What Does Formatting a Book Mean?

New book authors often wonder what book formatting entails. Why can’t Amazon just do it for me automatically? In this article we’ll explain all the little technical details and design decisions required to make a properly formatted book.

Formatting a book is the process of taking the manuscript written by the author and turning it into a print-ready or digital-ready file. This involves many steps, but some of the most important are choosing margin sizes, page size, and typeface.

Some authors choose to format their own books, while others hire professionals to do it for them. There are pros and cons to both approaches. Formatting a book yourself can be cheaper, but it takes time to learn how to do it correctly. Hiring a professional can be more expensive, but you’re guaranteed a well-formatted book.

No matter who formats your book, the process is usually the same. First, the author or formatter will choose a page size and typeface. Then, they’ll set the margins and line spacing. Finally, they’ll add any special features like chapter headings or page numbers.

What software should I use for book formatting?

The two most popular software programs for book formatting are Microsoft Word and Adobe InDesign.
Microsoft Word is a word processing program that most people are already familiar with. It’s fairly easy to use and there are many online tutorials to help you format your book. If you are tech savvy you can probably learn how to format a book in a dozen or so hours.

Adobe InDesign is a more powerful, but also more complicated, design program. This is what professional book formatters use. Learning InDesign takes a lot of time. Only book authors with a pre-existing knowledge of CAD software should go try this route.

How expensive is it to hire a book formatter?

The cost of hiring an online book formatter can vary depending on the length of your book and the complexity of the design. A simple novel with no images or fancy formatting can cost as little as $150 to format. A more complex book with images and special formatting can cost $500 or more.

Local book designers will charge much more than online book formatters. Usually, between $1000 to $5000.

What are some common issues that can occur during the formatting process?

The most common issue that occurs during the formatting process is margins that are too small or too large. If the margins are too small, the text will run off the edge of the page. If they’re too large, there will be too much white space on the page.

Other common issues include incorrect line spacing, widows and orphans (single lines of text at the beginning or end of a page), and orphaned footnotes (footnotes that appear at the bottom of a page with no text above them).

Formatting a book is a complex process, but it’s important to get it right. A well-formatted book will be much easier to read and will look more professional.

If you’re not sure how to format your book, we recommend hiring a professional book formatter. They can take care of all the technical details and design decisions for you.

What are book margins and bleed?

Book margins are the white space that surrounds the text on a page. The size of the margins depends on the page size and the trim size of the book.

Bleed is when printed images or colors extend beyond the edge of a page. This is usually only an issue for books with full-color images on every page, such as children’s books or photo books.

When you’re formatting your book, it’s important to leave enough bleed so that the printer can trim the edges of the pages without cutting into the text or images.

What is a page size and trim size?

The page size is the total dimensions of a page, including the margins. The trim size is the finished size of the book after it has been trimmed and bound.

The most common page sizes are letter (US) and A (international). The most common trim sizes are US trade paperback (six inches by nine inches) and mass market paperback (four inches by seven inches).

What is a typeface?

A typeface is a set of characters that share a common design. The most common typefaces used in books are serif and sans serif.

Serif typefaces have small lines at the end of each character, while sans serif typefaces do not. Serif typefaces are generally easier to read for long blocks of text, while sans serif typefaces are more popular for titles and short sections of text.

What is leading?

Leading is the vertical space between lines of text. The size of the leading depends on the typeface and the point size.

In general, you should use a larger leading (more space between lines) for serif typefaces and a smaller leading

Is book and Ebook formatting different?

Yes, book and ebook formatting are different. Ebook formatting is much simpler than book formatting because there are fewer design decisions to make. For example, you don’t have to worry about page size or margin size.

Ebook formatting can get more expensive when  you start adding images and other complex features. But, overall, it’s usually cheaper to format an ebook than a print book.

Is book formatting specific to a publishing service?

Yes, each publishing service like Amazon KDP, Lulu or IngramSpark has their own specific book formatting requirements. Make sure to check the requirements before you start formatting your book.

The book formatting process will create a PDF file that you can upload to the publishing service. This PDF file will be only valid for a specific page size, paper thickness, binding type, etc. A book formatted for size 8×10 at Amazon KDP, will require reformatting if you now want it in 6×9 for printing at IngramSpark.

What are the best print on demand services for books?

There are a few different print on demand (POD) services that you can use to print your book. The two most popular ones are IngramSpark and Amazon KDP.

In general, we recommend using Amazon KDP at first. Kids book, Cook books and picture books might get better results at Lulu or IngramSpark.

Can I self-publish a hardcover book?

Yes, you can self-publish a hardcover book. POD services like IngramSpark, Lulu, and Amazon KDP offer this.

Hardcover books are more expensive to print than paperback books, so your royalties will be lower. But, if you want to publish a hardcover book, it’s definitely possible.

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