How to Format a Book

Knowing how to format a book for publication is crucial to your success as an author.


Up until now, your goal has been writing the best book you can. Now that it’s finished, you’re ready to take the next step toward publication.

So, how do you make a book look like a book and not a 5th-grade creative writing assignment?


Some people hire professional designers to do it for them. While this can save time, it’s also expensive. If you have the time, you can do it yourself and save money.


With the help of this article, you can cut costs and design your book on your own. You’ll learn a new skill and still end up with a professional-looking book.

In this article, you will learn:
  1. Which program or software to use
  2. How to set up your file
  3. How to design your pages like a pro
  4. Common mistakes to avoid
Chapter 1

Understanding File Types of Book Formatting

Before you get too excited about publishing your book, you need to understand the different file formats. Each marketplace accepts specific file formats, and you’ll need to create the correct one for your chosen venue.

To make your life easier, I created a table of all the major publishing platforms and the file formats they accept.

PlatformEPUBPDFDOCXMOBIKPF (Kindle Create)HTMLTXT Multi-Touch Books (.ibooks)
Amazon
IngramSpark
Barnes & Noble Press
Apple Books

Google Play
Kobo
Smashwords
Lulu

If looking at this table makes your head spin, don’t worry. The primary columns you need to pay attention to are EPUB and PDF.

Which Format Should You Use?

Let’s go over these two file types.

The Best File Format for eBook


If you’re creating an ebook, then an EPUB will be your go-to. It’s a universal file format that can adjust to any screen size. So no matter what device your reader is using, they’ll see your book the way you designed it to look. Plus, every ebook marketplace (including Amazon) accepts EPUB, so this file type is a must.

The Best File Format for Printed Books


Now you know that EPUB is the way to go when you’re publishing ebooks, but what about physical books? If you look at the table above, you’ll notice that every print-on-demand platform accepts one file format: PDF.

PDF files are what every book printing company uses. They’re dependable and will give you a printed book that looks precisely the way you designed it.

While it’s true that a few print-on-demand companies accept Microsoft Word (Docx), I don’t recommend using it for printed books. Formatting for print is challenging in Word, and the finished product doesn’t always look the way you expect.

However, if you use Word to format your print book (How to Format Using Microsoft Word), I recommend converting it to a PDF before uploading it to a marketplace. That way, you won’t lose all your hard work.

If you’re publishing a printed book (hardcover or paperback), the bottom line is this: do yourself a favor and create a print-ready PDF.

For more information about the different file types, read EPUB vs. MOBI vs. PDF: Which Book Format Should You Use?

Chapter 2

Formatting Guidelines

Each publishing platform has a set of formatting guidelines that you need to follow. These guidelines will help you get your book approved quickly and avoid time-consuming rejections and alterations.

Use the graph below to find the e-book and paperback formatting guidelines for each of the major publishing marketplaces.

Chapter 3

Step 1: Should You DIY or Hire a Designer?

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of book formatting, you need to decide if you want to do it yourself or hire a designer.

There are several factors to consider when making this decision, including time, cost, and skill level. We’ll go over everything in this section so you can make an informed choice.

Do It Yourself


One option is to format the book yourself. If you have the technical ability, time, and resources, this might be an excellent option for you. But remember to follow the formatting guidelines of whichever marketplace you decide to use.

Pros
Cons
Low cost – If you are proficient with any book designing software, you can save money by doing it yourself.Skill level – If you aren’t proficient in any book designing software, you could produce a poorly formatted book.
Creative control – You will have complete control over what your book looks like and how it turns out.Time-consuming – Formatting a book can take hours, days, or even weeks to complete. Doing it yourself will push out your publication date further than if you hire a designer.
Control over the timeline – Good designers stay very busy and may not get to your book as quickly as you’d like them to. If you do the formatting yourself, you control the timeline.More mistakes – When you format your own book, it’s harder to catch mistakes and errors than if you hire someone else.

Hire a Designer

Some authors prefer to leave the formatting to the professionals. If looking over the formatting guidelines from publishing companies (Formatting Guidelines) makes you feel exhausted or intimidated, hiring a designer might be the way to go.

