Book Gutter: Definition and How to Format Your Margins

There's a lot to think about for the average self-published author. From writing and editing to marketing and cover design, there's no shortage of things that need your time. And if you're hoping to design your print book yourself, you'll also need to know what a book gutter is. Luckily, this article can help!

In this article, you will learn:
  1. Book gutter explained.
  2. Tips for formatting a gutter. 
  3. The best way to ensure your book gutter comes out right.

Why You Should Trust Me

So I've been writing and formatting books for a long time. 10+ years as of this writing.

But I actually found formatting to be a huge pain, which is why I actually created my own formatting software that solved all my problems. I called it Atticus.

But this isn't meant to be a sales pitch. I just want to make sure it's clear that I know what I'm talking about. The amount of research that went into not only formatting my own books, but also creating a formatting software is huge.

I researched everything, from tiny margin requirements, to the specific type of quotes to use (curly or straight, it makes a difference).

And yes, of course, that includes how to format book gutters.

So if all that makes sense, hopefully you'll come along with me as show you everything I've learned.

What is a Book Gutter?

The way that print books are bound means that you need to plan both for the white space between the words and the binding and for the portion of the page that the binding covers. This area is known as the book gutter. 

So if you open up your favorite book to a random page, you just have to look to the middle where the pages come together to see the gutter. This is not something your average reader thinks about. But it's something self-published authors need to consider!

Every printed book has a gutter. This means children's books, comics, and even magazines. Specifics of gutters will depend on the type of book, but for this article, I'll be talking about text-heavy books like novels. 

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Why Are Book Gutters Important?

Improperly formatted gutters can make for a poor or impossible reading experience. In a worst-case scenario, the words on the inside of a page can get swallowed up by the binding. If this happens, the reader will have to guess what words they're missing. Thankfully, there are systems in place on major self-publishing platforms to prevent this from happening. 

On the other hand, if the text is too close to the binding, it will make for a difficult reading experience. This is a more likely occurrence in the self-publishing world. 

And with so many other things to worry about, like creating an engaging main character and a compelling story, this is the last thing authors should be worrying about when it comes to the reading experience. 

Formatting a Book Gutter

To properly format a book gutter, you have to account for space on the facing pages. That is, you have to create room for the binding on the right side of the page for left-hand pages, and on the left side of the page for right-hand pages. 

When all is said and done, your print-ready PDF will typically have larger inside margins on alternating pages. 

This is because when uploading to publishing platforms like Amazon KDP, you'll need to have the paper ready for their print-on-demand service to print the pages and bind the book. Amazon won't format the paper for you. 

So if you're creating your own print book files, you'll need to ensure that the inner margins account for the gutter. Unfortunately, there is no one way to do this. You see, the size of the gutter depends on how many pages your book is. For books with more pages, the gutter will need to be larger. For shorter books, like novellas, short graphic novels, or comics, the gutters should be smaller. 

Finding the Right Gutter Size for Your Book

When it comes to printing your self-published book, you'll see different suggestions from different print-on-demand companies. 

Amazon, for example, suggests that you set the gutter to 0″ in Word, instead focusing on the size of the inside margin (which technically includes the gutter). IngramSpark, on the other hand, gives suggestions for both the gutter size and the inner margin. 

So if you're printing through IngramSpark, you'd set your inside margin to .5″ and your gutter to .125″. 

Amazon, however, has suggestions depending on the number of pages. These are as follows:

  • .375” for 24-150 pages
  • .5” for 151-300 pages
  • .625” for 301-500 pages
  • .75” for 501-700 pages
  • .875” for 701-828 pages

And remember, you'll need to ensure your document is set for the gutter to be on different sides for alternating pages. Otherwise, things will not turn out well. You can do this by selecting Mirror Margins in your Custom Margins window only after you've already selected page size and determined the total number of pages in your book.

Amazon KDP Gutter Example

Amazon also provides page size specifications for bleed and no bleed, along with everything else you'll need to know for printing your self-published book. 

The problem is, you have to go through their guide—which is anything but short—and manually ensure that you've done everything right in your manuscript. This is a time-consuming process. And it can be frustrating—even if you've done it before. 

This is why I created a tool that does all this for you with just a few clicks. It's one of the things authors love about my tool, Atticus

Get a Print-Ready PDF in Minutes With Atticus

Book layout doesn't have to be a difficult and time-consuming venture. Time spent worrying about the gutter margin, outside margin, width, blank space, and a dozen other layout factors is time better spent writing or marketing. That's why I designed Atticus with over a dozen different pre-built print book layout options. 

Once you upload your manuscript, all you have to do is make a few decisions to determine the size and style of your print book. The nice thing is, you can actually see what your printed version will look like before you download the file. This lets you check things like font size, header style, the location of page numbers, and chapter heading style without ever leaving Atticus.   

If you want to change anything, all it takes is a few clicks of the mouse and Atticus will do the rest. It's already preloaded to format print-ready PDFs that you can use on every major print-on-demand platform.

And formatting for print and ebooks is only one of the things Atticus does. It's also a fully functioning word processor with a built-in timer, word count goal tracker, ProWritingAid integration, and much more. Plus, there's no subscription required. Just one low price. 

Learn more about Atticus here. If you'd prefer to do things manually, you can check out KDP's paperback print requirements here and IngramSpark's here.

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