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Last updated on Sep 07, 2021

How to Format a Book (the Free and Easy Way)

There are plenty of great tools and resources available to anyone who wants to format a professional-grade book. Some self-published authors use MS Word for creating ebook formatting, though this shouldn't be your choice by default for a very simple reason: nobody enjoys reading a book that looks like a high school essay.

This post is all about how to format a book that will impress payingreaders. We’ll show you how to use a free tool — the Reedsy Book Editor — to format a book professionally for print and ebook production in only six steps. Sign up to the Reedsy Book Editor here to unlock it, and then let’s get to it! 

Note: this post is not about manuscript formatting. If you’re looking to present your book to agents, editors, and early readers, drop by our detailed guide to manuscript formats (which comes with a downloadable manuscript format template).

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Step 1. Import your book into the Reedsy Book Editor

Regardless of the writing software you've been using, you can use the .docx import function on the Reedsy Book Editor to continue working on manuscripts you started on any major word processor. To keep all your chapter breaks and headings, be sure to: 

  • Using "styles" for each chapter title and heading; or
  • Using "chapter …" at the beginning of every chapter.

Another option is to copy-paste your book in the Reedsy Book Editor and then use our "chapter break" feature to split it into chapters. Throughout this process, you should note that Reedsy respects the existing formatting of your manuscript, which means that our software will retain elements like headings, links, and inline styles (italic/bold). Here’s what it looks like:

Make a book from Word to the Reedsy Book Editor

Once your manuscript is nestled comfortably into the editor, the formatting can begin!

Step 2. Style your content

One feature that makes our book production tool really smart is the formatting bar: simply select the type of paragraph or character style you want to use, and the formatting will be applied.

The paragraph styling options are:

  • Default paragraph: your standard styling
  • Three levels of headings to structure your content (mainly for non-fiction books)
  • Two types of lists: bullet points and numbers
  • Quotations

Once you’ve defined your paragraphs’ styling, you can customize your font styling with the following options:

  • Bold
  • Italic
  • Underline
  • Link and cross-references

You may also want to be aware of the existence of widows and orphans. No, not the Oliver Twist ones of the Dickens variety! In publishing speak, a widow is a word (or small group of words) that sits by itself at the bottom of a paragraph or page, and orphans are words leftover from a paragraph on the previous page. 

Orphans and widows
Cry not for the orphans. Pity not the widows.

Of course, the RBE will automatically take care of widows and orphans for you. So you don’t actually have to worry about them ever again! 

Now that you’ve got your text looking perfect, let’s move on to step 3...

You’ve mastered this step and are ready to get a little fancy. On to step 3...

Check out our review of Vellum book formatting software!

Step 3. Add images, endnotes, and scene breaks

Books that meet industry standards but are also unique and personal? Brilliant! The next step is to enrich your existing content with:

  • Images and captions
  • Endnotes
  • Scene breaks (for fiction)

ebook formatting - insert images, captions and scene breaks

You will find your endnotes in a dedicated chapter at the end of your book for reference:

How to format a book: Reedsy book editor endnotes

At this point, your manuscript’s interior is taken care of, and it’s time to focus on its exterior.

Step 4. Add a book cover

You can now click on the Export icon, which will lead you to our Export page — where most of the magic happens.

The first thing you should do here is to upload your cover. Make sure you upload an image that follows the requirements of the ebook stores you are using for distribution. For best results, we recommend your cover image use a ratio of 1:1.6 and measure at least 2500px on the longest side. But if you’re not sure, check out our handy guide on how to choose the right book cover dimensions.

Note that for physical books, POD services will require both a PDF with the full jacket and a separate PDF for the book’s interior. For the book’s jacket, we recommend working with a designer from the Reedsy marketplace who knows the requirements of different POD services and will be able to provide you with the right file.

Step 5. Configure your book's front matter

“Front matter” refers to the parts of your manuscript that come before the actual content begins. This also applies to ebooks. With the Editor, you can manage your book's front matter elements in two sections: the Copyright Page and Table of Contents.