Here are the pros and cons of hiring a designer to format your book.

Pros
Cons
Efficiency – Hiring a professional can save you valuable time. You can use that time for planning your book launch.Cost – The average rate can vary from $30 to +$200, depending on your book’s complexity.
Fewer mistakes – A professional designer will make fewer mistakes.Time – If your designer has a heavy workload, the turnaround time can be longer than if you do it yourself.
A professional-looking book – Your book will almost always look better if you hire a professional designer.Less control – When you hire a designer, they bring their unique vision into your project. If you’re not willing to hand over the creative reins to a professional, it’s best to take the plunge and design it yourself.

If you decide to hire someone to format for you, I highly recommend jumping straight to the section on hiring a designer. (List of Book Formatting Services)

Chapter 4

Step 2: Decide Which Formatting Program to Use

When it comes to programs for formatting books, you have several good options. We’ll go over the more popular ones in this section. Some of these programs are expensive or have a monthly subscription fee, while others are free. You’ll have to take a look at them and decide for yourself which one is right for you.

Every program is different, so use the chart below to get a feel for each one’s advantages.

ProgramEase of UseCapabilityCostCheck It Out
Adobe InDesign

DifficultHigh
(you can make anything)
  • $20.99/month
Check It Out
Vellum
EasyMedium
  • $199.99 — ebook only
  • $249.99 — ebook/print
Check It Out
Scrivener
MediumMedium
  • $49 for Windows or Mac
  • $41.65 for educational license
  • $19.99 for iOS
Check It Out
Microsoft Word
MediumMedium
  • $139.99 by itself
  • $150 for the entire suite, including Word
  • $7-10 per month for the entire suite
Check It Out
Kindle Create

EasyLow
  • Free
Check It Out
Reedsy

EasyLow
  • Free — no premium version
Check It Out

1. Adobe InDesign



Adobe InDesign is the most expensive and most versatile program on this list. Although it comes with a steep learning curve, the design possibilities are endless. You can make any type of book you want, whether it’s text-heavy like novels and memoirs or image-based like illustrated children’s books, craft books, or cookbooks.
Because of the price and difficulty of use, only opt for this program if you’re ready to put in the work learning the ropes.

Pros
Cons
Versatility – you can create any type of book you want.Expensive and has a recurring monthly subscription fee.
Preferred program for professional designers.It has a steep learning curve.
Can create both ebooks and printed books.No pre-made templates.

2. Vellum

For Mac users, Vellum is a software created specifically for fiction writers. It’s easy to use and automatically sets up your file with the best fonts, margins, page numbers, and line spacing. While the initial cost for the software is high, it’s a one-time fee. There's no pesky subscription fee to deal with.
If you write several books a year, Vellum is an excellent investment. You can find an in-depth review here: Vellum Software Review.

Pros
Cons
Easy to use.The initial cost is high.
No subscription fees.It’s only for Mac users.
Can create both ebooks and printed books.
Ready-made templates.
Can create boxed sets easily.
Professional-looking quality.

3. Scrivener

Scrivener is a word processor and book planning software. You can use it to collect research, outline, write, and format both print and ebooks. If you’re looking for an all-in-one program that won’t break the bank, this is an excellent tool to have.
However, since Scrivener is first and foremost a word processor, you may find the formatting options lacking. Ebooks created in Scrivener tend to have formatting problems on some marketplaces.

Pros
Cons
Great for planning and writing your book.Formatting can be finicky and cause issues when exported.
Inexpensive.It’s a writing software rather than formatting software.
No subscription fees.Limited formatting options
Can create both ebooks and printed books.It has a steeper learning curve than other programs.

4. Kindle Create

Kindle Create is a free program created by the Kindle Direct Publishing team at Amazon. It works best for text-heavy books with simple layouts like novels, essays, or memoirs. You can format both ebooks and paperback books in Kindle Create. Because it doesn’t support tables, endnotes, footnotes, headers, or bleeds, you’ll need to use a different program if your book has any of those features.

Pros
Cons
FreeLimited options
Easy to useIt’s only suitable for some types of books.
Can create ebooks and printed booksThe finished product looks less professional.

