How To Format A Book: A Quick And Easy Guide To Writing Success

Many new writers assume they need to pay someone to format their manuscript for their newly written fiction novel or nonfiction title. While you can do that, it is not cheap. However, if you learn how to format a book yourself, you can save money and time in the long run. Either way, your book must be formatted before publication, even if you use a self-publishing program like Kindle Direct Publishing.

It may sound like a long and scary process, but once you learn the formatting rules for your title page, chapters, and page breaks, you are well on your way to formatting your book yourself. Also, some of the pages included in a book are a matter of personal preference rather than a requirement. This article will help you learn formatting rules, regardless of your preferences.

Standard Manuscript Format

Your book format is important, and you may be confused when you find out that there are things that you need to include in a standard manuscript format that you do not see when the book is in print, such as the word count on the title page. When you buy a book, you do not see that, but it had better be included when you send the manuscript to the publisher. An editor will not take the time to do it for you.

Fiction and nonfiction books alike have to be formatted before submitting to a publisher. By learning the proper book format, you can save yourself time and money. There are a lot of guidelines and rules, but all of them are simple, and some of them can be set up on your word processor software so that they are automatically applied to your writing.

How to Format a Book Using Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word (MS Word) is word processing software that can help you format a book that will work and successfully translate when used in any publishing process. This writing software is very user-friendly, and all of the tools you need are easily accessible right in your MS Word document. When all manuscript work is completed, save it in PDF file format.

You can engage in book formatting in one of two ways when you decide to do it yourself. You can use either format as you go or write the entire manuscript and format it when you are done without worrying about the page setup. However you choose to go about it, there are some general formatting guidelines that you should follow and keep in mind as you go so that even if you are planning to format at the end, there will be less to do.

Line Spacing

Line spacing is important when it comes to formatting your book. It would be best to use double spacing to make your text easier to read and mark corrections during the editing and proofreading stage. While the books you see in print may be single-spaced, they do not start this way in book formatting. Remember, it is essential to make your manuscript as easy to read and edit as possible, and using a double space instead of a single space is one way to do it when your work is still in manuscript form.

Another guideline to keep in mind and practice as you write regarding spacing is only to include one space between a period and the first word of the following sentence. Double-space after a period is not standard practice and is not recommended. Adding two spaces can be a tough habit to break, but it must be stopped and corrected and will save you a lot of time and money in the long run.

Chapter Title

If you want to use a chapter title, it should go on a blank page. You can do this by inserting a page break. Chapter titles are not for everyone, but if you title one chapter, you should title all of them for the sake of uniformity and continuity.

Page breaks are more important than paragraph breaks for chapter headings. Also, the chapter title must be placed in the appropriate spot rather than halfway down the page. Simply insert a page break by clicking “Page Layout” on the drop-down menu and selecting “Section Breaks” to add a page break. Remember that each new chapter with a title should get a new page so that the work does not look smashed together or choppy.

how to format a book

Title Page

The title page is the first page of your actual manuscript, and some things must be printed on the same page. You need to give your book title, subtitle (if there is one), word count, and you also need to include your name, address, phone number, and email address.

Page numbers start after your title page. Your title page also goes on a new page of writing. It is a page all on its own, dedicated to specific information about your manuscript.

Page Numbers

Every reader wants to see a page number when reading a book. Also, every editor wants to tell the author that they need to fix something on a certain page. Having page numbers is the standard format, but you need to use them correctly.

Page numbers typically go in the footer of your book, but they are not included on pages such as the copyright and title pages. You can set this up in your writing program to automatically add page numbers in the footer, making it easier to keep track of your progress as you write. This approach saves you time instead of manually adding the page numbers.

Page Size

The standard page size for a book is 8.5 inches by 11 inches. While you do not have to stick with the standard page size, you are still strongly encouraged to follow it. Trying to be trendy or different and setting odd page sizes may haunt you when you send your work to an editor, and it has to be reformatted.

An exception to this standard rule happens if you write a children’s picture book. In this case, you can have different trim and page sizes for your book format.

Using this page size also helps ease your job formatting because most word processors are automatically set up at this size. So if you want your pages to be standard in size, you do not have to do extra work to make that happen.

Manuscript formatting includes the use of a copyright page. This page is situated at the back of the title page and includes copyright information, disclaimer, date of copyright registration, and author information.

This page is what protects you from things like copyright infringement, and it must be included in your manuscript. Any dedication you may have typically goes after this page.

Scene Breaks

Scene breaks are crucial to formatting. When the scene of your story changes, you need to have a scene break. Not using this format will leave you with a confusing and busy story that will quickly lose the reader in the plot. Also, not using scene breaks might confuse your readers why things like settings, characters, and events have suddenly changed, and in a worst-case scenario, it might get you bad reviews due to messy work and poor readability.

To include a scene break in your manuscript, you need to create a blank line that has three asterisks or a hashtag in the center of that blank line so that the editor or publisher will know that you intend to have a scene break there.


