Writers and aspiring writers are full of ideas, knowledge, and creativity who have the gift of telling an engaging tale, crafting a compelling sentence, or making a powerful argument. That does not necessarily mean that an author has a knack for formatting and presentation, which are an entirely different skillset.
Some budding writers even end up delaying their publishing dreams because they are so intimidated by the formatting step of the process. While it is understandable to be wary if you lack formatting knowledge, if you have the fortitude to write a book, it is more than possible for you to learn how to format your book.
Do You Even Need to Format a Book Before Submitting?
Perhaps you haven’t even considered formatting rules because you assumed a publisher would handle the formatting. If you work with a major publishing house, this may be a reasonable assumption. Nevertheless, you will want to present your work appropriately to make a good impression.
Furthermore, self-publishing an eBook has even more stringent rules. Ultimately, to publish a readable eBook, formatting requirements must be met. That said, you can always get professionals like Gatekeeper Press to handle advanced editing and formatting services for you if you would like to avoid doing it yourself.
7 Different Ways of How to Format a Book for Publishing
There is no ‘formatting police’ that enforces stringent rules for book manuscript formatting. However, there are certain book format conventions that writers should follow. And, as in the case of eBooks, sometimes there are strict formatting guidelines that you must adhere to successfully self-publish. Here are some of the most common book formats for you to be aware of.
1. Novel Format
Novels are probably the easiest to format. Typically, a novel is broken into chapters and paragraphs. In this case, formatting chapters for most word processing programs require that you begin on a new page. In addition to the novel format, each paragraph usually starts with a short indentation.
2. Non-Fiction Manuscript Format
Typically, non-fiction books follow the same loose formatting. For example, you don’t necessarily need to indent your paragraphs. However, you will want to provide your chapters with descriptive titles that enable the reader to know what to expect from the chapter. For non-fiction topics, you will also often need to employ footnotes and a bibliography. In this case, software programs like Microsoft Word make it fairly easy to format these. Additionally, a table of contents before the prologue is needed.
3. eBook Format
If you are planning to publish an eBook, you will need to follow specifications involving preferred fonts, styles, headings and subheadings, page breaks, etc. eBook formats are standardized, but they do vary depending upon which publisher you are using, so you will need to consult their particular formatting guidelines.
4. Children’s Book Format
Anyone who has ever read a children’s book might laugh at the very thought of a manuscript format for kids’ books—particularly when it comes to the larger picture books, where words may appear in an array of sizes and fonts, and placed willy-nilly across the pages. Nevertheless, this a crucial first step in publishing a children’s book.
The uniqueness and creativity of kids’ books make it all the more important for a writer to be able to convey to the editor or publisher what it should look like on the page. This means that a children’s book author must collaborate with an artist or graphic designer as part of the development process—unless of course you already are an artist yourself! Together you can work to design a page by page format that lays out the text and the visuals.
There are two main formats for plays. The “script” format, or playwright format, is utilized by producers, directors, and actors. This format, which takes up a lot of space on the page, involves centering the characters’ names and dialogue on the page.
However, published plays are more practical and formatted to save space. Typically, the character names appear on the left-hand side of the pages. In this case, if you intend to publish the script, the reserved format may be your best option.
Textbook formatting can have some similarities with non-fiction book formatting, but textbooks tend to be larger and more textually dynamic, often with many pictures and graphics. A publishing house will hire authors directly to work on textbooks, so formatting guidance (which would also likely be done in collaboration with a designer) would be provided by them.
7. Coffee Table Book
Coffee table books are large-format books, often filled with beautiful photos, artwork, illustrations, maps, or other visual components. If you are a photographer or artist—or have a compelling book idea—you may seek out a collaborator to work with. In this case, formatting a picture-heavy book requires great external knowledge of image editing software.
Great Resources for Getting Formatting Help
For more detailed guidance and information on how to format a book for publishing, check out these great resources online:
- The Write Life provides this succinct but information-packed list of How to Format a Book, where you can get tips on margins, spacing, page breaks, indentation, and more
- DIY Book Formats gets into the nitty-gritty of book sizes and fonts
- Writing-World.com has a helpful DIY Publishing section that links to a variety of book format guides
- The Best Book Writing Software guide reveals the best software programs for authors and explains how they help with formatting
Keep Your Ideas Organized with Great Formatting!
Transform your manuscript into a well-formatted book! Learning how to format a book for publishing is easy, but doing the formatting may take some time. Use these resources and information to format your book and prepare it for its debut.
Additionally, take advantage of the great resources provided by Gatekeeper Press. Gatekeeper Press is a full-service publishing house that distributes high-quality digital and print books. Also, Gatekeeper Press offers a plethora of services. Services include editing, formatting, layout, illustrations, and much more. If you are unsure of the formatting or want to spare yourself the hassle, contact Gatekeeper Press. Call 866-535-0913 or schedule a free consultation online with a publishing professional.