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(For those with Windows-based PCs and experience of word-processing rather than typesetting)

If any of you poets out there have an Apple Mac with the program QuarkXpress, you will probably not need to read this article, as you will no doubt have a background in typesetting, and QuarkXpress makes it very easy to set up booklets with great accuracy. This article is for poets working on Windows-based PCs, who have to contend with the limitations of word-processing programs, such as MS Works and MS Word.In most word-processing programs it is possible to set up your pages in horizontal, double-page facing format. It is quite a complicated process to make up a whole chapbook though, if you are mass-producing it, it will take quite a long time. Also you will need to get an ISBN number if you intend to announce it commercially as a published book. See this link for more information:Author Publishing Info on ISBN Registration If you are just making the book for friends and family, or a portfolio item, there is no need to bother.


1. First make a "dummy" copy of the book, using scrap printer paper, A4 size. Make a pile of blank (or as blank as possible) sheets of A4 and fold them all in half to make a rough booklet. No need to staple at this point.

2. Get a pencil and number the dummy's pages, without numbering the cover - you will probably print a preface on that. On the front of the cover write FC at the bottom (Front Cover), on the inside front cover write IFC at the bottom and write maybe "Preface" above that, or the title of some other introduction or author's notes. On the Inside Back Cover write IFC at the bottom, and make a note of whatever will be printed there. On the outside back cover write OBC and a title such as "Editor's pic and bio". All of the rest of the pages are then numbered. Odd numbers will always be on a right-hand page, evens on the left, starting with page 1.

3. After the pages are numbered, you then flick through it as you would with a real book and write (in pencil) the name of whichever poem is going on each page. If it's a poem of about 8 short verses, you would put, for example, four verses on page 2 and four on page 3. So on page 3 you would write "(poem title) continued". Once you have worked out all of the layout and "pagination" (a typesetting term) - you are ready to start putting the book together on your computer.

4. Open your word processing program. Set up the page to be A4 horizontal, with two columns. Make the margins about 10 left and right. When you type the page numbers in, do it manually rather than setting up an automatic page numbering, and make each pair of pages a separate file. Centre the page numbers in the same vertical and horizontal position in both the left and right columns.

5. Name your first file "OScovers" (Outside Covers) and do not put any page numbers on it. Drop in your the info for the back of the book in the LEFT column. Your front cover image and text will go in the RIGHT column, so it is in the correct position when A4 is folded to A5.

6. Name your second file "Icovers" (Inside Covers). You can use the OScovers file as a template and re-name it to Icovers, that is easiest, and put your preface in the left column and the final poem or credits on the right column. This will be printed out on the reverse side of your OScovers file. The preface will print out so that it shows on the reverse of the outside cover, on the left of page 1, as the book is opened. It will take a bit of trial and error to work out which is the best way round to feed it into the printer. You may waste some paper at this point, so don't bother with the card stock at first.

7. If your book has, for example, 28 pages, you call your third file "28-1". Pages 1 and 28 will be opposite each other when bound into the book. Effectively you are working from the outside of the book towards the center. The poem you wrote down on the dummy for page 1 will be pasted into the right-hand column, in 8pt, or 9pt text (but not much bigger - this allows more vertical space for poems). The one you wrote on page 28 of the dummy will be put into the left-hand column, with the page no. 28 centred at the bottom in 8pt.

8. To follow on, your next file would be called "2-27", to remind you that page 27 will be in the right-hand column so it prints on the reverse of page 28, and page 2 will be in the left column so it prints on the reverse of page 1. So after you have printed out the file "28-1", you can turn it over and print the file "2-27" on the reverse side of it. Again, you may have a bit of trial and error as to the best way round to feed it into your printer tray. But after the first couple of tries (and maybe a few expletives), you will get the hang of it.

9. Working closer to the middle of the book, you now name your next file "26-3", and put the poems in according to the titles written on pages 26 and 3 on your dummy book. The reverse side of this double page will be printed with the next file, "25-4", where you'll type the poems that you noted down on pages 25 and 4 in the dummy book. I know it sounds complex, but if you keep refering to your dummy book you will know exactly what goes where, even if some of the poems are split over two pages. As you see the book take shape, according to the dummy layout, it will all make sense.

