Step 7 – Format and book design


Formatting you book is all about the page layout and not about the writing.

Take a look at some published books and note the layout. The margins are set in a certain way, the paragraphs are indented to a certain specification, and page numbers are in the same place throughout the book.

This can be done with the help of a professional formatter. Professional prices will vary depending on the wordcount and experience level of the formatter.  Or with a little patience, you can save some money and do it yourself.

In this article, I will offer an overview of each stage and add links to great content that helped me navigate this phase of the publishing process.

Basic formatting tasks

Before you begin, create a new blank Word document and name it “Formatting V1.” Then, copy and paste your novel into this document. I recommend doing this to protect your work. If you get something wrong, you will still have your original document to fall back on.

Chapter number/name

The easiest thing to address is the position and style of the chapter number/name.

I tend to hit return six time and then set the size to something a little bigger than the rest of the text.


Times New Roman is industry standard. Deviating from this is not recommended.

Font Size

10 to 12 are the common sizes. This will have an impact on the page count.

I used size 10 because at 84,000 words; my book was threatening to be thick enough to squash a small child.

Line spacing

Double or 1.5 work well. Again, if you have a large wordcount, 1.5 will reduce the page count to a manageable figure.

Paragraph indents

Don’t use the TAB key. This is called a “hard indent,” and can cause problems. Instead, go into the paragraph tab on the tool bar and select “first line.” This will ensure every new paragraph is indented to the same specification throughout the book.

However, it will also make every paragraph indented. The start of a new scene doesn’t need this. To undo these, go through the full MS and remove the indent by simply pressing the BACK SPACE key for each new scene or at the beginning of a chapter.

Complex changes

All the changes to this point should have led you to a total page count (or very close to the final count). Because we have a good idea of how thick this book will be, we can now address the margins and gutters, orphaned words, page breaks.

Margins and gutters

The margin is the outer most space on the page. The gutter is the inner most (closest to the spine).

The settings you will need are dictated by your page count. Having a narrow gutter will cause the print to run very close to the spine of the book. And if you have a thick spine, the last few words will be difficult to read.

If you are considering publishing on amazon, go to THIS page for recommended sizes and setting. However, I believe these settings are standard for all prints.

Orphans, widows, runts and rivers

These are the things a professional will be well versed in looking for. But many self-publishing writers overlook them or simply don’t know what they are.

I won’t go into the details of them in this article, but I encourage you to read THIS for some in-depth guidance.

Page break

I do this during my final read through. I will read a chapter and insert the page break at the end of the last sentence. By doing it at this stage, you can avoid getting a random blank page in the middle of your book.

There are some great YouTube channels out there that will “show and tell” the full process. The channel I tend to watch is by Natalia Leigh and can be found HERE. Natalia gives an excellent step by step guide on formatting a novel. Follow her video and you’ll be ready to print in no time.

Additional pages

Pre story

Now that your narrative is properly formatted, it’s time to add some pages before chapter 1. They are quite simple to make and will complete the book.

Title page – often, this page is the title and author. But some authors will add their cover image.

Legal page – Disclaimer, ISBN details and copyright information.

Dedication page – Not always required, but if there’s anyone you want to dedicate your work to, or anyone you want to thank; this is the place to do it.

Contents page/s – Chapter and page numbers. And chapter links for Ebooks.

Post story

These pages come at the end of the book but are not mandatory. They can be in any order.

“Also by (your name)” – list any other published work.

Coming Soon – A segment of the next book.

Thank you – A message of gratitude from the author to the reader.

Book design

This is what can be the difference between a reader becoming a customer or putting your book back on the shelf.

There are no rules of what your cover should look like; it’s entirely up to you. But there are genre trends to consider. The last thing I would expect from a Romance novel is to have a picture of an exploding building and a gun-toting hero on the front cover.

Most of us indie-authors have an idea of what our book will look like. But speaking for myself, I am not a marketing expert and my idea might not be what grabs an audience’s attention. Engaging with a book designer at this point can be money well spent. However, if you want to do this part yourself, you can.

Using sites like Canva or Shutterstock; you can create covers for specific size books. But you can also use the cover creator on Amazon KDP.

There are three parts to a book cover. The front, the back and the spine. Look at the trending books in your genre for inspiration.

The front will have your cover picture, book title, and author’s name.

The spine should have the book title and author’s name.

The back should have the blurb, ISBN code, and section about the author (not always).

Your blurb

This should be just enough information about the narrative to encourage the reader to read the book. Avoid giving away too much of the story, but also avoid being too vague.

An example of a blurb from August-Lost:

Secrets, omissions, disingenuous greetings. What do people hide?
Even the most trustworthy have secrets. The neighbour who smiles when walking their dog, the delivery man who thanks you for a signature, even the police officer who takes your statement could all be hiding something dreadful.

DI Matt Bruce processes evidence with absolute clarity but with PTSD restricting his ability to empathise, he lives as a prisoner to a tragic history. Thankfully, DS Val Marsh is brought in to unseal his bottled feelings and help release him from himself. But when a simple murder case evolves into something more, the pair stumble upon haunting crimes of vengeance and hate, and a myth from the art underworld becomes a terrifying reality.


These can be purchased online at site such as Nielsenisbnstore. These are universal but if you go exclusively with Amazon; they give you a free Amazon ISBN which cannot be used anywhere else.

The author bio

This should also suit the genre. You don’t want to be quirky and funny if you are presenting a psychological thriller. Be appropriate. And if you have any writing accolades; this is the place to put them.

I hope this is enough information to help you format your book. If you have any points, please feel free to drop them in the comments sections below.

Otherwise, happy formatting!

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