Book Interior Formatting: The Dreaded Page Number

Formatting. Everytime I finish a book and start the process of formatting it for print, I have to run around and look at at a thousand different pages trying to remember everything I know about formatting. Everytime, I end up looking up half a dozen new pages because I’ve lost or misplaced my bookmarks. Everytime, I feel like pulling out my hair because it’s a lot to juggle while distilling it all down to the vital bits. This time I’m writing it all down as I go, so there will be a handy guide for next time and so other indie authors have a useful one stop shop for all their info.

The Dreaded Page Number

Dead tree books, unlike ebooks, require page numbers, page numbers that can be an ever loving pain in the all get out to format properly. In order to mimic as closely as possible a book published by one of the big six publishing companies (never mind that the sizes available from Createspace are all wrong for a proper pocket paperback) you’ll need page numbers at the top of each page but excluding most of your front number pages as well as the first page of each chapter and you’ll also want the author’s name on alternate pages from the title of the book, again excluding your front and back matter pages.

In any other document, page numbers are easy so it always throws me for a loop how hard they are to format for a paperback. Click on images for a larger illustration of the steps.

Section Breaks

First thing you’re going to want to do is open your document and click on “show paragraph formatting” in the ‘home” tab of word. Then you need to go through each chapter (currently I find it’s easiest to do these one at a time) and make sure to delete any Page Breaks you see, in their place you’ll go to the “page layout” tab and select “breaks,” you’ll be adding “next page” or “next odd/even page” Section Breaks where you previously had page breaks.


Once you have those set up you can go ahead and click on the header portion of your document to open up the header/footer editor. Find the first page of your chapter and enter in either your name or the name of your novel, make sure that “different first page,” “Different Odd & Even Pages” and “link to previous” are all checked.

Page Number


This is the hard part – you’re going to add page numbers now. Click on the header you want the first page number to appear on, leave your cursor right where you want the number to go. Now go to the “insert” tab and click on the arrow beside “page number” scroll down and highlight “current position” & “plain number.”

Pg-#-Current-Pos-2 Pg-#-Current-Pos-3

Next go to “Format Page Number” just below “Current Position” and click on it. Click on “start at” in the Page Numbering section and input the number you want your numbering to start with (so if it’s the second page in chapter two, you would put in number 1 – because number 2 will be the first visible number). This was why we had to go back and change Page Breaks to Section Breaks, because you can individually number each section which allows you to keep numbers off the first page of each section (these will be your chapter pages the ones that don’t get numbers). Click OK.

Do that for both the Name pages and the Title pages.

Even-Odd-Chapter-1 Even-Odd-Chapter-2

Now you’ve got some numbers, squished up beside your Name/Title it doesn’t look too great but at least it’s all there. The last part is relatively easy, put your cursor between the number and the word and go to the Header Footer tab. Click on Insert Alignment and select “Right.”

Do the same for both your Name pages and Title pages – and you’re done! At least with this chapter. You’ll have to repeat this formatting on each chapter. Pay special attention that your numbers add up. Do not go from page 55, skip a page for the new chapter and then have the next number be 56 for example, it’ll screw up your numbering for the whole book as well as giving you the wrong Author/Title combination. Remember odd page numbers should always appear on the right of a book!

Be sure to check out the other steps on formatting your paperbacks interiors with Microsoft Word:

And as always – if there’s anything I’ve neglected to cover that you want to know, just ask in the comments and I’ll see what I can do to help.



5 thoughts on “Book Interior Formatting: The Dreaded Page Number

  1. To format a book using MS Word is a bit tiring, especially the running header and the page number. Doing it yourself needs more time but it’s always a good and learning experience. I prefer using InDesign though it’s costly.

    • I think you’ve touched on the important part there, Tim. InDesign is costly 😉

      My goal here is to offer as many cheap options to Indie Authors as possible.. Otherwise they could always just purchase a perfectly formatted interior template.

  2. Pingback: Monday Must-Reads [1/13/14]

    • You are quite right and since all my books have the page number in the correct location, at least I only screwed up in my notes online and not on paper! Thanks, it’s corrected.

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