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Friday, April 5, 2019

Nitty-Gritty Formatting Your Indie Print Book

I recently re-formatted my ebook Word files for to create files for paperback printing via Amazon. It can be a laborious process, especially for perfectionists (that's me). Establishing a checklist is invaluable for working methodically.

This series of blog posts gets into the nitty-gritty of making your paperbacks... beautiful! It will also make your checklist longer.

Okay, perhaps most of us, as readers, don't care whether our paperbacks -- I'm talking about the interior text -- are beautiful. But I labor over those little details. So, let's get stuck into it.

You probably know the standard advice, and if you don't you can look at a commercially printed book and figure it out -- such as:


  • indent (don't tab)and justify your paragraphs, and don't add spaces between them (please, please, please DON'T!)
  • leave the first paragraph of a new chapter non-indented
  • set up your layout with mirror margins
  • set up your front matter, with a section break at the end followed by "start page numbering at 1" for chapter 1
  • use a legible classic font in a legible size. 
But when "good enough" isn't good enough for you, this blog series shares a few extra tips I've gleaned from years of working in publishing, and dealing with a fiction publishing imprint for my traditionally published books. It focuses on the additional formatting needed for changing an ebook file into a professional-looking print-ready file, although of course you may be working in the opposite direction.

Either way, you start with a manuscript, perhaps double-spaced, perhaps without any styles applied. No doubt you already know you'll need to strip out extraneous styles, reapply Normal to everything (this will probably remove all your italics! -- yikes -- more on that in a later post), and style your chapter headings. Let's go beyond all that.

We'll start by looking at non-indented paragraphs. The first paragraph of each chapter should be set non-indented (you knew that!). For that extra touch, the first paragraph after a section break should also be non-indented (or "full-out", as we called it at my publishing house):



(Don't confuse a visual section break, as above, with a Word "section break" which is an entirely different thing.)

When formatting Word docs that will be converted to Kindle or epub files, those conversion tools get nervous about non-indented paragraphs and tend to either add an extra-large indent that looks like crap, or completely re-style those initial paragraphs into a different font and/or font size, which looks even worse.

To avoid this, after setting your Normal style in Word -- which I believe should look pretty much exactly like this:


-- create a new Style called "Normal Non-indent" based on Normal, and give it a First Line Indent of 0.01cm (or 0.001"). This is visually unnoticeable, but it does convince the ebook conversion software that you have an indent, which stops it applying some hideous or weird indent or other formatting.

In my next post I'll be looking at those section breaks, the three asterisks, and discussing when they (or symbols like them) are and are not necessary.

If you have any questions about formatting for print, don't be shy!

Posts in this series:
Nitty-Gritty Formatting for Your Indie Print Book - intro
Hard and Soft Section Breaks
Font Sizes Part 1
Font Sizes Part 2
Body Text Font Choices
Making Word Do What You Want Part 1
Making Word Do What You Want Part 2

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