How to make a book using Word


Just… Just don’t do it. Go to your closest/favourite printing store and get them to do it for you. Trust me, you’re better off paying them to deal with it. You don’t need that kind of stress in your life.




If you’re still reading, and you’re still expecting a “How To”, then you’ll probably be disappointed. This is more of a “How Not To”. I’ll tell you a bit about my experience trying to print an A5 book on A4 paper with Word 2010. Then I’ll summarise the parts that you shouldn’t do. Let’s call these parts the don’ts.

So many things happened this year that lead to it being a “good idea” for my brothers and I to make some short stories that my Uncle wrote into a book. The intention being that we can print/bind the book ourselves and then give it to him as a present. So he can see his stories in book format. It sounded like a good idea at the time, so we went with it.

I was in charge of collating the stories and printing them. Naturally, I didn’t start this until yesterday. Which was when I realised that Christmas was fast approaching and I probably should get started. So after work on the last Tuesday before Christmas, my partner and I spent a solid couple of hours sitting at a table in Rundle Place, copying all of the different short stories into one giant document. Formatting it nicely as well so that it was consistent and a table of contents could be generated. With 37 stories all up, this was a little bit tedious, but by no means difficult. Mainly just time consuming.

After getting everything “just so”, we went to Office Works to do a test print. Unfortunately the test print didn’t go so well. Due to some formatting issues, the resulting text on each page only filled half the space available. Which brings me to my first don’t.

Using Word (2010). If you are trying to print an A5 book on A4 paper. Make sure your page size is set to A4, not A5.

As you may have guessed from the above, the version that was printed by Office Works was set to an A5 page size. This assumes that you are printing on A5 paper. So the resulting page sizes are half of an A5 page.

Fast forward 24 hours and tonight I decided to meet up with one of my brothers and show him the unusable draft print. We were at my mum’s house and she has a laser printer. One thing led to another, and we decided to try printing it again ourselves. We popped out and purchased some nice sand coloured paper and then got to work tweaking the layout of the document ready for print.

We started printing just one sided pages, to test the new margins. Success! Setting the page size to A4 solved a lot of problems. Onto the next test.

As the laser printer didn’t support duplex printing, we did some tests with the “manually print double sided” option. First we managed to print the second side on the same side as the first. Then we managed to print the second side upside down… twice! But then with our fourth attempt we finally got a nice double sided page. Yippee! So here’s the next don’t

When testing out manual double sided printing. Don’t forget to mark a corner of the page before it goes through the printer, so you know which way it went in relative to which way it comes out.

Also, don’t forget what rotation you made to the page last time and end up doing the same rotation twice. That’s just not cool.

So we printed a double sided page, four A5 pages on an A4 piece of paper. That’s a good start! Next we wanted to test how it would print a booklet with more than 4 pages. We set up a copy of our final document with only 12 pages or so and tried it out. Turns out Word can be pretty clever sometimes. It actually put the pages in the perfect sequence for us to simply fold the pages fresh out of the printer and voila! A booklet with the pages reading in the correct order! Cool! Time to scale up.

We have about 150 pages in the book we want to print. We decided that we want these separated into lots of 4 pieces of A4 paper that we can bind separately and then combine. Naturally we selected to print “4 pages per booklet” to achieve this. BZZZT! It’s time for our next don’t.

Using Word (2010). When you select the “pages per booklet” don’t assume this means the number of A4 pages to print. Because if you did, you’d be wrong.

In our situation this option was actually the number of A5 pages that were to be printed per booklet. Meaning the value we wanted to use was actually 16. Roughly 40 wasted pages later, we realised this and had to try again.

One thing we did notice from this lot of test prints was that we were getting some empty pages close to our section breaks that we really didn’t want. Also we wanted the first couple of pages to be separated a bit nicer. Our document was separated into 3 sections:

  1. A single page message from us to our Uncle (no page number)
  2. Table of Contents (pages numbered using roman numerals)
  3. The short stories (pages numbered using numbers)

We wanted section 1 to be on the right hand side of the book with a blank page behind it. The table of contents was 2 pages long, so we wanted this to span a double page, left and right. For section 3, we wanted the first story to start on the right hand side of the book also. Much, much fiddling around with page breaks, section breaks, footers, numbering, etc. ensued. However we were unable to achieve what we wanted. In fact, after a certain point, we noticed that no matter what we changed. The print preview always duplicated the second page. So our focus changed from “let’s get the page spacing right” to “let’s try and not get a duplicated second page”. We tried many things to resolve this, including trying to remove the sections entirely and just go with one big section with bad page numbering. Nothing worked. Wether it was page “ii” or page “2”, it was always duplicated. By this point we had also overwritten the original version of the formatted word document. So as a last resort, we reverted to using the incorrectly A5 sized version of the file from the night before and reapplied all of our formatting changes up until this point. Another three don’ts coming straight at ya like POW!

Don’t try and fix spacing issues around section breaks.
Don’t expect Word to do nice things with the page numbering.
Don’t overwrite a good version of a file without taking a backup first!

Okay, we’ve sorted out the page size, page formatting, manual duplex printing, and the sub-booklet options. What else could there be to go wrong? Surely nothing… right? We thought the worst was behind us as we loaded the printer with paper once more and got started. The first side of the pages printed fine. No worries. We knew what to do. A simple flip of the stack later and the second sides were printing. “Brilliant!” we thought as the pages came out the right way up. Even better, they were in booklets like how we wanted them to be. Marvellous! Once the last page printed out we decided to just have a look through them, double checking the page numbers.

I’d like to mention that we were already pretty tired by this point. So it took us a while to notice. However when we did notice we were quite bothered by it. Starting from page 91, all pages and booklets after that had completely mangled numbering. The reason? The printer had somehow picked up two sheets of paper when it was meant to feed through only one. This resulted in page 91 being printed over two pages. So we had pages 1-90 printed out and nice. Leaving us with the task of somehow reprinting pages 91 through to the end. The don’t for this one being:

Don’t stack your printer with paper sloppily. Do it with care!

Here’s how the next part should have gone:

  1. delete everything from the document before page 91
  2. start page numbering at 91
  3. print again using the same settings as before
  4. profit

Instead of that, this is what actually happened:

  1. delete everything from the document before page 91
  2. start page numbering at 91
  3. print preview shows duplicate page 92
  4. Create a new document with the same page formatting
  5. copy in the content from the other document
  6. add page numbering, starting at page 91
  7. print preview shows duplicate page 92
  8. add a section to the start of the document with a single empty page
  9. print preview shows duplicate page 91
  10. realise that the duplicate page issue only occurs when the starting page number is odd
  11. try to use this information to rig the system
  12. add a section to the start of the document with three empty pages
  13. print preview shows 4 empty pages followed by page 91 (and so on)
  14. think this is workable (it’s not)
  15. print all pages from 91 on, but forget to set 16 per booklet and end up with the default of 4
  16. print all pages from 91 on, but forget to select manual double-sided printing option and end up with all single sided pages
  17. print all pages from 91 on, pick the right settings this time
  18. realise that with 16 pages per booklet, you needed 16 empty pages instead of just 4 for you to achieve the result you want
  19. anticipate that even with 16 blank pages, you probably would still not get the outcome you want because Word is bad
  20. decide to use what you have anyway and just cut off the 4 empty pages
  21. give up and go home

Leaving us with the last set of don’ts.

Don’t expect Word to do nice things with the page numbering. (repeated, because this was annoying)
Don’t forget to check your printing settings
Don’t print your own book using Word. Go pay someone else to deal with that crap!