The first line of any new paragraph should include a one-half-inch indention. This is easy to do. You simply press the tab key once, and the line will indent a half on most word processors, including MS Word and Google Docs. Remembering to hit the tab key is a simple and common practice and quickly becomes a habit. This best practice saves you a step in the formatting process.

If the indentations of the writing program you are using are not set automatically to a half-inch, change the setting by adjusting the indentation size in the Layout tab. Feel free to check for this setting before you begin your writing so that you will not have to go back and change it afterward. You can get away with being lazy and not changing incorrect indentations, but industry standards are tight at demanding half-inch indentations.

Chapter Heading

Each chapter heading should be centered, and it is best to use the same font that was used on the cover of your book for the sake of continuity. Chapter headings add sophistication to your book and give the reader a nice break as they go from chapter to chapter. Keep the heading simple, as you do not want it to be distracting that might take the reader’s focus away from the book.

Do this by creating a header and selecting “Header 1”. Doing this will keep all of your chapter headings the same. After the chapter heading, use “Heading 2” if you have subtitles.

Table of Contents Page

You do not necessarily need a table of contents page in your book, but many readers like to see them in books. This gives your audience a high-level overview of the chapters of your book and the number of pages it contains. They can also check back while reading and use the table of contents page as a quick reference to see how they are progressing through the content.

This can be done in MS Word by selecting “References” in the Word menu. You can then find the tab that offers you design options for your content.

how to format a book

Font Size and Type

The font size should be 12 pt and in Times New Roman or Arial font style. This is the preferred font style and size because it is universally the easiest to read. Obviously, there is an exception if you intentionally write a large font book for those who have trouble seeing.

This is easy to check and is usually in plain view in the document menu. You can change the size and style by clicking on the respective drop-down menus.

How to Format Paragraphs

If you are a fiction writer, your paragraphs will probably look slightly different from nonfiction ones.

Fiction writers working with novel manuscripts should indent their paragraphs and not lean on paragraph breaks. Nonfiction writers can opt to leave out paragraph indentations in favor of an entire paragraph break between each paragraph in their book manuscript.

Formatting Services

Some services can be used if you do not have the time, energy, or skills to format your manuscript. These formatting services will charge you money to format your manuscript for you.

This is typically a costly service, but sometimes it is worth the money if you know that there is no way you will have the time to do it yourself. You have to ask yourself if you would rather pay or risk the chance that a year from now, you have still not formatted your book.

E-Book Formatting

Formatting an ebook is a little different than formatting a printed book. While the entire process is not different, if you ask any successful independent author of digital format books, there is enough difference to confuse things unless you are well informed.

Many online publishing services offer to format your manuscript, and if you can afford this service and feel as though you can trust it, it may be wise to allow the service to prepare and format your book for you.

Are Novels Double-Spaced?

Novels are double-spaced for the visual ease of both the evaluator and the reader. Double spacing allows them to read the text easier, especially since novels are lengthy. Also, when it comes to publishing houses, corrections are often needed to be made. In that case, the editor, and proofreader has space to mark up the errors in within the manuscript. They may note things like, character consistencies, other novel elements, and language or spelling related matters. If the author has concerns about the edits made, they can also insert their comments within these same spaces, whether they agree or disagree on the points made.

Double-spacing the novels is the standard for many publishers. However, some publishers may modify this at their discretion.

A Book’s Success Depends on Formatting

Publishing houses put a lot of emphasis on formatting, and for a good reason. Think about the most recent book you read. Did you notice the format? Did it stand out to you? If the formatting did not leave a mark on you, it is probably a good thing. If the only thing you noticed is the book’s content, most likely, it was formatted well.

We tend to notice formatting while reading when the formatting is bad—generally speaking, “different” formatting is considered bad. The following are a couple of examples of formatting in books that are not standard and the effects that it has had on readers.

Dolores Claiborne

Dolores Claiborne is a thriller novel written in 1992 by Stephen King. This story is a long first-person narrative told from the perspective of a middle-aged woman accused of and arrested for the murder of her boss and husband. She is in a police interrogation room, telling her side of the story.

While this may seem like a riveting storyline, King took liberties with the formatting that put some readers off. His novel had no chapter pages, no actual chapters, no page breaks, paragraph breaks, or scene breaks. It was simply one paragraph crudely stacked on top of another because there weren’t chapters and there was no table of contents.

Some readers felt that reading the story in one sitting was the only way to read it, while others tried to break the novel into digestible parts by predicting where one scene might end. The book was a bestseller and was later adapted into a movie starring Kathy Bates, which also did well.

House of Leaves

House of Leaves, written by Mark Z. Danielewski, is a 2000 horror book with a very odd format. There are sections of the book that are drawings and upside down. Some of it has no margins. Some of it has only a few words on a single page. The book is essentially a puzzle.

Reviews were a mixed bag on this one, but it was a bestseller. Some readers gave up on it because it was so discombobulated, while others loved the unsettling creativity. This is one case in which an author took a risk, and it paid off, for the most part.

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