One of the most rewarding, and the most frustrating, things I do on my own work is format them for print. Now that I have the formula down, including remembering odd pages are right pages and even ones are left when it comes to the book (in other words, opposite of what you see in 2 page layout), it comes a lot easier. But I thought I’d go over my thoughts for what makes a good book formatting job.

Margins. Margins. Margins. Back in the day when printed “arc galleys” were sent, the pages were formatted as if for the printed book size (think mass market paperback or hard cover), but on 8.5×11 paper. So the margins were huge. It also wasted a lot of paper. You want your margins small enough so there’s space between the edge of the page and your text, and a deep enough gutter that the text doesn’t roll into the spine. But, too much white space and it looks off. Aim for half to three quarters of an inch.

Font size. This is especially true in fantasy where your five hundred page epic in mass market form has 9 point font to make it a reasonable sized book. If your readers have to squint, that’s no good. However too large, say 12 or 14 point, and it’s going to look just as odd. Make sure the font size looks proportionate to the book. (Note: Large print is 16 point and above and it has its own rules.)

Front and Back Matter. Let your readers know what else you write. Give them a biography, maybe a snippet from your next book. Give them something.

These three things really help make your book stand out. Notice that I didn’t talk about the “fluff” like drop caps or chapter headers. Those are important, but even a plainly formatted book really stands out if you get the basics right.