Never approached book formatting yourself before? It’s not as tricky as you might imagine. With more authors moving towards self publishing to gain more control over their work, the self publishing business is the right one to be in right now if you have work ready to showcase – and learning how to format the book right can be a necessary evil for writers who don’t have the inclination or budget to outsource the task.

Here’s the essential information on basic formatting guidelines for uploading your book to platforms like Reedsy and Lulu

Check Formatting Guidelines First

Always check the formatting guidelines for your individual self publishing company to make 100% sure you’re getting it right. (If you don’t, you could have issues somewhere along the supply chain – or have some big retailers like Amazon or Barnes & Noble be unable to stock your print or e-book.) 

Things like margins and fonts can differ between publishing companies, although the information here is a good guideline for the formatting settings that you’ll need to work with to produce and format a great manuscript. 

1. The Page Size

Most default word processors are set to A4 or Letter Size. While it’s great for most documents and manuscripts, it’s not great for print – and formatting usually involves setting your page size to something more print-friendly (sometimes A5, though depending on the size of the final print book and what the individual self publishing company stipulates).

2. The Page Margins

Page margins also usually aren’t set to anything print or publication friendly and will need to be adjusted. This is easy enough to do (and most page margins are set to an inch), though you should always check your individual self publishing company for their guidelines. 

3. The Font and Font Size

Font and font size will be stipulated: Generally (unless cases where you’re using large print) your font will be set at point 12 – smaller and a manuscript can become harder to read, while any larger and words start to take up too much space on a page when they’re double-spaced. 

Easily readable fonts include Times New Roman, Georgia and Calibri. Obviously bad fonts are ones like Comic Sans and Courier New. Look at practical examples of books in print (and e-books through readers like Kindle) to see what different fonts present like to help you make your final choice. 

4. The Spacing

Most manuscripts going off to print are set to double-spaced ones. It’s just easier to read, and easier for the editing process. If you don’t set it to double spacing beforehand, you’ll notice that your final proof (and print) often looks weird.

5. The Page Numbers

Most print books and e-books contain the page numbers – usually at the bottom of the page, and usually set in the middle as a “footer” under your word processor’s settings. If you don’t include page numbers, some retailers could refuse to stock the book and you might have further issues with formatting. Remember that copyright pages usually don’t get print numbers – set this in your Page Settings.

6. The Top Header

Most books and e-books have the title of the book (and sometimes of the author too) displayed at the top of the page. If you don’t have a top header displayed, some formatting and converting programs will have issues with the manuscript.

7. The Copyright Page

Most published books out there have a copyright page that lists the printer, publisher, author and a general copyright notice (of which you can find examples of online). For retailers to stock it and self published authors to upload it, most books must be formatted with a copyright page – and with an ISBN number. (Sometimes your self publishing company provides you with the option of an ISBN: Essential if you want your book circulated.)