Posted by: Megan | 06/29/2011

OpenOffice formatting tutorial for CreateSpace

Do you use OpenOffice and want to nicely format the interior of your novel for approval by CreateSpace? Do you need some help doing that? Well, maybe I can help! :)

I made this after learning some formatting techniques in OpenOffice that I found quite difficult to figure out. I didn’t want to forget, so I actually made screenshots for myself — and then thought, hey, maybe they could help someone else, too!

This was made with NaNoWriMo winners in mind, even though it is cutting it close to the free code deadline, but I thought this would be a cleaner place to post it instead of cluttering up an already busy thread on their forums. Again, it’s a bit late, but maybe there’s an OpenOffice user who’s procrastinated? ;) I do apologize for the length! I tried to make it as concise as possible, but it’s not a really quick thing to do.

Let’s get started!

So, obviously, you’ll need to open your OpenOffice document. Make sure all of your chapters and everything you want to be in your book is in this one file. If you didn’t already know, you can click on the top of each page that begins a new chapter and hold down Ctrl and then press Enter. This will ensure every new chapter begins on its own brand new page. I also recommend saving a backup copy of your document before you begin formatting too much, just in case something happens that you can’t figure out and you need to start over. It just saves you from putting all of your chapters together (unless you use a single document to start with) and sizing them again.

Excuse the oddly coloured documents in my screenshots. I hope they’re not too dark! It’s just that I use a dark Windows XP theme for the sake of my eyes and conserving energy, and I use a dark teal coloured text that I find easy on the eyes and readable on both black and white backgrounds.

1. The first thing you’re going to do is make your pages fit the size of your book. To do this, go to Format > Page… (Screenshot 1) A box will now pop up, seen here: Screenshot 2

Modify the settings marked in blue boxes. You want to make the width and height the trim size you’ve chosen on CreateSpace for your final novel size, and you want to make the margins the size they recommend for your page count. I believe they recommend a minimum .50″ outer/top/bottom margin for any trim size, but .25″ is acceptable. The inner margin depends on how many pages your book is, which they explain on their info page about trim sizes.

My chosen trim size is 5.25″ x 8″ so I edited the settings accordingly, making my margins .50″ just to be on the safe side. (I believe I chose the same setting last year but I can’t recall and won’t know for sure until I’m holding this year’s proof.) My book also went over 150 pages but had less than 400, so my inner margin size was .75″. Finally, make sure you change the “Page layout” setting to Mirrored, as shown. This will make all of your pages’ margins mirrored so they don’t all end up looking like left-side pages only.

2. Take a look at this: Screenshot 3 and note the blue box at the bottom of the screen. Click on the icon it’s surrounding; if you can’t see the image, it looks like two pages with flattened top corners on opposing sides. This makes OO display your document just like a book would look. Your first page, which will be on the right side after you open the front cover of your book after it’s printed, will be at the top all by itself. The page below it, on the left, is the back side of the first page. The page on the right after that is the second page of your book, and so on. This view is very helpful when formatting for printing!

3. Here comes the tricky parts. I hope I can explain it well enough to be understood by everyone. This is to make headers and footers that will display the page numbers and the fancy text at the top of novels that says the author name on the left-hand page and the current chapter’s title on the right-hand page. If you don’t want these things, then you’re already done formatting! Congratulations! If you do, carry on. :)

Screenshot 4
Go to Format > Styles and Formatting, as it shows. Another box will pop up.

Screenshot 5
It’s important that you take note of the blue box surrounding the fourth image from the left at the top of this new box that’s come up. These are the settings for your pages, appropriately called Page Styles. Your list will look very different from mine because I’ve already filled it up with custom styles for my novel. Right click on anything in this new box and click on New…

Screenshot 6
Another box comes up. You’ll start on the Organizer tab, where you want to name your new style in the Name area. What we’re going to do first is make “blank” styles for the first few pages of your novel, so that those pages won’t display page numbers or header text, like a real professional novel. ;) (If your book will have no “blank” pages at the start and jumps right in at chapter 1, you won’t really have need for these, except perhaps the numbered footer.) This part can be a bit of a pain because you’ll need to make a blank style for every blank page you have. I had 8, so I had to make 8 blank styles, which I helpfully named “Blank 1,” “Blank 2,” etc. (as seen in my page styles box). All you really need to do is name these, then click OK, right click any space in the Styles and Formatting box, go to New again, name your second blank style (Screenshot 7) and so on.

Once you’re done creating all of your “blank styles” you need to right click on your first Blank again. (Screenshot 8) Go to Modify… this time. Still in the Organizer tab, this time look below the Name box, to “Next Style.” Click the drop down tab and choose your second blank, hopefully named something differentiating, like “Blank 2.” (Screenshot 9) You’ll need to do this for every blank style, except for your last blank page (number 8 for me). Forget about the last blank style for now, but remember it for later.

