Book Design Template for InDesign

Well, I’ve been meaning to for years now, but I finally went ahead and made myself a cleaner template for designing the interior of books. So I figure I might as well put it online. I want self-publishers to have better books, after all.

indt file | idml file

Use the indt file if you’re using InDesign CS6 or later. It’s a template file, which means every time you open it, it will open as an “untitled” project that needs to be saved. Use the idml file if you’re using InDesign CS4-5.5.

Designing a book is hella complicated. This template can help. Or you can hire someone (like me) to design your book for you. I offer discounts to self-publishers, collectively-run publishers, and to not-for-profit ventures that I believe in. My email address is

How to use this template:

  1. Change the trim size and margins to what you want them to be. (Or leave it at this default, if you’d rather.).
  2. Delete all the pages after page 1 from the template, and delete all the content from every remaining page, so you have a blank slate. Go to the master pages A and B and remove my blue text from the bottom. Move the running header to a different place if you changed the trim size and margins in step 1.
  3. Hit Command+D to “place” your book’s manuscript. Note that you really want to be placing a .docx file. If it’s any other kind of file, convert it to .docx first. I do this with TextEdit on mac, personally. Hold Shift and click in the upper-left hand corner of the text box on page 1. This will automatically flow your text into the InDesign file, adding pages as necessary.
  4. Find+Replace (Command+F) all instances of override formatting into character style formatting. That is to say, you’re going to find all the character level formatting and tell InDesign to actually assign those things to styles. The reason this is important is that you’re going to “clear overrides” on your document later, because text editors leave all kinds of bullshit information in the manuscripts they produce. You’ll go through a whole book and be like “why the hell are those seven words in Times New Roman?” and the answer is weird formatting artifacts from some text editor.
    Anyway, I do this to “italics” and sometimes to “bold” or “bold italic” or whatever. One downside is that this will sometimes assign character-level styles to paragraph-level formatting. That is to say, if the manuscript has all the titles in italics, this step will force all the titles to be italics, meaning you’ll have to remove their character style later if you want to change the headlines. So it goes.

  5. Now the time-consuming part. Assign paragraph styles to everything in the book that isn’t a regular body paragraph or a regular footnote paragraph (those should be automatically assigned by way of “basic paragraph” and “footnote” stlyes). Personally, I use the eyedropper tool and go through the whole book numerous times, once for each style. So I go through with the eyedropper tool loaded with “h1” and click on every chapter title, then go back through and load it with “h1.5” and click on every subtitle, et cetera. I find this less aggravating than clicking on each paragraph and then clicking on its proper paragraph style, but to each their own. It might be necessary to create new styles that aren’t in this template. If you need something to look different, make a new style. Even if there’s only one paragraph like it in the book. Believe me, you’ll be glad. Remember that all double-paragraph breaks are going to get deleted, so if you want space above a paragraph, it will have to be set in styles.
  6. Anywhere that a paragraph style sets a paragraph to italics (such as “bio,” “interviewer,” or “intro text”) and there is text in that paragraph that should specifically be italicized (whether for emphasis or because it’s the name of a book or movie or whatever), set that specific text to the “regular” character style.
  7. Find+replace for “^p^p” and replace with “^p.” Do this as many times as necessary until there are zero changes made. This removes all times a space has been made with a double hard return. While you’re at it, go ahead and find “^S” and replace it with “ “ (one blank space) to get rid of any weird formatting from the word processor. Then find “^n” and replace it with “^p” to change any line breaks to paragraph breaks (you might want to do this one at a time to make sure that none of the line breaks are intentional). You might have to do the “^p^p” to “^p” again after this. Then find “ “ (two blank spaces) and replace it with “ “ (one blank space). Now you’re going to go through and remove most tabs by searching for “^t” and replacing with “” (nothing). This you will want to do one at a time, because you might have intentional tabs.
  8. Before every chapter and section title, add a blank paragraph with the “section start” style. You do this after the previous step because your find-replace would have otherwise removed it.
  9. Sometimes your manuscript will bring in with it a lot of extraneous styles. You’ll want to delete these styles to make sure they aren’t in use. You’ll want to clear the formatting, most of the time. Sometimes, you’ll want to use the find dialogue to search for these styles to make sure they aren’t doing something you should be doing with one of your own styles. Do this for both paragraph and character styles.
  10. Now you’re going to select the whole body of your text and click on “clear overrides” which is a button in the bottom of the paragraph style box. This will clear all the remaining bullshit. But if you forgot to set any overrides you care about (such as italics, bold, whatever) as character styles, you’ll lose it. So be careful. Also, for some reason, InDesign doesn’t let this highlighting select footnotes. I go through the document and click once inside each footnote paragraph and then click on clear overrides. (Actually, I’ve set up a keyboard shortcut for clear overrides, since I sometimes layout books with hundreds if not thousands of footnotes.)
  11. Congratulations, you’re done with the basic formatting and you’re now ready to actually design your book. You can adjust what each style looks like until you find something you like. If you change the “basic paragraph” style’s font, you will change all the serif fonts in the book. If you change the “h1” style’s font, you will change almost all of the sans-serifs. You will still need to change the font of the “sans” and “interview name” character styles. If you change the font size away from 11, you will have to go to Preferences / Grids and change the baseline grid to correspond to the new leading.
  12. Mess around with the running header on the master pages to make it look good.
  13. Place the table of contents. If you don’t want the “author” or “h2” styles to be in the TOC, clear them from the TOC window, which I’m not going to go over in-depth. Style the TOC better than I’ve done with the template by default.
  14. Once everything is placed and designed, now you can do the final two steps. First, widows & orphans. This means going through your document and fucking with tracking on paragraphs to make sure that you don’t leave single lines from paragraphs at the top or bottoms of pages. Sometimes people go so far as to make sure not to leave single words (or single short words) on the last line of paragraphs. Once you’ve done that, go ahead and clear the master page (or assign master page B) to all pages that shouldn’t have a running header: chapter/section start pages, blank pages, frontmatter pages.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments and I might answer them or I might just tell you to give me money to design your book, depending on how complicated they are.