10. You carry on naming your pages in this way - being careful to refer to the dummy book, and it should work out that all odd pages are on the right, evens on the left. When you begin to print it out, you will soon know which is the right way to feed it into your printer, and you'll see how it makes sense as you fold the printed pages in half (A5) and begin to turn them. You work towards the middle of the book. With a 28 page book (an example taken from one I once made), your last two pages, where the staples will show, will be pages 14 and 15.

11. Once 14 and 15 have been printed out, with their poems and page nos, on the back of pages 16 and 13, you can have a look through the book and check it for errors. Correct any errors and fix any problems with fitting poems into the page (size 8pt is usually the right size), or page numbers that don't line up with each other horizontally. You may need to adjust the poem title notes on the dummy if a poem goes over three pages instead of two.

12. The easiest way to mass-produce a home-printed chapbook is to print all the outside covers first, then all the inside covers on the backs of those. Then all the 28-1 sheets, then all the 2-27's on the backs of those, and so on, collating them as you go along. If you mess about making one whole book at a time, it could take forever. It's a tricky process until you have made one book successfully, then you will know what you're doing. You may find your printer decides to eat some of the pages, then you have to go back and print out the first side again, for one of the copies. This can lead to colourful language and late nights. To staple the finished books, buy the longest stapler you possibly can, otherwise you'll have to fold half the book over to get the staple down the middle.

NOTE: Remember that when you paste your poems in, the lines will jump around from column to column, due to the way it is set up. You'll need to add and delete carriage returns until the poems line up with each other on the opposite pages. Pictures can be pasted in, usually as bitmaps. Have fun making your chapbooks and don't get stressed out - if it goes wrong, have a coffee, sit in the garden for a while and go back to it later. See below for how to get the template...

Update March 2005: You can now download the Word template of pages 28 & 1, which are the middle two pages (and can be over-written with your poems and saved with new names to create the other pages) - just go to the top of this article and click "download this article" - this will download the template to your computer.

Web Site Poetry Life & Times

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Reviewed by Frances Lane
graet how-to, thanks, just a question: you say set margins at 10 - what scale or measurement system are you using? 10cm would be 4 inches, which sounds a bit extravagnat.

I couldn't find anything labelled "download this article" - even used "find on this page" as I'm visually impaired and might bave missed it. It oculdn't find it, either.

Once the book is printed, how is it bound? I've been tryin to get a book out for at least ten years, but a) didn't know how to set it up, b) given my vision, can't see to set up normal sized text anyway. Even if I managed it, not sure I'd be able to fold 'em in half and staple 'em together very neatly!
Reviewed by Angee Edgar
This was really helpful! Thanks.
Reviewed by morgan corvan (Reader)
I would really appreciate copy of the A5 template. Thank you!
Reviewed by Ben Lee (Reader)
Dear Sara,
I've never know how to a make an A5 book, I would be appreciate if you could send a copy of this template. Thanks lot.
From Ben (
Reviewed by Ian Thorpe
This is well done Sara, I have been meaning to look at it for a while. One thing I thought of a while back (but am too idle to do of course) that people might think of is make an audio CD and sell it with a small book like this. If you use audio format a CD will take about 25 three minute recitals (plenty for one CD) but mp3 accomodates a lot more. Maybe we should do a joint article on making poetry videos...
Reviewed by Philip Alexander (Reader)
Excellent article, please send me a copy of the template for ms works, thank you!
Reviewed by roanna
usefully information on how to make a chap book can you send me the template on ms word
Reviewed by Marisa
Great info, can you send me a copy of the template for ms works? thanks!
Reviewed by amanda
great article. would love a copy of that file. thanks :)
Reviewed by Hannes
Great work. Can you send me a copy
Reviewed by m j hollingshead
............. ;0)
Reviewed by Nellie Feng
Wow !!! What a big help this is !!! I would love to give it a try when I am not too busy.

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