On this page, you can manage your:

  • Title
  • Subtitle
  • Pen name
  • Edition number
  • Year of publication
  • Collaborators
  • Publisher name and logo (if any)
  • Copyright clauses
  • ISBN number(s)

Note that you won’t need an ISBN for most ebook retailers, as they have their own identifying number. For instance, Amazon uses the Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN) and creates a new one for free every time you publish with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Similarly, Apple iBooks no longer requires an ISBN.

There’s currently a debate about whether or not ISBNs still make sense, and you can read more about it here. For now, you’ll need an ISBN if you’re planning on printing POD versions, and most POD services will provide you with one for free.

Once your ISBN has been added, you can turn your attention to your table of contents.

Table of Contents

This is where you can choose how detailed your table of contents will be. If you're writing a novel, you may only want to list the chapter titles in the table of contents (above). However, you can also choose to list your sub-headings as well (below).

And once you're done with configuring your copyright page and table of contents, you're just about ready to export your book.

Step 6. Select the file you need

We’re getting closer! It’s now time to decide whether you want to create an ebook, print copies, or both. This will also determine whether you need an EPUB, or PDF file. Check out our guide to publishing file formats to learn more about these formats.

End note positioning for EPUB ebooks: at the end of the chapter or the book

How to create an ebook: download an EPUB file

EPUB files are compatible with the Kindle Store, Apple’s iBookstore, the Kobo Store, Nook Press, Google Play, and NetGalley.

Next, decide how you’d like to organize your endnotes (if applicable). You can position them at the end of every chapter or all together at the end of the book.

For print copies: download a PDF file

The files created are currently compatible with most POD services (Lulu, KDP Print, IngramSpark, CPI, etc.). Again, the first step is to position your endnotes. For physical copies, you can decide whether you’d like them to be footnotes at the bottom of a page or actual endnotes at the end of your book.

Unlike ebooks, your physical copy needs to be set to a trim size ready for printing. Reedsy currently offers a few different options, based on popular industry standard sizes:

  • Pocket 4.25 x 6.87 in (10.80 x 17.45 cm)
  • Reedsy 5 x 8 in (12.7 x 20.32 cm)
  • Digest 5.5 x 8.5 in (13.97 x 21.59 cm)
  • Trade 6 x 9 in (15.24 x 22.86 cm)

Which trim size should you pick? There’s no clear-cut answer. Your choice depends on a few factors: the genre and audience of your book, the length of the manuscript, and, of course, your personal preference. To make a decision here, we recommend that you spend some time in a bookstore with a ruler to determine what makes the most sense for your future bestseller.

Here are a few pictures to give you a sense of what those different sizes look like:

 

How to make a book trim sizes examples for print books
From left to right: Reedsy 5 x 8 in - Digest 5.5 x 8.5 in - Trade 6 x 9 in

Once you’ve selected your trim size, simply pick a template and hit the download button. Your moment of glory is only seconds away as the editor typesets your book and gets it ready to be downloaded!

As a bonus, we have a short video tutorial for formatting your manuscript in the Reedsy Book Editor.

ZF6MHRgMQIo Video Thumb

Head to our Reedsy Book Editor and format your book for free, in just a few seconds. And if you have any questions or feedback, feel free to let us know in the comments below.

 

– Originally published on Nov 15, 2019

58 responses

Malaika Rose Stanley says:

29/07/2016 – 08:19

The Reedsy Book Editor really is an amazing resource for indie authors, as I know from experience! But I'd still like to see the option to add 'untitled' front matter, such as a quote... and an option to remove/change the formatting of lower case, italicised roman numerals page numbers, which I guess is a feature more common in the US than the UK.

↪️ Reedsy replied:

29/07/2016 – 09:04

Thank you for the testimonial! The front matter options are receiving a major revamp in the coming weeks, as we know they can be improved as you have suggested. There are infinite possibilities for customization when it comes to books, which overwhelms many authors. This is one of the reasons why we have kept a few things simple. Thank you for suggesting these ideas however, we will look into it :)

Colin Smith says:

03/08/2016 – 14:45

How does it handle footnotes? I have seen published novels where footnotes appear as pop-ups without having to navigate away from the page you're reading. That's the format I'd like for my work.

