over time to not only make it easier to set up a book but also so that books will have a consistent appearance. That way, readers can focus on the content of the book rather than trying to decipher how the author chose to set up or design the book itself. While standards are not set in stone, common conventions are important to follow so that readers will see the book and not the potentially quirky or confusing style choices an author has made.
Recto vs Verso
The most commonly asked question about book page numbers usually concerns which side of the page the even and odd numbers should appear. Printing norms call the right-hand side of the book when the book is opened flat recto (Latin for “right” or “correct”), and this is where the odd numbers should appear (1, 3, 5, 7, etc.). The opposite side of the book is called verso (Latin for “opposing”) and even numbers appear on the verso side (2, 4, 6, 8, etc.)
Since books should begin on page one, the first numbered page will be on the recto side with no numbered page (blank area) on the matching verso side. This basic tenet of page numbering is the most important consideration for self-publishing authors to follow since it is the most widely accepted convention across all genres.
Which Pages Do Not Need Numbers?
Counterintuitive to what many might think, not every page in a book needs to be numbered. Some authors choose to include extra pages in their books that are not part of the book’s specific content but rather are organizational or informational about the book, the author, or the publisher. In fact, there are two categories of page types that do not need to be numbered in a book.
1 Intentionally Blank Pages. Many books include pages that are left blank. They might be between chapters, sections or between other sections of the book. None of these pages, regardless of where they are located, need to have a number placed on them.
2 Organizational Content Pages. Many books contain informational pages that do not need to be numbered. If an author wants to mark these pages in some way, small Roman numerals are used (i, ii, iii, iv, v, vi, etc.). These pages include:
- Chapter or other title pages
- Copyright page
- Dedication page
- Forward page
- Table of Contents
Handling Blank Pages
Intentionally blank pages that are sprinkled throughout the book (after page 1 but before the final content page, including the index or other final page) will need to be assigned a page number. However, these pages will not have a number printed on them. This means that the content pages will be numbered but if a blank page appears, then the numbers will appear to “jump’ to a higher number to account for the blank page(s) in between. For example, if a blank page is used between chapters one and two and the final page of chapter one is numbered “27,” then the blank page will take up page 28. The first page of chapter two will be numbered 29 if the chapter begins on the recto side or it will be numbered 30 if the author chooses to begin the next chapter on the verso side. The blank page(s) in between will not have numbers printed on them but the page(s) will “count” toward the numbering of the book as a whole.
Top Tip: Most chapters begin on the recto side, just like page 1 does. Authors can choose to begin all chapters on the recto page, requiring a blank page insertion on some chapters when necessary. Some authors choose to omit all blank pages between chapters by simply beginning new chapters on the very next page once a chapter is concluded. And other writers choose to insert a full (front and back) blank page between subsequent chapters. Which style you choose is not as important as being consistent throughout the whole book with regard to book page numbers.
Page Numbers and Margins
Formatting a book involves determining the correct margins around each page. Page numbers have to work with not only the margins you are using but they also must coordinate with the binding style you have chosen for your book.
- Locate page numbers on the lower or upper outer corner of each page OR
- Place page numbers centered on the top or bottom of the page, above or below the content
- Book page numbers placed on inside margins can “sink” into the binding and become hard or impossible to read
- Perfect bound books are more disposed to page sinking on inside margins than other bindings
How Production Affects Book Page Numbers
Typically, pages are printed on slightly larger sizes of paper than will ultimately be present in the final printed book. One of the last steps after binding a book involves trimming the edges of the paper to be in perfect alignment since the process of binding can cause a little bit of sliding of the pages. This trimming gives books a crisp, straight edge and is a necessary part of book publication. But formats that place the page numbers too close to the edge of the page run the risk of the numbering being cut off or appearing too close to the edge once the trimming process is complete.
Top Tip: To avoid any problems, authors should format their page numbers at no less than ¼ inch away from the edges of the page.
Choosing a Font
Another stylistic choice that self-publishing authors have to make is the selection of fonts for not only the book as a whole but also the font to be used on page numbers. The most important aspect of choosing a font for your page numbers is its readability. The intended audience for your book should be able to easily decipher the page numbers at a glance. So selecting the right font for a children’s book will be different than choosing one that works best for a nonfiction book written for all ages of readers. In addition, the font should not be noticeably different than the font used in the rest of the book for consistency and aesthetic reasons. Some of the most popular fonts for book page numbers are:
- Franklin Gothic
- Times New Roman
Self-Publishing Your Book
Finalizing the details of your self-published book involves thinking about a lot of seemingly small decisions about formatting and style that have little to do with the hard work of actually writing the book’s content. Smoothing out the finer points of the book format, developing a cover that will make your book stand out, and determining the placement of page numbers are all key activities that authors have to do to make their books look great in the hands of their readers. And working with a trusted printing company like Dazzle Printing is one more step that authors can take to ensure that all of their hard work writing and formatting their manuscript will result in a gorgeous printed book, ready for their readers to enjoy.