Table of contents
There are a ton of options available for formatting your manuscript before you can upload it to the various online vendors or book printing companies. Even a simple Google search can give you nearly endless options. It’s pretty overwhelming. But, since many people are familiar with Microsoft Word, I decided an article on how to format a book with Word is in order.
Presenting a nice-looking book to readers is essential. If it looks unprofessional, it’s going to be harder to gain readers and build your reputation. That’s why formatting your manuscript is so important. So whether you’re looking to format your manuscript for an ebook or a print book (or both), this guide can help!
First, we’ll talk about formatting an ebook and then a print book, since they’re both a little different. But, it’s a good idea to read through the whole thing, because formatting for an ebook sets you up for formatting for print.
- Formatting chapter headings in Word
- How to format your book for print in Word
- Setting up the book size and page format
- Formatting your book in Atticus vs. Word
Let’s dive right in.
Note: If yours is a picture book or one that has lots of images, graphs, blockquotes, illustrations, and the like, Word is not the best option for formatting. You’ll probably want to go with a professional formatting service or try your hand at formatting with a fixed-layout file manuscript format. You can check out this article on KDP for help with image-heavy books.
Formatting a Book in Microsoft Word
First off, you need to make sure you have everything ready to go in your document. This means having the title page, introduction, preface, etc. in place. Many writers are so excited with their finished and edited manuscript that they forget about the seemingly little things that can have a big impact on readers.
If you’re not sure what goes into the front and back matter of a book, check out this article.
Start with a standard font size and style, like 12-point and Times New Roman or Arial. These will make your life easier and your readers will thank you, whether they're reading your Kindle book or your print book.
Once you have all the parts of your book organized in your manuscript and your text size and style set, it’s time to get formatting.
Setting Paragraphs and Spacing
Getting paragraph indentations and spacing are important for a professional-looking ebook. You can help Kindle Direct Publishing (or whichever platform you’re going to sell on) by making sure these are all within the proper bounds. Make sure you’re in the Home tab for proper navigation.
First, click on the Paragraph bar at the top of your screen. Set the alignment to left and make sure the Outline Level is set to Body Text.
Next, under the Indentation heading, there’s a Special column on the right. Set that to First Line and place the indentation at 0.2”.
Then you’ll want to make sure that Line Spacing is set to Single.
Formatting your chapter headings correctly differentiates them from the rest of the text so that when the manuscript is transformed into ebook format, the ebook reader will know when a new chapter is starting.
To do this, place your cursor on a chapter title. Then click on the Styles tab. A window should open up on the right side of your screen.
Click the Heading 1 style. You’ll see the heading change. Once it has changed, you can select whatever font style you want without removing the Heading 1 style from the chapter heading.
Repeat this process for all the chapter headings in your book, making sure they’re all the same font.
Once you have all of them changed, you can go to the View tab and check the box for the Navigation Pane. You’ll then be able to view your headings on a window on the left side of your screen. You can also jump to a chapter by clicking on your chapter title in the Navigation Pane.
Table of Contents
Next, you’ll want to create a table of contents (TOC).
Decide where you want your table of contents (it should have its own page after the title and copyright pages). Place the cursor there and then navigate to the References tab and click on the Table of Contents. Select Automatic Table 1.
Go to Table of Contents again and select Custom Table of Contents from near the bottom of the menu. When the box pops up, set the Show Levels option to 1. Then unclick the Show Page Numbers box above that.
It will ask you if you want to replace your current TOC. Click OK.
Next, you’ll need to add a bookmark to the TOC. Highlight the word Contents at the top of the table of contents. Navigate to the Insert tab. Under the Links heading, select Bookmark. Label the bookmark TOC.
That’s it! I can’t say that it’s easy exactly, but it’s not the hardest thing in the world. Next, you can upload the .docx MS Word document to Kindle Direct Publishing and Amazon will convert it to an EPUB file for you.
Double-Check Your Work!
Now, it’s important to make sure the final products look good. One drawback of formatting with Word is that the Kindle ebooks often have some issues in formatting, so you need to go through it with a fine-tooth comb, paying special attention to the text and formatting.
Of course, if you’d rather not go through all the hassle outlined above, you can also use Atticus to format your ebook! But, more on that later. First, let’s talk about formatting your book for print.
Next Steps: Formatting for Print in Microsoft Word
For best results in print formatting, you’ll want to follow the steps above for ebook formatting. Print formatting is more involved, but it works off the same basic structure that I described above.
So, once you have your chapter headings, your font size, paragraph spacing, and TOC all ready to go, you can continue with the print formatting directions below.
The easiest way to go about this is to use a new blank document that you can cut and paste your manuscript into. So, do the following on your new blank document to get it ready for your manuscript.
Hint: You can also search for a Word template to download and transfer your text into. There are free and paid template options out there made expressly for MS Word. These still often require some trial and error to get the proper book format.
