A step by step in how to create and sell your own pads. Here we are making one for writers with quotes by writers. Soon we will be making a diary-style one to help you keep track of your competition entries.

In this blog, we will take you on our journey to design and publish a notepad as we do so ourselves.

Step 1 – Choose A Program To Create With.

There are many programs you can use to achieve this but I am a big lover of the Microsoft collection. In particular, for this kind of mission, Microsoft Publisher.

If you are not a lover of Microsoft you can still achieve similar effects with word programs like Google Docs, Libre Office and OpenOffice.

Step 2 – Choose A Size.

The size of your notepad. Are you after a mini pad, an A4 pad? The idea behind this is to know your audience. If you are targeting university or college students, the professors always recommend A4.

If you are targeting writers, those I know prefer A5, get yourself in the comments and argue with me if you think differently. They prefer A5 because it is easier to carry around.

Also think, if you are using a bigger size you have more space to fill. Smaller size you don’t have as much space to play with. Swings and roundabouts as they say.

I choose A5.

To access A5 in publisher you want to go to New, then More Blank Page Sizes, then choose A5.

Step 3 – Get Your Design.

If you are a decent artist this is your time to shine!

I am not what you call a decent artist. I have 1 or 2 good pieces and that’s it. I get my art in a completely different way. I commission it.

But, isn’t that expensive?!

It depends where you go. My art comes from Deviant Art. Here you will find loads of artists willing to sell there services from £5 upwards. Some of them are really good and juts trying to expand their portfolio.

You can also try places like Fiver.

Always check that you onw the copyright of the image you’re commissioning, each artist has their own set of rules.

Example: Dagger I don’t own copyright for, I just liked the piece and wanted to use it in a publisher. The Blobus collection, however, was paid for with commission and rights. I think the Blobus was around £10, but it was a long time ago when the artist had a deal on.

Step 4 – Choose Your Colour Scheme

Sure you can put your image on a white background, but do you want to? Will it sell? Will it be plain and boring? Will your notebook stand out from the crowd?

No one can tell you what is right and what is wrong in this department. Creativity has no rules. All I can do is show you how we set about designing this one so you will know how to design you own.

I started by adding my picture to the front page. Note do not set everything in perfect placement yet, just get your thoughts into gear? The more you know as you go forward is a big help.

Add some text – any text this is to help you along with your colours. Here’s what I have so far.

Sample starter cover

But why not put them in place?

Step 5 – Sizing and Gutters

We haven’t put them in place because we need to sort out our gutters. This means knowing how many pages (roughly) we want. I’m going to say 160 pages, just because.

What is a gutter? Grab a book, any book. Open it. You see where the pages meet in the middle? That’s the gutter. You see, if we don’t take the gutter into account then those words would be in the gutter and unreadable. When doing this with a notepad it affects where your lines are and where your images are.

Here is a tool that you can use to determine how much gutter you need.

Page countInside (gutter) marginsOutside margins (no bleed)Outside margins (with bleed)
24 to 150 pages0.375 in (9.6 mm)at least 0.25 in (6.4 mm)at least 0.375 in (9.6 mm)
151 to 300 pages0.5 in (12.7 mm)at least 0.25 in (6.4 mm)at least 0.375 in (9.6 mm)
301 to 500 pages0.625 in (15.9 mm)at least 0.25 in (6.4 mm)at least 0.375 in (9.6 mm)
501 to 700 pages0.75 in (19.1 mm)at least 0.25 in (6.4 mm)at least 0.375 in (9.6 mm)
701 to 828 pages0.875 in (22.3 mm)at least 0.25 in (6.4 mm)at least 0.375 in (9.6 mm)

Okay, so I decided 160. looking at the tale above I am going to alter that to 150. Let’s start small with this one.

Now we need to go back to publisher and change the gutter and margins. Here’s how.

page design tab

In publisher you want to head to the top, go to the Page Design tab and click on Margins. When in Margins make sure you have Two Page Master ticked, the inside margin is your gutter.

Change your margin numbers to reflect what you need using the above table.

So inside gutter says 9.6 mm or 0.96cm

Outside margin says at least 6.4mm or 0.64cm

Here’s the deal. Your gutter (inside margin) is the gutter + the outside margin. It is always the largest margin (unless you are selling a book with a lot of white space.

So my gutter (inside margin is) 1.6. My outside margin is 1cm (because I want it to be a little bigger, aesthetics you know). Top is going to be 1.27 and the bottom will be 1. Let’s see how that looks. where the blue dotted lines are that is where the margin is. Notice how it is bigger on one side.

margins and gutters

Now I go to Insert, blank page and find it has the gutter on the opposite side. Exactly what I need.

Step 6 – Designing That Cover

So now your mind has been thinking about colours and images and texts, it is time to play with your design.

Important note: Keep inside the dotted blue lines unless necessary for the design. When is it necessary for the design? When you have an image that you want to bleed of the edge, or if it is an overall colour.

Going into the gutter will not matter too much on the front page as there will be no other pages to hide that work.

sample advanced cover

Using your rough ideas of colours and images you should be able to put together a front cover. At this point do not worry if you are not 100% happy with your product as there is still time to change it.

Step 7 – The Back Cover

Now you have the front you need to decide on the back cover. In bigger books, you will also need to think about your spine.

So, with this piece, I stuck with white as a background. I’m going to keep the back white too. This is a good place to advertise your website, social media and/or other works. Don’t take up the whole space, remember to leave room for the ISBN. (Normally in a bottom corner).

To ensure your design is consistent try to use the same colour scheme on the back as you did the front.

Don’t forget to pay attention to your margin lines!

Keep in mind that all your cover designs are subject to change depending on what software you use to turn this into a sellable product.

