How To Format a Book

A Simple Guide on Formatting a Book in Microsoft Word


Book Formatting Guide

When you finish writing your manuscript, make it ready for printing with a few easy steps:

1.  Book size is the first thing you should probably consider.  A5 next to A4 (A4 is double the size of an A5, 148.5mmx 210mm) is the most popular choice except for textbooks or children’s books.  A5 size is the cheapest size to print.  Anything bigger than an A5 size but smaller than an A4 size would be priced as an A4.  In short, it costs more to print anything larger than an A5.  Even if your book is 400 to 500 pages long, it’s still comfortably published as an A5 or paperback.

2.  The right font is the second thing to decide on, and it can be hard to choose!  You would likely have typed your manuscript using Arial or Times New Roman.  Other clear, clean and pleasant fonts such as Tahoma, Century Gothic, Verdana, and Bookman Old Style are also pleasing and appealing.

These fonts make for easy reading, whereas fonts such as Bahaus 93, Algerian, and Brush Script MTthose are unsuitable when you have a lot of text.  The font choice may also be determined by the mood you want to set for your book.  e.g. children’s, comics, or poem books.  Keep trying different fonts for effects.  Some fonts are loud, severe-looking, cheerful, or modern.  So you need to pick one that reflects what your writing aims to convey.  One of the sites that you can go to for free fonts is 101 Free Fonts.

Remember that some printers don’t have the less common fonts, so if you decide to use one, give a copy of the font to your printer.  Font size 12 is the most popular for most writers.  If you have a lot of text, 12 or 10 is suitable.  Ease of reading should be your first concern because potential buyers may be put off by an uncommon font or font size that is not easy to read or visually appealing.  If you wish to use an unusual font or font size, the best way to find out if it’s acceptable is to get different people to read your text set in that particular font or size.  Go with what the majority thinks.

3.  Line spacing refers to the horizontal space between the lines of your text.  The most commonly used is 1.5 or single line spacing.  In Microsoft Word 2007, I found 1.15, a perfect size.  It gives more room between the lines without using double spacing.

4.  The space between your text and the edge of the page is your page’s margins.  A book needs to have a little more room for margins because you have to allow the book’s spine and trim around the edges by the printer (the backbone of the book is where the pages of a book are held together and bound).

5.  Headers and footers are placed in books to help readers navigate better around your text.  The more artistic writers may use them to enhance the appearance of the pages.  Whatever your reason, they should never be intrusive – that is, overly bold or distracting – to take your readers’ attention away from the body text.  So go for a simple, subtle, neat design for your headers and footers.

Their position on your page – page number, title, or chapter number – must be placed correctly.  I like to insert page numbering in the centre of the footer.  The “Help” function on your MS Word will give you more details.

6.  Illustrations:

If you have images that go right to the edges of your pages, you must set crop marks and place bleed on your manuscript pages before handing it to the book printer.  These are required for your printer to know where to trim the edges of your book.  When you print your book, there is no limit on the number of images you can place in your manuscript.  Your price for the pages if BW means Black & White text or images.

7.  Once you have formatted your manuscript, it’s time to work on your book cover.  Considering your book cover design while working on your manuscript would be best.  The best way to make your design is to study the covers of other successful books that talk about the same subject as yours.  By the time you finish your writing, you will already have a good idea of the design appropriate for your book and maybe even have someone work on it while doing your final proofreading.

A typical shopper will only pick up a book if it grabs their attention and your book title interests them.  They will then continue to read the back cover and browse through the book before deciding to buy.  For your book to compete with the thousands of books in a store, your design has to be outstanding!  A plan that commands attention will get attention.

What makes a book cover outstanding?  The easiest way to find out is to study the covers of bestsellers and successful writers.  Spend time to check out the covers that attract you in any bookstore.  A cover can be outstanding without the use of overly loud colours.  This is not to say that you shouldn’t use loud colours.  Loud colours are attractive if appropriately used.  Also, ensure that the colour (s) you choose matches your book’s subject matter.  For example, pink may be a beautiful colour for a romance book, but it’s unthinkable for a business book unless it’s about the cosmetics or flowers industry.