5. Reedsy Book Editor

Reedsy Book Editor is a free online tool that authors can use to write, edit, and format their books. It supports collaborative editing and keeps older versions of your book. With pre-designed templates and an easy-to-use interface, you don’t need any design experience to create a beautiful book.

Pros
Cons
FreeLimited design options
Easy to useOnly works for some types of books (novels, memoirs, etc.)
It’s a word processor and design software in one.
Pre-made templates.
Exports distribution-ready files.
Can create ebooks and printed books.

6. Microsoft Word

Many new authors will use Microsoft Word to format their books. If you’ve written a novel or memoir, this can be a valid option. Many of the other book formatting tools on this list (like Vellum and Kindle Create) even require you to upload a Microsoft Word Document to get started. So it’s a good idea to have this program on hand, even if you use something else to do the actual formatting.

Pros
Cons
Most people already own it.Expensive (if you don’t already have it).
It has more design options than free programs.Only for ebooks
You’re probably familiar with the formatting tools and options.Limited design options
Several of the other programs on this list require you to upload a Docx file.It’s not intended for book formatting.
You’ll end up with a less professional-looking finished product.

Tip: Because it’s primarily a word processor, Microsoft Word can be frustrating to use for book formatting. I recommend using one of the other programs listed. However, if you decide to use Microsoft Word, Amazon has a video tutorial to walk you through.

Chapter 5

Step 3: Picking the Best Trim Sizes for your Book

The type of book and how many pages you want will determine the trim size. For example, a children’s picture book will have a different trim size than a novel.

A smaller trim size can result in a higher page count, so you’ll need to consider that when you’re setting up your book. If you wrote a long book and want to lower your page count, choose a larger trim size (and vice versa).


This chart can help you decide which trim size is best for your project.

Trim sizeThis size works for:
4.25 x 6.87”Mass market paperbacks (like the ones you see in the grocery store or airport)
5 x 8” or 5.25 x 8”Trade paperbacks (like you see in bookstores)
6 x 9” or 6.25 x 9.5”Hardcover books and paperback graphic novels
8 x 8 or 8 x 10Children’s picture books
8 x 10 or 8.5 x 11Coffee table books, photo books, activity books, cookbooks, crafts books, and coloring books

Most companies will offer more trim sizes than the ones listed here. If you’re not sure what size is best for your project, grab a ruler and head to your bookshelf. Measure some books that are similar to yours, and pick a comparable trim size.

Chapter 6

Step 4: Creating Your Front and Back Matter

Now that you have a trim size picked out, you’re ready to start putting together your book. First, you’ll need to set up your front and back matters. We’ll go over everything briefly in this section, but if you’d like a more in-depth explanation of the parts of a book, visit this article.

Let’s dive in.

Front Matter

The front matter consists of the very first pages, like a title page and table of contents.

Some books have just a few pages, while others have substantial front matter that requires a separate numbering system (usually roman numerals). For more information on page numbers, go here. (How to Use Headers, Footers, and Page Numbers)

You’ll have to decide how much front matter to include. It will depend on the type of book you wrote and your personal preference. Nonfiction often has more than fiction, and most books have a minimum of a title page and a copyright page.

Front matter can include any (or all) of the following:

Half-title (optional):
The half-title page is the first page a reader sees when they open the book. It contains the title in the same font and design as the front cover. You can use the back of this page to list your other books (see below).

List of your other books (optional):
If you have several books published, it’s a good idea to include a list of them in the front matter. It should go on the back (verso) of your half-title page. Group series together and place them in the order readers should read them.

Title page:
The title page is different from the half-title page. The title page contains the book’s title, subtitle, author’s name, and publisher. Some title pages include information about the book’s publication date, the publisher’s address, illustrations, and a short tagline about the book.

