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Are you confused about how to format a book for publication? It’s easy to get scared by the many rules and specifics of book formatting, but don’t worry. We’ve included everything you need to know about formatting a book for print and digital formats.
Remember that formatting comes only after the three steps of book editing: developmental editing, copy editing, and line editing. If you start formatting a partially edited book, the process will be messy and involve a lot of reworks. But if you’re happy with the edit, it’s time to work on the manuscript format.
But first, let’s answer a basic question: What exactly does book formatting involve?
Book formatting or typesetting is the process of preparing a manuscript for publication by selecting the right text and layout options. This process tailors your book to the technical specifications and design requirements of print and eBook formats. It involves structuring text, images, fonts, margins, and layout elements to boost readability and ensure consistency.
Book formatting deals with the following parts of your book:
Book formatting is important because it enhances your book’s readability and visual appeal, making it polished and professional. Your book format says a lot about its content. Readers will always choose a well-designed and accessible book over an amateurish one.
Even if you put a lot of creativity and effort into writing your book, readers won’t go through it if the layout is shabby. So, bad formatting undermines your work while polished formatting enhances it.
Now that we’ve seen what formatting is, it’s time to learn how to format a manuscript. Here are the steps to format a book for printing and/or digital publishing:
Let’s take a detailed look at each of these steps to book formatting:
While typesetting, you’ll have to choose a tool that’s compatible with your needs. If your book consists mostly of text and doesn’t need fancy formatting, you don’t need to use an advanced tool. Even Google Docs, Apple Pages, and Microsoft Word work as great eBook creator tools!
That said, Draft2Digital’s free ebook creator is a great formatting tool and comes with various premade templates. If you’re comfortable paying for a tool, Atticus and Scrivener are some good choices. Ensure that the software you choose lets you create books in the file format you’ll need for publishing. Take a look:
If you’re undertaking print book formatting, you’ll need a PDF file. Formatting an eBook is slightly trickier because different online retailers use different file formats. While EPUB is the most widely used eBook format, you’ll have to create a MOBI or KPF file to publish on Amazon.
Various genres use different trim sizes according to the intended reading experience. A novel will almost always be smaller in size compared to a magazine or a cookbook. Here are some examples of page sizes in various genres (in inches):
You can choose to defy the genre norms in your manuscript format, but remember that they’re in place for a reason. Readers are used to certain page sizes and it’s best to prioritize the reading experience over purely aesthetic choices.
A one-inch margin on all sides is standard in the publishing industry. This helps readers hold the book without obstructing the text and add notes on the page. It also ensures a better reading experience since the text appears ordered and not constrained.
Even more important, leaving ample margins allows for proper trimming and binding of the pages. Remember reading those books where the text disappeared inside the binding? That inside edge is called the gutter, and you don’t want your precious words to get lost in it. So in the case of longer books, the inside margin of the page may be bigger than the other sides.
A 1-inch margin suffices for most books, but art books and magazines tend to have larger margins. Smaller books like poetry books, on the other hand, have smaller margins (0.625 or 0.75 inches). EBook margins vary according to the platform and device on which they are accessed. You can check the formatting guidelines of the publishing platform and keep the recommended margins.
You’re probably thinking, “Aren’t all fonts readable?” Well, some are more easy to read than others. You can choose an aesthetic, loopy font while formatting a novel but your book could be about 80,000 words long.
Now consider font size: If your text is tiny, people will struggle to read it. If it’s too big, you’ll be unnecessarily adding to your page count and printing costs. So, you should choose a standard, easily readable font style with a moderate size. An 11- or 12-point standard font such as Arial or Times New Roman is always a safe bet.
The genre of your book also determines the ideal font. Times New Roman and Garamond are widely used in fiction books while Arial and Helvetica are popular in nonfiction books. So do your research before you choose your font!
Your text should be well-spaced, indented, and organized to create even paragraphs that are pleasing to the eye. Here’s how you can do this:
Justifying text is the process of aligning it to both right and left margins, creating straight lines on both sides. This is opposed to ‘ragged’ text, which is only aligned to the left margin. Justifying adjusts the space between your words to create a neat box of text, which is what you’ll find in most published books.
Writers used to web content may wonder if this is strictly necessary, but it’s essential for novel formatting. Whether it’s a print book or an eBook, adding a 0.25-inch indent demarcates new paragraphs, improving the reading experience. Note that the first line of a new chapter or under a new subheading is not indented.
Line spacing is, quite literally, the space between two lines of text in a paragraph. It reduces eye strain and helps the reader keep track of the sentence. A line spacing of 1.3–1.5 is standard, but you should also consider your genre and target audience. You can have relative spacing for eBooks that adapt to reader preference and device settings.
Scene breaks and page breaks are crucial for readers to re-orient themselves while reading your book. Insert a scene break whenever there’s a significant change in the point of view, time, or location. This can be a simple flat line or an elegant little design, based on your preference.
Page breaks help you start each new chapter on a new page, acting as visual buffers. They’re integral to the structural organization of your book, so don’t forget them!
Like page breaks, chapter headings are an important visual marker for your readers. They should be set apart from the other text and there are several ways to achieve this. You can use a different font that’s still coherent with your body font, genre, and theme. A good idea is to use your title font from the cover design, but that doesn’t work in every case.
Naturally, you’ll be using a larger font size for the chapter titles. You can additionally embellish them with graphic and design elements, but keep it simple. Start your text a few lines below the heading so it has some room to breathe. If your genre and theme permit it, you can start each chapter with drop caps, where the first letter is enlarged and ornate.
The front and back matter of your book are the pages that appear before and after the main content. They contain important supporting information that adds context to your book. Here’s what they contain:
Various countries and genres have their own rules about book manuscript formatting for the front and back matter. Make sure to check these while you’re creating the pages!
Here’s how to format a book for printing:
Bleed: A small border that stretches past the actual page to prevent a thin white line along the edge.
Widow: A paragraph-ending line that gets cut off from the rest of the paragraph and appears at the top of a new page.
Orphan: A paragraph-starting line that appears at the bottom of the page, cut off from the rest of the paragraph that’s on the next page.
Here’s how to format an eBook:
Follow these steps for a polished novel manuscript format:
We hope you’ve learned how to format a book now. It’s a time-consuming, tedious process, so buckle up! But if you’d rather focus on writing and marketing than formatting your novel, our self-publishing services are at your disposal.
If you’d like to keep reading about the self-publishing process, here are some articles that could help:
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