Book Formatting Can be Challenging but Also Rewarding

Book formatting can be challengingBook formatting is what you do to make your book look good when it has been published. The rules for formatting are different for each type of book: Kindle, Smashwords, Draft2Digital, iBook and paperback or hardcover.

  • Are you having trouble getting just the right format for your book?
  • When you proof the book does it consistently look wrong?
  • Is Microsoft Word giving you a headache?

I understand what you are going through. Formatting a book for Kindle, Createspace, Draft2Digital or Smashwords can be very difficult, especially if your experience with Microsoft Word is limited.

Common Book Formatting Problems

Errors in formatting are common in many, if not most, self-published books. Even if you write the best book in the world, formatting problems can scare away readers, keep your book from getting recommended, and produce negative reviews on Amazon.

For paperback and hardcovers, some that errors that I’ve seen include:

  • Missing or incorrect table of contents.
  • Headers and footers incorrect or missing.
  • Using fonts that detract from the content.
  • Misuse or non-use of styles.
  • Graphics poorly sized or in the wrong places.
  • Paragraphs that break awkwardly between pages.
  • Orphan headings (a heading at the bottom of the page with the next paragraph on the next page.)
  • Not using any special formatting at all, which makes a book “boring” and less attractive.
  • Images in color that convert poorly to grayscale.

For paperback and hardcover, you can take advantage of the full gauntlet of possibilities, including positioning graphics, adding text boxes, making fancy headers and footers, using tables and just about anything else you can think of. If it can be done in Word, it can be used for paperback or hardcover.

For Kindle errors include:

  • Poorly chosen fonts that don’t read well.
  • Graphics that are not centered or are the wrong size.
  • Trying to use special formatting that is not allowed on Kindle.
  • Using lists incorrectly for Kindle.
  • Including special characters that look fine in Word but are not allowed on Kindle.
  • Not optimizing the front matter to take into account the “look inside” function.
  • Fonts too small or too large.

You must remember that the Kindle application runs on a wide variety of devices, from Kindles over a decade old, Smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops, television screens and even, on occasion, newer Kindles. Because of the limitations of these devices, Kindle does not allow anywhere near the formatting options of paperback and hardcover.

Use Microsoft Word for Book Formatting

What is the biggest mistake when formatting your book? Not using Microsoft Word. KDP (for Kindle) and CreateSpace (for Paperback) both use Word documents. So if you use Google Docs or other editors, you may run into issues when you try and publish your book.

But isn’t Word expensive?

Not really, Microsoft Office 365 is about a hundred bucks a year, and is less for students. If you can’t spend the money, Office 365 on the web is completely free.

What do you do if you’ve used a different editor? if your formatting is simple, it will probably work fine. Sometimes, though, the easier thing to do is the “nuclear option” which means to copy and paste the whole document into a text file, then copy it to Word. This removed ALL formatting. Your task is then to go through it and put in the proper formatting, with styles (see below.)

What Does it Mean to Format a Book?

Some of the things you need to worry about include:

  • The margins of your book must be correct.
  • You need to define odd, even and first page headers.
  • Page numbering must be correct throughout the document.
  • Graphics must be properly sized, positioned and formatting.
  • Styles should be used throughout.
  • The title, copyright and other standard pages need to be set up properly.
  • Plus hundreds of other details must be done correctly.

What About the Table of Contents, Index and References?

Books normally include standard sections such as a table of contents, index, references and the copyright page. Sometimes these need to be formatting differently between Kindle, Smashwords and paperback or hardcover.

  • Paperback and hardcover table of contents include the page numbers
  • The table of contents on the Kindle should be a clickable link to the chapter.
  • For Smashwords, the Table of Contents tool in Word cannot be used – you have to manually create it with the links to the chapters.
  • Electronic books such as Kindle do not usually include an index since they are searchable.
  • For Kindle, some of the front matter works better placed as the back of the book.
  • Footnotes can be at the bottom of pages for paperback and hardcover, but must be at the back of the book for Kindle.

As you can see, the differences between the various formats can be dramatic. It’s important to understand these differences to make your book the best it can be for each format.

How Can Styles Help With Book Formatting?

On one of my first ghostwriting projects, one of the other ghostwriters asked me to proofread his document. I was surprised to find he hadn’t used any styles. Actually, I was horrified. The lack of styles changed the proofreading (and formatting) job from relatively simple to very time consuming.

What is a style? It’s a way to define a “pattern” for a paragraph in a document. Styles can also apply to words and characters, but for the purposes of this discussion, we’re just talking about paragraphs.

So you can, for example, say “Normal” uses a specific font and size, has a certain amount of space before and after, and is justified to the left. A style of “My chapters” could be set to a larger size text and be centered.

If you define your styles, then set each of your paragraphs to the right style, you have made your document very easy to change.

For example, if you print out your document and find the font is wrong or too small, one simple change to the style causes ALL of the paragraphs with that style to change.

If you don’t use styles, like my ghostwriter friend from so long ago, then you have to change every paragraph manually, one at a time.

As I’m sure you see, using styles makes book formatting much easier.

How the Writing King can Help

The team at The Writing King has the expertise and knowledge needed to format you books for any platform correctly and quickly. Your books will look fantastic.

Because the nature of documents is so variable, please book a free consultation so we can discuss your project. Once we understand your needs, you’ll receive a quote for the work. Click the button to the left to get started today.

Feel free to schedule your consultation even if your book is not ready for formatting. We can help, during the consultation, with a few tips to make it easier to format, which can lower the cost.