My Step-By-Step Print Formatting Process

You asked, I listened. Formatting can be stressful when you're unsure of what to do and where to start, believe me I know, so I thought I'd do an easy guide to help. Here's my step-by-step formatting process using Microsoft Word.

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Change your page size to match your publishing trim size

I recommend doing this at the start, before writing your novel, as you'll then be able to see an accurate representation of what your final page number will be. First, you need to know what size you want your published book to be. To determine this, measure other books in your genre with a ruler. For reference, my YA Fantasy novel paperback trim size is 5.060" x 7.810" (198mm x 129mm) and the hardback trim size is 6.000" x 9.000" (229mm x 152mm).

Once you've determined your trim size, go into Microsoft Word and go to File > Page Setup.

A box will appear. Click the paper size drop down, and then click Manage Custom Sizes (you may have to scroll down to see this).

Once you click Manage Custom Sizes another box will appear. Click the plus (+) icon to create a new size, and input the numbers for your size.

Depending on who you're using to publish, whether it's Ingramspark, Amazon KDP or somewhere else, you'll need to add margins to your document. These numbers will be added to the Non-Printable Area, so make sure you research what these margins should be for your trim size.

Change your margins

As said, you'll need to research what your margin size should be. Ingramspark recommend at least 0.5" (13mm). For me, I like to go over 13 mm (1.3cm) and so my margins are set to 2.54 cm and 3 cm on the bottom as most books have a large bottom area for the page number.

To change your margins in Microsoft Word, go to Layout > Margins > Custom Margin Size

A box will appear, for reference I've opened the paperback Cloaked Shadows version, so you can see what my margins are.

I've done this based on preference however, make sure you have your outside margin as slightly less, so that your text is nearer to the edge of the page. This is to ensure the inside margin has more space. When you read a book with multiple pages, it's very difficult to lay that book flat, so if you have the text too near the inside margin, it won't be seen and your text won't be centre in the page. Make sure you mirror your margins and apply it to the whole document.

Change your font size

Most suggest using a standard Times New Roman, 12-point size font. Whilst I agree that Times New Roman is the best font for the main body of your novel, remember that you've now made your page size smaller than the standard A4. This means you may have to make your point-size smaller too. Personally, I used point size 11, which is perfect for me, however there are novels that I own who use 10-point size. It's a case of trying and testing. To determine my point size, I counted how many words were in a line and how many lines were on a page of novels I owned by traditionally published authors. I then tried to match that.

To change your font size go to Home and you'll see a drop down with a number that you can change, as well as the font style next to that.

Change the line spacing

Line spacing is super important when formatting your novel, because you don't want your lines to be super squished against each other, or with too much space. Personally, I've found using 1.15 line spacing to be the sweet spot, however it really depends what you're genre is. If you've written a long book for adults, then maybe using a smaller line space would be better. My genre is YA Fantasy so I want my books to be easy to read to younger and older ages, and I feel 1.15 caters for all.

You can change the line spacing by going to Home and then clicking on the highlighted icon. You can even create a custom line spacing by clicking Line Spacing Options.

Set your main body text to justified and headings to centre or left-justified

Have you ever noticed when reading novels that the text isn't jagged after each line? This is because the main body text is set to justified, which means the words are individually spaced to ensure they both start and end at the same point. This makes your novel appear more clean and easier to read.

Your heading can be justified to whatever side of the page you want, however most tend to use either centre of left-justified. To change the text alignment, go to Home and click which alignment you'd like.

Change the indentation and spacing

If you look at any traditionally published novel, you'll see that every first line has an indentation. So, to change this highlight all the main body text, right-click and select Paragraph.

Then go to the Indentation section and change the special to First Line. Now, I like my indentation to be 0.5cm, as I feel it's not too long or short and I cross referenced this with other published books, however it's a personal preference. Play around with the numbers and see what works for you. Next, go to the spacing section. Now, as we've already changed our line spacing to 1.15, this should show. You can change the before or after spacing to make the space between paragraphs longer. My after is 2.3 as I feel it makes the reading experience easier but, again, it's a personal preference.

Adding Drop caps

In most novels, the very first letter of the first word in a chapter is usually a drop cap. To add a drop cap, highlight the first letter of the first word. In the below example, the letter highlighted would be 'T'.

In most novels, the very first letter of the first word in a chapter is usually a drop cap. To add a drop cap, highlight the first letter of the first word. In the below example, the letter highlighted would be 'T'.

Then go to the Inset tab and on the far-right click the drop cap symbol which is the letter A surrounded by lines. Click on this symbol. There are three options, to have no drop cap, to have a dropped drop cap or to have a drop cap in the margin. Most novel have the dropped option, which is what we're going to click.

The 'T' will then be dropped over three lines, which is the standard. You may find that the T is too close to the next letter in the first word. To change this, highlight the drop cap then go back to Insert > drop cap and click Drop Cap Options. The below box will appear. You'll then be able to change the distance from text, as well as the lines to drop. 2 or 3 dropped lines is the standard.

Add page numbers

To add page numbers to your document, go to Insert > Page Numbers. Click Page Number and then format as you would like.

Please know that you can change the size and font of your page number if you'd like. To do this, you just have to double click the number, and then highlight it. Then go to the Home tab and change the font and sizing as you'd like.

Use page breaks

I can't tell you how helpful using page breaks are! Gone are days where you press 'enter' so many times that your words go on to the next page. Page breaks are what you should use when you've finished a chapter and want to move on to the next. Chapter headers start on their own pages, so to ensure this happens and won't mess up the formatting if you go back and edit (like it would if you were to press 'enter' so many times), you have to add a page break.

To do this, have your cursor at the very end of your chapter go to Layout > Breaks.

Now, the only two you'll need to use when formatting your novel, is 'Page' and 'Next Page'

Page - Use this after you finish each Chapter. Once you click this, your cursor will go to the top of the next page, where you can then type your chapter title and so on.

Next Page - Use this if you want to add a page that doesn't have page numbers. This would be used at the start of the novel, when you add your title page, copyright and dedication, alongside anything else, as well as at the end, when you add your acknowledgements and about the author page.