If you use a picture on your front cover, ensure the colour you use around it compliments your image.  If you use a few colours on your cover, be sure they match or look right combined.  We have been conditioned by colours all our lives.  Put another way, people identify colours with different emotions.  White signifies purity, yellow is a happy colour, black is grim or modern, red is hot and sexy, and the list goes on…So make sure your choice of colours arouses the right emotions you are after.

8.  The choice of font for your cover is another thing you must consider carefully.  The type of font, how the words sit, and the size of words determine largely what and how much impact they make.  Always ask yourself if your cover text gives the impression you want to create with your book.

An image often enhances the appeal of a book cover if an appropriate one is used for a picture and tells a thousand words!  The right image says much more than words can ever do.  A cute or funny image may enhance a book on parenting but would be considered distasteful for a book about abortions.  So ask if your picture is suitable or relevant to your book subject.  You must pay attention to the cover image’s arrangement, if any, with the text layout on your cover.  Your choice of font, how your cover text is laid out, and even its size determine how your picture looks on your cover; they may either enhance or distort and deface your image.

If your cover image is intended to stand out instead of a background image, don’t let your text crowd it out.  Space may be empty, but it is valuable to have on your cover.  Appropriately used space will give your cover a clean, uncluttered, visually appealing look.  A cover overcrowded with text and graphics makes it hard to make out and can put people off from even reading it.  Very often, a cover design that’s simple and clean can also be attractive and enticing.

As you have seen earlier, book titles also play a tremendous role in advertising your book.  It will also decide whether your book sells, so think deeply about it.  The first question is if your title reflects the message you are trying to convey in your book.  If it doesn’t, it will put off your readers.  Other than relevance, is it catchy or memorable?  Make your title too long, making it hard for people to say or remember your book title.  People generally don’t have a good memory for prolonged or complicated titles.  Even if people don’t buy your book when they first see it, they may return if they remember the title when your book’s subject becomes applicable later.

Ask yourself, too, if your book title is provoking enough.  A provoking title that arouses emotions or appeals intensely to the intellect will sell.  People are emotional creatures; words that bring up their feelings significantly impact them.

See what emotions the following titles have on you:

“The One Minute Manager”

“Death By Prescription”

“The Insider’s Guide To 52 Homes in 52 Weeks”

“When The Market Moves, Will You Be Ready?”

“It can also be useful to include a subtitle if it expands or offers a solution like theirs:”

“Death by Prescription”
The shocking truth behind an overmedicated nation

“The Insider’s Guide to 52 Homes in 52 Weeks”
Acquire your real estate fortune today!

The Technical Aspect of Your Cover Designs

Cover designs are usually done with software like Adobe ‘InDesign’, ‘Photoshop’ or ‘Illustrator’.  If you don’t have the skill, it’s best to pay a friend or a professional freelancer to do it.  But if you choose to do it, here are a few technical tips:

1.  The front and the back cover are one design, with the front cover on your right and the back cover on your left with the spine along the middle – from top to bottom.  This cover is done in one integrated piece to be folded to hold the book together.  The spine refers to the space allocated for holding the pages together.

2.  The space given to the spine depends on the number of pages in a book.  How do we know how much space is required for the spine?  This is calculated by multiplying the number of pages in your book by the paper thickness.  Just click on our Spine Calculator to work it out for you.

3.  If you lay a book down on its back cover with the spine facing you, you will usually see the author’s name on your far left, the book title in the centre, and the publisher’s name or logo on the far right.  Although some book spines show book titles first and then the author’s names, the publisher’s name and logo always appear last.

4.  Whatever sequence you choose, ensure that you type your name and book title to appear upright while the publisher’s name and logo sit on the bottom of the spine – when your book lies on its back.  Please look at some printed books to see how it’s done.

5.  Printers need guidelines in trimming your book and cover.  That is why you need to insert crop marks which are fine lines that tell your printer where to cut your book.  They also require a bleed on your cover, the extra space outside your book’s designated size.  This means you have to extend your coloured cover design beyond your book size so that the white paper that your cover design is printed on doesn’t show up as white lines around the edge of your book cover after trimming.  The ISBN and Barcode appear on the back cover of your book, usually at the bottom right.  No stores will take your book if they don’t occur on your cover, so don’t forget to insert them in your design.

6.  There are no hard and fast rules on how pages, incredibly the first few, are arranged in a book.  Some writers may leave an empty page at the beginning of their book.  But they all follow a typical pattern.

