month’s article on formatting a manuscript will likely interest only a
small group of do-it-yourself authors. To throw a little tidbit to the
rest of you, I’ve posted a blog with links to details and my opinions
about industry-shaking announcements from some traditional publishing
houses, which provoked a hailstorm of controversy concerning
self-publishing options: http://tinyurl.com/yjqzetn.
of note is the merging of CreateSpace and BookSurge. See the
announcement at http://tinyurl.com/y9rwo6f.
For those of you who’ve stuck
around to read this, I provide instructions on how to format a
book-ready manuscript for self-publishing by employing Microsoft Word.
If you’re using a different word-processing program, there should be
ways to simulate what I teach here, but I can’t give any guarantees.
layout for your book can be simple, elaborate, or somewhere between.
Are presentation and image vitally important to you? If so, you must
spend more money or time on this aspect. For me, I don’t get extremely
fancy with the format because I’m not trying to impress anyone with the
beauty of my layout. However, I certainly don’t strive for a tacky
look, either. If you buy a POD publishing package from a vendor such as
Outskirts Press or iUniverse, they will format the book for you. You
probably won’t have a say in the exact layout. If you publish through
Lulu, CreateSpace, or Lightning Source, you can hire someone to format
your manuscript, or you can do it yourself. A good resource on this
topic is the book Perfect Pages by Aaron Shephard.
Set the paper size to match the dimensions of your book. To do that,
click on the File menu and then Page Setup. Choose the layout tab. Type
in the width and height, depending on the size you have chosen to
publish, for example six inches by nine inches.
Choose the Margins tab. Enter the left, right, top, and bottom margins.
I set mine at a bare minimum of 0.63 inches. If you want more
whitespace, increase those numbers. My goal is to fit as much onto a
page as I can without adversely affecting readability, since pages cost
money. Affordability takes precedence for me over a spiffy look. For
the Multiple Pages setting, choose Mirror Margins from the dropdown
list. Also on this tab, you want to enter a value for the Gutter (I
usually apply 0.25).
Please pardon me for requiring you to place your mind in the gutter,
but I feel required to explain “gutter,” since I was unfamiliar with
the term when I started. Skip to the next section if you already
understand this term. Pick up a book. Open it to the approximate middle
and examine the left page. Notice that the binding makes it hard to
read letters that would have been printed on the very right side of the
paper. Now look at the right page. Letters on this (odd numbered) page
would be swallowed up if the printing is not indented sufficiently on
the left side. If you increase the left margin to fix that problem, you
waste space on the other pages. The solution is to have an extra left
margin only on the odd-numbered pages. That area is known as the
gutter. The value assigned indents the text on the right hand page by
the amount of the gutter in addition to the left hand margin. Warning:
Doing this will give the illusion of the indentions being off when you
move from one page to the next. If you notice the text starts in a
different left-side location on odd and even pages, you have formatted
it correctly, so don’t try to fix it (like I did when I wore a younger
I consider the setup of headers and footers the trickiest step of the
whole formatting process. I include page numbers in a smaller font,
centered at the bottom of the page, in the section known as the footer.
Page numbers are usually omitted until the content of the book begins
and also on the pages after the book reaches the actual end. The page
count number must be evenly dividable by four, so if you need to, add
blank pages at the end to pad the page count to meet this requirement.
I don’t use headers at all. You might wish to do so to include your
name on the odd-numbered pages and the title of the book on the
even-numbered, or vice versa. You might prefer the chapter name instead
of one of the others. Note: Including chapter names
causes much more work since you need to create a section for each
change in headers/footers. At a minimum, you’ll probably have three
sections: Title and introductory pages, the actual book content, and
the pages after the content. To learn more about sections and how to
insert them, visit http://tinyurl.com/ycd8y78. To
omit page numbers on
the first and third sections, you need to unlink the sections to allow
each one to have its own values. Here is a link to a demo on that
Choose the demo for multiple
headers and footers. Here is another demo that illustrates how to get
different headers and footers
You have to scroll
down a bit to get past the list of topics you can get help with.
The font you use to present your manuscript to the world is vital in
regard to readability and also the final page count. I use 11-point
Arial. That allows me to fit a lot on the page, yet it is large enough
to read without jeopardizing the eyes of the readers. To select
everything but the prebody text, put the cursor at the top of the page,
which contains the actual beginning point of the book content. Then
hold down the Ctrl and Shift keys together and press the End key. Then
set your font type and name as desired. This ensures that you are
starting with the same font throughout the body. If you want any
special sizing throughout the body, such as the chapter headers, you’ll
have to manually increase the size. If you bold the headers, a larger
font might not be necessary.
apply single spacing, but this does cram things together a bit. Double
spacing might be too much, but 1.5 might be good for you. You can also
specify a certain size value to go between one space and 1.5 or between
1.5 and double. Experiment and choose which setting you like best. To
set the spacing, highlight the entire document by pressing Ctrl and A
at the same time. Choose the Format menu and then Paragraph. Under Line
Spacing, make your selection. If you want to specify a non-standard
value, choose the Exactly option and then choose the font size to
apply. If you’re using 11-point for the text, 16.5 would equal 1.5
lines. So if you want a little less than 1.5, you might choose 14 for
your spacing font. If you want extra spacing between paragraphs, you
can specify a value for that as well in the Spacing Before or Spacing
After sections. Choose the font size to apply there. When beginning a
new chapter, you might want to start lower on the paper than on a
normal page. Some people suggest the middle of the page, but I consider
that a waste. It’s your book, so do it the way you want.
Drop caps add a nice touch if you like fancy text. Here is a link to an
article explaining how to create them in Word:
You must submit a PDF (portable document format) file to some
publishers/printers. You can convert your Word document to a PDF
document without cost at http://www.freepdfconvert.com/.
If you want a fairly expensive
desktop-publishing program, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Pagemaker, and
QuarkXpress are some of the leading products. Scribus is an open-source
(free) desktop-publishing program, which you might wish to explore.
Check it out at http://www.scribus.net/.
formatting process is a little daunting but certainly does not involve
rocket science. The bottom line is that you need to play with this
until you obtain the results you wish. If I’ve not covered everything
sufficiently for you, join the CFOM
Self-Publishing group and post a question in the topic
“Formatting Your Manuscript.” If you want to leave comments, those are
Last of all, I suggest you don’t
apply the formatting until you’re ready to submit the manuscript for
printing a proof copy because you might accidentally introduce
different font sizes, etc., while editing your document. So to minimize
that risk, I format at the end of the process instead of the beginning.