What Each Style Does:

  • Section Start: A blank space above chapter or section titles. Starts on the next righthand page, and sets the distance to the title below.
  • h1: Heading 1, for chapter titles
  • h1.5: Chapter subtitles
  • h2: Heading 2, for first level titles within chapters
  • h2.5: Subtitles for h2
  • h3: Heading 3, another level down
  • h4: Heading 4
  • Section Divider: For section titles, when a book is split not just into chapters but into sections
  • Divider Subtitle: Subtitles for Section Divider
  • p1: For the first paragraph in a chapter when there is no introductory quote or intro text
  • p1 after quote: For the first paragraph in a chapter when there is an introductory quote or intro text. Has less space above it by default than p1.
  • p2: For the first paragraph after h2
  • bq solo: For single-paragraph blockquotes. Has space above and below.
  • bq first: For the first paragraph of multi-paragraph blockquotes. Has space above but not below.
  • bq middle: For any paragraphs in multi-paragraph blockquotes that are neither the first nor the last. Has no space above or below.
  • bq last: For the last paragraph of multi-paragraph blockquotes. Has space below.
  • poetry first: This functions like “bq first” but has no first-line indent.
  • poetry middle: Like “bq middle” but no first-line indent.
  • poetry last: Like “bq last” but no first-line indent.
  • letter attribution: For the salutations or attributions of letters within blockquotes. Defaults to right-aligned.
  • intro quote: For a quote that goes below a chapter title
  • intro quote attribution: The attribution for the intro quote.
  • p2 intro quote: For a quote that goes after h2
  • p2 intro quote attribution: For the attribution of “p2 intro quote”
  • bulleted list first: Bulleted list with space above
  • bulleted list middle: Bulleted list with no space
  • bulleted list last: Bulleted list with space below
  • bulleted list middle with sans: Used for lists that have items that need bolding, like this list.
  • bulleted list second paragraph: Used for additioanl paragraphs on bulleted list items.
  • numbered list first: Numbered list with space above. Note that to make a second numbered list that starts over again at 1, you must duplicate these styles and set them to a new list.
  • numbered list middle: Numbered list with no space
  • numbered list last: Numbered list with no space
  • numbered list second paragraph: Used for additioanl paragraphs on numbered list items.
  • footnote: This style is automatically assigned to any footnotes
  • footnote continued: This style is for any footnote paragraphs beyond the first
  • footnote bq solo: This style is for a single paragraph blockquote within a footnote
  • footnote bq first: This style is for the first paragraph of a multi-paragraph footnote within a blockquote
  • footnote bq middle: This style is for any middle paragraphs of a multi-paragraph footnote within a blockquote
  • footnote bq last: This style is for the last paragraph of a multi-paragraph footnote within a blockquote
  • interviewer: This style is for questions asked by an interviewer. It sets everything until the first “:” to be bold and sans-serif, and everything after to be italicized.
  • interviewer continued: For paragraphs in an interview question after the first
  • interviewer p1: For an interview question that is the first in a chapter
  • interviewer p2: For an interview question that immediately follows an “h2”
  • interviewed: This style is for the first paragraph of an answer to an interview question. It sets everything until the first “:” to be bold and sans-serif. Remaining paragraphs can just use [Basic Paragraph].
  • TOC titles have been assigned to their corresponding styles in the TOC menu.
  • dedication: This style is designed to follow “section start” and places a dedication text in the middle of a page.
  • header info R and L: These styles are for the running headers. Adjust “header info R” to adjust both styles.
  • copyright info: Style designed for the copyright information page. Meant to use Shift-Return (linebreaks) to start on a new line, new paragraph to start on a new line with a blank space before it.
  • bio: For short notes that follow the main body of a chapter
  • asterisks: A style for the * * * or whatever you use for a scene break in fiction
  • intro text: A style for short notes that precede the main body of text in a chapter, like the introduction to an interview
  • author: A style for the author name that appears underneath a chapter title but before the main text

3 thoughts on “Book Design Template for InDesign”

  1. I would love to look at your template but neither version opens in my version of InDesign. I am using CS5.5. Any ideas? Thanks!

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