How to Format a Book

Learn how to format a book and save hundreds when you self-publish!

  • Formatting a book includes:
  • the book size,
  • margins,
  • typography,
  • line spacing,
  • page numbers,
  • headers and footers,
  • page layout,
  • parts of a book,
  • cover design,
  • your choice of paper,
  • and anything else that affects the appearance of your book.

Don’t panic! Every book you own is a training aid.

Format a Book: Size

Your first design decision is the size of your book. The most common size for trade paperbacks is 6 X 9 inches. If you are writing for children or seniors, you might prefer a larger trim size. You also have to take photographs and illustrations into consideration.

Format a Book: Margins

Margins are a primary element of book design. They will be affected by your selection of page size. Normally, the larger the book, the larger the margins. For the sizes 5″ X 8″ through 8″ X 10,” margins between.5″ and 1.25″ are the norm.

The header and footer margins can be left at their default, or set at half of the margin..

Format a Book: Headers and Footers

I like different odd and even headers to put the book title on top of the left pages and the chapter titles on top of the right pages. Fiction does not require the use of headers and footers, except for page numbers. I like different odd and even footers to put the page numbers on the outside margins at the bottom of the page. Putting page numbers on the bottom of the page simplifies formatting in that some pages are allowed to have page numbers at the bottom but not at the top of the page.

Format a Book: The Parts of a Book

The inside of your book is called a book block. The book block is divided into three parts: front matter, main body text, and back matter.

Format a Book: Front Matter

Front matter consists of all the pages that come before the main body of text. The pages are traditionally numbered in lowercase roman numerals. Each page is counted; however, blank pages do not show their page numbers. Headers are not normally used in this section, and there are no footers except for the page numbers. The half title page is the first page of your book and is always put on a new right hand page. This page includes the title only. It omits the subtitle, author’s name, and publisher. It is an optional page, but a nice touch. Page two may contain other books by the author or left blank. The title page is always put on a new right hand page. It contains the book’s full title, subtitle, if it has one, the name of the author, and the publisher.

The copyright page can be put on the backside of the title page. It contains your copyright notice, date published, publisher, and where published. The purpose of the copyright page is to protect the author from plagiarism. Book numbers, photo credits, and illustrator credits can also go here. The type may be smaller than the main body text, if desired.

The dedication should be on a new right hand page. The author has full discretion whether or not to have a dedication page, and to whom to dedicate his book. The foreword, if included, should be put on a new right hand page. It is an introduction written by a recognized authority, other than the author, that explains the importance of the book. The preface is also put on a new right hand page. The purpose of the preface is to give the author’s reason for writing the book. It is an optional page. Acknowledgments are also put on a new right hand page. This is an opportunity for the author to show his appreciation for all who helped in the creation of his book either directly or indirectly.

The table of contents is put on a new right hand page. The table of contents includes an accurate listing of chapters and the pages on which they begin. If the book is divided into parts or sections, they would also be included. A table of contents should reflect the structure of a book at a glance. You are not required to have all of the above pages in your book. At a minimum, you should have a title page, a copyright page, and a table of contents.

Whenever you are required to begin an element on a new right hand page, you are often left with a blank page preceding it. Blank pages are a nuisance because they should not have any headers or footers on them. They should be completely blank. This usually means using section breaks to make each blank page a section of its own.

Format a Book: The Main Body

Body text can be divided into parts, sections, and or chapters. If the introduction is written by someone other than the author, then it should be treated as part of the front matter. If it is written by the author, it is part of the main body text. The main body text is numbered with Arabic numerals beginning with the number 1, and numbered sequentially to the end of the book. NOTE: When you are asked for the total number of pages in your book, be sure to add the front matter pages, body text pages, blank pages, and the back matter pages.

Parts are usually larger than chapters and should begin on a new right hand page. Parts usually contain introductions to several related chapters. Sections can be either larger or smaller than chapters. Chapters are the main divisions of most books and should be numbered sequentially, even if they are divided into parts. The first chapter in a book, or a major part, should start on a new right hand page. The remaining chapters can start on either the left or right hand page. Chapters are usually further divided by headings and subheadings of descending weight.

Format a Book: Back Matter

The back matter consists of the appendix, notes, bibliography, glossary, index, and a colophon. You are already familiar with these, although, you might not have come across a colophon as they are not as common as they used to be. A novel would not need any of these. A technical manual might use all of them. An “About the Author” page could go on the back cover, if the author is famous or an authority; otherwise it might go in the back of the book ahead of the items listed above. The appendix comes directly after the text and consists of letters, documents, and miscellaneous material that relates to the material in the book. It begins on a new right hand page. Notes are footnotes, which because of their extent, have been placed at the back of the book. This section is often divided into chapters.

The bibliography is a list of books and periodicals, which the author has used as source material or has recommended to his readers. There are many great style guides for listing references, so I will not cover reference styles here. The glossary is a list of terms and their definitions used in the text.
The index is an alphabetical list of references and their page numbers that the author deems important. It is usually the last part of the book to be assembled. An index is one of the things MS Word does well.
Colophons describe the fonts, papers, ink, bindings, etc. that were used to produce the book.

Format a Book: Paper Choice

Cream colored paper is the usual choice for novels and other types of fiction. White paper is often used for technical, “How To books,” and other non-fiction books.

Format a Book with the Book Design Wizard

The Book Design Wizard simplifies book design and book formatting, so that anyone can prepare a manuscript for publication using Microsoft word. It is a huge time saver, even for experienced book designers. If you don’t have time to learn how to format a book in MS Word, the Book Design Wizard will save you hundreds of dollars.

The Wizard works inside MS Word and opens with a form where you select your book size, margins, fonts, line spacing, etc. It also has a place where you fill in the title and chapter headings. When you have completed the form, you press the “Create Book” button, and it creates a professional looking, customized Microsoft Word template for your book. Then it is just a matter of using the Wizard’s tools to cut and paste your text under the chapter headings.