This is the preface to my revised book marketing guide, download the free PDF.
Book formatting is the bane of my existence. It’s tedious, and time-consuming, and there are always typos and mistakes, but it’s also a crucial part of the publishing process. That said, it’s possible to do a decent job yourself, if you learn how, and there are even some online tools that make it all a bit easier.
Book formatting is rarely part of the sales event, but it may have an effect on reader enjoyment or satisfaction. Ebooks are generally very simple, less is definitely more: ebook text is flowable and readers are allowed to change the font or text size, so you won’t be able to control something things like spacing between words or where lines or chapters end up. With print formatting, I would make an effort to keep it clean and professional, and add all the common, standard book publishing elements and practices even if you don’t understand what they’re all for.
A poorly formatted book or ebook can lead to bad reviews that will sabotage all your marketing efforts, so set aside some time to grapple with the learning curve, buy a tool, or outsource it.
I learned to format ebooks from scratch, converting Word to clean HTML and then editing in Sigil. But it’s a pain. You can use Calibre to make free ebook files but you don’t have as much design control and the code can be buggy. Ebooks should be clean and functional, so don’t get carried away on design or fonts or images… just make sure people can read it.
I was excited to try Vellum to make ebooks but it’s just for Mac. You can skip the whole process by using Smashwords or BookBaby; Draft2Digital and Reedsy both have online ebook formatting tools that work well. Unfortunately there still isn’t a simple, universal, excellent way to format an ebook quickly, despite multiple attempts. I usually format in Word — which has to be done right, with heading tags for chapters — and then use the free ebook converter tool on www.PublishXpress.com.
If you get stuck, you can also find someone cheap to help you format or convert to ebook on fiverr.com (I’m going to reference fiverr.com a dozen times in this book, but be aware the quality is often basic or unreliable.)
Your print book is a little harder. You can format your book in MS Word, but it can be really challenging to get everything done right. Seriously, there are memes about it.
Having it done in Adobe InDesign will cost more, but the text and everything will look a little more professional. Do the best you can, but if you do it yourself, be aware that it could probably look better.
Book design & formatting templates
I put together some free templates in Word and InDesign, along with some guides and training material at DIYbookformats.com — so you can grab those and watch the videos to get a better handle on your book formatting. I’ll be continuing to add to it this year with more awesome templates and guides.
Update: I’ve given in, after years of avoidance; Vellum just makes book formatting so much easier. I started playing around with the Macincloud option (you can *rent* a Mac device and use Vellum on your PC; I used it to format this book). Now I’m planning to buy a new Macbook as a writing and book formatting device. You can see my Vellum review here.
If you’re determined to format yourself in Microsoft Word…
You should also check out these book formatting templates from The Book Designer.
Best Fonts for Book Design
I’m also in the process redesigning my online cover tool and have hundreds of new and exciting fonts to share with you in the next batch of templates and resources. But in the meantime, check out my post on the 300+ best book cover design fonts for every genre.
Grab my free book marketing guide; download the full book and learn how to launch a bestseller.
I’m a philosophy dropout with a PhD in Literature. I covet a cabin full of cats, where I can write fantasy novels to pay for my cake addiction. Sometimes I live in castles.