Book Design Tips: Page Number Layout

Thinking of the page number layout for your book may seem like something of an afterthought for many self-publishers. However, there are actually a few things you’ll want to keep in mind to ensure you have a professional looking final project.

Here we’ll explore a few things about page numbers (also known as folios) and how they should be incorporated into your design.

Total Page Count

Our first order of business has more to do with understanding the difference between page numbers and sheets of paper. As you go through our book quote page, the second question you’ll answer is how many pages are on the inside of your book.

When you answer this question, count the total number of pages, not the number of sheets of paper. There are two pages per printed sheet of paper (front and back). Consequently, the total number of pages must be an even number. For quoting purposes, keep in mind that you should count all pages in your book, not just those that will end up being numbered (see the following section for more information on this).

If you are still in the midst of writing your book, you may not yet have the final page count. If you need some help estimating your page count for quoting purposes, give us a call at 888-664-8166 and we’ll get some information about your book and provide you with a page count estimate to give you a better idea of your final price.

Page Number Best Practices


A book with the page numbers placed at the top and aligned to the outer margins.

While there are no absolute rules to page number layout, there are some best practices. Unless you are going for a very specific design, veering from these guidelines typically will result in an unprofessional looking book.

Note that while many authors want to add their own page numbers, we are able to easily add these to your files before printing. This often is the easiest and most efficient route, as you don’t have to worry about page numbers as you refine your design and get it ready to print.

– Pages on the right (known as recto) should always be an odd number; pages on the left (verso) should be even.

– Page numbers can go on the top or the bottom – we usually recommend the bottom, but it is up to you. A page number on the bottom is known as a drop folio.

– Do not put the page numbers on the inside margin, put them on the outer margin (and be sure the page numbers are mirrored on the right and left page, the same way that you should employ mirrored margins). You also can choose to put the page numbers in the center of the page.

– Do not include the front matter (including the copyright page) of the book in your pagination – this material should be counted separately from the main content of the book. You can choose to not include the numbers at all, or use Roman numerals.

– Do not number any blank pages. Even if they are counted in the page count of the book (eg. a blank verso page before a new chapter begins on the opposite recto page), they should not include the printed number. This is also known as a blind folio, and the page numbering will resume with the next printed page.

– You have the option of including a page number on the first page of each new chapter or leaving it off. If you do include a number, use a drop folio even if the rest of your book has page numbers at the top of the page.

When your design is complete and you are ready to print, be sure to include all parts of the body of your book in a single file (ie. don’t send the front matter in a separate file from the main copy of the book, put everything in one except for the cover, which will almost always need to be in a separate file).


Page numbers centered at the bottom of the page