Tips for formatting the interior of your book

If you are taking help of a professional designer for your book, he should take care of most of the things we will talk about in this post and more. If you are doing it yourself, or working with a local DTP shop where people may not have much experience in doing print book formatting, these tips will come in handy.

  1. Ensure that you have the following pages in place
    • Title Page – Would typically have book title, subtitle, author’s name and any other information that is expected to be there on the cover page. If it is a self published book, you can skip the publisher’s name here. If you are putting this book under some imprint name, that can come on this page. This should normally be the first page of the book. If you want you can keep one blank sheet (two blank pages) before this. Such pages are useful if you are expecting to distribute signed books.
    • General Information Page: This page would have copyright notice, information about publisher/printer etc. A sample for a book being published through is here. You should use it after putting your name at suitable place. The best place for this page is right after the title page. It should be printed on the back of the titel page.
    • Dedication: You may want to dedicate your book to someone. In that case have a page for that after the title and general information pages
    • Preface and Foreword: Preface is generally written by the author to introduce the book to the readers. This can be a place for a heart to hear talk with the readers. Having or not having a preface depends on the individual style of the authors.

      Foreword is usually a introduction written by someone else. If you know someone who can write a good foreword for your book, it is a good idea to include that.

    • Table of Contents: Most types of books are better off with a Table of Contents. The exact page numbers can be put in only after the rest of the book is formatted. But in the final file, remember to check that table of contents is there.
  2. Ensure that important parts of the book starts on an odd-numbered page. An odd numbered page falls on the right side of an open book. As a good design practice, any new section should start on the right side of the open book; hence on an odd page. If needed, insert blank pages to achieve this. Title page, Dedication, Preface, Foreword, a new part of the book or first chapter of the book should all start on an odd numbered page. Typically the page after the title page would be the “General Information page” as mentioned in the earlier point. So, if dedication comes after that, it would go on an odd numbered page as desired. But a page should be left blank before starting Table of Content. Similarly, if table of content spreads across odd number of pages, then a page should be left blank before starting the preface or the first chapter.
  3. Pages should be numbered suitably. As a general rule, all the pages should be numbered. Although as a design practice on some pages, page number may not be printed. Some pages, which will do without page numbers being printed are

    • Title Page
    • Dedication Page
    • Blank Pages
    • First page of a new part of the book or first page of the first chapter

    There is enough scope of creativity in how to number your pages, but there are two common styles of numbering the pages, between which you may need to make a choice.

    • Number the pages before the actual content (title page, dedication, table of contents, sometimes preface etc.) with Roman Numerals and restart the numbering at “1” with Arabic Numerals from the first page of actual content
    • Number all the pages starting from the “Title Page” with Arabic Numerals. There is no restarting of page numbers when the actual content comes in the book.

    If the book has multiple parts, sometimes you may design it so that the different parts of the books have page numbers restarting. It is not a common practice though and not recommended in general.

  4. Use suitable fonts for body text. While it is not a hard and fast rule (and you will find enough people arguing for just the opposite), the general wisdom says that for body text of printed books, a serif font should be used rather than a sans-serif. For titles, headings etc. sans-serif is fine and you can get creative. But for the body text of most books, readability is the most important criteria and serif fonts work better there. Some commonly used good fonts for body text are Garamond, Palatino Linotype, Century Schoolbook, Georgia, Bookman, Rockwell etc. To know more about the serif and sans-serif fonts and what differentiates them, read this article on wikipedia.
  5. Font size, spacings, margins should not be too high or too low. Too big a font size, too much of margin on all sides or too much of spacing can make a book look childish (unless the book is meant for children, where less text, more spaces, attractive illustrations are the way to go). At the same time, too less of these can make the book look cramped and unreadable. Fonts sizes of 9 to 11 (maximum 12) works fine for body text with most common fonts. Line space of 1.2 to 1.5 works well. Side margins can fall in the range of 10-15 mm. For bigger page sizes, margins can be increased a bit. These may need to be adjusted if your target audience belongs to group with special needs. Books targeted at elderly people can have bigger font size and more blank space as the eye-sight problem will be more prevalent in that group.
  6. Content pasted from web must be revisited for formatting. If you have pasted content from your website into a word processor, it may carry unnecessary styles, hyperlinks, colors etc. which are not suitable for the print book and would make things look out of place. Remember to reformat the web content to match the style chosen for the rest of your print book.