Monday, September 25, 2017

Pre-Formatting Your Book - The Dos and Don'ts Your Formatter Wants You to Know

Happy Monday, good people of the blogosphere! Today, I'll be talking about something that not many folks discuss: How you should format your word document before you send it off to your formatter for typesetting and digital readiness. Ready? Grab your coffee or tea, a notebook and pen, and let's get going!

I'm just gonna hit you with a couple of lists. Easy peasy.

  • Use "normal" style always.
  • Add some indicator when creating a scene break (most authors I work with use *** for this).
  • Keep it simple. If there's a place you'd like a photo, don't embed it, mark the spot and include the photo with the manuscript.
  • Everything set in one font, and don't use anything that's not standard on a computer. I suggest Times New Roman in 12pt.
  • Use paragraph styles for your indents.
  • Include a title page, copyright page with all relevant info, and author bio page at the end.
  • Break your pages between chapters ONLY. Use Ctrl (or Cmnd) + Enter (or Return).
  • If you have a section you want set in a special way, note it in BOLD and use [brackets]. Tell your formatter beforehand that it's there. 
  • Title all your chapters the same way (whatever you want the end result to be: Chapter 1, Chapter One, Ch1, etc...).
  • Do not use tabs (see above note on paragraph styles).
  • No LARGE or special fonts. This will get stripped out anyway.
  • Don't hit enter a bunch of times between chapters to force the next one down.
  • Don't just add extra carriage returns between scene breaks. This looks like a mistake and could be removed on accident by your formatter.
  • Nothing fancy. Your MS should just be words on the page.
  • Do NOT use TABS. Yeah, it bears repeating.
  • Don't make assumptions that the formatter will know anything you intended in your head. Give them instructions. Be specific if your book calls for special treatment.
  • No colored fonts, please.
  • No wingdings or emoticons. If you want a smiley, let the formatter know in the email where you attach your manuscript.
If you follow these guidelines, it'll speed up production of your book tenfold. Special things the formatter misses the first time around causes a re-do, and it just leaves you both stressed.

I hope this helps in some small way. Your formatter is there to make your dreams a reality. They're the ones that polish your baby before you show it to your friends, family, and the world. Help them help you!

If you're looking for formatting services, take a gander at IBGW.

Are you guilty of any of these?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!



  1. What you're saying is completely true. I know that everybody must say the same thing, but I just think that you put it in a way that everyone can understand. I'm sure you'll reach so many people with what you've got to say.


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