If you’re planning on self-publishing, then avoiding these common formatting mistakes is vital!
Just because you’re self-publishing your book, it doesn’t mean that you need to format it like a self-published book. If you want that premium, traditionally published book look and feel, then avoid these common formatting mistakes.
These days self-publishing has become extremely popular, but so too has that ‘self-published’ look and feel. No one wants to pour their heart and soul into their book only for it to be criticized as hard to read or have someone leave a review saying that it looks amateurish.
There are several book design or formatting rules that almost all professional book publishers follow. If you have read several best-selling books and felt that the layout or formatting followed the same general style, then it’s because they do. Having your book look great is just as important as the content because if it looks bad on the inside or is difficult to read, most readers will put it down and never get to experience what you’ve written.
Many professional formatters follow the Chicago Manual of Style whenever they format any book.
Avoid These Common Formatting Mistakes
The first thing that we’re going to talk about is typography issues. The different text elements in your book, chapter headings, section headings, and body text all present you with different typographical choices. What font do you use? What size? Bold or Italic? Small caps or all caps? All of these different choices can affect the reader’s experience and wave a big flag that says, ‘I’m not 100% sure what I’m doing!’
- The Default Fonts – When you open a new document in Microsoft Word or whatever program you’re using, there is a default font. It’s often Times New Roman, Calibri, or Arial. Using one of these default fonts may be easy, but it also leaves your book looking more like a document than a book.
- Non-Standard Fonts – Almost all books use a variation of a serif font for their body text because the small strokes at the end make them easier to read. Sans Serif is used for titles, headings, and also captions in some cases. When you deviate away from the norm, you could be overcomplicating your book and making it difficult to read. There are some fonts that won’t do your book any justice at all, including Times New Roman, Comic Sans, script fonts, and blocky fonts that can be extremely difficult to read.
- Too Many Fonts – Don’t go crazy with your fonts. Keeping it simple often makes it easier for a reader to discern the hierarchy of information.
Spacing Issues to Avoid
The next thing that we’ll look at is spacing issues in your manuscript regarding lines, paragraphs, and margins. There are several hard and soft rules when it comes to spacing in book formatting, and breaking them can quickly highlight your book as something prepared by an amateur.
- Ragged Right Justification – When your text is justified to your left margin, it means that the left edge is aligned, and the right edge is ragged. Right justification is the opposite, and fully justified text means that your text aligns with both right and left margins. Books are traditionally set to full justification, and yours should be too!
- Missing or Bad Hyphenation – When you use full justification, it sometimes stretches words a little too far. Hyphenation is your solution to this problem, but it requires a little bit of extra attention
- Line Spacing – Give your words room to breathe! 1.1 to 1.5 will give your words room and make your book easier to read. If you use a single space, it will cram your words into it and make your body text difficult to read.
- Extra Space Between Paragraphs – Rather than putting a line space between paragraphs, consider using a first-line indent.
- Widows and Orphans – Sometimes, it’s difficult to avoid widows and orphans when a paragraph splits across pages. The broken line at the bottom is known as a widow and orphan. Often, clever adjustments to spacing and margins can help you avoid this.
- Incorrect Margins – When you’re trying to make a book look longer than it is, playing with your margins is one way to do it. However, going overboard with your margins isn’t recommended. Another common mistake is margins that are too small. Remember, you’re formatting a book that will eventually be printed, and when someone reads it, you don’t want your words running into the center margin known as the gutter.
Headers, Footers, and Page Numbers
- Headers, Footers, and Page Numbers – Your headers are the text at the top of the page, and the footers are the text at the bottom of the page. All of your headers and footers are outside of your body text. The header usually contains your book title, chapter title, or your author’s name. One element is usually on the odd page, and one is on the even page. Your page numbers can be part of either the header or footer. Chapter pages don’t usually include a header or footer, and neither do blank pages.
- Odd and Even Pages – Your odd pages should always be on the right, with your even pages on the left. Get this wrong, and it starts to raise some red flags.
- Page Numbers – Your page numbers should only start on the first page of the first chapter or at the introduction. The pages before that are known as the front matter. If you had multiple front matter pages, you would use Roman Numerals for your front matter.
Avoid These Common Formatting Mistakes! – Conclusion
Formatting is one part of book design and self-publishing that you can’t afford to get wrong. When you’re doing it yourself, it can be quite time-consuming. However, when it’s done correctly, the end result is a fantastic-looking book that’s easy to read and looks professional.
If you need assistance with paperback formatting, ebook formatting, or any book design and layout, then don’t hesitate to contact us at Author Services Australia. Our friendly and professional formatting team can work with you one-on-one to create a beautiful and attractive finished book.