Copyright page:
The copyright page goes on the back of the title page. It should contain several essential items:

  1. Your copyright notice: Copyright © 2021 by YOUR NAME. Replace 2021 with the year you publish your book. Replace YOUR NAME with your name. I recommend using your actual name instead of a pen name on the copyright page.
  2. statement of your rights: “All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the author, except where permitted by law.”
  3. For fiction, you can include this statement: “This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, places, and dialogue are fictional or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.”
  4. Your ISBN and ebook ISBN.
  5. The book’s edition.
  6. Credits for cover art, design, production, editing, and illustration.
  7. Information about interior artwork or fonts. For example, books often include a note like this: “The text for this book was set in Times New Roman. The illustrations for this book were created with watercolor on paper.”

Dedication page:
Some authors like to dedicate their book to someone. If you decide to include a dedication page, place it right after the copyright page.

Praise or accolades (optional):
If you’ve gone through the effort and expense to collect advance praise from notable authors and publications, you can include them in the front matter. But don’t worry about fitting in this page if you haven’t received any editorial reviews. It’s not a requirement.

Table of contents:
The table of contents lists all the book’s significant parts, including the front matter, chapters, back matter, and the corresponding page numbers. Not every book has a table of contents, but it’s a good idea to include one, especially if your book has chapter titles (not just numbers).

Maps or illustrations (optional):
Some authors like to add maps or illustrations to the front of their books—especially for fantasy novels and nonfiction.

Epigraph (optional):
An epigraph is a quotation for your text. Some books have an epigraph next to the table of contents or opposite the first page of body text. Others have an epigraph before each chapter. They’re not required, so it’s up to you to decide if you want to include one (or several).

Foreword (optional):
A foreword is a note written by an expert on the topic of the book. They should sign and date it as well. Authors should not write a foreword for their own book. See the next section, “Preface,” for more information about a preliminary note from the author.

Preface (optional):
The preface is an optional note written by the author, introducing the reader to the characters, explaining the book’s inspiration, describing the setting or events leading up to the story’s beginning. It’s optional to include a preface, and most authors only do it if they feel it’s vital to understand the story.

Prologue (optional):
Sometimes, your story needs a little introduction—this is called the prologue. It’s used mostly in fiction to set the scene and hook the reader while giving them some vital background information. They’re just a few pages long and should go right before Chapter 1.

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Back Matter

The back matter makes up the final pages, such as the acknowledgments and an about the author page. Once again, you have some flexibility on what to include. The type of book you wrote will also factor into how much back matter you need. At a minimum, you should have an “Acknowledgments” page and an “About the Author” page.

Here are some things you’ll find in the back matter:

Acknowledgments:
Authors like to thank the people who supported and encouraged them throughout the process of writing their book. The acknowledgments can include family, friends, critique group members, editors, agents, illustrators, librarians, teachers, research partners, and anyone else you’d like to thank.

About the author:
This section follows the acknowledgments. It usually includes a short biography and a photo of the author. Want help with this section? We have some excellent pointers in this article: How to Write an Amazing Author Bio.

Note from the author (optional):
If your book contains information that you would like to expand on, include that here. For example, if your book was inspired by real events, history, issues, or geography, you can have more information, book recommendations, or additional resources in this section.

Discussion questions (optional):
Let’s face it—if your book is popular enough, people will want to discuss it with their friends. They might even use it for a book club. If you think this is a possibility for your book, consider writing some discussion questions and including them in the back matter.

Glossary (optional):
A glossary is a miniature dictionary of words that might not be familiar to your readers. You’ll find these in some children’s books and nonfiction, but I’ve also seen them in science fiction and fantasy novels that use new or invented words.

Indexes:
For nonfiction and educational books, an index is a useful tool for your reader. It lists topics alphabetically and their corresponding page numbers. For more information about how to create an index for your book, visit the Five-Step Process for Writing a Book Index on The Writing Cooperative.

Copyright permissions:
If you use anything in your book that you didn’t create yourself (images, tables, art, quotes, song lyrics, etc.), you need permission from the creator to use it. You also need to cite it under the copyright permissions section. State the page number it appears on, where the image came from, a short description, and the artist’s name or pseudonym.

It can look something like this:
Page 53: Image from Getty Images—woman on a bicycle: coolartist23

Bibliography:

  • For nonfiction writers, if you referenced other books, articles, or websites in your book, you need to create a bibliography. Depending on the citation style you use, you should include the following:
  • Author
  • Name of work cited
  • Page number
  • Publisher
  • Webpage (if applicable)
  • Date of publication
  • List your sources in alphabetical order by the authors’ last names and include an entry for every citation in your book.

