In my last post, I reviewed a bunch of alternatives to InDesign for creating paperback books for print-on-demand (POD) services like Amazon KDP. In this first of two spin-off tutorials, I'll show you how to create a book using Apple Pages. As I noted in my review, Pages is free for Mac and iPad and is surprisingly capable.

Note, I say tutorial in the broadest possible sense of the word. Rather than a prescriptive, step-by-step instructional guide, I'm describing my process as I explore the app. I'll apply my knowledge of InDesign to what's essentially a word processing app with some tricks up its sleeves. If you want a step-by-step guide, Amazon provides one on the KDP website. Note, however, it's for an older version of Pages (v7.3), and I disagree with Amazon's assertion the current version of Pages (v10) lacks the essential features.

Getting started

Before I get to Pages, I'll need a copy of my manuscript, which I write in Scrivener. I'll compile the manuscript into a DOCX (Word document). For the sake of the tutorial, I'll use the first chapter of my book, Cadoc's Contract.

Since this tutorial is about Pages, I'll not describe Scrivener's compile process here (I've covered the basics elsewhere). So I'll assume you have your own Word document ready to go. Note, I'm using the Word format because it's well-supported by Scrivener and Pages. If you prefer to write in Ulysses or iA Writer, they can export to DOCX too.

With a manuscript in hand, I'll open Pages and create a new document. I'll select a Blank portrait document from the Choose a Template screen show below.

Choose a blank template in Pages
Choose a blank template in Pages

Note that we can save a document as a template for future use, so it's worth setting up your document the way you like, and reusing it for other publications as needed. I'll show you how to do this at the end of the tutorial.

Once you select the template, you'll get a blank document, framed within Pages' minimal user-interface. If you are seeing Pages for the first time, you might feel underwhelmed by the lack of tools on display. Compared to Word or Indesign, Pages is decidedly minimalistic. Still, the simplicity of its UI belies its power in typical Apple fashion.

The minimal Apple Pages UI
The minimal Apple Pages UI

For a brief walk around the UI, you'll first note the toolbar on the top. Like most Mac apps (including Scrivener), you can customise this by right-clicking the toolbar, selecting Customise Toolbar… and dragging in the tools you need. It's worth taking a few minutes to see what's available.

Available tools
Available tools

Going back to the main UI, on the left we have our thumbnail view. You can customise what's displayed using the drop-down menu, as shown below. When it comes time to creating and styling sections, you'll want the Page Thumbnails displayed.

In the middle panel, we have our document, currently empty and much too large (A4). While on the right we have our Format and Document Panel, where we'll configure our book at the document and content (format) level. You can switch between Format and Document settings using the selector as shown below.

The Format panel is context-aware, so what you'll see changes according to what's selected. Since we're predominately working with text, we'll be switching between the Style, Layout and More tabs.

First, let's set up the document and change our trim size.

Setting the trim (document) size

Trim size (as it's known in publishing parlance) is the dimensions of our book as trimmed by the final cutting process. Pages defaults to your country's typical printing size, in my case A4. If you're reading this in North America, your default is Letter. Regardless, neither size is appropriate for a novel.

Different POD services accept different print sizes, so it's essential to check with the service you intend on using. Ingram Spark supports the most sizes, as it services a worldwide market. In contrast, Amazon and Lulu generally support fewer options as they mostly cater to the US market.

Typical sizes for a novel are:

  • 4.25 x 7” (178 x 108mm) US Pocketbook (Lulu, Ingram)
  • 4.37 x 7” (178 x 111mm) British and Australian A-Format (Ingram)
  • 5.06" x 7.81" (12.85 x 19.84 cm) B-Format (Amazon, Ingram)
  • 6" x 9" (15.24 x 22.86 cm) US Trade (Amazon, Ingram and Lulu)

While I prefer the British/Australian A-Format (the book size of my youth), Amazon's KDP doesn't support the size. Instead, I'll opt for the B-Format, which is a nice compromise between the mass-market sizes and the too-large-for-my-tastes, 6x9.

Back in Pages, to change the document size, we need the Document tab open. Note that if you have a printer installed and active, you can only select paper sizes your printer supports. Some printers allow you to create custom document sizes, but mine doesn't. The workaround is to use the Page Setup option to create a custom size as follows.

  1. In Pages go to File -> Page Setup
  2. Under the Paper Size drop-down box, select Manage Custom Sizes…
  3. Create the new paper size to your required dimensions then click OK.
Creating a custom page size in macOS
Creating a custom page size in macOS

In the Document panel, I'll set the margins, enable Facing Pages, Ligatures and Hyphenation. Note, if you need help with margins, KDP helpfully publish their requirements on the KDP website. The listed margins are a minimum, so I'll start with those and adjust if I decide I want more whitespace.

