When it comes to formatting your book, you need to know a lot more than the technical details. To do it properly, you should dig into the details, which is what we’re going to cover today.
Below you will find the five most important aspects you need to consider when formatting your book.
These formatting mistakes can become a threat to your author career because they disrupt the reading flow, annoy the reader, and make you look like an amateur.
#1 Respect the front and back matter.
There is an anatomy to a book, like a bone structure you need to employ, which is especially important if you want to see your books in libraries and bricks-and-mortar bookstores.
Conventions, not creativity, is what’s crucial for front and back matters.
The front matter
The front matter includes the very first pages of your book: title page, copyright page, and so on. You can add a table of contents for non-fiction, a preface or foreword.
Not only because these pages are part of the “look inside” feature—a flagship to the indecisive buyer—but also because they make the first impression and attest to your professionalism should you get it right.
The title page should include the full title and author's name as they appear on the cover.
Some authors include accolades, quotes from esteemed reviewers and publications in praise of the book.
The copyright page includes technical information about copyrights, edition dates, typefaces, ISBN, publisher and printer, and sometimes the names of the cover designer and editor. It appears on the reverse of the title page.
After the copyright page, you can incorporate a dedication page, naming the people to whom you dedicate your book, and why.
This is optionally followed by a table of contents, a preface (intro by the author) or a foreword (intro by another person).
The back matter
The back matter or the “end matter” is what belongs at the end of the book. It can be fairly simple: a quick mention of the author’s website or a note from a publisher. But you can use it to include a call to action that directs your reader further into your eco system.
Many indie publishers ask for an honest review at that point, and make an additional offer to the interested reader who made it all the way here: a freebie they can get on the author’s website, the possibility to be on the ARC team or to get the second book in the series.
Acknowledgements can be written here, information about the author, an appendix or addendum (nonfiction) with additional or updated information relevant to the book, like a further reading list on the subject.
A glossary defines words or other elements, information about characters or settings (for fiction) in alphabetical order. An index, also in alphabetical order, lists terms and phrases in the book with the pages on which they appear, helping the reader to find them easily.
Last but not least, a bibliography/reference list formally breaks down the sources cited in the work.
#2 Keep away from huge spaces and rags.
Formatting is also about readability, making the book user friendly, a seamless reading experience.
What to do then? Align the text to the left? This will leave so-called ’rags’ along the right side.
Avoid both if you don’t want to throw off your reader. Professional designers do it by hand, and there is formatting software that will automatically break up long words and add hyphenation.
#3 Never use the Tab-Key.
Especially in fiction, each new paragraph is indented—a stylistic choice that will help the reader move from one paragraph to the other.
But it’s a big mistake to use the Tab-key for indentation. This results in an indent that is far too large. So just remember: the Tab-key is a no-no in formatting.
#4 Take care of widows and orphans.
The terms widows and orphans are questionable, but blame the typesetters. Both describe words or a group of words gone astray on the page. Widows sit by themselves on the bottom of a page, and orphans are leftover words at the beginning of a new page.
Both disrupt the reading flow by either creating too much negative space or breaking up a sentence shortly before its ending, only to provide the reader with one or few more words on the other page which feels unsettling.
With reflowable ebook formats, these are out of your control, but when formatting for print, watch out for them.
#5 Never use Comic Sans.
With fonts, convention and elegance are key. Be minimalistic, not overly creative.
The standard in publishing are serif fonts like Garamond or Baskerville—serif meaning typefaces with curly embellishments. Non-serifs can be used for special design purposes—titles and subtitles, graphic-heavy design books. This again applies to print rather than ebook where the font is picked by the reader herself.
But whatever you do, you shall never, ever use Comic Sans.
And there you have it! Five tips to supercharge your book formatting so readers will love you.
Book formatting is obviously quite complex, and it is easy to get overwhelmed. If you’d like to learn more about this topic, we recommend checking out this handy guide.
Dave is the creator of Kindlepreneur.com, a website devoted to teaching advanced book Marketing which even Amazon KDP acknowledge as one of the best by telling users to “Gain insight from Kindlepreneur on how you can optimize marketing for your books.” Having worked with such authors as Orson Scott Card, Ted Dekker and more, his tactics help both Fiction and Nonfiction authors of all levels get their books discovered by the right readers.