Here is an example of a well-formatted bibliography from Fossil Men by Kermit Pattison.

Bibliography of a book

Tip: Add to your bibliography, index, and copyright permission page as you go. You’ll save time and be less likely to miss a citation.

Sneak peeks (optional):
A sneak peek is a fantastic way to entice readers to check out one of your other books. You can include an excerpt from the next book in a series or, if you write stand-alone novels, an excerpt from an upcoming book.

Information about the publisher or other books by the author (optional):
Although it’s not required, some authors choose to add information about their publisher to the back matter. It’s optional, so if you’re self-publishing, don’t worry about adding this information.

However, the back matter is an excellent place to introduce readers to your other books. Create a page that shows off the book cover, title, and a brief (1-2 sentences) summary for each book you want to promote.

Authors of romance novels or series use this strategy to promote backlist titles or upcoming books, but it works for other genres, too. Here is an example from a romance novel published by Bethany House:

Information about other books by author
Chapter 7

Step 5: Rules and Steps to Formatting Properly

Now that you have your front and back matter in place, you’re ready to jump into the nuts and bolts of formatting. In this section, we’ll go over everything you need to know to format your book. If you follow these steps, your text will look professional and easy to read.

Open up your book formatting software, start a new document with the trim size you chose (Picking the Best Trim Sizes for Your Book), and let’s get going.

1. Set the margins and bleeds.
Margins: Margins are the blank areas around the edges of the page. For most books, a 1” margin works best. It gives you enough room to add page numbers and a header without the page getting crowded. It’s also essential to have enough white space on the page so that your reader’s eyes don’t get tired as quickly.

Bleeds: If you have any image or color that extends to the edge of the page, you need to add a bleed. It is a small border that stretches past the edge of your document.

When your book gets manufactured, the printer lays out several pages on one large sheet of paper and then trims them down to the finished size. Having a bleed prevents printing and trimming errors that result in unexpected white lines along the edge of your page.

Set your bleeds to 0.125”.

Margins and bleeds in a book

2. How to use headers, footers, and page numbers.

Next, you need to set up your headers, footers, and page numbers. Once again, there are numerous options, and it’s up to you to decide how you want to use them.
Headers go in the top margin of your book. Some things that can go here are:

  • Page numbers
  • Book title
  • Author name
  • Chapter title
  • Point of view – If your book has multiple points of view, some authors like to include which character is currently narrating in the header.

Footers go in the bottom margin of your book and usually only include the page number. With nonfiction, footers can also include footnotes.

Page numbers go in either the header or footer, but not both. They are only included in the body of the book, not in the front matter or back-matter.

Some authors use roman numerals in their foreword or introduction. This practice identifies lengthy font matter as separate from the main body text.

3. Choose the best font for your book.

Now that you have your file set up, you’re ready to choose a font for your book.

Resist the urge to use an unconventional font for the body text. Your goal is to create a comfortable reading experience, so choose a font that’s easy to read. It may not be exciting, but your reader will thank you.

Save the fun and fancy fonts for chapter headings (How to Design Beautiful Chapter Pages) and elements like handwritten notes.

Here are some fonts that are great for body text:

  • Joanna MT
  • Garamond
  • Baskerville
  • Cochin
  • Arial
  • Times New Roman
  • Georgia
  • Verdana
  • Set your font size to 11 or 12

With children’s books, you can get away with larger font sizes. Large print books need a font size of at least 14.

Nonfiction books can have a font size of 10 or 11. Any smaller than that, and it will be too hard to read.

Tip: Check the copyright page of your favorite books to find out which fonts they used. You might already have those fonts on your computer.

4. Indents, spaces, and rags.

The next thing you need to do is style your pages to make them look professional. You can do this by formatting your indents and spaces while avoiding rags.

If you’re using a tool like Vellum or Reedsy, the settings are already in place, and you won’t need to do anything. But with some programs, you’ll need to set them yourself.