7.  The Title Page is usually the first page you see on your right when you open a book.  Most writers put the book title and sometimes their names on this page.  If a publisher is involved, its name will appear at the bottom of this page.  Next is the Copyright Page, placed directly on the back leaf of the title page or the 1st left-hand page of your book.

8.  Some writers describe themselves briefly on the first page instead of the book title, while others place theirs on the back cover with the book summary.
Converting your files into PDF

Now that you have prepared your manuscript and cover design, it’s time to convert them into PDF format for printing.  If you know nothing about converting files into PDFs, follow these steps.  First, go to to download their FREE PDF conversion program.  Once the download is complete, you can save it or open and run it (if you do the PDF conversion immediately and do not wish to keep it).  This software will now appear as a print driver in your print menu.

Next, open up your manuscript document in MS Word.  Then choose File>Print> on your menu bar—select PDF995 from your printers list under printers’ names.  After you make your selection, click OK.  This will NOT print your document but immediately converts it into a PDF  file.  It’s that easy!  Now do the same with your cover design.  All your files are ready to be uploaded via our File Send FTP.

Once we receive your print-ready files, we will make a free proof from the files you send.  Yes, you get to see an actual copy of how your files look in book form!
Please remember that nothing can be changed after your book is printed.

All changes must be done before your confirmation.  It is your responsibility to make a comprehensive check of your proof.  Only after you complete your final checking and confirm that you are happy with the way it looks we’ll go ahead with your order’s actual printing.

Initial Setup

1.  Open your book document in your MS Word program.

2.  Go to File > Page Setup > Margins, Paper and Layout: select your Margins, Page size, Header and Footer formats.

This is done as mirror margins under File-page setup- multiple pages click mirror margins.  This will also have the text centred in the middle of the book/page.  Page Setup: Choose the preferred size you want your book to be.  A4 and A5 are standard for Australia.  Children’s books are popular as square 21×21.

No matter what program you use, the principles are the same.  Margins for your content file will depend on the type of binding and the number of pages you have in your File.  You will need a margin with enough room to consider the spine.

3.  Spine Margins.  Design your File with margins according to the binding you are using.  As a general guide, allow half a cm (5mm) for every 200 pages for paperback books if you are using 20mm margins left and right.

This is for the spine only.  This is usually called the gutter in your Word program.  If you have an older version of Microsoft Word, add this amount to the left edge and use the mirror margins option.

Children’s books with thicker paper and fewer pages allow approximately 3mm for booklets.  If your book is a colour book with thicker paper, 10mm for every 200 printed pages would look appropriate.

If you want to be more precise, use the spine calculator guide.


Inside Margins Chart
Minimum Inside Margin
Up to 150
151 to 400


Outside Edge Margins

Next, consider how far away you want the text to be away from the spine.  If you use 15mm on the right side and enjoy the text to look centred, make the same left and right margins, then place the spine size in the spine or gutter box.  Notice the Mirror Margins are selected next to the multiple pages tab.  I like 17mm for left and right in A5 books and 20mm for A4 books.  Outer margins are the page edges opposite the binding and the top and bottom margins.  All text and images to have an outer margin recommended- an outside margin of 0.5″.

See the following examples:



Page Recommendations

1.  The 1st page of your document is reserved for your Title Page.  Use a nice font!  Look at other books to gain ideas.

2.  The 2nd page of your document looks nice as your Copyright Page will be on the left, the back of our title page.

3.  The 3rd Page onwards is flexible: Insert your Introduction, Dedication, or Acknowledgements Page here.  You can insert your Table of Contents page here if you don’t have any.

4.  If you have an Introduction Page (or Dedication Page..Etc), insert The Table of Contents page after these pages.

5.  You should start a new book section on ‘odd’ pages to format every new section’s layout on the right-hand side of your book.

6.  When setting your page numbering, format the Header and Footers of the even and Odd pages, respectively.  Go to View > Header and Footer.  ii.  If you find this tedious, you can format the Header and Footers to sit in the centre of the pages, so you won’t have to worry about the layout for odd and even pages, respectively.

It’s easy to set up page numbers to exclude your Table of Contents or even put a different page number if you know how.  To help you with this, look at Microsoft’s page numbering guide.

7.  Chapters: Ensure that the beginning of all your Chapters has a distinct look at setting it apart from the Chapter before.

