Unfortunately, self-publishing’s rise in popularity has also brought about a rise in books that are not suitable for public consumption. Yes, a lot of self-pubbed books are poorly-written (or as I say in this post, poorly-edited). But people also forget formatting; it’s easy to take for granted when a book is well-formatted but quickly makes a paying customer sick to their stomach when they come across a book that wasn’t quite given the same care.
Below are the three most-common mistakes that indie authors make when they format their own books, both in ebook and hard copy form. With a little more time and effort, all of these mistakes are easily avoidable and can mean the difference between a book that looks amateurish and a book that looks professional:
#1 – Page Numbers
For ebooks, the rules are simple: there are no page numbers. Because readers can adjust font sizes on their devices, there is no need to add page numbers to your ebook manuscript. For paperbacks, though, it gets tricky.
For starters, there should be no page numbers in your front matter (acknowledgements and license info), table of contents, or blank pages such as a page before a new chapter (more on that later), or even on a page that starts a new section or “part” of your book. Simply stated, only pages that have actual narrative and dialogue should have page numbers.
The big question then becomes, “how do I remove page numbers from pages on which I do not want them to appear?” (and I’m sure you would word it exactly like that). To be honest, I could explain it to you but then you’d probably decide that paperbacks are perhaps not worth the effort. I researched the topic until the cows came home and only figured it out through trial and error. Just know that, in order to achieve this, you must utilize Word’s “section break,” among other features. CreateSpace (through which you’ll most likely publish your paperback) offers a good place to start.
If you still can’t figure it out, or just don’t have the time to do it, I have an offer at the end of this post that may interest you.
#2 – Justification
With the exception of front matter and the table of contents, just about all content in your book should be justified to the left and to the right. I think that writers are so accustomed to writing with staggered endings to each line of text that we forget to justify our stories. This may be suitable for the academic realm but it looks amateurish in the worlds of both ebook and hard copy publishing.
Inexplicably, Smashwords’ formatting guide suggests not justifying your text before running it through their “meat grinder.” Smashwords says it will automatically justify the text for you. I’ve justified my text before running it through and have had no formatting issues. Justifying your text doesn’t take very long. As such, even if Smashwords’ meat grinder will justify it for you as they say it will, wouldn’t you rather play it safe and do it yourself?
#3 – Odd Pages on the Right
This one pertains specifically to hard copies and is especially taken for granted when done correctly.
All odd-numbered pages should be situated on the right side of your book, even-numbered pages to the left. Therefore, page one of your text (whether it be a prologue or chapter one) should begin on the right. If chapter one ends on an odd number, skip the even-numbered page using Word’s “page break” feature, and start chapter two on the next odd-numbered page.
Again, it takes a little time and effort but it certainly gives your book that “polished” look. It may not feel like it’s worth it (because, really, who goes out of their way to praise a book’s proper formatting?) but we’ve all seen people bash books that were not properly formatted.
Hopefully this helps to clear up some of book formatting’s more confusing aspects. If formatting still feels like Mt. Everest, I’d like to offer you all a chance to utilize my brand-new book formatting services at a discounted rate. Through March 31, mention this post when you contact me and I will discount your book’s formatting at 20%. As my rates are already low, 20% goes a long way!
Good luck to all and happy publishing!