Indents: In fiction or narrative nonfiction, always indent the first line of a paragraph. The first paragraph of a chapter or after scene breaks are the only times you shouldn’t indent.

Pressing the tab key will usually result in an indent that's too large. You can fix this by setting your indent to 0.3” or 0.5”.

Line Spacing: Set your line spacing to 1.3.

You need enough space between lines so that your reader can keep their place. You can go a little smaller (1.2) for nonfiction and a little bigger (1.5) for children’s books.

Tip: While we’re talking about space on the page, it’s time to ditch the double space after a period. Just use one.

Rags: Rags happen when you use a left or right alignment, resulting in an uneven margin or “rag” on the side of the page. Instead, use the justify alignment for the body text. It will add hyphens to some of your long words and make them fit nicely within the margins.

Rags vs. No rags

5. Watch out for widows and orphans.
Widows and orphans are words that become detached from their paragraph or page. Where possible, try to avoid these. By making very slight adjustments to your margins, line height, or letter-spacing, you can keep your paragraphs looking clean and professional.

Widows and orphans in a book

Tip: This only applies to printed books. There is no way to control widows and orphans in ebooks since every reader’s device settings will affect how paragraphs appear.

Chapter 8

EXTRA: How to Design Beautiful Chapter Pages

Chapter pages are one of the places that you can get creative. You can use fun fonts, drop caps, illustrations, embellishments, borders, or other design elements.

At a minimum, you should include the following on your chapter pages:

  • The chapter number.
  • Chapter title (if applicable).
  • Epigraph (if applicable).

It might be tempting to add a bunch of embellishments to your chapter pages. But don’t go overboard. When it comes to design, less is more. Try to balance something ornate with something simple.

Here are some guidelines for designing chapter pages:

  1. Start your body text about halfway down the page.
  2. Center the chapter heading in the top half of the page.
  3. Don’t indent the first paragraph.
  4. You can use a drop cap or make the first line all caps, but it’s not required.
  5. Omit headers and footers.
  6. Page numbers are optional.
  7. Use the same font for your chapter headings that you used on the cover unless it’s too difficult to read. If that’s the case, find one that’s easy to read but different from the body text.
  8. For children’s and young adult novels, you can get more creative with chapter pages. Add illustrations, a frame around the chapter heading, or a design element in the background.
  9. For adult novels and nonfiction books, keep it simple. A small embellishment or a drop cap will add some flair, but don’t go crazy with the design elements.

Tip: Except for children’s and young adult novels, you should balance something ornate with something simple. If you use a fancy font for your chapter heading, skip the drop cap. If you have an illustration, keep the rest of the page simple.

Here are some examples of well-designed chapter pages.

Adult novel chapter pages
Children's book chapter pages

Keep in mind that these are just two examples of chapter pages. You have a lot of options when it comes to designing these pages, so feel free to experiment. Just remember to keep them simple. You want them to add to your story, not distract from it.

Chapter 9

List of Book Formatting Services

If you’ve made it this far and have decided to outsource your book formatting, I have some resources to help you out. If you’re wondering where to find a graphic designer and how to hire them to format your book, you’ll find those answers here.

Remember, the cost of hiring a graphic designer will vary significantly depending on a variety of factors, including:

  • Manuscript length
  • Book genre
  • Type of file formats
  • Turnaround time
  • Designer’s level of experience

With that in mind, this table will give you a quick snapshot of what to expect in terms of the price range, turnaround time, and file formats. We’ll go over each one in more depth later.

PlatformPriceTurnaround TimeFormats AvailableWebsite
Fiverr
Range from $5 -$30024hrs or more
  • Mobi
  • ePub
  • PDF
Check It Out
UpworkPay hourly rate or per project. cost basis (varies)A few days
  • Mobi
  • ePub
  • PDF
Check It Out
ReedsyPay less than $500A few days
  • Mobi
  • ePub
  • PDF
Check It Out
Word-2-kindleRange $50- $1000Within 48 hours
  • Mobi
  • ePub
  • PDF
Check It Out
Ebook LaunchRange $50- $1000Nine days (rush requests are four days and cost extra)
  • Mobi
  • ePub
  • PDF
Check It Out
DamonzaRange $199-$298A few days
  • Mobi
  • ePub
  • PDF
Check It Out

When hiring a graphic designer, make sure that he/she understands industry standards and can meet your personal design preferences and timeline. If you can, include your turnaround time requirements in the contract.

