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How to Make a Simple Chapbook

July 13, 2017

A chapbook is a small collection of poetry and/or stories that is generally no more than 40 pages. Often, chapbooks center on a specific theme. Although they can be professionally-bound, they are typically saddle-stitched (like a pamphlet or magazine) and formatted with smaller print-runs in mind.


This is a tutorial for a 24-page booklet (or printer paper folded in half) chapbook made with a relatively simple and accessible list of materials. I am using a Mac computer for this, but a few steps are actually easier with PC software. The paper sizes are merely estimates, so give yourself as much wiggle room as needed.

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  • 8 1/2 in. x 11 in. printer paper (or text paper, 20-30 lb. weight)

  • 12 in. x 18 in. colored paper (or any thick card stock, 60-90 lb. weight) [2 per book]

  • Needle, awl, or safety pin (for punching holes)

  • Needle (for binding)

  • Thread (preferably thicker than sewing thread, but not thicker than embroidery thread)

  • Bone folder (or the handle of a pair of scissors)

  • Printer, word processing software, possibly a PDF reader

  • A thick magazine

Formatting and Printing


To format my chapbook, I relied entirely on the Print Setup window. There are Word templates that make it simple to layout pages in Word, but I find these challenging to customize. For this tutorial, use whatever word processing program you desire and make one "chapbook page" per "word processing page."


Booklet Printing: If you have Adobe Acrobat installed or are using Word in a PC, you may be able to find the printing option for a booklet. In this case, you do not need to reorder the pages of your chapbook or format more than one "page" per sheet of paper; the program will do it for you. If you are not able to choose the booklet option, you will need to reorder the pages (either in your word processing program or in your PDF viewer) and you can skip the following printing steps.


Reordering Pages / Creating Printer Spread: I used an image of a 24-page printer spread from Mayhem Studios (click here for more printer spreads). When you are reorganizing your pages, do so in the order specified or make your own dummy book to determine the printer spread. For my 24-page book, I put my pages in the following order: 24, 1, 2, 23, 22, 3... and so forth. I did so by dragging my pages in the Mac "Preview" application.


NO Duplex: Without a duplex printer, you will need to print one side first and then manually flip the paper to print the second side. You will likely need to print a few test pages to determine how your printer feeds and which order the back pages will print. Unfortunately, all printers are a little different.


YES Duplex: If you have a duplex printer, this process will be a bit faster. Your pages are in order, and you are sitting in the Mac "Preview" application ready to print; if you are using a different program, keep these settings in mind while you experiment. The important settings are as follows: choose two-sided, short-edge binding, choose landscape orientation, and print 2 pages per sheet of 8.5 in. x 11 in. paper.




Book Pages: Now that your booklet is printed, let's put it together. Start by folding your book pages in half, keeping in mind that this will not be perfect; the outermost pages have a farther distance to fold around that the innermost pages. Once folded, smooth the fold and make it sharp using a bone folder or the handles of a pair of scissors.


Cover Sheet: Next, cut the colored paper of your choice so that the shortest height is 0.5-1 in. greater than the height of your book. Fold this paper in half hamburger-style and line that fold up with the fold of your book pages. There should be extra colored paper extending beyond the edges of your book; fold this in to create flaps, if you wish. I have about 3 in. flaps on either side of my book cover. Use your bone folder to make these creases sharp.


​End Sheet: Do the same thing with your end sheet (can be the same colored paper, a different color, or thinner paper), except cut away any excess on the edges (no flaps). The dark purple is my cover sheet, and I folded it neatly behind the cover flaps. Use your bone folder again.




Punching Holes: Now you should have a cover sheet against the table, an end sheet on top of that, and your book pages opened to the center page on top of that. Open up a thick magazine and place this packet inside, pushing the folded edge against the folded edge of the magazine (this helps add stability and prevents you from stabbing your table later). Mark three holes: one directly at the center, one 1.5 in. from the top, and another 1.5 in. from the bottom. Using your awl or needle, stab through every layer. 


Pamphlet Stitch: I've posted a picture of a simple 3-hole pamphlet stitch here, but there are others that might be better for you. You can tie the knot on the outside (in which case, start the stitch on the outside) or you can tie it on the inside like mine (in which case, start on the inside). Tighten any loose spots, and tie with a square knot.


And you're DONE!




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