How to Layout a Book with OpenOffice.org: Part 1

This article is part of the Layout Books with OpenOffice series:

It is all in your head: the plot, the characters, the locations, and even the scenes, but for some reason, staring at the blank page and blinking cursor makes you freeze. You like the idea of writing a book but cannot imagine actually completing it. If that feeling sounds familiar, then this might be the right article for you. Even if you have written a book and have it all ready to go, you may intend to self-publish it, start your own publishing company, send it to an editor, or just layout your book so you can see how it looks.

There is a long list of reasons why you might need to prepare an OpenOffice.org document in book form, and once you have learned how to do it, you will have a useful skill that you or people you know may need in the future. You can use this method for both print publications and e-books.

1. Start OpenOffice.org Writer with a regular blank document template.

Page format

The first thing you will need to do is set the size of your book. In my personal experience, it helped me tremendously with writing to be able to see each page at a normal book size rather than the 8.5″x11″ college essay size. Suddenly, writing one hundred or two hundred pages will not take so long or seem so daunting.

2. Click “Format” in the menu and then click “Page…”

3. Enter in your custom width and height.

The current format will be “Letter”. Many non-fiction paperbacks will be 6″x9″, while fiction paperbacks are often smaller sizes, such as 5.25″x7.5″. If you are doing this purely for effect, then it is entirely up to you. If you have to meet certain printing press specifications, follow them precisely.

There are lead pages that always proceed the actual text of a book. If you are preparing a book for printing, they will be crucial. Bookstores rely on that information for stocking, and libraries rely on it for cataloging.

4. Create a title page.

There is no particular format set in stone, but a title page should include at least the title of the book and statement of responsibility (author’s name). If available, it should also include the publisher and place of publication. This is the place to be creative. You can use whatever font style and size you want. Create a manual page break at the end of the title page.

5. Create the title page verso.

This is the page directly on the other side of the title page and usually contains more detailed publication information, including copyright, ISBN, and CIP (cataloging in publication) data.

The verso will be on the left side in your book

6. Click “Format” and “Paragraph”.

Click on the “Alignment” tab, and change it to “Justified”. From this point on, you will want your text to be justified.

7. Insert another page break, and you can enter any number of optional pages such as a dedication.

This can include a half title page with just the title or title and author’s name on the second to last page before the text. The final page before the text will be blank, and the text should begin on the recto or right-hand side.

8. Insert a page break and begin your text.

Most books will begin with a chapter number, chapter name, or both.

In part 2, you will learn how to properly align page numbers and format paragraphs. You are now well on your way to preparing your book for publication. Writing a book can be a very rewarding experience, even if you have no intentions of publishing. With OpenOffice.org, free and open source software, you have all the tools you need to make it happen. Happy writing!