Journey to Publication: The F-Word (Formatting!)

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Formatting… I was way out of my depth! When I researched self-publishing, it seemed like there were two schools of thought when it came down to formatting your eBook or paperback.

  1. Pay somebody to do it for you.
  2. Learn how to do it yourself.

There are valid reasons for each. By paying for a professional to do it, you can ensure that it is done properly and to a (hopefully) high standard. You can find book formatters on freelancing websites such as Fiverr, if you wish to explore this option further.

I went with option number two. Learn to do it yourself. The thought process behind this was so that I will be able to make any edits/changes to the manuscript whenever I want. I won’t have to get back in contact with the formatter, pay again, and wait for it to be returned. Plus, I figured that it’s one of those things where if you learn the skill, it’s something you always have. Not only will I be able to fix my own manuscripts as and when I need to, but I will be able to support clients through formatting their own manuscripts too.

There’s a reason I named this blog post the ‘F-Word’. I said the naughty word (and I don’t mean ‘formatting’) at least thirty times while figuring out how the hell to format my book. For clarification, I chose to use Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. It will likely be different through other platforms.

I started with the eBook because I figured that would be the most difficult. Boy was I wrong!

There are loads of websites/blog posts out there that talk you through, step-by-step, how to format your manuscript for eBooks. There’s no point reinventing the wheel, so I won’t. Here are some links to help you out…

One thing to consider, and it is a huge thing… PAGE BREAKS! I didn’t know that Kindles are magical, you can change the font and the size while you’re reading. As a result, any of your nice formatting, page numbers, font selection, goes straight out the window. Because changes in fonts and sizing moves the document around, page breaks are a must if you’re going to keep your chapters organized. They’re your best friend, believe me.

And then the fun began… F-ing paperbacks!

Confession, I’ve never owned a Kindle (I do plan to join the dark side in the Black Friday sales) and so I knew that I wanted my book to be released in a physical copy too. Had I known how irritatingly annoying it would be to get the manuscript ready for paperback, I might have thought twice. At this point, I’m not even sure if that’s a joke or not. I always thought that I was a fairly intelligent person, most of the time anyway, but this made me want to pull my hair out.

The only advice I have at this stage, is to follow the KDP guidelines to a T. Do everything they tell you to and pray to whatever gods you believe in. In all seriousness, it took a lot of trial and error. I’m so glad I did it myself because now I (sort of) know what to do the next time around. The links below are 100% a necessity in formatting your manuscript for paperback.

The first time you’re planning on formatting your paperback, I suggest you leave a good few hours to do so. I thought it would be quick and easy, but it took a lot longer than I thought. For example, depending on the number of pages you have in your book, you have to change the gutter margin (which is the margin in the inner of the book, where the pages join together) to accommodate for extra thickness. It was something I’d never considered before.


I’m a huge believer in learning new skills and, if you’re able to learn to do it yourself, I think that’s fairly cool! It saves time, money, and you can go in and out and make any edits you want, which makes life easier in the long run.

Something to consider, you are able to preview both your eBook and paperback on your KDP account. I suggest that you go through page-by-page to check your formatting is as you want before you decide to go ahead with releasing your book. I found a couple of things I didn’t like and was able to change them and reupload the manuscript.

I ordered author proof-copies too.

Kindle allow you to order paperback author proofs of your book so that you can see what it will look like in real life before you hit the big-red (it’s not actually red) publish button. I noticed something I didn’t like on the cover by doing this and was able to fix that.

You might be wondering why I’ve not mentioned book covers in a formatting blog post. Well, dear reader, that deserves a blog post all to itself.

Thank you for your support, as always.  I love hearing from you so please do comment or get in touch with any questions or stories about your self-publishing experience.

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