4. Next is to make two styles for every chapter you have. This is a fairly lengthy, tedious process, but I don’t know of an easier way at this point. Go ahead and make two more styles, this time hopefully named something chapter-related so you can tell them apart, and I think it’s a must to name them “left” and “right.”

What you’ll want to do once you’ve gotten both styles for your first chapter created is to make sure they lead into each other like your previous blank styles. As seen here: Screenshot 10 make sure your first chapter 1 style leads into the second chapter 1 style. IMPORTANT: Only make ONE of these lead into the other! My first chapter starts as a right-hand page, so my “Chapter 1 Header Right” style goes FIRST. That means I modify my Chapter 1 Header Right style to lead into my Chapter 1 Header Left style. The Left style will afterward lead into your chapter 2 styles, but these aren’t created yet so leave the Next Style menu at the default. This is important to keep note of, and could ruin your formatting if you don’t pay attention.

The next important thing to do is make sure both your chapter 1 styles have headers and footers. Your blank styles stayed, well, blank, but this is where we want our page numbers and headers to begin. See here: Screenshot 11 Instead of the Organizer tab, click on Header and tick the outlined box that says “Header on.” Next, click the Footer tab and tick “Footer on.” Do this for both of your chapter 1 styles.

At this point you should go back to your final “blank style” and make sure its “next style” is your first chapter style (which, for me, is Chapter 1 Header Right).

5. Now we’re going to apply these styles. If you click anywhere on the very first page of your document and double-click your first “blank” style in the Styles and Formatting box, it should automatically apply all of the necessary blank styles. If you made sure that your final blank style’s next style was your first chapter style, the rest will go smoothly.

Make sure to click on the very top of the page on your first chapter. Now go to Insert > Manual Break… (Screenshot 12) and select your first chapter style from the drop-down menu (Screenshot 13). Click OK.

The next thing that should happen is OO will create a blank page, pushing your first chapter down a page. Click on that new blank page and press Backspace on your keyboard. (Screenshot 14) It will delete that unnecessary blank page — but look! Now your chapter has a header and a footer!

Something important to note is that most published novels I’ve seen don’t include a header on pages that start a new chapter. To do this for your novel, modify your first chapter style and untick “Header on” in the Header tab, which will effectively remove that header. You will need to create a third style for every chapter if you choose to do this, and apply it to the third page of your chapter so it will continue keeping the header for the rest of the left or right pages. I did this for my own novel, but not until after I’d formatted everything, which gave me a lot more work than truly necessary. :P For the sake of this tutorial I left the header on that particular page for ease. (And… because I didn’t think about it until after, hah.)

Click on that new header and type in what you want it to say (usually the chapter title, if it’s the right side)! (Screenshot 15)

Scroll down to your second page and type in the left header what else you want it to say (usually the author name, if it’s on the left side). (Screenshot 16) Notice how all of your right pages suddenly have that chapter title for a header, and all of the left pages suddenly have your name for a header? :) (If you modified your first chapter style to not include a header you will have to click on the next blank page and type the header in there, which will proceed to change the rest of your document.)

(Notice from here on out I’ve blurred my chapter text in the screenshots to save myself some dignity, haha. NaNoNovels, gotta love ’em.)

6. Next you’ll need to repeat step 4 for every chapter you have. I forgot to screenshot this next immediate part, but hopefully that’s alright. You have to remember to modify each chapter style so that “Chapter 2 Header Right” (or Left, if the last page of chapter 1 ended up on the right) leads into “Chapter 2 Header Left” (or Right, again, depending). For the sake of less confusion we’ll use my document as an example and say chapter 2 starts on the right. That means you want to make Chapter 2 Header Left lead into your Chapter 3 Right style and so on. This must be done for every chapter you have in order to keep the headers and footers separate for each chapter, so make sure Chapter 3 styles lead into Chapter 4 as well, and so on all the way through to the end. If this is too confusing feel free to ask me for clearer help; it’s difficult to explain.

Once you’re at Chapter 2, we need to apply the new styles again! Remember, it’s Insert > Manual Break… (Screenshot 17) and then select the appropriate style from the drop-down menu (Screenshot 18) and click OK. Just like before, it’ll create that blank page that you want to click on and then press Backspace (Screenshot 19).

Fill in your new right-hand header (Screenshot 20) and then your new left-hand header (Screenshot 21).