↪️ Reedsy replied:

04/08/2016 – 08:17

Hi Colin, good question! Currently we handle footnotes on ePub by placing them at the end of each chapter, or in a chapter of their own at the end of the book. We have now moved to ePub3, which is the format that allows you to have these "popup footnotes", and while we have not yet optimized the export to accommodate these, it is definitely on our radar to support soon :)

Kate Gesch says:

14/09/2016 – 02:40

I'm working in the book editor right now, and there are significantly fewer options in the formatting bar than what is pictured above. My only choices are regular paragraph, headings 1,2,3, block quote, numbered list, bullets, bold, italic, underline, and hyperlink. I'm particularly looking for the sans paragraph font and the center text options, where did they go?

↪️ Reedsy replied:

14/09/2016 – 09:07

Hi Kate, the formatting bar images on this post are slightly ahead of our roadmap — the alignment and sans paragraph font will come within an update of the Book Editor in a year or so (i.e. Oct 2017). Sorry about that!

Milk for Dead Hamsters says:

19/10/2016 – 12:31

I want to love Reedsy's ebook creator so badly. It has a beautiful interface and produces a nicely templated book. BUT it's light on one too many features. Section breaks do not work. Center adjustment isn't available. Hyperlinks on pictures would be useful. As someone mentioned, all of the "front matter" is considered chapters and roped into the Table of Contents. I'd like to be able to put a dedication and a teaser for another book before the ToC and not have it show up on that list. Any word on when the new features will be coming out?

↪️ Amber Deann replied:

19/01/2018 – 22:00

Milk for dead hamsters, I have a question. IN the past year have the problems you mentioned about been resolved. Can you deal with "front matter" with out it being part of Table of Contents? I have poetry in my manuscript. Hope I can get it formatted easily. Love any comments or suggestions you could give. amber

↪️ Milk for Dead Hamsters replied:

19/01/2018 – 23:37

Not sure. I never revisited this product. I went with vellum, which was a pretty penny, but did exactly what I needed it to do.

Gustavo Razzetti says:

29/04/2017 – 16:50

I'm about to submit my manuscript to an editor. Shall I uploaded on the Reedsy Book editor before or after is been edited? Most probably, I will be working with an editor from the Reedsy network so I want to understand if your editor use this tool for editing or is it something that authors use once the book has been edited? :)

↪️ Reedsy replied:

01/05/2017 – 11:59

Hi Gustavo, at this point, the Reedsy Book Editor is not collaborative, so we recommend you only use it for the final steps: formatting to EPUB and print-ready PDF. Thanks for your question! :)

Joanna @ MumsKidsJesus.com says:

08/09/2017 – 20:07

Is there an option to justify text in the Reedsy editor?

↪️ Reedsy replied:

08/09/2017 – 20:34

Hi Joanna, Your text will be automatically justified when you export it. We give you the best experience to write and our tool takes care of the formatting itself at the end.

Elle Clouse says:

26/11/2017 – 20:18

This is a great tool. I'm working on formatting a paperback and I don't see where I can force chapter/title pages onto the right hand page. And alternatively the copyright notice needs to be left hand page. Is this something that can be done and I can't locate the functionality? Or is it a feature that's coming soon?

↪️ Reedsy replied:

19/04/2018 – 08:59

This isn't a feature that's available. We don't allow for infinite customization as we really want to avoid users making basic typesetting mistakes. We'll probably add templates in the future though where chapter and title pages will be formatted differently.

Jason says:

29/01/2018 – 23:03

I'm wondering why the text for a typesetting/formatting software cuts off the last few characters of each line of the preceding explanatory website text. This blog entry was supposedly updated in September 2017. Has no one noticed this? Not a particularly good first impression. I guess you get what you pay for.

Lisa Santika Onggrid says:

19/04/2018 – 02:34

What do I do if it returns a failure on me whenever I try to export a book? There's not even a notice telling me the reason it fails.

↪️ Reedsy replied:

19/04/2018 – 08:58

Our team is instantly notified whenever there's a failed export, so they can look into it. Please allow a few days until they get back to you and identify the issue.

I.P.A. Manning says:

13/06/2018 – 14:15

In downloading a word doc onto the ebook creator my endnotes come out numbered in Roman numerals in the text instead of in standard numbers ( I have many endnotes) and the reference appears at the end of the chapter instead of the end of the book. I also wish to hyperlink some of the URLS? How do I do I do all this?

