Michigan State University

How to Self-Publish

You must submit two files:

  1. The Cover
  2. The Book Block (the printed pages of the book)

Files submitted for print must be PDF files.

Publish Instantly Guide

For a full printable explanation of our guidelines with step-by-step screen shots of how to set up your files, please refer to our Submissions Guidelines (pdf)


To self-publish or print a copyrighted work using the Espresso Book Machine, one must either own all content to be printed, or have permission from the copyright holder of the content. Printing copyright-free documents, and single, personal-use copies of electronic texts one legally owns, is also allowed.

In all cases, the EBM Copyright Compliance Agreement must be filled out and submitted before any books are created to ensure no copyright will be infringed by printing the requested title. We also have a downloadable PDF version of the EBM Copyright Compliance Agreement.

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Trim Size & Page Count

Here are some minimum and maximum considerations:

  • 40 pages minimum
  • 800 pages maximum
  • Book width between 4.5” - 8.25”
  • Book height between 5.5” - 10.5”

The EBM prints double-sided on portrait, letter-sized (8.5”x11”) paper. One PDF page is printed on each side of a sheet of paper, so a 40-page book contains 20 sheets of paper.

It is not possible to print simplex (single-sided). If you would like content on only one side of each page (e.g. only on the right-hand pages, with left-hand pages left blank), then blank pages must be inserted into the PDF to create this effect.

There is a relationship between trim width and page count. In cases where the page count is high, the spine becomes too wide. Cover content is pushed into the trim range and clipped by the blades. For these limits, consult the following table:

Page Length Max Trim Width
Up to 100 pages 8.25"
Up to 200 pages 8.125"
Up to 300 pages 8"
Up to 400 pages 7.875"
Up to 500 pages 7.75"
Up to 600 pages 7.6"
Up to 700 pages 7.5"
Up to 800 pages 7.4"

Calculating Spine Size

Before you can design your cover, you'll need to know the spine width. To calculate this number, you will need to know the number of pages that will be in your book and the number of pages per inch, or PPI, using our standard paper. Our standard PPI is 434.

The formula is as follows: Number of pages ÷ PPI = Spine width

For example, a book with a length of 245 pages would use this formula:
245 pages ÷ 434 PPI = .564516129 inches

To ensure accuracy, include the first three digits after the decimal place. Round up or down as necessary. In the example above, .564516129 would be rounded to .565.

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The Cover

The layout and design of the cover is left to the discretion of its creator, with regard to our guidelines.


You can request a cover template by emailing the EBM staff or design your own. The cover is printed in full color on 17" x 11" glossy cover stock. Matte cover stock is available upon request.

Your cover image (no matter the size) must be centered horizontally and vertically on a tabloid/ledger (17" x 11") document.  Please note: a left-to-right book will have the back cover on the left half and the front cover on the right half of an 17" x 11" page with the cover content proportional to the actual size of the book.

If requesting a cover template from EBM staff, please specify the final trim size of the book, the total number of pages, and your preferred software for designing the cover.


We recommend keeping a .75" margin on all sides. Constrain all content within this border. Try not to crowd the edges of the document so nothing is in jeopardy of falling outside the printable area or being chopped by the blades.

It is best to have graphic elements (backgrounds, images, etc.) extend 0.25" past your desired desired trim size. This is called "bleeding" the content off the page and ensures that the printed content runs edge-to-edge, rather than having white borders.


Like the book block, make sure that the fonts used on the cover are easily read (maybe even from a distance) and properly aligned within the margins and the spine.

Please keep font files, as well as a record of the fonts used and where they were downloaded (if from an internet source). EBM staff may ask for these files or records.

InDesign Template

If you are using InDesign to create your cover, we’ve written a script that will generate a cover template for you. If you’re unfamiliar with installing scripts into InDesign, here are the steps:

  • Download* the EBM_Cover_Template.jsx to your computer.
  • Open InDesign
  • From the Menu Bar, Click Window --> Utilities --> Scripts to open the Scripts panel.
  • Right-click on the User folder in the Scripts Panel and select Reveal in Explorer (PC) or Reveal in Finder (Mac).
  • Drag the script you downloaded into the Scripts Panel folder.

Double-click the script in InDesign’s Script Panel to run it. In the pop-up dialog box, type in the number of pages in your book along with the trim width and height.  The script will create the cover template for you.

* To download the file, "right-click" on the file's name EBM_Cover_Template.jsx and select "Save..." or "Save as..."

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The Book Block

The book block consists of the front matter, core matter, and back matter. Essentially, the book block is everything between the front and back cover.


Make sure there is at least a .5 inch margin around each side of your page. We recommend the inside margin be slightly larger. The larger interior margin keeps the text from being sucked into the spine.


There are two basic font categories: serif and sans serif.

Serif fonts are much easier to read for long periods of time. This font family is distinguished by the “flags” (called serifs) at the ends of each letter’s stroke. Times New Roman, Californian, Garamond, Palatino, and Century are some examples of serif fonts.

Sans serif fonts can look more clean and modern when used in conjunction with serif fonts. This family is characterized by its lack of “flags” at the ends of each stroke. They are much harder to read over extended periods of time. Examples of sans serif fonts include Lucinda Sans, Verdana, Arial, and Tahoma.

The standard size for books ranges from 10 pt to 12 pt type.

Single spacing is much too difficult to read for an extended period of time. We recommend spacing anywhere from 1.15 to 1.5.

The PDF File

Make sure that the page size of your PDF file is the same as your desired trim size.

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Be sure that images are 300dpi and saved as a standard image file such as JPEG, PNG, or (non-animated) GIF. For the highest quality image reproduction, use TIFF image files.

Image files should be the same size or larger than the size they will be printed. Larger images can be scaled down without a loss in quality, but enlarging a small image will result in blurry and/or pixelated image reproduction.

Remember, any images printed in the book block will print as black and white, even if they are included in the PDF as color images. Color may be requested for an extra $0.10 per color page.

Guide for Publishing and Book Design Basics

For further information about standard elements of book design, please reference this guide:

Publishing & Book Design Basics

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