Printed Books 101: how to prepare graphic files for book printing, Pt. 1

How to prepare your graphic files for book printing

You want your printed books to look great. But in order to ensure the highest-quality printing for your book, you’ll need to send your book printer manuscript files that are pristine.

If you’re wondering how to properly prepare your manuscript files to ensure that your printed books look perfect, please read these instructions carefully — and be sure to provide your book printer with the highest quality graphic files possible for your book’s cover and body text.

[Also, if you’re printing books with BookBaby and have any questions about the process, just give us a call or send an email. We’re happy to guide you through it.]

STEP 1: Decide your trim size, binding style, and paper stock

The first step in correctly preparing your book files is deciding your book’s trim size, binding style and paper stock. If you’re working with BookBaby to print your books, you can get started  by using our online book quote configurator.

Once that’s done, you will need to create and upload two PDF files: one containing the cover of your book, and a second with the text interior of your book.

Preparing your cover file PDF

• Your cover PDF file must contain the back cover panel, spine panel and front cover panel as a spread showing all 3 parts of your book cover from left to right; back cover, spine and front cover.

Screen shot 2014-09-16 at 8.53.20 AM

• After you configure and save your quote you will be taken to the upload page where you can download your unique book cover and interior text templates.

• Every book’s spine is a different width. The spine width is calculated using a formula which considers the number of pages in the book, the text paper stock, and the binding style you selected in the book quoter. If any of these factors change please make sure to update the cover template you use, available after you save your revised quote on the upload page.

• Please remember to carefully proofread your manuscript and make sure your book cover looks exactly like you want it to print.

• All color must be converted to CMYK.

• All fonts must be embedded.

• Images must be 300 DPI.

• Save black & white images in grayscale mode.

• 1/8′′ bleed is required.

Your BookBaby ISBN number on the cover:

ISBN numbers are used by booksellers, libraries, universities, wholesalers, and distributors to identify and catalog books. If you purchase an ISBN from BookBaby you will be taken to the ISBN placement wizard after you upload your cover and text PDF files on the upload page. The wizard will allow you to place the bar-coded ISBN number on the cover of your book. After placing the bar-coded ISBN number you will be shown a proof for your approval.

Additional hard cover information:

• A minimum 1⁄2′′ left side margin on the front cover and a minimum 1⁄2′′ right side margin on the back cover are required. This space will account for the outside gutter where the spine die pinches the binding closed.

• Hard covers require a 5/8′′ bleed. This ensures that your books design exends all the way to the edges, creating a more polished appearance. Whether you’re preparing a manuscript, an art book, or any custom book, understanding these specific requirements is crucial for achieving the best quality hardcover book printing.

Screen shot 2014-09-16 at 9.00.48 AM

Additional dust jacket information:

• If you are ordering a dust jacket for your book you will need to supply a third PDF file for your dust jacket in addition to your cover and text PDF files. When you select a dust jacket in the book quote configurator a dust jacket template will be created and available for download on the upload page.

• The dust jacket PDF file should be a flat spread showing all 5 parts of your dust jacket from left to right; inside back 3” flap, back cover panel, spine panel, front cover panel and inside front 3” flap.

Screen shot 2014-09-16 at 9.02.50 AM

For more information on preparing your graphic files for book printing, click HERE, or check out PART 2 of this series HERE.

To order beautiful, bookstore-quality printed books today, visit BookBaby!

Check out BookBaby’s video tutorials here.

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Chris Robley is an award-winning poet, songwriter, performer, and music producer who now lives in Portland, Maine after more than a decade in Portland, Oregon. His music has been praised by NPR, the LA Times, the Boston Globe, and others. Skyscraper Magazine said he is “one of the best short-story musicians to come along in quite some time.” Robley’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in POETRY, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, Beloit Poetry Journal, RHINO, Magma Poetry, and more. He is the 2013 winner of Boulevard's Poetry Prize for Emerging Writers and the 2014 recipient of a Maine Literary Award in the category of "Short Works Poetry."


  1. […] printer pristine files. If you have a lot of graphic elements (photos, graphs, etc.) in your book, check out Part 1 of this series, and then hop back here for step #2 […]


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