How to Format a Book with the Reedsy Book Editor
Last updated: 04/06/2018
If you are a self-publishing author who wants to know how to format a book, there are plenty of tools and resources available to you. Many choose to format a book in Word — but writers shouldn’t just make this choice by default. Ensure you take the time to explore the different options available for formatting your manuscript because achieving clean design is a vital part of publishing success.
In this step-by-guide to formatting a book, we’re going to give you tips for producing a professional-looking final product, and explain how our very own free book formatter — the Reedsy Book Editor — can make the job simple for you. In a nutshell, here are the 6 steps for formatting a book:
- Import your book into the Reedsy Book Editor
- Update the formatting with the Reedsy formatting bar
- Add images, endnotes and scene breaks
- Add a cover for your ebook
- Configure your front matter
- Select the file you need: EPUB to create an ebook or PDF for print-on-demand (POD)
Why should I use the Reedsy Book Editor to format my book?
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 to create an ebook, or produce physical copies, there are many reasons to turn to the Editor, including: no previous design knowledge required, your work is securely stored in the cloud and accessible for any device (no need to install any software), professionally designed templates, compatible with a variety of distribution platforms, unlimited exports, and more.
And did we mention it’s fast? We tested the RBE this morning and were able to format and typeset an 80,000-word novel in under 10 minutes.
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 book formatting important?
The readability of a book depends entirely on how your manuscript is formatted. A work 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 book formatting 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 for how to format a book.
Check out indie author T.M. Holladay’s story about using the Editor to format her book for publishing.
6 steps for formatting a book
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. We’re still developing an “import from file” feature, which will be available soon. Meanwhile, you will have to:
- Create chapters or parts
- Copy and paste the content of your text file into those 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:
Note that we will also soon introduce a chapter break feature to automatically split the content of one chapter into two, saving you copy and paste time when importing a manuscript for the first time.
Once your manuscript is nestled comfortably into the editor, the formatting can begin!
Step 2 - Format your content
One of the features 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:
- Two types of paragraphs: one with a serif font for most of your text, and a sans serif font to offset content you want to stand out (such as a letter or diary entry)
- Three levels of headings to structure your content (mainly for non-fiction books)
- Three alignment options: left, centered, and right
- Two types of lists: bullet points and numbers
- Code (coming soon)
Once you’ve defined your paragraphs’ styling, you can customize your font styling with the following options:
- Subscript, superscript
- Link and cross-references
You’ve mastered the formatting bar and are ready to get a little fancy. On to step 3...
Step 3 - Add images, endnotes, and scene breaks
Books that meets industry standards but are also unique and personal? Brilliant! The next step is to enrich your existing content with:
- Images and captions
- Scene breaks (for fiction)
You will find your endnotes in a dedicated chapter at the end of your book for reference:
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 upload your cover. Make sure you upload an image that follows the requirements of the ebookstores 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 front matter
“Front matter” refers to the parts of your manuscript that come before the actual content begins. With the Editor, you can configure the following front matter elements:
- Edition number
- Year of publication
- Publisher name and logo (if any)
- 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 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, the next step is to configure your table of contents. For this, Reedsy gives you four options.
Step 6 - Select the file you need: EPUB 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 or PDF file. If you’re undecided, you can check out our guide to EPUB vs. PDF.
How to create an ebook: download an EPUB file
Your EPUB will be compatible with Amazon’s 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 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
The files created are currently compatible with most POD services (Lulu, CreateSpace, 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 most sense for your future bestseller.
Here are a few pictures to give you a sense of what those different sizes look like:
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.