Document dimensions set up
Document dimensions set up


The paragraph styles Pages gives you in the default Blank template are uninspiring, and certainly not bookish. In a hangover from my old InDesign days, I like to set my styles before I pull in the whole document.

Body Text

I'll start with the most used style, Body.

Body style before tweaking
Body style before tweaking

First off, I'll change the font to something more bookish using the drop-down menu. My favourite it Adobe Garamond Pro, but for the sake of this tutorial, I'll limit my selection to fonts that come with macOS, so I'll choose my next favourite, Baskerville.

I'll keep the size at 11pt, and add a generous amount of leading (line-height), at exactly 15pt. For the layout, I'll justify the text and create a first-line indent of 12pt (under the Layout tab). Finally, I'll click Update to save the changes to the Body Style.

Formatting body style
Formatting body style

Once I've created the base style, I'll modify the style for first instances of body text following chapter titles and section breaks and save them as a new style. I removed the first-line indent, added 46pt margin before the paragraph, and renamed the style Body - New Section.

Note, for both body styles I'll disable all Pagination & Break rules (under More tab, shown below). This change makes balanced spreads (an equal number of lines), but I'll have to manage widows and orphans manually.

Disabled Paragraph & Break rules
Disabled Paragraph & Break rules

For new chapters, I'll also a two-line drop cap (introduced to Pages literally in this month's release of Pages 10). Drop caps aren't saved to the paragraph style, so if you use one, remember to apply it to each new chapter.

For section breaks within a chapter (i.e. to mark new scenes), I also like to capitalise the first four words of the paragraph for additional visual separation. I'll save this as a character style, Capitalised.

Here's how it's looking.

Formatted new section text
Formatted new section text

Chapter titles

Now for the chapter titles. I'll work on the chapter name first, duplicating the built-in Heading style and starting from that. I'll change the font to something suitably medieval-looking (I write medieval fantasy), centre the text and add some margin above. The following screenshot shows the exact settings I used and the style in use.

Styled Chapter Name
Styled Chapter Name

For the chapter number, I'll use 14pt Baskerville, small caps, and centre the text.

Headers, footers and tweaking margins

With my main styles created, I'll import more of the manuscript. This way, I can see how it looks and begin defining the other styles the book needs. It's also an opportune moment to style the running heads and footers. I'll also add the front matter and dress that up too.

I can already see that my margins are far too tight. So using the Document tab again, I'll increase them to a more comfortable 1.27cm to add more whitespace between the text block and the header and footer.

Speaking of which, I won't do anything too fancy with the header and footer. I merely style as Baskerville at 9pt, and align them either left or right for the corresponding side of the spread.

Front Matter

A book's front matter contains all the publisher's pages before the main body of the books, namely title page, copyright, dedications, acknowledgements, contents, epigraph and so on. If you're not familiar with the way front matter is traditionally handled, Wikipedia has a pretty good description. Note that I don't include a table of contents in novels, but you are certainly able to do so with Pages.

I'll use the same fonts as in the Body of the book, making minor modifications as needed to create some visual separation from the main body but while maintaining a consistent design.

Title page

First, I'll style the title page. I'll need styles for the Title, Subtitle and author name. Pages provides the first two, and I'll create the third.

For the book's title, I'll use the same Medieval/Celtic font I used for the chapter names, centre the text and set the size 30pt with an 18pt bottom margin.

With the subtitle and author name, I'll use Baskerville 20pt but set the subtitle in italics and give it a 46pt bottom margin. The result is shown below.

Title page styled
Title page styled

Not too shabby.

Other front matter styles

For the copyright page, I'll duplicate the Body text, remove the first line indent and centre the text.

I'll modify the existing Heading style to use with the Acknowledgements et cetera, set as Baskerville 16pt, centred with a 36pt bottom margin.

For the front-matter body text, I'll use the Body text but again removing the first-line indent. If I have to write multiple paragraphs in the front matter, I'll add a 12pt margin at the bottom.

Styled front matter showing acknowledgements and Half Title pages
Styled front matter showing acknowledgements and Half Title pages


That's about it for the paragraph and character styles. I may tweak them as needed, but for now, they'll do.

With the formatting done, it's time we broke the document into sections. Sections allow us to use different headers and footers — important for differentiating the front matter from the main content, and chapter pages from the rest of the text.

Section management is a little wonky in Pages, but it's good enough for our purposes.

I create a section for the front matter, and one for each chapter. This allows me to disable the running head and foot of the document (my preference, but you could style this section differently, for example using Roman numerals for page numbers).

For the main body, I'll remove the header and footer from the first page of each chapter. In contrast, the main text gets a mirrored header and footer containing either my name or the book's title (header), and the page number (footer).

Chapter and spread showing different header and footer
Chapter and spread showing different header and footer

Note the widow on the right-hand page; I'll deal with those later.

