This is a guide for making a double-sided printed booklet using a template in Microsoft Word. Use these instructions and the included MS Word template to create custom books with your own content.
This is very good for teachers or parents helping their children get interested in writing and storytelling by helping them produce their own books. It’s also incredibly useful for authors and illustrators who want to make mockups of their works in progress.
I discovered this method for making a double-sided printed book while trying to make a mockup of a picture book that I have in progress. While there are several articles like this one that go into detail about why picture books are usually limited to 32 pages, I had a hard time finding anything that explained how to go about translating your draft into the right order for bi-fold printing.
Dividing Content Onto Your Pages: The Rule of 4
This method uses one sheet of paper for every four pages of content. Each page in the Word document will show two pages of finished book content side by side in landscape orientation.
Children’s picture books are usually printed in a similar manner, which is why so many of them have 32 pages exactly, counting the title and back pages.
The number of pages in your finished book should be some multiple of 4, such as 24, 28, 32, etc. So, you can make a 32-page book that will have 16 Word doc pages and will print on just 8 pieces of paper, double-sided. Or you can make a 28-page book that will have 14 Word doc pages and will print on 7 pieces of paper, double-sided.
But you can’t make a 26-page book or a 22-page book because the order of pages will get all screwed up! So either write an extra page or two, or combine some pages until you have the right number.
The Secret to Laying Out Content: Zig-Zag Ordering
Zig-zag page ordering is the secret trick to making your double-sided printed book work. Here, I’m going to walk you through laying out the content so that it comes out in the proper order after printing.
It helps to have your content in a separate document, with the final page numbers clearly marked next to each chunk of text. This way you can copy and paste from the source text into the template and not get lost.
Your first page in your Word document will be both the title page and the last page. But the title page is on the right and the last page is on the left. Like this:
Next, place the content for your second page on the left of the second page. For published books, this is often the page with the inscription, dedication and copyright information.
Content for your third page of your book goes into the right side of the 3rd page of the Word document. See how we are zig-zagging down through the Word document?
Continue placing content down through the pages of the Word doc template in this same zig-zag pattern. Notice that odd-numbered pages always end up in the right hand column of the Word doc pages, and even-numbered pages always end up in the left hand column.
The last page of the Word document will have your middle-most even numbered page on the left. Then put the next odd-numbered page on the right.
Now you will reverse your direction and move back upwards from the end of the Word document to the beginning. The next even-numbered page will go on the left hand side of the second to last page, and so on, continuing the zig-zag pattern.
Paper Sizes and Finished Book Dimensions
If you are using standard U.S. letter-size paper (8 ½“ x 11”), your finished book will be half this dimension (5 ½” x 8 ½”).
Setting Columns and Margins in MS Word
To keep everything evenly spaced, I prefer using columns and margins for the body content instead of text boxes. This is just a personal preference.
As you add text to the left-hand sides of the Word doc pages, you will need to use column breaks to end the text those sides. Then, use section breaks to end the text on the right-hand sides.
If you find that your text is flowing onto the wrong pages, click on the little icon to show the normally hidden symbols for paragraph ends, etc. This will show you where the column breaks and section breaks are landing, and is useful for adjusting things back onto the right pages.
In my template, the outer margins are set to 0.5” and the spacing between the columns is set to 1”. This keeps the pages looking centered once the book is folded.
You set the width between columns by going to Layout > Columns > More Columns, then choosing two columns and typing the amount of space in between. By default, the columns will be equal widths and will be adjusted to fit the amount of space left between margins and column spacing.
Printing and Assembly
This all assumes that you have access to printer that can print double-sided copies. Did I mention that before? Otherwise, you could have just laid it all out in sequential order. But you would have to use twice as much paper, which is not that great for the environment.
Before you print the whole book, make sure to do a test of just the first two pages to make sure that the printer is flipping the image correctly. If page 2 does not come out directly behind the title page, check your print settings. You may want to make sure that “Short side binding” is selected.
Once all the pages are printed and put in order, fold the whole stack in half across the narrow width. You should now have a booklet with the Title page on top and the last page on the back. If you like, you can add a separate piece of paper on top of the title page to make a cover.
To bind the book, you can either staple it at the crease or punch holes in the crease and lace a piece of yarn through the holes.
Voila! You have made your own book!
Note about the template: It is just a regular Word doc, not a formal template, so you don’t have to worry about figuring out where to save it in your application folders so that it shows up as an actual template. Just open it up and hit “Save As” to start making your own book. This will make a 32-page finished booklet, including title and back pages.
You can also get a free ABC Coloring book that is set up in the same method by signing up for my email newsletter.