Donald James Parker

Donald James Parker is a rebel with a cause and is the author of nine novels, seven of which he considers culture-flash fiction. His goal is to promote God's kingdom and tear down strongholds of the enemy while he provides entertainment. He writes for The Christian Pulse, Examiner.Com, and The ebooks of all his novels are available for free download from his website at All of Don's books promote sexual purity, but two are especially focused on that topic - Love Waits and Homeless Like Me. The novels that attack the theory of human evolution include More Than Dust in the Wind, All the Voices of the Wind, and All the Fury of the Wind. Reforming the Potter's Clay is an attack on the occult. All the Stillness of the Wind is a spiritual odyssey which spotlights cheap grace and lukewarm living.

Formatting A Manuscript

This 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: Another happening of note is the merging of CreateSpace and BookSurge. See the announcement at

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.

Overview: The 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.

Paper size: 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.

Margins: 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).

Gutter: 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 man’s clothes).

Header/Footer: 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 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 subject. 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.

Font: 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.

Spacing: I 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.

Special effects: 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:

Resources: 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

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

Summary: The 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 welcome also.

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.

Love Waits