How to Format a Book for Publishing

Formatting books for publishing in a row

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

While you may feel confident handling the writing, book formatting is a process that might fall outside your comfort zone. Proper book formatting ensures that your manuscript is visually appealing and easy to read while meeting reader expectations and industry standards.

Whether you’re trying to format a book yourself or prepare it for submission to a self-publishing service company like BookBaby, there are steps you can take to ensure a smooth book design process and winning finished product.

What is book formatting?

Book formatting, also known as interior formatting, refers to the process of structuring and arranging the elements of a print book — including text, headings, chapters, page numbers, and visual elements — to create a cohesive and visually appealing layout. Effective formatting enhances the reading experience and ensures consistency throughout the book.

But it’s not just about looks. Before they can be printed, books need to be formatted according to a printer’s specifications.

Formatting guidelines

Here are some basic formatting guidelines to keep in mind when formatting your book.

Font and typography

The typeface you choose will play a vital role in how your book looks and feels to the reader. Choose something that is easy on the eyes and that doesn’t call attention to itself. With typefaces, you don’t want to stray too far from standard fonts that have proven to be tried-and-true winners.

The standard manuscript format favors Times New Roman, but you can consider other serif fonts like Garamond, Minion, Caslon, or Georgia. It is important to maintain consistency by using the same font throughout the book, including chapter titles and headings.

Choosing the right typeface is only one part of making your book comfortable to read. You also want to choose a font size that will not strain the eye. Most modern books are set in 11-point type.

Justify your text

Justified text will make sure your text is aligned on both the left and right side of your page, thus avoiding the jagged look that is the standard setting in most word processors. Justified text will make your book look more professional and be easier to read.

Page size (aka trim size)

Another important aspect of book formatting is selecting the trim size. The size you choose will vary according to the genre and style of book you are making. The standard page size for most print books is 6″ x 9″, although there are also many fiction books printed at 5” x 8”. Your best bet is to look at comparable titles and see what trim size they use. You can also pull books off your shelf to find the trim size that you like best.

Margins

Margins refer to how close to the edges and to the gutter (middle of your book) your text will be. Don’t cram as much text on a page as possible to limit page count and save costs; this will result in a cramped book that can also run into trimming issues.

Check with your printer to see if they have templates or a formatting tool you should be using for your margins, but in general, you want to make sure you have plenty of room all around your text. Be sure to have your interior margin be a little wider so that your words don’t get lost in the gutter. Note: longer books have deeper gutters, which will mean your inside margins will have to be larger.

Headers, footers, and page numbers

Including headers, footers, and page numbers adds a professional touch to your book. Headers typically contain the book title or chapter title, while footers often display the page number. You can customize the placement and formatting of these elements based on your preference or genre conventions. 

Line spacing and paragraph indentation

Line spacing and paragraph indentation greatly impact readability. Use double spacing for the main body of the text to provide ample breathing space for readers. Indent the first line of each paragraph by half an inch, though that can change depending on your stylistic choices. Just be consistent throughout your book.

Structuring sections

There are plenty of conventions that will ensure your book’s content is organized in a way that is intuitive to the reader.

Front matter

Your copyright page, book dedication, book acknowledgements, and more make up what’s known at your book’s front matter (which will all come before Chapter One). Here is the typical order found in most books, though most books do not contain all these elements.

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  • Copyright page (colophon)
  • Title page
  • Also by the author
  • Dedication page
  • Table of contents
  • Epigraph
  • Preface
  • Foreword

Headings and subheadings

Headings and subheadings will help organize your content and guide readers through your book. Use consistent formatting for headings and subheadings, such as a larger font size, bold or italicized text, or a different font color. This helps readers easily identify and navigate different sections of your book.

Chapter breaks and section dividers

Use chapter breaks and section dividers to enhance the overall flow and structure of your book. Add a blank page or a decorative symbol to signify the end of a chapter or a significant shift in content to create visual breaks and enhance the reading experience.

Numbering and chapter title pages

Numbering your chapters and including chapter titles will provide a professional touch. Start each chapter on a new page and consider incorporating visually appealing chapter title pages to enhance the tone and visual interest of your book. Especially for nonfiction books, consider including a table of contents that lists the page number for each chapter to make it easy for readers to find the content they want.

Visual elements

For certain types of books — cookbooks, textbooks, and children’s books, for instance — incorporating visual elements like photographs and illustrations is essential.

Cookbooks

When producing a cookbook, include high-quality images of prepared dishes and ensure they are properly aligned with corresponding recipes. Use clear captions and consider using bullet points or numbered lists for recipe instructions.

Let BookBaby format your book

If you’re finding all this a lot to take in, you’re in good company. Traditionally published authors never have to worry about book formatting because it’s all handled by the publisher. But if you are an independent author, you can rely on the professionals at BookBaby to handle margins and font choices, headers and footers, and everything that makes engaging with your book an immersive experience.

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Related Posts
Why Does My Book Need Interior Formatting?
Choosing Your Book’s Trim Size
A Guide to Writing a Book Dedication
Tips for Writing a Book Acknowledgements Page
Tips For Writing Interesting Chapter Titles

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