Before You Self-Publish: Properly Format Your Book!

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Proper formatting—especially for a book you plan to self-publish—is vital. How well your book is formatted will affect the way it looks to potential readers and if it looks sloppy, they probably won’t buy it. Here’s an overview of the tricky ins and outs of expertly formatting your book manuscript and the reasons why doing it right is so important.

Essential Formatting Elements For Self-Published Books

When formatting a print book, be sure to take trim size into account.

Trim size is the size chosen for your physical book. Though many companies offer a long list of potential sizes, 5.5×8.5″ and 6×9″ are the most common—straying from these may make your book look amateurish. If the book is too large or too small, your cover design probably won’t fit properly. You should also consider the length and font size of your manuscript. A short book in a large trim size will be thin, flimsy, and seem unsubstantial to potential buyers. And a long book in a tiny trim size will be bulky and difficult for readers to comfortably handle.

When formatting an e-book, pay special attention to the Table of Contents.

A poorly formatted Table of Contents can ruin a reader’s impression of your e-book before he or she has even begun to read it: You need to include correctly formatted anchor links and/or bookmarks to help readers navigate your document on their e-readers. Readers won’t appreciate having to scroll through every page of your book in order to find the line or chapter they want—and they may be annoyed enough to give your book a bad review if the anchor links provided are not correct! You need to provide spot-on navigation.

Little details can make or break your formatting success.

Copyright page on the wrong side of a print book? Page numbers inconsistent? Erratic spacing? Headers and footers formatted incorrectly? Yikes! These small mistakes may seem inconsequential to an overwhelmed author, but each of these errors—and many more like it—will give readers an unsatisfactory impression of your book. The same way spelling or grammatical errors will tarnish a reader’s opinion of a book (no matter how great the story is), formatting errors will also reflect poorly on your book.

Feeling Overwhelmed And Under-Skilled? Leave It To The Professionals!

While it’s one of the most important elements of the self-publishing process, formatting your manuscript is also one of the hardest steps. The process has many caveats and fine details. Though self-publishing can sometimes be an expensive process and many authors would prefer to handle most steps by themselves, formatting is not a place to cut corners. After all, you’ve worked hard on your book—proper formatting will set it up for success! If you’re in over your head, ask for help. Self-Publishing Relief can take care of all the formatting minutiae for you—and you’ll have a book you’ll be proud to put your name on.

QUESTION: Do you have any tricks for making formatting easier?

2 Responses to Before You Self-Publish: Properly Format Your Book!

  1. I reformatted my first book 5 times before I was satisfied with the trim size. The only reason everything else went right was because I used a MS Word template from a professional formatter, and knew how to adjust it where needed.

    Adobe InDesign is the standard software used by professional book formatters, or so I have been told time and again. Unfortunately it is expensive and difficult to learn. Since time and money are things in short supply for me and I know MS Word inside and out, that suffices.

    But whatever software you use to format, you have to know what you’re doing. Spending time to learn the details is worth it. Don’t have that time and don’t have an already developed skill to fall back on? Save yourself the headache and hire a professional!

    Really. I’m serious. I once found a book in a bookshop that had a great cover, but NO interior formatting. No headers, only page numbers. No indentations, no justification, standard Times New Roman pt 12 font and standard leading.

    The story caught my attention, but reading it hurt my eyes. So I put it down. Other readers will, too.

    So, DIY if you can, hire someone if you can’t. But whatever you do, don’t wing it. Your book deserves better!

  2. I have a manuscript I feel is complete and ready to print. However, after reading what it takes to properly format my piece I have doubt. where can I get the information needed to complete my book.

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