Sample bak

Step 8 – Come on Inside

Open a new document and give it the same margins sizes as your last, you’ll understand why I do these separately when it comes to uploading it.

Now your first page is the first page you’ll see when you open that cover. A lot of people leave this one blank, others add a section for people to add names, others add quotes or images. Basically, what you do with it is up to you. I’m going to add a ownership page.

Note. If you are going to go full colour inside this book it will cost more. For a cheap and tasty book I recommend greyscale.

Step 9 – Adding Lines

Now we need lines. Every good notebook I have ever used has lines. The best ones have lines that stop before you get to the end. This part is easier then it sounds.

First skip a page. This would be the back of your opening page, it’s just bad aesthetic to put lines here. Then, if in publisher, add a text box that follows your margins around. Then, on your keyboard hold shift underscore until your box is full of lines. Alter text size to change the gap between lines. I used size 16.

This is one of the reasons why I like Publisher.

On the left hand of the page you will find all the pages you have made in this document thus far.

If you were to right click on one of these you will find the option to insert duplicate page. This is a quick and great option to bulk out to the 150 plus pages you wanted.

One word of warning if you were to take this option though, every odd page will not have the lines quite in the right place. Why? Because of the gutter margins.

Because the margins on one side is going to be bigger (because of the gutter) your text box is going to shift each time.

Bottom line. While this is a quick and efficient way to do this, make sure you shift your text box to sit inside your margins on the pages it hasn’t sat quite in the right spot.

Another way would be to copy and paste your text box onto every page. If you copy all the odds with a box from the odd page and copy all the evens with a box from the evens page you don’t need to do so much shifting.

TOP TIP: If you can switch your view to 2 pages at a time then this works so much more seamlessly.

Step 10 – Optional Decorations

A notebook with lines is certainly functional. A notebook with lines, images quotes, things that make them more interesting sells so much better. It is more aesthetically pleasing… and more work. But work that is worth it.

This could be done in a simple pleasing way where you use a small version of your main image in the bottom corners. I will do this in the bottom of every even page, to get it over the lines I set the word wrap to none., On the odd pages I will add different quotes from writers, for writers.

Some people add faded images behind lines like a watermark or background. Remember, when creating the inside of your notebook you are only limited by your creativity.

Someone always used to tell me that no matter what I was doing I should remember to KISS. (Keep it simple stupid.) After all these years, It’s still the best advice I’ve ever recieved.

Okay, this got more and more dramatic as I went. I really did end up with a different quote on every other page. I had to edit the font a little to make it more readable, and change up the spacing a touch, but that is all part of the fun of creating your own work.

Step 11 – Find A Host

By host, I mean a place to publish Lulu or CreateSpace (Now KDP Publishing). For the purpose of this I prefer KDP publishing. It integrates seamlessly with amazon and gives you a FREE ISBN. Worth it, right. Don’t be fooled by sites encouraging you to buy one.

So here’s how to upload your notebook. Sign into KDP or create an account here (free). On the homepage you want to go to Create A New Title. Paperback.

Fill in the general details on the first page and click next. The top section asks about ISBN, Click yes for the free KDP ISBN. Then you will get the options to have cream paper inside or white paper or full colour. I went with cream, I think it is easier on the eyes.

Now we come to sizes. We set our book up for UK A5. This is set up as US measurements. The one that closely matches is 5.5 x 8.5 so we’re going with that one. We will be able to see if the slight difference in sizes cause a problem soon. If it does it will be a quick matter of altering the size of the document and making sure everything is still in its’ proper place.

I went with the no bleed option, (ink isn’t all the way to the edge) and a glossy cover.

At this point I am asked to upload the inside of the book. It wants me to use a PDF or Doc, or docx, so I have to go back and use the convert options to save the manuscript as PDF instead of pub. It only takes a few moments to upload after this.

Step 12 – The Cover Creator

At the start we got our cover together. this enabled us to get our theme together and organise the inside. Now we have two options. We can launch their cover creator (the easy option) and duplicate what we have just made in there. It should be fairly quick and easy as you have done it once.

On the other hand, you do have an option to upload the cover you have created. Print Ready PDF only. (You can download a template and transfer your design.)

I took a screen shot of my design and uploaded it as my main image. Picked a book design and perfected it. This is why I tell you not to get too caught up in the details. Now is your chance to make that cover reflect the amazing work you have done inside. Now is your time t really make it shine. Aaaand here’s what I ended up with.

Step 13 – Checking The Details

At this point you will be ground to a halt while KDP processes everything. Grab a coffee and wait for the spinny thing to stop spinning as it processes you cover with the interior.

It is going to generate for you a e-book version of your creation so you can check to make sure everything is perfect before it goes on sale. Even with this e-check I highly recommend you purchase a copy for yourself before putting it on sale so you can make sure it is correct in everyway. You designed his thing, you do not want to sell faulty goods.

I was happy with the e version of my design and approved of it. It informs me my printing costs would be $2.85 which isn’t bad at all. This means I can keep the costs around the £5 mark like I was hoping.

I hit save and continue.

Step 14 – The Final Hurdle

Setting price. This is down to how much royalty you want to earn. I set my book to £5.99 and tick expanded distribution. Expanded distribution sets every countries notepad to the equivalent of £5.99 which is fine by me. This gets The Lady In The Loft company £1.30 for every sale which, for the 10 hours I’ve sat here making this, seems like a fine old deal.

It won’t be for sale for 72 hours. Check out the completed piece here. If you have enjoyed this lesson in creation, please buy one yourself or check out our other merch.

Any Questions

Go ahead, bombard me with them. I want to know what you are all thinking about this post. Are you going to try it yourself? Do you want one on pens? Are you as excited as I am to see how this turns out? Let me know in the comments below.

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