Preparing a Book for Binding
As a writer, you will have a need to have your work bound in one way or another. There are a lot of ways to achieve this – some cheap and cheerful you can do at home, some more complex like professionally bound books. Below we look at what you can do to prepare your work for professional binding by a traditional bookbinder such as Signature Bindings.


What Style do you Want?

The style of binding is very subjective and is usually down to your personal wishes. Do you want a simple paperback binding, a straightforward square spine hardback, or a traditional leather binding with round spine and raised bands? There are lots of other options too, so have a word with the binder to see what he might recommend for your type of work.


Sending your Work Electronically

If you are looking for the binder to print and collate your work, you can just send your work to him as an electronic file. Signature Bindings prefers a Microsoft Word file, though other formats may be possible.


Importantly, if you choose this option, be very clear with the binder what you want. Are you happy, for example, for the binder to adjust the position of text on the page (which may be necessary if the supplied work is in a different page layout to that required for the book)? Do you have images or diagrams which may need resizing? Are you expecting the binder to check for any errors or typos? Do you want to see the work before it is bound but after any changes have been made? Make sure you get a clear and written quote from the binder that specifies these types of issues, as well as the style of binding you want.


Printing the Pages Yourself

Clearly, if you print out the work yourself, the cost of having it bound will be less and you also have direct control over how the pages look. However, depending on the style of binding you choose, this can be more complicated than you might think. The information below is intended to help you print out your work, but should be considered as a guide only. Talk to the bookbinder beforehand to ensure everything is being done in a suitable way.


A Simple Case Binding

This is where the work is produced on single sheets of paper which, when bound, are secured together at the spine with adhesive, usually forming a flat square back.


This is the simplest way of printing off your work and having it bound though, unlike a paperback book, the spine of the cover is not usually glued to the backbone. The text block is also secured to the boards by ‘mull’, a sort of open weave cloth that helps hold the pages together and keeps the joints tight on the binding.

When printing off pages for this type of binding, the pages simply follow numerically, so page 2 is on the back of page 1 and so on. Remember to consider any Title pages, dedication pages or blank pages you may want to include, or pages for images. Consider whether you want page numbers, and where on the page these should appear.


It is important to leave a good margin all the way around the text of at least 1.5cm. This is because the book block will be trimmed once it has been assembled to make sure the edges are clean and aligned. Similarly, the edge nearest to the spine needs to have sufficient margin to enable the book to be opened and read without text being hidden in the middle.


Finally, think about the type of paper you would like to use. In order to avoid cockling and aid ease of opening, paper needs to have its grain direction running from head to tail in the finished book. Normal printer paper usually has its grain direction running from head to tail, but this means that if it is folded to form A5 folded sheets, the grain direction is wrong and can cause problems. You may want to choose a paper which is a little thicker, or even a different colour.


A Sewn Round Back Binding

The more traditional round backed bindings can give your work a quality, hard wearing and impressive look, based on the way books have been bound for centuries. Signature Bindings hand sews and binds books in this style to offer authors a great value option for creating something special. However, to print out the pages yourself for this type of binding requires some careful thought.


The main issue here is that the pages are made up of folded sheets of paper which are stacked together in fours (usually, depending on the weight of the paper) and then folded to create a ‘section’. The book is therefore a number of these sections that are sewn together to create a very strong binding, and one which can be ‘rounded’ to form the traditional curved spine shape and to form ‘shoulders’ against which the boards will be supported.


However, if you consider the pages in each section, they no longer run numerically. For the first section of the book, the outer sheet of paper has page 1 on the right hand side, on the reverse of which is page 2. However, on the left hand side is page 16, on the reverse of which is page 15. The next sheet of paper has page 3 on the right hand side with page 4 on the reverse, and page 14 on the left hand side with page 13 on the reverse. In this way, each 4 sheet section has 16 pages, which when folded together do indeed run numerically. The first page of the second section is therefore page 17, and so on. Some software packages such as recent versions of Microsoft Word or Publisher have the capability to sort this out for you whenset to print in 'booklet' format.


It will be frequently the case that your work will not fit exactly into multiples of 16 pages. There are a number of options in this case. Additional blank sheets can be included at the front and/or rear of the book, or these may be used for dedications, title pages, images or other material. If there is only one page extra in your work, this can potentially be put onto a separate piece of paper and this can be ‘tipped-in’ – glued at the spine edge to the back of the last section. It is not usually a good idea to have sections of less than four sheets, since this could become weak when sewn, though this does depend on the thickness and quality of the paper. It is also possible to strengthen the spine of a thin section for sewing, by gluing in a thin strip of paper or tape just to help support the thread. However, the best option is to have the extra pages and either keep them blank or use them for other things. Such pages have to be taken into account when deciding how your sections are to be constructed.


Because the pages are folded, a double margin is required in the centre of each sheet, plus a small amount to account for the sewing area and where the pages are folded to form the shoulders. Therefore if a 15mm visible inner margin is wanted, the gap between text on adjacent pages would be at least 30mm. Once again an extra allowance is also required on the other three sides of the paper to allow for trimming, ideally at least 15mm.


The binder will normally attach endpapers (the plain or patterned papers at the very front and back of the book), so these need not be considered when forming the sections.


Other Bindings

There are of course many other types of binding available, so it is important you discuss your needs with the binder to explore your options. Signature Bindings is happy to discuss your needs and offer suggestions and advice for binding your work.