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  • Writer's pictureEmma

Self-Publishing Process - Part 5

Today I am sharing the 5th post in my self-publishing series, which will be on the topic of formatting your book. If you haven’t read my first 4 posts on writing, editing, cover design, and choosing a publishing platform, I would recommend checking them out as well.

I would argue that formatting is one of the most exciting steps of publishing a novel, because it means your book is almost ready to be in the hands of readers! It’ll also be the first time you’ll see the book in a novel format, which makes your book feel more real than ever.

For those of you who don’t know, formatting is everything that goes into making a book look like a book, including but not limited to: document size, font, font size, chapter headers, margins, front and end matter, and page numbers. It’s everything that takes your story from an 8x11 Word doc to a printed book. It might seem like a lot of things, but there’s a certain rhythm to it, once you get the hang of it.

When it comes to formatting, there are two options: you can pay someone to do it or you can do it yourself. The downside to paying for the service is obviously the cost, but it can save you time and effort, if you really don’t want to do it yourself. It’s definitely not for everyone, especially if you’re not Word savvy, and doing it yourself is not the best option if you are pressed for time. I don’t know of any formatters off the top of my head to recommend, but if you check out some other indie authors, you’ll be sure to find some.

Personally, I have formatted both of my published books myself, but not completely on my own. I owe what talent I have to Deryk over at and his extremely detailed how-to videos. I cannot recommend them enough. There was still a learning curve, but it was almost fun by the end of it. Along with his tutorials, there are also FREE downloadable, pre-formatted templates on the website that you can use. I haven’t used them myself, but I know other authors who swear by them, and I think they would be perfect if you’ve never done something like this before.

Another great resource is YouTube. There are a ton of authors out there who talk about their experiences. One of my favourite fellow indie authors on YouTube (Bethany Atazadeh) also did a formatting series recently where she goes in depth about the process across eight different videos. I’ve formatted two books, but I still learned a couple new tricks from her that I’m excited to try. I definitely recommend starting your research there.

The scope of formatting is so vast that I’m not going to go into detail in this post, for the sake of brevity and the fact that I’m not an expert. However, I will touch on a few terms mentioned above before I wrap up.

The first thing I want to discuss is the front and end matter because the term is often new to a lot of people, though you've seen it lots of times before in the books you've read. Front matter is everything in the book before the story itself and end/back matter is everything in the book after the story itself. Front matter consists of 1 or 2 title pages, the copyright page, the dedication, the table of contents(if you include one), maps, and the "also by" list where you mention other books you've written. You don't have to include all of these, but one title page and the copyright page should be present at minimum. End matter consists of the acknowledgements, author bio page, thank you note, and extras. The options for extras are endless such as character art, bonus scenes, deleted scenes, first chapter of the sequel, world guides, pronunciation guides, and more. Usually the acknowledgements and author bio are included at minimum. Do your research for your age group and genre to see what is typically featured in front and end matter as a guide for what you could include in your book.

Another thing I want to touch on briefly is a short list of formatting rules. Of course, all rules can be bent or broken, but these are pretty standard across all genres so if you deviate from them, it is noticeable and can make the book look unprofessional. The rules are as follows:

  • New chapters always start on a new page

  • New chapters typically start halfway down the page so there's an equal amount of white space above and below the chapter header.

  • Your author name goes in one header(right or left page) and the title of the book goes in the other. These headers rotate back and forth throughout the book

  • Headers and footers(page numbers) are not present on the first page of a new chapter

  • The first paragraph of a new chapter is not indented

All in all, the main thing you need to know about formatting is that you cannot skip this step and that if you plan to do it yourself, you cannot wing it. Do yourself and your novel a favour by doing the proper research or hiring a formatter. It’s also super important to order one or two proof copies while formatting, to make sure everything turns out the way you planned.

We will discuss proof copies in the next post of this series, which will go up on the second April 13. In the meantime, I will be back next week with a post about my quarterly goals. I can’t believe it’s that time again already!

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