The importance of interior book layout
Interior book layout, also known as typesetting, book formatting, book design, etc, is a crucial part of having a professionally published book. You can absolutely layout the interior of your book on your own, but I never recommend this for a first-time author. There are many subtleties that come along with designing the interior of a book, and it can be quite time-consuming to a beginner. Formatting is an essential element of the process and will separate the wheat from the chaff in terms of having a nice looking book and having one that is just ugly.
You’ve spent a lot of time creating this book – and you want it to look amazing.
We love to work with:
Margaret Cogswell Design: https://margaretcogswell.com/
Melissa Williams Design: https://mwbookdesign.com/
Tamara Dever: TLC Designs: https://tlcbookdesign.com/services/
Melinda Martin: https://melindamartin.me/services/
Lindsay Ford: https://breadandclutter.com/contact-us/ (specifically children’s books)
You can also check other freelance sites like Fiverr and Upwork, etc, but make sure they really understand industry standards.
Download the Industry Standards Checklist from the Independent Book Publishers Association so you know what you need to know when working with a designer.
However, if you insist on going it on your own, here are some tips for making sure you’re following basic industry standards.
DIY Formatting and Layout Guidelines
Some people just insist on doing it on their own. That’s fine, as long as you know what you’re doing. It’s so sad to order a book only to find out the inside looks terrible! So, things to know. You CAN do basic formatting in Word. In fact, other than one of my books which I formatted in InDesign, I have formatted all of my books in MS Word. You can also use Open Office, Pages, and InDesign. Regardless of where you start, your final result needs to be a PDF where the page size matches your intended trim size.
Be consistent! It doesn’t matter where your page numbers are or what type of chapter heading you use, but they all need to be exactly the same. Same with margins, font size, line spacing, and so forth.
Do not just “guess” with spacing issues. Center using the “center” icon, justify everything and set your fonts/headings formatting tools so that all of them are identical.
To start a new page, use the Insert Page Break or New Page. Do NOT just hit the return key.
This is the space between the text and the edge of the printed page. They should be no less than .5 -.8″ on all sides, and will obviously be largest in the spine (interior margin). You should be able to find the margins settings under Page Setup or Page Layout in MS Word.
Generally, all first paragraphs are indented with a .25″ tab. Set your tab size and apply to the whole document so that it’s consistent. Your lines should be spaced at a minimum of 1.15 or 1.5 so that it’s not difficult to read. Single spacing is difficult to read. You can change the line spacing under Paragraph.
Fonts & Size
Serif fonts are easier to read that sans-serif. Pick a body font and use it consistently through all body parts of the book. Garamond, Palatino, Century, and Times Roman are good fonts. For headers it’s good to pick a font that complements the body text and sans serif is fine in this case. Matching the fonts from your book cover with your headers is a nice touch.
Let’s talk about Trim Size quickly.
Trim size is described as width by height in inches. Most standard books are 6″ x 9″ of 5″ x 9″ and it’s crucial that your text document is set to match the selected trim size. To do this, you can change the page size of your document under Page Setup or Page Layout. It is automatically set to the default paper size, but you’ll change it to match your trim size and be sure to choose the option Apply to Whole Document.
You should not include page numbers on front matter, back matter, blank pages, and the first page of each chapter, although this is often a preference. Definitely not on blank pages.
Front matter includes all pages leading up to page one of your book.
Title page, copyright page, acknowledgments and dedication, foreword, preface, introduction, table of contents, and any blank pages.
Back matter is anything included after the conclusion of the book.
Afterward, about the author, bibliography, index, glossary, etc.
Headers / Footers
Book title, chapter title, or author name can be included at the top of each page. Numbers can be included in the header or footer. The header/footer text needs to be at least 0.25” from the edge of the page, so you should make sure the text margin is at least 0.5″ or even more to ensure space for header and footer and still give enough room. Use a font that compliments the body text but is 2pt smaller.
Use page break or Next Page, not the enter key between chapters. Start chapters consistently with a larger, bolded font for the chapter heading. The heading can be centered or left aligned, and generally a couple lines down from the top. Decide if you’re going to make the first letter or few words of the first paragraph to look different. You can use a drop cap, indentation, capitalization, or even in bold. The first chapter of the book should always show up on the right-hand side of the book (an odd numbered page, but has no number on it).
Important items to always include:
Title page including the book title and author and can include the publisher name.
Copyright page – set up to print on the back of the title page.
You can include a blank sheet before the title page (remember this is two blank pages in Word) so that the title page shows up on the right side.
What else should you know?
Here are some sample interiors of books we have done:
If you’re looking for guidance, coaching, and a full-service publishing option to help you complete your book project (to include layout, ebook conversion, ISBN, ALL THE THINGS) – we can help!
Publishing Timeline and Checklist
All the details to make sure you don't miss key steps when publishing and launching your book!