The most basic thing I can say about formatting is… find a program that works for you, and stick with it.
Not really, but also sort of really.
This is going to be a long one, and to be honest, my current feelings on this subject are somewhat wonky, but here we go!
Formatting can be something you hate. It can be something that exhausts you. It can be draining and impossible.
It can also be something you accept and let go and just allow it to happen.
It can even be something you throw money at in order to make it easier on you.
At the end of the day, however, you have to accept that formatting fits into a venn diagram…
You’re going to have to accept two of the three:
- You’re going to have to spend a lot of time on it.
- You’re going to have to accept that there is only so much you can do and what you get is what you get.
- You’re going to have to spend money on it.
And at the end of the day, sometimes, it’s going to be all three. That’s just… how it is, unfortunately.
There is no simple solution when it comes to formatting, but there are programs which make it easier. Each of them have their own pros and cons, but I’ll walk you through each as I know about them.
TWO DIFFERENT LAYOUTS
So this doesn’t come as a surprise later, here’s your heads up – you will need two different layouts, two different formats, for your book, if you are publishing both ebook and a paperback. Ebooks are saved as epub or mobi files, while Paperbacks are PDFs.
This could possibly mean you need two different formatting programs, so keep that in mind as you make your selection, however, there are some options which allow you to do both in one. Just, keep that in mind.
And, while we’re at it, I want to note that you can include links in your ebook file, like, links to other books, to your social media, and to your newsletter. This allows an entire world of possibilities.
Also — it is required for your ebook to have a table of contents. That can surprise some people when they’re not used to it. You don’t really get a choice on that one.
Vellum – Vellum is one of the top recommended programs for using to make and design your ebook. I’ve heard there is also a print version, but you pay something more for this. It’s about $200 for Vellum. Many authors use this, but there’s a catch – it’s Mac only, and, I don’t have a Mac, so I don’t know much more than that, except…
Many people recommended me to Atticus because it was similar to Vellum, which is the top rated program. So, there’s that.
Calibre – Calibre is a free to use ebook formatter. You upload your entire file, and it organizes it all for you. The problem is, you have to already have the pages formatted in like a word doc before you upload it to calibre, and it was too frustrating to use. That stated, this is a free option! Ebook only.
Draft 2 Digital – Another free option! This one helps you with their own premade formats. I initially wanted to use this, but struggled with getting the pages exactly as I wanted them.
Reedsy – Another freebie. This is actually how I was planning to format my ebook until I discovered atticus. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with it, just, it wasn’t easy to edit and manage, and I kept getting frustrated with the various themes and layouts.
Word – As far as paperback design, most people use Word. It’s, according to them, easy to use and manipulate, you can edit in the document, then save to a pdf and it’s ready to go. You can even download free themes online to help format your book. That stated, Microsoft Word costs money, and I was struggling to get the free versions to do headers the way I wanted. You can also, arguably, do this with google docs. Any word processer which can save to PDF can do this.
Atticus – And here we are at what I actually used. It currently costs 147$, and is planning to be a one stop shop for authors – the idea is, you can write in the program, edit in the program, and format in the program. That stated, it is still being worked on. I recently had a major issue with my fonts having errors, and it was exceptionally frustrating.
HOWEVER, the customer service is top notch, and any time I’ve had an error until this last time, I was able to get it fixed very quickly. Even with my recent struggles, I do not regret purchasing it in the slightest.
PAY SOMEONE – Your final option is to… pay someone! there are people who format books professionally. No idea how much they cost, and not cost effective if you plan to write a lot of books, but hey, it’s an option!
What you go with is up to you. There ARE free options, if you’re not too particular on how your book looks, but if you are, you’re going to have to spend some money on it, and no matter what, you’re going to have to spend time.
But it’s okay. You can do this.
And now, only the what. WHAT?
What do I mean?
Depending on which program you use for formatting, they will actually prompt you on what pages go where, however, your easiest step is also to do research. Seriously. Open up your favorite book. See what they have where.
My front matter is different for my paperback vs my ebook, btw. Just in case you didn’t know.
Let’s take a look at what atticus recommends for front matter:
- Title Page
- Table of Contents
Now arguably… you don’t need all of this. Seriously, you don’t need all of this. This is just, you know, you insert what you need and fill it in.
Let’s look at what I have in the front of my ebook:
- Title Page
- Table of Contents
- Blurb (Synopsis)
- Preface (Join My Newsletter)
- Dedication Page
- Prologue (Pronunciation Guide + Content Warnings)
Included your content warnings, by the way, for the love of god.
Now, paperback is a bit different, as sometimes you have control over which page it is on, so, I will denote which page they are on in the parenthesis, because this matters.
- Blurb (R, inside the front cover) (Small section from Ch 2)
- Also By (L, on back of blurb) (Other books by me)
- Title Page (R, across from also by)
- Copyright (L, on back of title page)
- Dedication Page (R, across from copyright)
- Pronunciation Guide + Content Warnings (R, blank page to left)
- Blank Page on the back, then start book on Right
Now listen, this is just a loose guide. If you don’t want to do it as I do it, that’s fine! I did what I did based on what I saw in other books, and what I thought was most important. You figure out you!
And now, a look at backmatter. Once again, my back matter is different in my ebook vs my paperback, and actually, there’s special features in each. But first!
What atticus recommends for back matter:
- About Author
- Also by
Again, you don’t need to do everything, and in fact, you should do some things different. Two very big things, in fact.
1. You should include links to your other books, whether they’re already out or a pre-order.
2. You should include a link to your social media. Push them to follow you elsewhere.
My ebook backmatter:
- Next in Series – Cover Image, Synopsis, Date of Release, Link to Book
- Also By Elle M Drew – With links to each book
- About the Author – Author Bio, Link to Website, Link to FB Group, Link to Contact, Link to Newsletter
And then, by paperback backmatter…
- BLANK PAGE
- Next in Series – (R) CHAPTER 1 OF THE NEXT BOOK
- About the Author – Author Bio, Website info, FB group info, Social Media handles
As you can see, I cover everything in both, just slightly different organization.
This all just didn’t fit anywhere else, so I’m going to tuck it here.
Author Branding – Include your author logo on both paperback and ebook if it’s small and cute. If it’s big… maybe keep it to the ebook.
Content Warnings – I’m serious. This is a big thing now. Just do it.
POVs – If you have more than one POV, please for the love of God, do something to show who’s POV we’re in.
Header/Footer – You can do your name, your book name, page numbers, whatever, but keep the same layout throughout a series.
Font/Size – Go with something easy to read. I went with Libre Caslon until it had issues, and now I go with EB Garamond. Sizing should be easy to read. Space should be 1.5, or something like that. Seriously, you want your paperback easy to read.
Ebook Font – they can change it, so you know, just don’t be weird.
Research – Look at other books. That’s the easiest way to figure out what you do and don’t like.
Ask for help – if you’re struggling, ask for help. Many programs have help resources and even fb groups to talk about it. I’m in an atticus group. I regularly email them. I post questions in author chats. Ask for help.
AT THE END OF THE DAY – formatting sucks, but you have to do it.
I believe in you. Just do it.
Please Note: This post was originally published and share on Elle’s Authoring Chaos Patreon on 24 April 2022.