To create a new section in Pages, first, make sure the Page Thumbnails are displayed in the left-hand panel.

Select the page where you want the new section to begin. Then with the page thumbnail selected, ensure the Format panel is open and in the Create new section drop-down menu, select Starting with this page.

Note the option above the drop-down menu allows you to specify if the section starts on the next page, or forced on a new left or right page. More traditional book designs typically force chapters to start on the right-hand side. I like to start my very first chapter on the right while allowing the rest to continue on the next available page.

We can also set up how to control the appearance of headers and footer in this Section Format panel.

The first option disables headers and footers on the first page of the section.

The second option allows us to style the left and right pages differently, which I've done to create the mirrored margin look I showed above.

Finally, the Match previous section allows me to duplicate the settings of the previous section. I'll tick this box for every section following the first chapter.

Once you have a separate section for the front matter, and at least chapter one, we can set page numbering. We do this with the Page Numbering tools.

Use the drop-down menu to select Roman Numerals for the front matter (assuming you want them numbered — I don't), and Arabic numerals for the main body.

With the first chapter section, I used the radio button to restart the page numbers at 1, while you'll want to make sure all subsequent chapters Continue from previous section.

That's most of the spadework done. Now we can pull in the rest of the manuscript and fine-tune our text layout.

Optionally, we can pause here and save the document as a re-usable template; I cover that at the end of the article.

Fine-tuning the text

With our styles and layout finished, it's time to bring in the rest of the document. I tend to bring the text in, one chapter at a time, styling and sectioning the document as needed.

It's at this point I begin to comb through the document, fine-tuning the text to remove the worst of the widows and orphans. I do this manually because I prefer balanced spreads to uneven column heights. This is a personal preference that stands me in opposition to The Chicago Manual of Style.

As such, I'm only really after the worst widows and orphans. I'm okay with a single line, but not a single word.

So to me, while this isn't ideal, it is acceptable:

An acceptable widow
An acceptable widow

While this is not:

To correct this issue, I'll manually adjust the paragraph's kerning (spacing). To do so, select the whole paragraph. Then in the Format Style Tab, click the Advanced options icon (the little cog) and reduce the Character Spacing until you have the desired result.

Note that you can space either way. Tighten the space to pull in the paragraph, or loosen it to send another word or two onto the next line. You don't have to limit this to widows and orphans too, and I'll sometime massage paragraphs well within the page's boundary just to make it look a little neater. The technique also helps to manage rivers — those snakes of whitespace that open up in justified paragraphs.

I'll admit this part is more art than science, and everyone has different opinions as to what looks nice and what doesn't. Scan through your document with a keen eye, and use these kerning tweaks to massage it into something beautiful.

Remember too, that when you start messing with spacing, you'll introduce (and sometimes fix) problems down the line. So, it's essential to go through your document a couple of times, and if possible, printing our a proof copy can help.

Exporting to PDF

With your book ready for printing (or proof-reading), export as a PDF (File -> Export To -> PDF…) and select the Best Image Quality.

If you want to see how my document turned out, feel free to download the file.

Saving as a template

You can save all this hard word as a template, something you'll want to if you plan on creating more paperbacks down the road.

To prepare the document for use as a template, I'll strip back most of what I've imported, and replace some of it with Placeholder text.

Defining placeholder text
Defining placeholder text

To do so, highlight the text, then go to Format -> Advanced and select Define as Placeholder Text. Repeat this for any text as necessary.

When you are ready to save the document as a template, go to File -> Save As Template…

Save as a template
Save as a template

Click the Add To Template Chooser, and your template becomes an option in Pages' new document window.

Select your template as a new document
Select your template as a new document

Try it yourself

If you'd like to play with the template I've created, you are free to download a copy and modify it as needed. I don't care what you do with it — use it as the basis of your book, or merely as a learning tool while creating your template.

Note that for copyright and compatibility purposes, I've replaced the fancy title font I used with Almendra SC, which like Baskerville comes free with your Mac. Change this font as you need.

I've also left several blank pages in the front matter. You can use those to add a table of contents, a map, preface, or whatever you like.

Concluding thoughts

Well, that was undoubtedly a rambling tutorial! I set out to see if I could create a book with Pages, unsure at first if it would work.

While Pages doesn't give you the infinite control of a professional page layout app, like InDesign, it's certainly adequate for typesetting a paperback novel. It's also easy to use and free.

As I noted in my review, if you are on the Mac (or even iPad), and you're an indie author looking to create a book, Pages is the best place to start. Consider too you can make an ePUB from the same document as your paperback and it's a very compelling solution for those scared off by high prices and high learning curves.

Speaking of high learning curves, in my next tutorial, I'll cover Affinity Publisher.

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