Which Formatting Service Should You Use?

Now that you know how much book formatting can cost and how long it takes, let’s go over each of the services in more detail.

Fiverr:
Fiverr is one of the most popular websites to hire a freelance graphic designer. It’s easy to use and often has fantastic deals.

When searching for a freelancer on Fiverr, you can narrow down your options by filtering for turnaround time, availability, price, and experience level.

Before hiring anyone, pay attention to their Seller Level and star ratings to gauge their reliability and skill.

Here are the pros and cons of hiring a freelance designer on Fiverr.

Pros
Cons
Easy to useCustomer service isn’t great
InexpensiveYou could hire an inexperienced designer and be unhappy with their work
Quick turnaround time (usually)
Customizable search filters
Large selection of designers
Easy to gauge a freelancer’s skill and reliability
Easy to cancel an order if needed

Upwork:
Upwork is similar to Fiverr. It’s a large, popular marketplace where you can hire almost any type of freelancer. With a wide range of price points and experience levels, you should have no problem finding a designer that meets your needs. Pay attention to customer ratings and reviews to get a feel for a designer’s skill level and customer satisfaction.

Pros
Cons
Fairly easy to useNo vetting of designers, so you could hire someone with little to no experience.
InexpensiveNo customizable search filters
Quick turnaround time (usually)
Large talent pool to choose from
Option to hire a talent scout to find a designer for you
Easy to gauge a freelancer’s skill and reliability
Upwork takes care of all tax forms. You don’t have to do anything.

Reedsy:
Reedsy is a service that specializes in books and marketing. While they don’t have a massive selection of talent to choose from, they vet each of their freelancers, so you know you’re hiring someone with relevant experience. If you’re looking to hire anyone in the realm of writing, book design, or book marketing, Reedsy is an excellent place to start.

Pros
Cons
Easy to useMore expensive
Quick turnaround timeA smaller pool of talent (although more specialized)
All designers get fully vetted and approved.
Can get quotes from multiple designers
Collaborate in real-time
Live help available

Word-2-Kindle:
Word-2-Kindle is a service that offers ebook design, print book design, cover design, and book scanning. They’re inexpensive and have a quick turnaround time, which is a bonus. It’s not a marketplace like Fiverr or Reedsy, so you don’t get to pick your designer. Because they process a large volume of files in a short time, your book may not look as professional as it would with a different service.

Pros
Cons
Easy to useDon’t get to pick your designer.
Quick turnaround timeDue to the quick turnaround time and lower cost, you could end up with a less professional-looking book.
Inexpensive
Unlimited revisions
Great for beginners or anyone inexperienced with technology.

Ebook Launch:
Ebook Launch is similar to Word-2-Kindle. It’s a service that offers ebook and print book design for self-publishers and small presses. Like Word-2-Kindle, it’s not a marketplace, so you don’t get to choose your designer. To get started, you fill out their contact form with the details of your project. They’ll send you a quote, and if everything looks good, you pay the fee and send them your file.

Pros
Cons
Easy to useDon’t get to pick your designer.
Inexpensive for text-heavy and short books like novels.They only format for Amazon and IngramSpark.
Great for beginners and busy authors.Depending on the length of your book, it can be more expensive than other options.
Excellent customer service.Longer turnaround time.

Damonza:
Damonza is a small company that specializes in cover design and ebook and print book formatting. Because they’re so specialized, the quality is top-notch. This service comes with a higher price tag, but you can rest assured that you’ll end up with a professional-looking book. If you have the budget to invest in quality design work, Damonza is an excellent choice.
Browse through their portfolio to see examples of recent work.

