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How to Format a Book with the Reedsy Book Editor

Posted in: Book Design on April 6, 2018 37 Comments 💬

How to make a book Hiding Haelo open

[Last updated 05/10/2019]

If you are a self-publishing author who wants to know how to typeset a book, there are plenty of tools and resources available to you. Many writers use MS Word for ebook formatting — but this shouldn't choice by default. Ensure you take the time to explore the different options available for formatting your manuscript because a clean design is a vital part of publishing success.

In this step-by-guide, we’re going to give you tips for producing a professional-looking final product whether that's an ebook, a printed book, or both. We'll also explain how our very own free tool — the Reedsy Book Editor — can make the job simple for you.

Why should I use the Reedsy Book Editor?

With the input of the expert designers, our product team designed a book production tool that allows authors to create manuscripts that meet the high standards set by the industry. Whether you want ebook formatting, or to produce physical copies, there are many reasons to turn to the Editor:

  • No previous design knowledge required,
  • Your work is securely stored in the cloud and accessible for any device,
  • There's no need to install any software
  • Professionally designed templates, compatible with a variety of distribution platforms,
  • Unlimited exports,
  • ...and more.

ebook formatting costs

Comparing the Reedsy Book Editor with Word, Scrivener, InDesign, Calibre, Pressbooks and Vellum

And did we mention it’s fast? We tested the RBE this morning and were able to typeset an 80,000-word novel in under 10 minutes.

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Looking for a professional formatting tool?

Sign up for free to start using the Reedsy Book Editor within seconds.

Learn more about how Reedsy can help you craft a beautiful book.

But before you set your timer, let’s quickly cover why it’s so important to come to market with well-designed book interior.

Why is print and ebook formatting important?

The readability of a book depends entirely on how your manuscript is formatted. Something with poor readability, well, probably won’t be read — and won’t sell. So if you want to go toe-to-toe with traditionally published titles, your product needs to look its best, inside and out. While cover design is critical for a reader's first impression, interior design and typesetting shouldn’t be overlooked. For more information on typesetting, check out our guide to interior book design.

The art of typesetting is not new. In fact, manuscripts produced during the medieval era conformed to a well-defined set of rules that publishers today are still following. The canons of page construction, for example, describe how a manuscript’s proportions, margins and type areas (print spaces) should be constructed.

But we know that learning the technicalities of making a book can’t be learned overnight and that hiring a professional interior designer for your manuscript might not be in every author’s budget. So let’s get on to your DIY guide on book formatting.

Anatomy of a Book: Front Matter and Back Matter

Parts of a Book Explained: Front Matter, Body, and Back Matter
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There are plenty of ways to skin a cat (or, in this case, format a book). In this section, we'll show you the easiest way to get professional results using Reedsy's free online formatting tool.

Step 1. Import your book into the Reedsy Book Editor

Regardless of the software you’ve been using to write (Word, Pages, Google Docs, Scrivener, etc.), your first step is to import the manuscript into the Editor using our .docx import function. To make sure the Editor automatically recognizes your chapters and headings, you should make sure that you're either:

  • 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.

Available 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’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.

print on demand services

What is the Best Service for Print on Demand Books?
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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 still 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: EPUB or Mobi to create an ebook or PDF for print-on-demand (POD)

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, Mobi, or PDF file. If you’re undecided, you can check out our guide to publishing file formats. (Additionally, if you download your file as an EPUB but then decide you want to change it to a mobi, you can simply feed it through our EPUB to mobi converter.)

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

How to create an ebook: which format to download

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

Mobi is the proprietary file format used by Amazon's Kindle Store. When you export your ebook from Reedsy Book Editor, you will have the option to select either or both of these formats.

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

For print copies: download a PDF file

End note positioning for PDF print books: at the end of a page or the bookThe 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 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.


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.

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Malaika Rose Stanley

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

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

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

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

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

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!

disqus_OvrAxO9zTs

I'm still not seeing alignment, is it available?

Milk for Dead Hamsters

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reedsy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reedsy

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

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

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?

Seva Khalsa

I definitely like the Reedsy typesetting quality. Overall, the editor
gets me 90% of what I need for book design. Issue encountered: Some of
my formatting, such as hanging indents for the Bibliography, did not
come through in Reedsy. I copied from Apple Pages. Is that the problem?
Would copying from Scrivener make it work? Italics did not come through
either. Seva

Syntell Smith

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

Reedsy

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

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

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

Reedsy

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

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

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

Alana Khan

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

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

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

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.

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