How to Correctly Format Your Book Interior Using Word: Word Templates for Proper Book Formatting

Formating Your Book

The good, the bad, and the ugly in book interiors.

Yes, I’ve seen them all. For years, as a book designer and a blogger at The Book Designer blog, I’ve looked at hundreds of self-published books, and let me tell you, it’s not a pretty picture.

Sure, there are lots of authors who have taken the time to learn the details of how books are put together, and made a good job of their books.

And there are plenty of enterprising authors who have hired a professional designer to create the interior of their book, and of course those look quite fine, no problem there.

No, it’s the other ones, the books put together by well-meaning authors who really want to succeed but, for one reason or another, are unclear on how exactly to go about it. Those are the ones that have big problems.

The Problem with Amateur Book Interiors

What kind of problems? For something that looks as simple as a book, you might wonder where exactly these people go wrong.

Here’s just a taste of the kinds of errors I’ve been seeing in self-published books:

  • Running heads in all the wrong places — running heads, which can help readers navigate a book, and which frequently include those handy page numbers, don’t belong on every page. But self-published books often have running heads on chapter opening pages, on blank pages. Heck, I’ve even seen them on a book’s title page. Ugh.
  • Pages numbers turned around — we all know that page 1 is a right-hand page—or do we? I have a book on my desk that has the page numbers switched, so that all the odd-numbered pages are on the left, and the even-numbered pages on the right. Not a good sign.
  • No hyphenation — when you see a book without hyphenation, you know two things. First, the book was likely formatted in Microsoft Word and, second, there will be ugly gaps between words on many lines.
  • Inconsistent formatting — a major problem for authors of nonfiction books is keeping their formatting consistent over a long manuscript that may have taken months or years to write. If the formatting varies on key elements like subheads, you can easily confuse your reader.

Now these D-I-Y authors might think that their readers don’t care about such things, but think of all the book professionals who may have something to say about your book. I’m thinking of book buyers, reviewers, distributors, and journalists, media bookers and all the other people you may need for your promotion plans. They’ll see these kinds of errors right away.

Okay, we don’t need any more bad news about print book formatting, do we?

Then how about some good news?

Templates to the Rescue

As a book designer and blogger with a lot of authors in my audience, these problems strike home, because I know it doesn’t cost any more to print a good-looking, properly constructed book than it does to print one that looks amateurish and haphazard.

One day I was thinking about the authors who, for one reason or another, are struggling to get a decent-looking book out of Word. This is software meant for office documents and invitations.

Luckily, I met Tracy R. Atkins, a blog reader and indie author, who knows Word inside out. We put our heads together, and we’ve come up with a solution to all those funky book formatting problems.

How? With templates. At our site,, we built a collection of beautifully designed, industry-standard book designs. Some are more suited to fiction; others have all the nuts and bolts you need for complex nonfiction books.

With a template, you just strip out the sample text that’s in the file and replace it with your own manuscript, and in a few minutes you have a real book to send off to a print on demand vendor, ready to order your proofs.

The templates come with complete instructions in our step-by-step Formatting Guide, and they even come with the fonts you need to get the same look as in the samples, all completely legal.

And if you have any questions about how your manuscript should be put together, or the details of building your book in Word, pick up a copy of our massive free resource, the Book Construction Blueprint. It’s got everything you need in it to learn how to create standard trade books.

So if you’re planning on doing a book in Word, save yourself hours of frustration and the awkwardness of those newbie mistakes. Check out the book designs at

Joel Friedlander (@JFBookman) is an award-winning book designer, a blogger, and the author of A Self-Publisher’s Companion: Expert Advice for Authors Who Want to Publish. He’s been launching the careers of self-publishers since 1994 and writes, a popular blog on book design, book marketing and the future of the book. Joel is also the founder of the online training course, The Self-Publishing Roadmap.

Image via Shutterstock.

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  1. Why is it that you can’t construct a decent book in Word? I’ve printed script formatted to the size, margins, pages properly done, etc. and compared it to the other books I own and it looks fairly similar and my teachers all agreed(in high school) it looked great and I didn’t have a “pleaser” for teachers, they were brutally honest with me because I asked them to be. So I don’t think it’s impossible to make a good book typed in Word.

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  3. You made a comment that the right page should be no#1 like everyone should know this- why would we? By “assuming” one should know this- it makes me worry that if I purchase a template- you may assume I know a million other things- and maybe it will be more complicated than it sounds.

    We already have enough headaches writing a book- the formatting should be streamlined enough so it’s not another huge learning curve.

    • Actually that’s amusing and only the beginning!! I’ve found that writing my novel was the easiest part. These days to publish a good story you need special training in formatting, printing, publishing, marketing, public relations etc…. You have to have the perfect Query as if the perfect manuscript isn’t sufficent. And you better have a website and love blogging too. Oh lest I forget you must make lots of on-line “friends” so you can use them, cajole beta-readers to review your manuscript or pay them and wait months. Or you can invest a small fortune and pay one of the thousands of experts to teach you how to do it all… How debilitating!!
      What happened to just writing a great story? What happened to the obscure writer that just needs to be left alone to write?? Okay I’m reclusive. I don’t want to be out in the world anymore, I just want to write a good yarn and share it! How many great novels end up in a desk drawer because of the latest time-consuming requirements?? Who knows perhaps mine will be that great novel lost; relogated to the infamous box in the attic. Years from now accidently stumbled upon by some ancestors of the walking dead..

      • God! I totally agree with you. It now seems writing the book, which took me years, literally decades to finish, was the easy part. The more I look into the publishing part, the more I want to pull out my hair.

    • Because it’s assumed as a writer that you’ve read a lot of books and noticed that they start on the right-hand page at page 1. But we can thank the multitudes of editors behind the scenes for making all those other authors’ stories look so seamless and smooth that the reader only notices the ephemeral images of the story and not the nuts and bolts of the text on the page. IOW, hire an editor to get your manuscript ship-shape for self-publishing!

  4. Well, I am considering writing my first book and the comments here are less than encouraging. I have always wanted to write a book related to a history subject that has been my hobby for years but is it that bad to get published? What is the use of spending years writing about something that you are passionate about to “relogate” it to a cardboard box! I hope that there is a brighter side to this than I am seeing as I research book writing and publishing.


  5. Johanna’s comment is the best one, and right on! Trying to get your novel formatted to suit the self-publisher is a nightmare. And it forces you to spend more and more money for several different software packages and updates. Trying to learn each of them only adds more fuel to the fire…
    What are we paying high dollar for anyway?


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