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.

Copyright

To self-publish or print a copyrighted work, you must either own the content or have permission from the copyright holder. Printing public domain works, open documents, and single, personal-use copies of electronic books with proof of purchase is also allowed.

In all cases, a Copyright Compliance Agreement  must be filled out and submitted before any books can be produced. A downloadable PDF version of the Copyright Compliance Agreement is available.

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Trim Size & Page Count

Book production limitations:

  • 40 pages minimum
  • 800 pages maximum
  • Book width between 2” - 8.25”
  • Book height between 2” - 10.5”

Pages print double-sided on portrait, letter-sized (8.5”x 11”) paper. One PDF page prints 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 every other page in 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 can be pushed into the trim range and clipped by the blades. For these limitations, 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 finalize the cover, you need to know the spine width. To calculate the spine width, you need to know the total number of pages in your book as well as the number of pages per inch, or PPI of the paper. Our standard paper's 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. Round up or down as necessary. In the example above, .564516129 is rounded to .565.

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The Cover

The cover design is at the discretion of its creator with regard to our guidelines.

Design

You can request a cover template by emailing the publishing services staff if you are unable to produce your own. The cover prints in full color on 17" x 11" glossy cover stock. Matte and semi-gloss cover stocks are 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 a 17" x 11" sheet with the cover content proportional to the actual size of the book.

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

Margins

We recommend keeping a .75" margin on all sides. Constrain all content within this border. Avoid crowding the edges of the document to ensure none of your content falls outside the printable area or is accidentally trimmed by the blades.

It is best to have graphic elements (background, images, etc.) extend 0.125" beyond your desired desired trim size. "Bleeding" the content off the page allows the printed content to run edge-to-edge, rather than having white borders.

Fonts

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 obtained (if from an internet source). Publishing services staff may ask for these files or records.

InDesign Template

If you are using InDesign to create your cover, a script is available to generate a cover template for you. If you’re unfamiliar with installing scripts into InDesign, here are the steps:

  • Extract the Cover_Template.zip 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 or copy the script you downloaded into the Scripts Panel folder.
  • Return to InDesign and the Cover Template script should be visible in the Scripts panel.

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.

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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 covers.

Margins

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 hidden in the spine gutter.

Font

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

Serif fonts are much easier to read over long periods of time, especially for print media. This font family is characterized 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 font family is characterized by its lack of “flags” at the ends of each stroke. They are harder to read over extended periods of time, but are better displayed on screens for digital media. Examples of sans serif fonts include Lucinda Sans, Verdana, Arial, and Tahoma.

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

In addition, single spacing may be difficult to read over an extended period of time. We recommend line spacing anywhere from 1.08 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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Images

Be sure that images are at least 300dpi resolution and are 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 scale 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 printing is available upon request for an additional $0.10 per color page.

Guide for Publishing and Book Design Basics

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

Publishing & Book Design Basics

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