How to Format a Book for Printing

The idea of formatting your book for print is to make it look professional and make the content of the book easy to read.

You do not want to overcomplicate the formatting and make the content too distracting.

Your book format can be unique and exactly how you want it to be. You just have to follow these tips…

Before you start thinking about the format

Number 1 on your to-do list is to decide on the genre of your book. Without knowing this all your formatting could be wrong.

You don’t want to format an academic journal in the same style as you would for a horror novel.

Books are formatted in different ways for different genres and it is a good idea to make sure you understand what genre and niche your book is. If you unsure on how to format a book to print you can follow this guide or speak to our friends at Book Design UK.

How to research formatting your book

Do you know what genre your book is?

If you are unsure of what design and formatting you think will work well for your book, it is time to start researching. Have a look through all of the books you own – even if they are in a different niche.

If you don’t have many books then the next place to do your research is at your local library or local book shop.

Have a look through as many books as you can and make note of the following style formats;

  • Size of the book
  • The thickness of the book / Number of pages
  • Font styles for the main text and headings
  • Line spacing
  • Paragraph formatting
  • Page numbering

The majority of the books you look at will have similar styles in their own niche.

You will most likely be able to start identifying the genre and niche of the book based on the format of the books.

If you are wanting to know what fonts and font sizes are used for the book, have a look at the preliminary pages.

The author or typesetter may have added the design styles which will be a big bonus to help you identify what format you like the look of.

What size should my book be?

The size of the Book – also known as Trim Size – you decide to go with is very important – not just for the format but also the final printing cost.

You will want your book to fit in with other books in your genre on bookshelves but not blend in.

If you are planning on a multi-series then make sure you get this correct at the start. – You don’t want to have a series of books in different formats.

Remember – the bigger the book the more expensive the printing will be.

Basic book sizes for formatting and printing;

  • Fiction: 4.25″ x 6.87″, 5″ x 8″, 5.25″ x 8″, 5.5″ x 8.5″, 6″ x 9″ (B-Format)
  • Novella: 5″ x 8″ (B-Format)
  • Children’s: 7.5″ x 7.5″, 7″ x 10″, 10″ x 8″ (Royal to A4)
  • Textbooks: 6″ x 9″, 7″ x 10″, 8.5″ x 11″ (Royal to B5 Quattro)
  • Non-fiction: 5.5″ x 8.5″, 6″ x 9″, 7″ x 10″ (B-Format to B5 Quattro)
  • Memoir: 5.25″ x 8″, 5.5″ x 8.5″ (B-Format to Royal)
  • Photography: Whatever you see fit!

Most photography books tend to be in a large format hardback book – normally in the region of A4 or bigger. A well-formatted photography book in hardback can look amazing. Nothing comes close to the feel of a hardback book.

There are many different sizes you can choose from but the above sizes are the most common.

You don’t want to have something too different unless you are sure the particular size serves a purpose.

The below image gives you a rough comparison of the difference in size between books.

Please note – the image below is in millimetres.

What size should my margins be?

The margins are how far away the text is from the edge of the paper.

On average the margins for a book are between 13 to 18mm depending on the type of book, the genre the book is in and the number of printed pages.

You want to make sure you have a nice space around the content but not too much so you have overly large blank areas.

The gutter of the book normally has slightly extra margins, about 5 to 8mm. The more printed pages your book has – the more space is needed for the gutter.

When the book is in its final format you should be able to get an idea of the number of printed pages it will be.

With this information, you will be able to put the number of pages into a spine width calculator. The calculator will give you a measurement of the spine of the book which you can then use to work out the gutter size.

What is the best font to use for my book?

If you have written your book already then you might have already decided on a font for your book. Perhaps you are not quite sure if the font you have chosen works?

Deciding on a font for your book is a very big decision and something Book Design UK can help you with.

The best font to use for your book is down to personal preference but you need to have a font that your readers are going to be able to read easily.

If you don’t have a good font then the time and effort that anybody puts into formatting a book could be wasted.

Take a look at some of the books you like and look in the prelims to see if they have any details on the fonts the designers or typesetters have used. More often than not you should be able to see something in the prelims like … Typeset in Garamond 12pt.

If you want to stick to a common font for your bok – which I do advise – then you should look into the following top 6 fonts.

These are my personal top 6 fonts that work well for almost every type of genre.

Most of these fonts are used in fiction and non-fiction formats.

  • Garamond
  • Georgia
  • Palatino
  • Baskerville
  • Minion Pro
  • Cormorant

For more information on fonts see – 7 Perfect Typesetting Fonts

You have a formatting outline – now design the style

Putting all the above formatting options together will give you the overall style of your book.

Every book and every genre has a set style that is consistent throughout. Your book’s style is similar to a personal brand.

You can have different fonts, sizes and headings for different books but when they all come together your readers will be able to see the styles match.

Consistency is king when it comes to your book.

You do not want to have different parts of the same book in a different format unless it is for a particular reason. Such as a compilation of different stories by different authors for example.

When it comes to the format of your book you will want to have set styles for the following;

  • Copyright-page – is the page in the front of your book that lists all the publication, copyright, legal, printing, design, listing and ISBN information.
  • Title-page – the title of the book
  • Chapter-headings – the heading of every chapter before each part of the text
  • Subtitle – the title of the book with the author in a smaller font than the title page
  • Page-numbers – small numbers identifying each page number, usually in a small font in the bottom middle of the book. Preliminary pages are usually in roman numerals. Blank pages that do not have any text on are not usually numbered.
  • Footers – small parts of the text at the bottom of every page before the page number. They usually have information such as chapters, author, notes and/or references
  • Headers – similar to footers but at the top of the page. They have information for chapter title, author and/or book title.

What preliminary pages should I have?

You will want to have at least a title page, copyright page, table of contents and a preface.

If you are using Microsoft Word you will be able to make an automatic table of contents that you can update automatically.

Should my chapter pages be unique?

You can be a bit creative with your chapter pages depending on the genre of your book. Experiment a little and see what looks good.

But do not overdo it, make sure it is in line with the genre of your book.

Remember chapter pages should be on the right-hand page of your book if you are wanting a traditional style. This is something you may have noticed when you were doing your initial research on formatting? If you are not worried about a traditional book format then you do not need to worry about this.

Do page numbers matter?

Many designers use roman numerals for the preliminary pages or will leave them blank.

Your book should always start on page one on the right-hand side page and will leave all blank pages throughout the book with no page numbers on.

The style of the page numbers should be in line with the main body of your book. They are normally in a small font and centred at the bottom of the page.


There are many different parts that make up the formatting of a book. The main thing to focus on is what you are happy with. It is your book after all. If you need help in getting your book formatted for print please visit Book Design and Print

Take note of all the points above but only use the set styles that you are happy with. Ask your friends and family for their opinions but at the end of the day, it’s your book and all of your hard work has gone into creating it.