Pros
Cons
Professional qualityLonger turnaround time.
Unlimited revisionsMore expensive than other services.
Ebook + print book design packages available.
Perfect for small presses and established authors.
Chapter 10

How to Format with Microsoft Word, Scrivener, & Vellum

How to Format with Microsoft Word

While I don’t recommend using Microsoft Word to format a printed book, it’s a valid ebook option. You probably already own it, which makes it easy to try out. And if your book is text-heavy, you should be able to format it in just a few minutes.
Here’s how to format your ebook with this program.

Step 1: Open your document.
Step 2: Click on the “Show/Hide” button that looks like this: ¶. This button will show you every keystroke you’ve made, including returns, tabs, and page breaks.
Step 3: Pick your fonts.
Step 4: Make your page breaks (like at the end of a chapter) by clicking Insert > Page Break. Don’t hit the Return button a bunch of times, or your formatting will shift.
Step 5: Use the Styles options to format your title, subtitle, and chapter titles.
Step 6: Justify the body text to eliminate rags.
Step 7: To make the Table of Contents, click References > Table of Contents > Custom Table of Contents. Remove the page numbers (ebooks don’t use them) and select the option to use hyperlinks instead.
Step 8: Add any other links or formatting as needed.

Now that you’ve finished formatting your ebook, you can upload the document directly to any marketplace that accepts Docx (Understanding File Types of Book Formatting) or use a free service to convert it to an EPUB file (like Reedsy Book Editor).

Questions? Watch this step-by-step video about how to format an ebook for publication.

How to Format with Scrivener

If your book is a simple, text-heavy manuscript like a novel, you can easily format it within Scrivener. One of the perks of Scrivener is that you can export your file to whatever format you need, like EPUB and PDF. Follow the steps below to help you format your book with this software.

Step 1: Open your document.
Step 2: Make sure your fonts and margins look right.
Step 3: Open the “Compile” settings.
Step 4: Click the “Formatting” button on the left-hand side.
Step 5: Use the settings and layout options to adjust your manuscript and fonts.
Step 6: Use “Layout” and “Transformations” to catch any formatting mistakes you might have missed.

Once you finish compiling and formatting your book, you’re ready to export it as an EPUB and PDF and upload it to the marketplace of your choice.

Want a more in-depth tutorial on how to format a book with Scrivener? Watch this step-by-step video.

How to Format with Vellum

Vellum is an excellent option for formatting your book. You can format both ebooks and print books with this program and even preview what your ebook will look like on different devices. Here’s how to format your manuscript with Vellum.

Step 1: Open Vellum and click “Import Word File.”
Step 2: Fill out the title info and upload the cover image.
Step 3: Click on each part of the front matter using the navigation on the left-hand side, filling it out as you go.
Step 4: Change fonts, alignments, and page names to suit your tastes.
Step 5: Click on “Styles” to change the overall look and appearance of your book.
Step 6: Check over your book and make sure everything looks the way it should. Make adjustments as necessary.
Step 7: Add hyperlinks as needed.

Watch this step-by-step video for an in-depth look at how to format your book with Vellum.

Chapter 11

Glossary: Key Book Formatting Terms to Know

Back Matter: Everything that comes after the main body text of the book, including an about the author page, discussion questions, bibliography, etc.

Bleed: Imagery that extends beyond the edge of the paper.

Font: The style or appearance of text.

Footer: Anything that gets printed in the bottom margin (like page numbers).

Front Matter: Everything that comes before the main body text of the book, including the title page, copyright page, foreword, etc.

Header: Anything that gets printed in the top margin (like the book title or author name).

Line spacing: The space between lines of text.

Margin: The blank space around the edge of the page.

Orphans: A word that gets separated from its paragraph and appears alone on the next page.

Rag: An uneven margin on one side of the page.

Trim size: The finished size of a book.

Verso: The back-side of a page. For example, the copyright page goes on the verso of the title page.

Widows: A word that dangles alone at the bottom of a paragraph.



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3 thoughts on “How to Format a Book

Comments
  1. Steve

    Why not include Scribus in layout software?

    1. Dave Chesson

      Because I’ve never heard of it, nor be recommended it by any author. But I guess I’ll give it a look.

  2. Jo Johnson

    Dave, the table of contents popped up on this page and obscured the content. Needs a ‘close’ x box!

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