How to format your book

The greatest aspect of self-publishing is having total control over your creation.

The greatest drawback, naturally, is having total responsibility.

Having to format “The Percussionist’s Wife” for paperback publication requires all the skills I learned as a newspaper copy editor. If you don’t pay attention to the fonts of your page numbers, if you don’ know how the difference between a hyphen and an em dash or if you don’t care if the color of your cover uses 35% yellow or 48% in the golden background, then you’ll probably want to outsource the formatting and design of your words.

I, however, love that kind of work. But it takes a lot of time to get it right.

To make it easier (“easier” is relative if you’re a control freak like I am), here are a few tips:

  • Use the templates self-publishing companies offer.
  • Use the same font throughout the book. You can get fancy with multiple fonts, but that’s multiple things to remember, too. I used Garamond. Remember, each font has its own options — bold, italic, all caps, etc. — to add interest.
  • Create a formatting checklist for every chapter. For example, I had three returns at the top of every chapter, the first four words of every chapter were italic, every paragraph was indented 0.2 inches and I scrubbed the manuscript for unnecessary quotes. Check the details on every chapter.
  • Print your formatted manuscript before loading to the self-publishing company. Seeing a printed version tends to spotlight mistakes. Even better: Read passages out loud.
  • Spellcheck multiple times. I found February misspelled in a late draft because I added the sentence late in the editing process.

We’re getting close now to publication day! I can’t wait to share my book cover — I’m so pleased. Stay tuned!



2 thoughts on “How to format your book

  1. I believe these days that even if you publish through a publishing company, a lot of involvement is required from the author. I.e. marketing, readings, etc. Your net profit per book is higher if you self publish, but the numbers that you will sell are likely to be lower. The whole thing seems to be a Catch-22, doesn’t it?!

    • Self-publishing is a lot more appealing now in the age of ebooks and social media than in the past. The profit concept — more to the author — is definitely a motivator. I don’t have to have E L James’ success to be satisfied.

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