Understanding Your Formatting Options

This article was originally published on Amazon’s Author Insights Blog.
You can read it here.


Being an indie author doesn’t let you off the hook when it comes to producing your book. I believe for a book, and an author, to be successful, the book must be indistinguishable from traditionally published books. That means you must put the finishing touches on your book that say, I mean business! To that end, there are four cornerstones of a professionally published book (in addition to having terrific content): cover design, editing and proofreading, book description and sales copy, and interior design also known as formatting. I’m going to tackle the importance of your book’s interior design and formatting in this article.

A book with poor formatting is difficult to read and won’t go unnoticed. A reader who might have become your biggest fan is likely to abandon your book before giving it a chance. Putting in the effort to format your book is a wise business decision. Think of it this way: a carefully crafted book interior contributes to your reader’s experience. How your words look can truly affect whether a reader reads them!

If you’ve ever read a book that wasn’t fully justified, or there were unexpected (and unneeded) characters, it was jarring at most, and an annoying experience at the least. The last thing you want is a one-star review because your Table of Contents is inoperable, or for someone to discount your viability as an author because your formatting isn’t top-shelf.

You have several options when it comes to formatting your book’s interior. You can format it in Microsoft Word. I did this for my first several books, and the results were hit or miss. Sometimes it works out OK, other times not so much. I could turn out a decent (but in no way fabulous) PDF version for the paperbacks, but sometimes I would hear from readers that they had challenges reading the book on their Kindles.

Another option is to use Scrivener, which can export Word, PDF, and MOBI versions. With any of these options, you can control the size of the text, spacing, alignment, text formatting (like bold or italics), URL links, and any graphics or pictures you like! And when I say you can control the “size” of the text, I’m specifically referring to the ratio between the headings and main text. Devices that use MOBI files allow their readers to adjust the text size based on preferences, so there is no guarantee that your digital book will be widow and orphan free.

Another option you have is to work with a professional formatter, which can result in “next level” book interior awesomeness. For what equates to a nominal fee, your book’s interior can be carefully crafted to create a beautiful interior and an effortless read. Here are some tips for working with your formatter:

  1. Schedule your formatting in advance. You probably have a publication date in mind, and you’ll want to allow 10-15 business days for your book to be formatted. With that in mind, and allowing for a proof copy to be ordered, you’ll want to get on the schedule of your desired formatter (like any good professional, they’ll be booked well in advance).

  2. Provide the final version of your manuscript. After you’ve completed the editing and proofreading phases, send the book to your formatter. Remember: most formatting companies do not provide additional edits after formatting is complete (which means you’ll pay again to have your book formatted).

  3. Provide separate high-resolution files for images, graphs, graphics, and your book’s front cover. A professionally-produced paperback book includes a black and white mirror image of your book’s full cover image. Your designer can provide this.

  4. Allow your team to work together effortlessly. Your formatter is responsible for giving your cover designer the final page count to create an accurate spine width. Because they likely aren’t the same person, exchanging your cover designer and formatter’s information will be helpful so that they can coordinate.

  5. Provide a clean layout for your formatter. Bold, italic, underline, centering, fully justified text are all OK, but don’t do any of the following: tab indents, forced next lines, multiple spaces, page breaks, additional empty lines, etc. When in doubt, leave it out! Include highlighting or comments to note areas where you have preferences. For example, if you would like additional space after a section, make a comment in your document for the formatter. Let them know your preferences about spacing, heading sizes, quotes, chapter markings, and blank pages.

  6. Most importantly, if you have any questions, please ask right away. Formatting does take time, and if you are unsure of anything or afraid of something looking a certain way, speak up. If you wait until the project is finished, you might have to pay an additional fee to have it the way you want it.

If your formatter isn’t willing to work with your preferences, then there are thousands of others who will (for the right price of course).

If you’re working with a company that does more than one thing (formatting, graphic design, etc.), then they may not have the same “specializing” options as individual formatters and graphic designers. Individual formatters are experts at creating unique interiors for every author. They won’t just put your book through a template, unless you ask them to. They’ll specialize your book based on the message inside. You can ask them for tweaks on pages, fonts, headings, lines, graphics, or spacing. YOU have the power to create the interior of your book to whatever you want.

Ultimately, your book represents you, and you want it to be as well dressed as it can possibly be. Put a little extra time, money, and attention into your book’s formatting, and I can promise you it will come back to you in the form of many happy readers!

 More Good Stuff…

Your prosperity begins and ends with what you think, say, and do–or in this case what you do, read, and listen to, so try these on for size:

~Prosperous Networking: 5 Author Networking Tips—And Why You Should!

~Prosperous Reading: 27 Ways to Make Money as an Author You (Maybe) Haven’t Thought Of

~Prosperous Listening: You are a Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero



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