Making a physical book from an electronic manuscript as a gift

  • Sharebar

I decided to give my girlfriend a copy of my unfinished story as a physical book. She’d been wanting to read it for a while and her birthday was near, so off I went…

Step 1 - Selecting the size.

Given that I have an A4 printer and that A5 (half of A4) is an acceptable size for a hard cover book, I went with A5.

Step 2 - Sourcing material.

This was the hardest part. I looked high and low for A5 paper but couldn’t find it anywhere. Then I caught on to the idea of simply printing two pages onto A4 and cutting it in half. I still couldn’t find the paper I wanted, something that had rough edges, something that would look either old or hand-made. I bought and tried a few different drawing pads from art stores until I eventually lucked into this:

This book is A5, with unlined empty pages and ragged edges. Better still, it’s “thread sew bind” so it’s actually A4 with a perforated middle. Deconstructing it carefully to remove the threads without breaking the pages or cover boards, I now had my paper (and cover boards!)

Step 3 - Printing the pages

This was more of a pain than expected, and I ended up doing all the pages one-sided only, doubling my paper consumption. But it wasn’t that difficult.


Step 4 - Binding the pages

I punched holes into the pages. At this point in time I was still thinking about binding the pages using ribbon, for that hand-made look. That turned out to be incredibly impractical. The ribbon would cut through the pages, breaking the binding. I had actually anticipated this, and had bought pewter ringlets meant for home-made jewellery that I intended to put into the holes and then run the ribbon through. Unfortunately, printing single-sided meant that the book was thicker than anticipated and the ringlets weren’t long enough (and two were too long).

Plan B was to strip a presentation folder of it’s flexible plastic binding and use that. So first I held the pages together with that binder while I taped the bound edge of the pages. This was somewhat successful, but not completely. Not all pages touched the tape.



Before I could finish the binding, I had to prepare the cover boards. Each of these were already (professionally) glued to A5 pages, so I didn’t need to punch holes in the boards, just their associated pages. I had to position and hand cut those holes, manually.


Now with the same plastic binder I could attach the cover boards to the manuscript. From there, another round of taping to bind the whole together and to ensure that the cover boards weren’t only being held by two small holes in paper.


Step 5 - Making the cover

This was itself a multistage process and was actually done parallel to steps 1 to 3.

This isn’t for commercial use, just for my girlfriend’s eyes, but I was trying to show her just how a real book would look and feel like with my name on it. I searched until I found an image that I thought captured the mood of the story, downloaded it and overlaid text. I used it twice: for the front cover and for the back cover blurb - wanted to look as professional as possible. I also made a title card for the spine.

Then I found A4 sized printable stickers.

I took the stickers and the design to a colour printer and printed two copies of each - one in case of a problem.


At one of the art shops, I had bought a couple of pieces of large card stock.

I glued one of them to the cover boards of the book, trimming as I went. I DID NOT glue along the spine, so the cover and the book would have breathing room there. I let it set over night. Then I carefully applied my artwork to this cover, front and back and finally spine. I found that I needed to use extra glue to hold these in place (and later had to do a touch-up).


And that was it, I had a physical copy of the current Tau Ceti manuscript to present my girlfriend for her birthday!

~ sgp