Learn how to format a book and save hundreds when you self-publish! 

  • Formatting a book includes:
  • the book size,
  • margins,
  • typography,
  • line spacing,
  • page numbers,
  • headers and footers,
  • page layout,
  • parts of a book,
  • cover design,
  • your choice of paper,
  • and anything else that affects the appearance of your book.

Don’t panic! Every book you own is a training aid.

Format a Book: Size

Your first design decision is the size of your book. The most common size for trade paperbacks is 6 X 9 inches. If you are writing for children or seniors, you might prefer a larger trim size. You also have to take photographs and illustrations into consideration.

Format a Book: Margins

Margins are a primary element of book design. They will be affected by your selection of page size. Normally, the larger the book, the larger the margins. For the sizes 5″ X 8″ through 8″ X 10,” margins between.5″ and 1.25″ are the norm.

The header and footer margins can be left at their default, or set at half of the margin..

Format a Book: Headers and Footers

I like different odd and even headers to put the book title on top of the left pages and the chapter titles on top of the right pages. Fiction does not require the use of headers and footers, except for page numbers. I like different odd and even footers to put the page numbers on the outside margins at the bottom of the page. Putting page numbers on the bottom of the page simplifies formatting in that some pages are allowed to have page numbers at the bottom but not at the top of the page.

Format a Book: The Parts of a Book

The inside of your book is called a book block. The book block is divided into three parts: front matter, main body text, and back matter.

Format a Book: Front Matter

Front matter consists of all the pages that come before the main body of text. The pages are traditionally numbered in lowercase roman numerals. Each page is counted; however, blank pages do not show their page numbers. Headers are not normally used in this section, and there are no footers except for the page numbers. The half title page is the first page of your book and is always put on a new right hand page. This page includes the title only. It omits the subtitle, author’s name, and publisher. It is an optional page, but a nice touch. Page two may contain other books by the author or left blank. The title page is always put on a new right hand page. It contains the book’s full title, subtitle, if it has one, the name of the author, and the publisher.

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