Book Interior Formatting: Paragraphs

Formatting. Every time I finish a book and start the process of formatting it for print, I have to run around and look at at a thousand different pages trying to remember everything I know about formatting. Every time, I end up looking up half a dozen new pages because I’ve lost or misplaced my bookmarks. Every time, I feel like pulling out my hair because it’s a lot to juggle while distilling it all down to the vital bits. This time I’m writing it all down as I go, so there will be a handy guide for next time and so other indie authors have a useful one stop shop for all their info.

It’s time to hunker down and get your interior ducks in a row. For the most part there are templates from whatever POD site you’re using that come in very handy. The templates will align each page so that there’s enough room for the spine to be stitched, so you don’t have to. However things like font choice, chapter headers, front and back content – are still entirely up to you and it’s those details that can take you what feels like forever to fix just the way you want them.

One thing that makes this process a whole hell of a lot easier is Word Styles. You can customize the styles all you want ahead of time so that they’ll always be ready when you need them and you can change up the the layout of your text just by highlighting a section and selecting the appropriate style.

I’m going to explain how to format two of my favorite styles (they’re relevant both for print formatting and ebook cormating) today: paragraph formatting and next time: chapter header formatting, but you’ll probably have to create additional styles for your front and back matter.

Paragraph Formatting

It’s easiest to have this format set to your default, that way you see how you’re book is going to look as a finished product – as you write it. It also gives you a great ‘feel’ for the length of book seeing it how it’ll appear once published.

Font – the perfect font varies for ebooks and paper books. Usually a ‘serif’ font is best for books, like: Garamond, Times New Roman and Palatino. All of those come free with Word but if you’re thinking you want something a little different you can try looking over these choices at the Book Designer and pick a different interior font. I usually go with Garamond or Times New Roman.

Indents – Never. Ever. Ever! Use the tab button to indent the first line of your paragraphs! It will look like a huge hole in your ebook and printed texts; if you decide to use a site like Smashwords, their converter can not stand the things and you’ll end up with a bunch of really unreadable gobbledygook. Instead set Word to automatically indent the first line of your paragraphs by .3.

This brings me to the last point: Spacing and alignment. For an ebook you want your paragraph’s set to justified alignment, with 6 points of spacing before each line with multiple line spacing set at 1.5 – but for a paperback you want your paragraphs set to justified alignment with no spacing before or after paragraphs. Sounds confusing right? It’s actually really easy.

Click on the “paragraph” section of word to bring up the window in the image and just set all the spacing and indentations as shown for an ebook. For a paperback, just set the alignment and indentation, you can leave the line spacing at 0.

Now that you’ve picked your font and have set up your paragraph formatting it’s time to save the whole shebang as a style. Highlight a paragraph of text. Right click on any of the styles in the style section of word (I usually overwrite the ‘normal’ style) and choose “Update style format to match current selection,” I usually rename the style at this point to reflect it’s new use before finally going to change styles and selecting “select as default” and then you should also right click the style, choose ‘modify’ and then make sure that “new documents based on this template” is checked, this makes sure that every time you open a new doc – this style is available.

Be sure to check out the other steps on formatting your paperbacks interiors with Microsoft Word:

And as always – if there’s anything I’ve neglected to cover that you want to know, just ask in the comments and I’ll see what I can do to help.


2 thoughts on “Book Interior Formatting: Paragraphs

  1. This is just absolutely wonderful that you have put this all in one place and written it so clearly and compellingly! Thank you so much. I will definitely be following you!

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