Congratulations for successfully designing and formatting your eBook! But your work doesn’t end here.
If you spent enough time making sure that all of your fonts, pages, paragraphs, and titles are in line with the publisher's requirements, you now need to start all over again to get your book to adhere to different standards for traditional print.
On the bright side, traditional print gives you more freedom to style your book. You have more formatting options—from font to alignment and even headings—but different rules apply to traditional print. Although many of them aren’t mandatory, they may attract or put off readers.
So, what’s the best way to format your eBook for traditional print?
Why is eBook Formatting for Traditional Print Important?
If eBook formatting sounds boring to you, think about it from a reader's perspective. Each reader not only purchases a book but also devotes significant time to reading it. If you're successful in achieving this daunting task, the impact that your content has on the reader determines if they'll love it, post about it, and recommend it to their friends.
Your content alone won't suffice for this. If it did, authors worldwide wouldn't put so much effort into formatting their books. Why? Because of the following reasons:
- Readability. Depending on your topic and niche, the content itself may or may not be easy to follow, and that's not up to your writing skills. Font size, text alignment, paragraph styles, and even page size affect the perception of content. If the writing is difficult for the reader to skim and understand with little physical and mental effort, they'll likely drop the book.
- Publishers. If you're pitching your book to other publishers, you don't get a lot of their time. You have only a few seconds before they decide whether to drop or forward your book for further reading. If a publisher isn't able to make sense of your story by skimming the first few pages, consider your title scraped.
- Representation. Simple and on-point is "the new black" of 21st-century publishing, but the finesse in your book's design still shows. Readers "get" distinct fonts and themes that they associate with authors and genres, and although modern books aren't flashy style-wise, the successful ones do stand out.
This brings us to the next point...
Formatting Affects Engagement
The main purpose of formatting is to keep the reader engaged, while also reflecting the authenticity of your book. Its sole purpose is to keep the readers "in the story" without distracting them.
As such, your format must reflect the impact that you want your book to have. Do you wish for the reader to spend hours on end in your fantasy world? Or, do you want them to grasp your authority in the field and reflect on how to use your advice in everyday life?
Plus, you need to export your finished manuscript into different formats before printing, so you also need to keep in mind how conversions will affect the result.
Choose Your Software Wisely
You can format your eBook in MS Word, Kindle Create, or choose another specialized software.
Although some of the available solutions can be costly, you only need them if your book includes images, graphs, columns, and other "bells and whistles." If you're publishing clean text or using only a couple of images—Word will suffice.
Ebook Formatting Checklist for Traditional Print
Regardless of which software you choose, there are common aspects of formatting and style guidelines that apply across the board:
Part One: General Settings
- Book appearance. Any tool you use serves to create the impact that you're looking for. When planning how to format your book, think about what it will look like in advertising, including social media posts, emails, and advertisements.
- Trim size. The size of your pages further affects what various fonts and styles will look like. There are several trim sizes commonly recommended for various niches, so take your pick!
- Left and right-hand settings. Make sure that left-hand pages have narrow margins and right-hand pages have wider margins for binding purposes. Likewise, your chapters and chapter titles should start on left-hand pages and feature even numbers, while the right-hand pages should have odd numbers.
- Distractions. There's a fine line between being stylish and being flashy with fonts and titles. If you go overboard, your reader might get distracted by too many bolds, italics, and caps.
Part Two: Text Formatting
- Caps, colons, and cases. Decide on how your chapter titles and characters will be distinguished in the text. This, as a rule for most publishers, must be consistent throughout the book, so test several different options to find the one that reads the best across your selected page format.
- Quotes or italics? If your book features dialogs, think about the best way to present them. Italics are said to be distracting when used too much, but authors often use them for inner dialogues, flashbacks, and quotes by other characters that aren't a part of the main story.
- Breaks and spaces. Any empty space on your page breaks the narrative in the reader's mind. Aside from deciding how you want to use line and page breaks, pay attention to how your unique text comes across with different combinations of fonts and space/break settings.
You want enough distinction for readers to know who is speaking and when scenes begin and end, as well as to emphasize certain parts of the text, but you also want to avoid those breaks and spaces that create confusion or disharmony in your narrative. There are no simple rules for this, it solely depends on what works for your specific text.
Part Three: Paragraphs and Indentation
- Alignment. Depending on your page size and font settings, justification may not be the best solution. Depending on the font, justification can space out words too much, so think of it as a rule that should be broken when needed.
- Images. It takes a lot of effort to create images that will look spotless in print, so think carefully about how many to include and how to position them in the book. Use them only if necessary for your book.
- To "drop a cap" or not? Drop caps are popular with many authors, but they can be distracting or make the rest of the paragraph look strange. If you want the beginning of a new chapter to have a distinct look, you can choose to not use an indent for the chapter's first line or use a small-cap. Ultimately, trust your perception of whether this style addition serves the book or not.
- Indentation and paragraphs. Here, different recommendations apply to fiction and non-fiction books. Non-fiction authors should choose between spaces without indents or indents without spaces, while fiction tends to read the best with indentation and without paragraph space.
- Other considerations. Formatting and use of visuals affect costs, and costs affect your ability to distribute, and, of course, could put off readers. Also, different publishers may have their own formatting guidelines, which you should follow if you want your book to be picked up.
Common Formatting Settings Do’s and Don'ts
Here’s a short breakdown for what you should and shouldn’t do when formatting your eBook for print:
- Make consistent style choices throughout the book.
- Decide on the trim size first to better select other elements.
- Follow your publisher’s guidelines.
- Make decisions based on “what works” for your content.
- Embed fonts if you’re formatting your book in MS Word to correctly transfer them into other file formats, like PDF.
- Use more than two different fonts.
- Add spaces between paragraphs to increase the volume of the book.
- Use unnecessary, gimmicky symbols and special characters.
- Count on the book to “turn out” the same way you designed it. Ask to review a copy before larger quantities are printed.
Formatting your carefully written book could take a day, a week, or even several weeks. It all depends on your experience, computer skills, style choices, and, of course, the book itself.
We recommend taking the time to try out different options before committing to a single set of settings, since formatting can encourage the reader to learn more or simply make a book impossible to read. Our best reference would be picking up a classic book or a book by your favorite author that you KNOW you’re going to love.
But then, dialogs come out wonky, and you can’t tell who is saying what. You can’t make up between scenes and people's flashbacks, and you find yourself reading the same page over and over again to decipher what’s going on. If you know you can’t blame the author—blame the formatting.
Would you want this to happen to a book that you worked so hard to create? Of course not! Before getting your manuscript printed, make sure that a reader can skim through it easily, and all bits and pieces are effortless to skim before getting into deeper reading.
Sounds like too much work? Then let us help! The Urban Writers offers numerous formatting and design options in our bundled packages tailored around your book and readers.