Michigan State University

How to Self Publish

You will submit your book for print in two files:

1) The Cover

2) The Book Block - The printed pages of the book

You will need to submit these files in PDF Format.

For a full printable version please of our guidelines please visit this link: Submissions Guidelines (pdf)


With the EBM, you can make a book up to about any size and shape. Our maximum trim size (the dimensions of the book when cut and finished) is 8.25" by 10.5". The minimum is 4.5" by 5". A standard book is usually somewhere around 6" x 9".

Be conscious of trim size in relation to book length when designing your cover. The larger the trim size, the smaller the number of pages in the book can be. Here are some common sizes and their limitations:

Page Length Max Trim Width x Height
Up to 300 pages 8" by 10.5"
Up to 400 pages 7.875" by 10.5"
Up to 500 pages 7.75" by 10.5"
Up to 600 pages 7.6" by 10.5"
Up to 700 pages 7.5" by 10.5"
Up to 800 pages 7.4" by 10.5"

When "page length" or "number of pages" is referenced, it means the number of actual pages in the book, not sheets of paper. This page count includes all pages in the PDF document, even if they are not numbered (blank pages and any other pages with content). The EBM requires a minimum of 40 pages to successfully print a book. 

Calculating Spine Size

When designing your cover, keep in mind the size spine you will need. 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

Add this amount to the total width of your cover design document – this will give you a properly aligned print and no white space on the edges.

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The Book Block

The book block consists of the pages you wish you print. There are a few requirements when it comes to formatting your pages.


Make sure there is at least a .75 inch margin around each side of your page. We recommend at least .8 for the inside margin and around 1 inch for the top and bottom. The larger interior margin keeps the text at a distance from the spine that is comfortable on the eyes.

Try using top and bottom margins of .8", an exterior margin of .75", and an interior margin of 1".


By submitting your files as PDFs, most font styles should be readable by any computer. When choosing a font though, if one is downloaded from the internet, it is best to include this font file (or name and source) for the staff to download. This will ensure that any font you’ve downloaded is accessible and readable by both the EBM staff and the EBM itself.

We recommend picking a font that is easy on the eyes – Serif fonts are easier to read. The standard size for books ranges from 10pt to 12pt type.

Single spacing is much too difficult to read for an extended period of time. We recommend anywhere from 1.15 to 1.5 as your spacing – this will make reading much easier.

The PDF File

Make sure that your page size in the PDF file is the actual page size you want after trimming. The machine will print the text on the center of a paper that is 8.5" x 11" and will trim the edges at the very end of the process. If you want your final product to be 6" by 9", make sure your pages are formatted to that size.

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The Cover

The layout and design of your cover is all up to you. You can have it however you like – just make sure it is within the following guidelines.


You can request a custom-made cover template by email or design your own. The cover will print full-color on an 11" x 17" piece of glossy coverstock.

The only size paper that the cover will print on it this 11" x 17" glossy stock, so your cover image (no matter the size) must be centered horizontally and laterally in an 11" x 17" document.


Keep at least a .5 inch margin around all sides of the document – keep all text and information within this border. Don’t crowd the edges of the document – your file will print and look best when everything is kept within the margins.

The margin requirement doesn’t pertain to graphical elements that you want to reach the edges of your cover, though.

Create a .5 inch bleed around the document as well – make your graphic elements (backgrounds, images, etc.) extend to this line. This will ensure that no white borders appear surrounding your images and that the printed area goes from edge-to-edge of the book. (See the PDF diagram for cover layout to get a visual viewpoint of this.)


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

It is best to keep record of the fonts used on your cover to ensure that the EBM staff is able to assess your dimensions and make edits if necessary. If you’ve used any fonts that were downloaded from an internet source, please include either the file itself or the name and source for the files.

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File Formatting

As mentioned before, your files submitted for print must be in PDF form. If you want the EBM staff to make any changes or review your originals, check with the staff to see if they have the software you’ve used to create your file.


Make sure that any images you may have scanned into your documents are scanned at 300dpi and saved as TIFF images. This will ensure the highest quality print that the EBM is capable of.

Make sure your original files for images are nearly the same size or larger than the intended size for the final document. Larger images can be scaled down without a loss in quality, but enlarging an image will make it blurry and often hard to read or view.

Remember, any images that print in the Book Block will print as black and white – even if they are included in the PDF as color images.


Quick Tips

If you find yourself wondering about standard elements of book design, feel free to check out this handy guide by MSU Libraries' own Ruth Ann Jones.

Publishing & Book Design Basics

It covers topics such as these, and many more:

  • Copyright
  • What goes in your front matter section?
  • Recto and verso pages - what do they mean and how are they used?
  • What's the difference between a publisher and a printer?


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