↪️ Reedsy replied:

13/06/2018 – 14:20

You can select the position of the endnotes on the export page, in the "End note positioning" section. For hyperlinking, just highlight the text you'd like to hyperlink, then click on the link symbol and fill in the link. Hope this helps!

↪️ I.P.A. Manning replied:

13/06/2018 – 14:26

Will give it a bash, thank you. What about changing the Roman numerals for 1,2.3. etc?

↪️ Reedsy replied:

13/06/2018 – 14:36

That depends on the template, and right now our templates use Roman numerals, as it is more the standard for typesetting.

↪️ I.P.A. Manning replied:

13/06/2018 – 16:33

Thanks. The endnotes insist on going to the end of the chapter? Woud appreciate a step by step guide as to how to persuade the endnotes stuck at the end of the chapter to move and join the herd of endnotes in a chapter at the end ? Many thanks.

↪️ I.P.A. Manning replied:

14/06/2018 – 19:23

I have set the marker for the endnotes to appear at the end of the book, yet it continues to the end of the chapter. Any ideas?

Syntell Smith says:

22/08/2018 – 14:33

I can't insert scene breaks with a centered group of three asterisks. Is there a work around for this?

↪️ Reedsy replied:

22/08/2018 – 23:03

You can add three-asterisk scene breaks by clicking on the plus sign in the top bar and then on "insert scene break"

Melanie Rambo says:

23/08/2018 – 09:30

I have a client that would like to convert her Weebly blog into a book with the hope of printing just 1-3 copies. Is Reedy a good place for me to come for that? Thanks for your time

Katie Lile says:

30/08/2018 – 17:38

I have a completely different formatting bar than the one that they show everywhere else. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/263be34c2703a465bcdf30f934c4f60c7ff5454d69d0e18def0d45685c7d68ae.jpg

↪️ Reedsy replied:

03/09/2018 – 14:48

Great point. We created those mock-ups a short while ago with all the functions we want (and are perhaps going) to add to the editor. However, as you pointed out, it may be more useful to show how the toolbar *actually* looks — so we've updated the post to reflect that. Thanks :)

Lucretia Cargill says:

01/03/2019 – 16:11

I have been having an issue trying to double space my document. I have been trying to figure that out. But overall my book looks good! Any suggestion on how to double space?

↪️ Reedsy replied:

08/05/2019 – 12:28

Sorry, we automatically remove double spacing, as that is not a standard in novels or trade non-fiction.

Alana Khan says:

08/05/2019 – 12:28

I wrote in google docs, imported to word, then imported to Reedsy. Every single paragraph break (double spaced) was removed and replaced with a 3 space paragraph indent. I personally hate to read books formatted like this and also don't want to have to manually change every single paragraph break. Is there a fix to this? Thanks.

↪️ Reedsy replied:

08/05/2019 – 12:29

Hi Alana, there's no fix to this as our Reedsy Book Editor automatically follows and defaults to standard typesetting rules. If you pick a book on your shelves, you'll see there are very few (if any) line breaks, and that all new paragraphs are indented. If you prefer not to follow typesetting standards, the Reedsy Book Editor is not a good option for you.

Glen Kenner says:

08/05/2019 – 12:28

I've just tried to use the manuscript creator tool for the first time but it didn't work for me. I wrote my novel in Google Docs and saved it as a .docx file. When I try to import it into the tool, I get an error message "Manuscript has an invalid error type". Anyone know what I should do from here?

↪️ Reedsy replied:

08/05/2019 – 12:29

We're looking into it. For now, we recommend either copy-pasting your manuscript in the Editor, or saving your file first in MS Word or Open Office.

Tom Dorr says:

24/06/2019 – 12:29

Wow! I feel like a complete idiot. I joined Reedsy, have an account and have used this to hire a designer, yet i cannot find anything about the Reedsy Book Editor or a way to contact anybody at Reedsy. If you would be so kind as to help me in any way I would be very appreciative. Thanks

↪️ Reedsy replied:

25/06/2019 – 11:58

Hi Tom, When you log in to Reedsy, you'll see an option in the sidebar that says "My Books" — if you tap on this and create a book, that will take you straight to the formatting tool. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact us at service@reedsy.com :)

Lannan says:

14/07/2019 – 01:41

I signed up to use the Reedsy editor almost a year ago, and have cracked it open again today to see how things are coming along - I didn't like it much for my fiction novel, and decided to try it for formatting a nonfiction guide book I've finished. In discovering this re-posted blog article, I see that there are some things that users asked for several years ago that have not been implemented yet - are there any plans on the horizon to allow for page-end or chapter-end notes? Also, when is it anticipated that the "editing" version of the editor (as opposed to the "writing" version) will be released?

