Formatting a book according to industry standards is what I find missing in many books today. The pattern I see with many startup authors around town is this:
They conceive an idea
Hand over their manuscript to a local designer to format it.
Copy-and -paste a photo from the internet to design their cover page.
Finally, they head to a local printing press to produce mass copies.
I hold no offense against these authors because that’s what I used to do before. I’d hand my manuscript to someone who has no idea on submission guidelines for him/her to format it for me.
In fact, when I look back at the books I wrote early in my writing career, I laugh out loud. But in the end, I marvel at the progress I’ve made this far.
If I had someone to orient me on standard publishing guidelines, I wouldn’t have made those mistakes.
At first, I thought writing a book was all about coming up with quality content. But now I know, proffesional formatting matters as much.
I believe there are many aspiring authors out there who do not know these formatting standards. Their content might be good but their manuscript will not pass submission guidelines for any publishing platform.
To avoid this setback, I propose two options.
It’s either you hire a reliable ghostwriter to execute the task for you, or you study and apply the guidelines for formatting your nonfiction book.
I have summarized some basic guidelines for you under the following headings:
The first page of every book should not be numbered. Numbering starts on the copyright page in Roman numerals and ends before the page on chapter one.
Do not include page numbers on each chapter page. Numbering continues on the next page after the chapter page. Every chapter should start on the right hand or odd number page of your book.
2. Book size
A vast majority of nonfiction books are printed on the following sizes:
· 5 x 8 inches
· 5.5 x 8.5 inches
· 6 x 9 inches.
Choose one and apply to your book.
- There are two kinds of paragraphs you can use in the body of your text: indented paragraphs or block style paragraphs. With non-fiction books, half an inch indented paragraph is the recommended standard.
4. Line spacing
For clarity and easy-to-read purposes, maintain a single space between a sentence and a period, and 18-20points within the text( not double spacing).
Ensure the line spacing is consistent throughout the book except in cases where you need to adjust a paragraph to fit into a single page.
5. Font types and character
Industry standards for print books are 12 points Times Romans or Arial.These recommended fonts provide a good reader experience. However, many publishing platforms are flexible on choice of fonts. I often use Garamond or Arial at 11points for most of my books.
To be on the safe side, stick to the standards at 12points Times Romans.
6. Section and page breaks
Section breaks are invisible lines that separate chapters or sections of a book. Likewise, page breaks separate content or paragraphs within a page or between pages.
Applying section and page breaks require technical skills beyond the scope of this writeup.
When you apply them correctly, page numbers align themselves proffesionally and accordingly.
7. Front matter
The front matter of a book are the first few pages before chapter one. It involves the title page, the copyright page, the foreword, the table of content (TOC) and the dedication page.
Pages in the front matter are numbered with Roman numerals.
The title page is mandatory. It should include the title of the book, the subtitle, and the author’s name. Sometimes, the publishers’ logo could be included.
The copyright page is also mandatory. It is the page at the back of the title page. It includes the publishers name and address, the publishing date, disclaimers, or library catalogs.
Acknowledgement page: This page is optional. Here, you want to acknowledge anyone who helped you in the book’s creation.
Dedication page: This page is optional. Here, you want to recognize the book in the name of a love one, a friend, a family member, or a cause or organization.
Table of content page: This page is highly mandatory. It shows the lists of your content. When some readers pick up a book, they quickly scan through the table of content to decide on which section they would love to begin with. Not every reader starts reading a book from chapter one.
The preface page. This page is optional. It gives a foretaste of the origin, the intent, and the motivation behind the book. How the concept came about, and the way you wrote the book.
Introductory page: This page is like your sales letter. This is where you convince the readers on why they need to read your book in the first place.The introduction should address the painpoints of your specific audience and promise solutions that would meet their needs.
8. Back matter
Everything that comes after the main body text is the back matter. It involves the bibliography page, the index , the glossary, the authorbiograhy section and some discussion questions or marketing page.
There are no mandatory standards for the back matter pages. However, it is highly recommended to include the bibliography for nonfiction books as this gives your book more credibility.
9. Headers and Footers
The header is the section above the page that indicates the chapter heading or your name. Footer is the section below a page that may indicate the page number or footnotes.
If you will use headers in your nonfiction book, insert your name at the top right hand or center of one page and the section/chapter title in a similar position on the other page.
Note that headers are not included in chapter pages.
Formatting a book on Microsoft Word(MS) is a skill that cannot be achieved overnight. It takes time, practice and diligence.
However, having the industry standards at the back of your mind puts you on a safe path.
If you are not going to hire a ghostwriter or designer to format your book, what you should worry about are the standard guidelines for formatting non-fiction books.
There are many technical details involved in formatting a book on MS Word which I have not included in this writeup. This is because I am assuming you would not want to engage in the job of an expert designer.
But then, these basic guidelines are not known to many designers who are not used to formatting books for publishing platforms.
It is therefore your job to educate them on the standards you need for your book.
If you need help formatting your nonfiction book according to industry standards, contact us here.
In the Spirit of Easter,
I wish you a happy Easter season.