Library book shelves

Is writing a book your New Year’s Resolution? Whilst many of us start the year with a desire to read more books, others have ambitions to write one. Fortunately, self publications and e-books have made this option more accessible, but the layout has to be in line with specifications. So, in this article, we’re exploring the 10 questions to ask before formatting a book.

A nation of authors

With a spark of an idea and allocated time, we can all write a good story. However, the difference between being a writer and an author is getting your work published. Self publishing has greatly increased the opportunity to see your book in print. You are no longer dependent on being accepted by a literary agent and then a publisher. You can do it yourself!

The UK publishing market is prolific, with 180,000 to 200,000 titles published every year. This covers all genres, from academic and business books to novels and children’s stories. However, thousands more writers start working on a book but never get it finished. Will you buck the trend?

Formatting a book

Last year, I was asked to help contact, Kathy Soulsby, to format her book following the guidelines issued by Kindle Direct Publishing. Her content was written and independently proofread, however, it needed some adjustments to the layout before it could be sent for publishing.

How to Work with a Virtual Assistant; Outsource Everything But Your Brilliance went on sale in the Autumn. As I type this, all the customer ratings award it 5 stars. I have also been formatting a course workbook/journal to accompany a coaching class in confidence and empowerment. At the time of writing this, it has not quite been published yet.

I thoroughly enjoy this process and if you have similar plans, I’d like to share some points for consideration.

1. What version of the book will I publish?

There are different specifications for hardback, paperback and e-books, so before you start, it’s good to know what you think will work best for your target reader. You may decide that you want your book format available as a paperback, hardback and e-reader version, it’s worth noting that you will need different files for each version as the sizing and formatting will be different.

2. What is interior formatting?

Interior formatting refers to the trim size, margin and bleed. Essentially, they are the basics of page layout. They ensure that your words aren’t lost in the fold of a book or cut off the edge. These can be set up in Word, by customising your page size and margin size.

3. What is the ideal font size for a book?

You can write your book in any font and size. When it comes to formatting a book, something simple such as black, point 12 Times New Roman is recommended. You can be more creative when it comes to title fonts. The exception to this rule is children’s books, as the font is larger and more varied in style. If using non-standard fonts I advise you to embed them in the file before uploading it. Remember the e-reader versions will convert to the user’s font choice anyway.

4. How should the page be presented?

The page layout needs to be clean and easy to read. That requires sufficient white space, so title sizes and spacing around all text have to be considered. In addition, there are expected components, including page numbers. Also note, that each new chapter traditionally starts on a right-hand page.

5. Should I include illustrations?

Pictures are a must in children’s books, as they work with the words to tell the story. In business books, graphs, charts and diagrams support understanding of concepts. Even in novels, illustrations are used to adorn the start of new chapters. If you decide to include imagery, ensure it is of sufficiently high resolution for excellent print quality.

6. What is front matter?

Front matter is the term used to describe all elements within the book that sit before the main text. This includes a table of contents, information on the publishing company and date, along with an introduction.

7. What is back matter?

Back matter is all elements that follow the main text. This includes an appendix, acknowledgements and information about the author. If you are a prolific writer, a list of your other publications or an introductory chapter from your next book could form part of the back matter.

8. What is included on a book cover?

A book cover has to instantly appeal to the target reader and inform them about the genre and style of the content. The front cover needs a title, possibly a subtitle and the author’s name. The choice of font and illustration needs to fit with the tone of the book.

Remember, on the shelf, the spine of the book may be all that is visible. This must include the title and author. Then the back cover provides a summary of the book, known as the blurb, along with a selection of reviews and a short biography of the author.

9. Can I design the cover of my self published book?

Before deciding on the answer to this question, please remember that first impressions count. Whilst we are told not to judge a book by its cover, we absolutely do. Therefore, the cover is an essential marketing tool that can impact sales. If you understand design principles and make use of tools like Canva, it can work. If you’d rather stick to the writing, use an experienced designer.

10. Is my book ready for publication?

After formatting your book, it is valuable to get someone with an eye for detail to check the formatting. Are your page numbers in order, is the style consistent and have you ticked all the formatting specifications in the guidelines?

Book format guidance diagram

Help with formatting a book for self publication

As you can tell, formatting a book is not a 5-minute job. This time-consuming process is one of the reasons why many people who have finished a book, don’t get it published. However, help is at hand. If you have a completed and copyread manuscript, the formatting of self published books is one of the professional business document services that I offer.

Please contact me to talk through your requirements and I will provide a quote. If you have aspirations to see your book in print, I can help you get over the final hurdle.

10 questions to ask before formatting a book