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How to Format Your Brand-New Self-Published Book Beautifully

I have a book coaching client who’s in the final round of editing. In fact, for the most part, she doesn’t even need me to edit her chapters.

She just needs me to proofread them. To polish them.

Since she’s going the self-published route, this means she’s about to become a full-fledged author.

Go her!

But before she can press the publish button, she has to do one last thing: turn her Microsoft Word document pages into a properly formatted book manuscript. That’s something that, I hate to say, can be a bit of a pain in the neck.

To make it as little of a pain in the neck as possible, here are some tips you’ll want to follow…

1. Instead of figuring out how to set up your basic page layout all on your own, cheat!

This isn’t the illegal, unethical kind of cheating. It’s the save-yourself-an-absolute-ton-of-work kind of cheating.

Leave it to the snooty overly independent or utterly clueless types to create their own overarching template. You’re going to just download it. From Amazon.

Figure out what size book you want – 8 x 5 and 8.5 x 5.5 are two common ones – and then do a search for it like this: “Amazon CreateSpace pre-formatted template 8x5.” This is weird, but if you use Google, it’ll come up with nothing. If you use Bing, it’ll come up with this:

Open it, find the book size you’d like and download the “Formatted Template” version, not the “Basic Template” version.

Half of your work is now officially done.

2. Copy and paste each chapter in piece by piece.

There’s not much to say about this step other than what’s already been said. It’s just easier to put everything in and then worry about making it look good rather than trying to make everything look good from the get-go.

There’s bound to be formatting issues that don’t translate over well without some extra toggling after the fact.

3. Choose the proper line spacing for your book.

While its becoming more acceptable to publish books that don’t run the lines right up on top of each other, it’s probably best to keep your line spacing closer together rather than further apart.

So definitely not double spacing.

That just looks tacky.

Instead, you want to highlight all the text in a chapter, then select the “No Spacing” option up on the Home tab (if you have Microsoft Word 2016, anyway). Or you can go to the Paragraph drop-down menu (also on the Home tab) and select “Single” or “1.5 lines” for your Line Spacing selection.

Perform the same steps for each consecutive chapter.

4. Choose the proper paragraph indent.

More than likely, your chapter headers shouldn’t be indented. Either keep them left-aligned or centered on the page. But that’s not the case of your main text.

Your main text should be indented – typically one-eighth of an inch.

Once again, make sure to highlight the chapter’s entire main text before adjusting the top slider on the ruler at the top of your Microsoft Word page.

If you’re working with an Apple program, I’m afraid I have no clue what advice to give here. Though I’m assuming the set-up is going to be at least somewhat similar.

5. Get rid of all widows and orphans.

That sounds so mean, I know. But we’re not talking about actual widows and orphans. Just the formatting kind.

The simple explanation here is that Microsoft Word at least automatically tries to keep paragraphs together within reason. So if you have a paragraph that’s four lines long and starts on page 7 but ends on page 8, it’s going to knock the whole paragraph down to page 8… leaving a gaping hole in your page.

You don’t want that.

To make sure that each page has the same amount of lines on it, highlight your chapter’s main text again, select the Home tab and then the Paragraph drop-down menu. This time, you want to choose the second tab: Line and Page Breaks.

At the very top, you’ll probably see a checkmark in the Widow/orphan control. Or it might be blacked out altogether.

Click on it until it’s neither. Just blank.

6. Check to make sure your pages are numbered correctly.

Alas, there are a few other issues to check with, but I’m much better at fixing those ones then explaining them. This includes when it comes to making sure your page numbers actually match up.

For whatever reason, your amazing, downloadable pre-formatted CreateSpace document has a bad habit of messing up page numbers after page 100 – almost always when a new chapter begins.

No doubt, you can Google (or Bing) how to fix that issue. Or you can reach out to Innovative Editing, which should be able to fix the formatting problem – and most others – quickly enough.


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