7. Finally, it’s time for the footers! This part is a lot easier to do. As seen here: Screenshot 22 all you have to do is click on the footer at the start of each chapter (as well as the page after it — and the page after that one as well, if you’ve opted to have an extra style with no header on each chapter) and go to Insert > Fields > Page Number. You’ll immediately see your pages numbered (Screenshot 23). If you had blank pages at the start of your document that you applied blank styles to, OO will still count them in the page number — but not show them, because footers are disabled! Just like real novels. :D

The very last thing to do is click on the next unnumbered page you see and do the very same thing, going to Insert > Fields > Page Number (Screenshot 24) and then watching it number it for you (Screenshot 25).

Something that might be worth noting is you can fully customize the font size and style of your headers and footers, just like any other text.

I hope this was helpful to someone! Sorry if it gets confusing. It is a fairly confusing process, but if you take your time with figuring things out it shouldn’t be too hard to get a hang of. Again, feel free to ask me questions and I’ll do my very best to explain things in a clearer manner for you.



  1. I really want to thank you for this. It has been a lifesaver! I took a tutorial on OpenOffice that gave me the basics, but this blog is the first that I found that really helped with page styles and other things I spent hours trying to learn. Your step-by-step details were very helpful.

    • I’m so very glad to hear that! Thank you for telling me it helped. <3 I wish you the best of luck in your writing endeavors. :)

  2. I appreciate this very much, Megan. Someone just sent me your link because I’m having CreateSpace margin/gutter problems. I don’t see anything about that here except what you put at the top.

    My book is 5″x 8″ trim and 545 pages, so CS suggested .876 for the “inner’ margins. I put both inner and outer to .90 in my most recent attempt to upload without errors but it still did not work. I have it set on on “mirrored.”

    I have checked EVERY section and chapter by hand (that’s a lot of pages!) dozens of times, often resetting some aspects. I even tried 1.20″ for “inner” and .76″ for “outer” but that also did not work.

    There is no place to put “gutter” numbers on OO or OO as MS Word ’97 (which I saved-as), either, so I haven’t messed with gutter sizing anywhere (I have read that it should be “zero,” though).

    My text is justified (as recommended) except for centered Chapter headings and such.

    Font is Times NR 11 pt throughout except for title page (which is not having margin problems).

    My frustration level is over the top because I spent 12 hours yesterday trying to get this to work trying all kinds of fixes.

    The CS interior design reviewer for the PDF I upload (I’ve uploaded about 12, now) keeps telling me that 419 of my 543 pages, including a BLANK PAGE, have overshot the margins on the left-facing inner margin!!! How is that even possible, especially after setting the inner and outer margins to .90″?

    Any help you or anyone can provide is much appreciated. First CS upload attempts for POD after several ebooks and I’m pulling out my hair.

    Thanks, sallyember AT yahoo DOT com


    • What a strange issue! I’m assuming you’ve tried uploading at the exactly recommended .876″? I wonder if there’s something else at play and it’s giving you a wrong error. Converting to PDF could possibly have altered something as well, unless you’ve thoroughly checked that file. Have you tried uploading a .doc file instead?

      I’m afraid I can’t think of any other suggestions except to contact CS themselves. I haven’t used their services since they merged with Amazon so it’s a bit different looking than I remember!

      Best of luck and I really hope it gets sorted!

      • I CONQUERED #CreateSpace!
        FYI: Margins for 5″ x 8″ book with 543 pages needed to be: 1.25″ inner, .5″ for the rest. 0 for gutter.
        DONE! Awaiting review/acceptance, then Volume I, “This Changes Everything,” of “The Spanners Series” by Sally Ember​, Ed.D. , will be available as a print edition! $17.99 starting in early November! Yippee! Thanks, Megan!

    • Fantastic! I wish you a speedy review/approval time, and I’ll be sure to have a look. :) I’m very glad you worked it out!

      • Already approved, but I had found one error while waiting, so I just uploaded the revision. Thanks, Megan!

  3. CONQUERED IT! Margins needed to be: 1.25″ inner, .5 for the rest. DONE!

    • Great news! You’ll have to share your link when you’re approved and ready for sale :)

  4. this tutorial is a lifesaver….have been trying to figure out where to get the info very thoughtful of you to post it ..its been helpful , so very helpful..thank you, thank you , thank you

    • I’m so very happy to hear that! I know I had an awful time trying to figure it out myself and so I was hoping to save someone else the same troubles. :) I keep meaning to update it with better screenshots and see if any of it needs updating, haha. Thank you for the nice comment! I wish you the best through the rest of the CreateSpace process!

  5. This is excellent. I have a different problem — I downloaded Creatspace template, but the file says “read only” and I cannot enter my text or do any formatting at all. I queried Amazon support but have not got a response yet. Anyone have an idea?

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