FORMATTING A PRINT BOOK #amwriting #bookformatting #KDP


Formatting a print version of your novel can be tricky, so when it came to tackling my own book I approached this task with caution. I own a kindle so I was comfortable in self-formatting the ebook version, and have been putting my own books on a kindle for review purposes for many years. Printing a book is very different, and you never really know what it will look like until the book is sitting in your hand.

I have recently published my paperback through KDP Paperback (Beta). I will be covering details of my experience using this in my next article Publishing a book with KDP Paperback (Beta), but I will also make some reference to it below in the context of the formatting.

Formatting – Font

Getting the font right on a print book is vitally important, and perhaps more so than with an ebook where the reader has an option to select a preferred font for themselves. You want the book to be readable such that the reader is not thinking about the font at all. On the other hand you don’t really want to be boring and just settle for Times New Roman. So, I started researching printing fonts, and was delighted to find a wealth of stats out there on the most common and easily read fonts.

The following article was one of my favourites (The Wisdom of Fonts – 10 book typefaces that can’t go wrong). Some of the other articles I found started going into 30+ fonts and giving each a write up, which as a newbie to print publishing was just way too much information. This article narrows it down to the top 10 best fonts (5 print, 5 ebook), and provides a nice straightforward explanation on each of the most common fonts.

In summary:

  • Serif typeface is best for printed book body text.
  • Sans Serif type is best for ebook body text
  • There are a few more options when it comes to titles and headings.
  • Different fonts take up more or less space and so this should be considered as part of the overall formatting.

For my book I decided to use Garamond for the body text. My novel is fairly chunky at 100k word count, and Garamond is slightly more compact, which gave me the option to add some line spacing while keeping it to a reasonable number of pages (see below for line spacing).

Formatting – Template

As I mentioned above I decided to use KDP Paperback (Beta), which has 2 book formatting templates for you to use (Paperback Manuscript Templates – Beta). I did all my formatting in Word using this template and then, as was recommended, saved to PDF for upload.

One template is blank and one is pre-populated. I tried using the blank one, but after a few failed attempts found it easier to use the populated one and then carefully pasted my work in a section at a time. I would recommend you turn the Word Formatting option on while pasting otherwise it is easy to cut out the section breaks, which are vitally important if you want the finished book to look professional.

For example, the pre-populated one comes with all the headers and footers so that each chapter will:

  • Have no header for the first page
  • Have a alternating author / book name for the rest of the chapter pages.
  • If you chop out any section breaks it will mess this up!

It also correctly formats the book so that the alternating pages have a space where the book will be bound…perfect!

So for me the template was a win, and although I had to paste each chapter in (and I have 55 chapters!) it didn’t take that long.

Formatting – Front Matter

Every book needs its front matter and the pre-populated template comes with all usual sections.

Add your copyright, (and editor, cover designer), and the important all rights reserved  / this is fiction bumph.

Here is a copy of the ones I used:

  • The this is fiction bumph…

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

  • The all rights reserved bumph…

All rights reserved. This book or parts thereof may not be reproduced in any form, stored in any retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise—without prior written permission of the author.

Formatting – At the End

Most books use the end as an opportunity to sell the reader another book, and why not. I added two more pages at the end of my manuscript. One page for the details of book 2, and one ‘about the author’ page with my website address.

Formatting – Details That Make it Look Professional

Among all the websites and blogs I viewed while researching, I came across this little gem by Derek Murphy (The 8 brilliant fonts you NEED to use in your book layout). While I ultimately did not use one of his lovely combinations for my own book I could immediately see from his examples how a little care could make a book look professional.

So my tips would be:

  • Think about how your body text works with your titles.
  • Think about how your internal heading / titles and book cover titles work together.
  • Think about your book genre in relation to all the above.
  • You can get a little funky with your chapter titles and book cover font, but approach body text with caution. People need to read it easily!

Formatting – Other Considerations

Line Spacing: The template is set to a single line space. This looked a little tight to me so I hit the google forums and found a wide range of people swearing by a print book line spacing of anything from 1 to 1.5, although most were closer to 1. I played around for a little while but finally landed on 1.25 as a line spacing I felt comfortable with for my selected font. I put no other paragraph spacing in, and left the first line indent as per the template.

Drop Cap: I love drop cap…it just lends a sense of professional to the finished product IMHO. So I used a drop cap at the start of all chapters of size 3.

Book Title and Chapter Headings: I elected to use the same font for my book: title on the cover, the internal title page, chapter headings, and the page headers. I used Dolce Vita, which has a bit of a reemerging retro-scifi-feel and I was very happy with it. Not the clearest font when small, so I kept my chapter headings reasonably large, and since I was only writing numbers i.e. there was no specific chapter name, I was happy to stick with that font.

Finishing the formatting…

So, by this point I had a beautifully formatted book, with headers, footers, correct binding space, all my front matter, copyright, correctly sectioned chapters,  I added a flourish with my drop cap, and finished with a couple of closing pages.

As per their recommendation, I saved a copy as PDF and it was ready for upload. Done!

For details on the overarching process of publishing a paperback book See Publishing a book with KDP Paperback (Beta).