Book Formatting for Self-Publishers

Formatting your book correctly is one of the most important thing self-published authors can do. Getting it wrong marks your book out as amateurish, but getting it right makes your book look as professional as any other book it may be alongside in a bookshop.

If you are publishing in paperback don’t blindly follow Amazon defaults, because the default is not what you want if you are publishing a novel!

Firstly, book size. The popular UK paperback size is different from Amazon’s default size. The standard measurements of a paperback in the UK is 18.5mm 198.4mm, and if you go into any UK bookshop and look at novels you will see all the books on the shelf are the same size.

If you are hoping your novel may end up being sold in a national, or even a local bookshop, it has to match this standard size, so if you are publishing via Amazon your book needs to be the Amazon size of 128.5mm x 198.4mm (12.85cm x 19.84cm).

Secondly, margin size. Amazon printing costs are calculated on a page basis. The more pages you have the more printing costs. Because of this, and in order to save costs, new authors tend to use minimum margins so the cost is as small as possible.

That’s a mistake, and immediately marks your book as amateurish, unprofessional, and self-published. You need wide margins. Check any store bought printed paperback and measure the margins. Traditionally published books which are traditionally printed have large margins on three sides, and even larger margin at spine. Get this right, and your book will look professionally printed too.

Amazon have a minimum size of margin. Being the minimum is not the same as being the best.

A practical guide to getting your book looking like professionally laid out books.

The standard popular paperback size in UK bookshops is the same as the Amazon size 128.5mm x 198.4mm (12.85cm x 19.84cm). If you are using MS Word, the easiest thing to do is to change your document size to 128.5 x 198.4 mm before you start. Once it’s right, it’s right.

Once you have set your page size, set your margin sizes. For margins, we use 15mm top, bottom, inside and outside margins, a 10mm gutter left, a mirror margin, and a 12.6mm header and 5mm footer.

The start of the novel containing the title and copyright pages etc are un-numbered. Start a new section of the Word document to start the body of your novel on a right-hand page with number one.

These measurements are designed for UK novels, so you may need to adapt the book formatting if you are from a country that has popular books of a different size, but the most important things to remember is to format your page before you start. Select the right page size, make sure your margins are a decent size, and add an additional substantial gutter to allow for the spine. A correctly formatted book helps self-published authors compete with traditionally published authors.

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