↪️ Lannan replied:

14/07/2019 – 01:44

Ah, eating my words a bit - the notes function is hidden away in the "export" page. While the editor is a fantastic resource, there are a few basic things that could be improved upon a great deal - more transparency about how to accomplish these things might help! (Or at least a way to see many of these export-only formatting options from in the writing editor would help a lot.)

louise says:

16/08/2019 – 15:04

Hey, just considering using the editor interface and wondered if it's possible to resize an image? When I import an already small image, it makes it fit the width of the page? also is it possible to move it around the page? Thanks :)

↪️ Martin Cavannagh replied:

19/08/2019 – 09:01

Hi Louise, we only support full-width images at the moment, unfortunately. Smaller images get tricky for us to handle when we're dealing with a variety of screen sizes for epubs. To get a smaller image, you have to manually “pad” the image — add white/transparent space either side of it — and reupload. Hope that helps!

sean moore says:

16/08/2019 – 16:45

I can't find the actual blank place for me to download some book copy

↪️ Martin Cavannagh replied:

19/08/2019 – 08:56

Hi Sean, if you're still having trouble could you email our team (service@reedsy.com) — they should be able to sort it out for you :)

S Yhan says:

17/08/2019 – 03:22

How can I add a back cover of my book to the editor? I only see option to upload the front cover.

↪️ Martin Cavannagh replied:

19/08/2019 – 08:55

If it's for the print version, almost all printers will ask you to upload your covers separately. Our print PDFs export with no cover at all for this reason. Hope that helps :)

Isobel says:

21/08/2019 – 07:54

Does the Book Editor support other languages and if so which ones? (for the text of the book I mean, not that the software itself)

↪️ Martin Cavannagh replied:

23/08/2019 – 09:23

Currently, we only fully support English — but we're looking into adding other languages at some point in the future.

Peggy chappell says:

05/09/2019 – 21:48

Justifying margins is standard for most books and yet I see no way to do that. After working on my manuscript and wasting a couple of hours I discovered this. Anyone have any solution?

Adam Blumer says:

15/10/2019 – 13:48

Where should I post my book endorsements? I don't see that option in the front matter. Thanks.

↪️ Martin Cavannagh replied:

15/10/2019 – 14:08

You can just add a new section/chapter and drag it into the front matter to use as any sort of section you like. Hope that helps

Nancy Richards says:

01/11/2019 – 01:04

I believe my book/workbook, which is intended to be filled out by the reader, would work better in a larger size. Are the given sizes the only sizes with which the Reedsy Book Editor can work?

↪️ Martin Cavannagh replied:

01/11/2019 – 12:21

At the moment, we don't have any additional sized on offer with this app. If you're working on a fillable workbook, you might actually be looking at creating a book with a fixed format — and for that, you may want to have a look at working with a human book designer.

Khalil Assi says:

25/12/2019 – 18:04

Is it possible to write from Right to Left using reedsy

↪️ Martin Cavannagh replied:

26/12/2019 – 11:35

I'm afraid this is not currently supported by the Reedsy Book Editor. We'll keep this in mind as we look to make it available in other languages.

↪️ Khalil Assi replied:

27/12/2019 – 22:36

Thank you Martin. When do you think such a support for other languages might be available? In my case I need Arabic support.

Sahara says:

25/02/2020 – 03:32

I don't want chapter numbers—can they be eliminated?

↪️ Martin Cavannagh replied:

25/02/2020 – 09:15

Yes, you can! When you come to export the book, one of the options is to "Hide Chapter Numbers". If you want to see it, just tap the export/download button.

Eddie Lay says:

28/02/2020 – 00:31

I have a children's picture book. Can I get it formatted in landscape and double-page?

Comments are currently closed.