8.  Good Chapter Layout: This breaks the book’s monotonous text sequence.  You can distinctly tell that a New Chapter has begun.

9.  Choosing a Text Font: iii.  Typical: Times New Roman: 10pt or 12pt justified iv.  OR you can choose other fonts—some authors like using ” fun ” or less serious-looking fonts like Comic San MS or Arial.  I prefer average line spacing at 1.  Don’t like to waste paper and add to the cost of your book?  You might like 1.5 line spacing or other.

10.  Once you have finished your manuscript, convert the File to PDF format.  We can do this for you free of charge if you are not familiar with pdf drivers.

11.  You can download a FREE PDF driver from or this software, which saves itself as a ‘print driver’ on your computer.  Press “Print” and look for the PDF selection; your document is converted to PDF.

Set the driver to the correct book size (A5 or A4), or it won’t work outright.  When you go to this site, you will see two links to download.  One of them is called a converter.  Make sure you download from the two links.

Chapter Layout tip: Set the page number in the page’s centre.

Book Cover Files

1.  People do judge books by their covers

2.  Typically designed using professional programs such as Adobe In-Design, so bleed, and crop marks are available for the book printers to use for book trimming purposes.  You can set up your cover file in Microsoft Publisher, Adobe In Design, Adobe Illustrator or any program per the instructions below.  Please note that Microsoft Word is unsuited for book cover design as there is no room for bleed and other factors such as colour limitations.

3.  For colour format, please ensure it is saved as CMYK mode.

4.  If you have unique fonts on your book cover, please ensure the fonts are “embedded or flattened” before sending your PDF file to the book printer.

5.  Have all your fonts embedded into your File when saving into PDF.  If you are unsure about this, include your font files when you send your files to the book printers.

6.  Have bleed space and crop marks around your image.  The bleed is 3mm-5mm around the edge.  If you wish for photos to bleed to the edge of your book, ensure that they extend at least 0.125″ beyond the final trim size from the top, bottom and outer edges and submit your PDF 0.25″ higher and 0.125″ wider than your selected trim size to accommodate the total bleed area.  Remember that all should be at least 0.25″ away from the trim lines.

7.  If you are inserting scanned images into your book cover, or if you are paying for an illustrator to draw up the body for you, ensure that your pictures are reviewed in high resolution 300 dpi saved as tiff or jpeg files so that we can insert them on the page.

Any images may be tagged with your choice of Grayscale, CMYK or RGB profiles or left untagged in a generic colour space.  All photos should be sized at 100%, flattened to one layer and placed in your native document at a resolution of 300 DPI. Embed all fonts and images in your PDF file.  We can provide these services if you cannot offer your book cover in the above format.

ISBN Application

As the Self Publisher, you will need to apply for an ISBN.  For an ISBN to be organised, the following information is required:

Publishers Name: (your name or your company name)

    • Publishers ABN (Optional)
    • Postal address:
    • Street address:
    • Contact Ph:
    • Contact Fax:
    • Email:
    • Have you applied for an ISBN before? (Y/N)

Book Details

  • Book Title:
  • Define subject:
  • If the work is part of a series, what is the series title?
  • Month and Year of publication: (e.g., Jan 08)
  • Recommended Retail Price (RRP):

For Self Publishers: Note your RRP must allow for 30% – 65% commission to be allocated to the bookstores.  This is a standard contract arrangement with Bookstores if you want to retail with them.  Your book price will need to allow you enough to profit after paying a bookstore commission and the cost of printing the book.  You can get an estimate for your book by browsing your local bookstore.

CiP Application

Publication” or CiP details to be inserted into your Copyright Page.
It is not a legal obligation, but some authors want to include it in their books.
Log in at

It is a FREE service.


Is there a legal requirement to include a Cataloguing in Publication (CiP) record in a book?

CiP is a free service offered by the National Library of Australia.  There is no legal obligation to include a CiP record in any publication.

How does the Cataloguing in Publication program (CiP) relate to Copyright?

There is no relationship between the CiP program and Copyright.

How can I get a catalogue record for a book that is already published?

CiP data is only available for works that are not yet published.  Cataloguing data is included in the Australian National Bibliographic Database (ANBD), available at  Australia’s Library Network, for all books received by the National Library on Legal Deposit.

Read more: Self Publisher Resources

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