Book Size and Page Setup
Before you can do anything, you need to decide which size your book will be. There are several different options available. The most popular sizes in the U.S. are 5” x 8”, 5.5 x 8.5”, and 6” x 9”. If you’re not sure which page size to choose, pick up a book from your bookshelf that seems like a good size for your book and measure it. Chances are it’s one of the three sizes above.
If you choose another page size, head over to the print-on-demand company of your choice to make sure they support the size you want to use.
In your blank document, navigate to the Layout tab. Click on the Size option and select More Paper Sizes at the bottom to enter your desired size. For this demonstration, I used the page size 5.5” x 8.5”.
Next, navigate to the Margins tab on the left-hand side of the Layout toolbar. Click on it and select Custom Margins at the very bottom of the dropdown menu. Depending on your book's word count, you may have a little room to make them smaller. The important thing is to not make them too small because doing so can cut off some of the text when the book is bound.
You generally don’t want to go smaller than 0.325”. For this book, we’ll set all the margins to 0.75”. When you preview your book before you send it to be printed, you’ll be able to ensure that none of the text is cut off by the binding.
Copy and Paste Your Book
Now is a good time to copy and paste your manuscript into the formatted document. This way you can have a different document for print books and one for ebooks. Plus, the next section is easier when you can see what you’re doing and where your different sections start.
Once your manuscript is pasted into the formatted Word file, head over to the Insert toolbar. Then navigate to the Header tab. Once you click it, a dropdown menu will appear and you’ll be able to choose the header style you like best for your book.
If you’re not sure, take a look at a couple of your books to see what style you like best. Usually, the header is used for the author’s name and the title of the book. Most of the time the text of the header is smaller, but not always. It's always differentiated in some way from the main text.
Next, let’s put a footer in that’s just the page numbers. But, the kicker is that you don’t want page numbers for your title page, TOC, or your copyright page. You want the first page of your book to be where the numbers start. Here’s how you do this:
Make sure you exit out of the Header and Footer section to go back to the Home toolbar. Move your cursor to the bottom of the last page before your novel begins. Then go to the Layout toolbar and find the Breaks tab. Find the Section Breaks in the dropdown menu and select the Next Page Section Break (not to be confused with a regular page break).
This will create a different section for your front matter and another for the main text of your book, which will allow you to add page numbers only where you want them.
Next, go to the bottom of your first page — the page where you want the numbers to start, and double click on the bottom margin. The page should change, letting you know that you’re in the footer section.
Next, you’ll see that the top toolbar has switched automatically to the Header and Footer tab. The Link to Previous button should be highlighted. Deselect this.
Then, navigate to the left and find the Page Number button. Click it to access the dropdown menu. Select whichever style of page number you like. The numbers should only start at the bottom of the page you’re on.
Once you’re done adding the page numbers, you’ll have a print-formatted manuscript!
Triple Check Your Work!
Upload your finished product to Amazon along with your cover and take a look through their printed book preview feature to make sure it looks good and that none of the text gets cut off.
As you can tell, working with Microsoft Word is not the best (or the easiest) way to format your book, whether you’re working with print or ebooks.
If you want a much easier and faster way to format your books, Atticus is the way to go.
Video: How to Format a Book in Word
For a nice summary of this article, along with a few of my own personal thoughts on the subject, be sure to check out this video on how to format a book in Microsoft Word.
Want more videos like this? Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel for weekly videos!
Formatting With Atticus
Atticus is a brand new all-in-one formatting and writing software that yours truly (and a great team) has been working hard on for a long while now. It allows you to customize your book layout with several different options — all with a few clicks of the mouse.
You can choose to write your entire book in Atticus or you can simply import your Word document or Google doc when you’re ready to devote a few minutes to formatting.
Atticus gives you the option to change the text style and size. You can use the preview option to see how the text will look in different formats.
You can choose from seventeen different chapter heading styles with ease, and Atticus will format them all automatically. Even within those options, you can customize titles, subtitles, and even how the numbers show up. Whether you're writing a nonfiction book or a fiction book, there's a template for you in Atticus.
You can also customize the paragraph styles, making them indented or spaced. You can also add custom paragraph breaks or choose from existing ones. There's an option for lead-in small caps and, of course, the always classy drop cap option. And, you can preview the changes in real-time.
Atticus also makes it easy to change your headers and footers without all the trouble that doing it in MS Word entails. You can choose what page number format you want, as well as what header format.
And, perhaps best of all, it also allows you to pick your print options easily. Atticus will then automatically format it, giving you an excellent-looking file that you can use with any print-on-demand companies. You can use it as a word processor or just for book formatting. Or both!
So if you want to save time (and time is money, especially for indie authors, isn’t it?), then head on over to Atticus.io and get yourself a copy for a one-time price. No monthly fees here. And you’ll always get the latest updates as we continually upgrade and make Atticus even better.