Publishing Your Book With Full-Bleed Made Easy

Printing PressAuthors who want to self-publish their literary masterpiece with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), IngramSpark, or Draft2Digital, are generally aware how to set up a Microsoft Word document, from which a print-ready PDF file is created, used by a printer to produce the physical book.

NOTE: At this moment, Draft2Digital does not print paperbacks with color content.

For an ordinary book, the author opens a Word document, clicks the Page Layout menu icon, goes into Page Setup, and fills in the margins and gutter parameters. Next, the author must define the size of the printed book. In goes the hopefully edited manuscript, and the print file is formatted with appropriate header, footer, and populated with any tables, photos, and what not. Done, the author uses the Word’s File/Save As option to produce a print-ready PDF file. Nothing really new here.

Time for some definitions for those not quite sure what these terms mean. Everything in this article is contained in the KDP Book Formatting website:, but I am providing a more digestible guide.

Trim size. The printed book’s width and height. The most common trim size for a paperback in the U.S. is 6” x 9” (15.24 x 22.86 cm). KDP and IngramSpark offer other trim sizes.

NOTE: For a KDP paperback with color content, the minimum trim size is 5.5” x 8.5”.

KDP Trim Sizes

Margins. Every page has three outside margins (top, bottom, and sides) and one inside margin, called the gutter, which specifies an extra space that extends from the book’s spine when the pages are flipped. Margins ensure that text isn’t cut off during manufacturing, and makes for easier readability. Page size must be set before setting margins. Margin sizes depends on page count and on whether there are elements with bleed. See the following chart to find the appropriate gutter margin size:

Book Margins

Bleed. This is a parameter that can cause authors some heartburn. Basically, bleed is a printer’s term that refers to what fits onto a page, such as images, background color, or graphics. For an ordinary novel where everything is formatted within specified margins, KDP will offer normal bleed as a default when uploading the manuscript.

Page With Bleed

Things get just a little more complicated when an author wants to insert any type of image or picture that will fill the entire page, ie: page content is outside the specified margins. To ensure every printable object within the manuscript reaches all the way to the edge of the physical page, it is necessary to modify the file’s physical size using the Word’s Page Setup parameter.

NOTE: The file size must be modified if even one page within the book contains an image that extends to the page’s edge, whether top, bottom or sides, or the inserted image will be trimmed back when the book is printed.

When a book is printed, all physical pages are trimmed to the selected trim size, eg: 6” x 9”. The printer cuts 0.125” (3.2 mm) from the top, bottom, and outside edges of the printed paper. In order for objects on each page to reach all the way to the edge of the page, those objects must extend past where the page will be trimmed by 0.125” (3.2 mm). For ANY printed book, the author MUST set up the book’s size as follows:

Height: 9” + 0.25” (0.125” for top, and 0.125” for bottom)
Width: 6” + 0.125”. The reason for this is that only the exterior edge of the page needs additional bleed.

Within the document, all margins must be set to zero (0). This will generate a warning, and the author must press ‘Ignore’.

NOTE: For a book of more than 40 pages, it is advisable to still set the gutter parameter.

For an ordinary novel, when uploading a manuscript to KDP, it will offer normal bleed as a default. When uploading a manuscript with full-page images or backgrounds, the author must select Full-Bleed. Once the book is uploaded, KDP will ask the author to open the Previewer that will show how the final version of the book will look. This is a necessary step to validate the look of full-bleed inserts and text content.

For those already skilled setting up the manuscript, KDP and IngramSpark offers helpful calculators for a book’s trim size and spine width.

Happy publishing!






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