The Book Formatting Process

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As self-publishing has gained more ground in the last few years, we’ve received more and more questions from authors who are confused about the book formatting process. And it’s no wonder! Between trim sizes, last typos, and figuring out where the cover design comes in, it can get complicated! So, we thought we’d outline a little what the process is like for us, and how you can help us when we’re formatting your book.

First, you have to understand there are two types of book formatting: eBook and paperback/print formatting. The first one produces an .epub file that you can upload to retailers like Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, etc., and which becomes your eBook that readers view on their eReaders. The second produces a .pdf file that you upload to retailers, and which becomes printed into a paperback (or hardcover) for readers to enjoy in its physical form.

The Book Formatting Process – Initial Stages

When it comes to book formatting, we always start from scratch with the files, and the process goes a little as follows:

1. First Contact: This is the initial stage—the starting point, if you will. Whether you’re a recurring client who finished their last edits or a new client who submitted our “get a quote” form, we will review the information you provided about your book, confirm some details, then we will send you a formatting agreement and an invoice for the service.

2. Second Contact: You will also receive a link to our formatting form. This is where you fill in things like your book’s trim size, choose special fonts, upload your book file, etc. This form absolutely needs to be filled in as soon as possible, so we can review the information and get in touch with you if we have any questions or clarifications.

3. File and Form Receipt and Review: We receive your manuscript, cover, and everything else we requested in the form, and review all the information. If we have any questions, this is when we’ll reach out to you. Please make sure to add to your list of approved emails (or keep an eye on your Promotions/Junk/Spam in case our email lands in there). If we have no additional questions or clarifications, you will receive a confirmation of your booking. Your payment for the formatting services will be due 48hrs before the date work begins. (You can view a sample formatting agreement detailing more information here.)

The Process – Book Formatting Begins

It’s Day 1 of the contract! We get cracking with the manuscript:

4. File Conversion: We convert your manuscript into a format compatible with eBook readers, such as .epub or .mobi. These formats allow for reflowable text, meaning the text adjusts dynamically to fit different screen sizes and font preferences. For this reason, it is impossible to guarantee fancy fonts will display on eReaders. 

5. Text Formatting: We meticulously go through the manuscript and apply basic text formatting to your manuscript, including consistent font styles, font sizes, and line spacing. We use standard fonts that are easy to read on digital devices and will not become corrupted or illegible if the reader chooses different settings on their eReaders.

6. Headings and Subheadings: We organize your book with headings and subheadings to improve readability, using appropriate heading styles and ensuring consistent formatting throughout the book.

7. Images and Graphics: We adjust and optimize any images or graphics in your manuscript to fit the eBook format. We ensure they are clear, properly positioned, and don’t disrupt the flow of the text. To make our job easier, we kindly ask that any images you send us (cover art, chapter headings) are in a compatible file format, such as JPEG or PNG.

8. Preview: At some point in steps 3-5 above, we will reach out with a preview of your eBook file, for your approval.

9. Table of Contents: We create a clickable table of contents that allows readers to navigate easily within the eBook. We follow that up by testing it and ensuring each chapter and section is properly linked to its corresponding page.

10. Hyperlinks and References: If your eBook includes hyperlinks or references, we make sure they are functional and lead to the correct online sources or external pages.

11. Testing and Quality Assurance: Before finalizing your eBook, we test it on various eBook readers and devices to ensure proper formatting and readability. At this point, we correct any formatting issues or errors that we discover during this testing phase.

12. Paperback Formatting (if you purchased the paperback formatting option): With the eBook tested and approved on our end, we shift our attention to your paperback. Though we completed most of the clean-up in the process of formatting the eBook, the harder work begins now. This is where we:

  • ensure readability and consistency throughout the entire manuscript for your chosen font and font size, and adapt the line spacing for the body text of the book—also called typesetting;
  • format your chapter titles, headings, and subheadings consistently to create a visually appealing layout;
  • include page numbers either in the header or footer of each page and ensure they are correctly positioned and formatted consistently;
  • add a header with the book title or author name;
  • and adjust and optimize any images or graphics for print.

13. Final file conversion and quality check (if you purchased the paperback formatting option): Once the paperback formatting is complete, convert your manuscript into a print-ready format, such as PDF. Ensure that all fonts and images are embedded correctly and that the file meets the printer’s specifications.

14. Second Preview (if you purchased the paperback formatting option): You will receive a second preview, this one for the paperback, at some point during this stage. Note: A lot of authors, at this point, ask us for the page count so they can give it to their cover designer (to finalize the paperback cover). We hesitate to do so while in the midst of formatting as the page count changes by the day, so we highly recommend you tell your cover designer to wait until the book’s formatting is completed and then provide them with the final page count.

15. Deliver the File(s): We deliver your eBook file. If you purchased print formatting as well, we will deliver both together.

Your formatting checklist (of sorts)

Here’s hoping some of that gave you an idea of the hard work that goes into making your book look as great as your words are! So, with that in mind, what can you do to ensure fewer headaches (for you, and for us)?

When it comes to eBook Formatting:

  • Manuscript Preparation: Begin by ensuring that your manuscript is edited and proofread for any grammatical errors, typos, or formatting issues. It’s essential to have a clean and error-free manuscript before proceeding.
  • Headings, fonts, and spaces: Please use similar headings and automated spacings wherever possible (i.e. no using the space bar to add spaces or new paragraphs, or the enter bar to move into a new chapter).
  • Fill in our requirements form: Ensure you’ve provided all the details requested. When in doubt, email us. If you don’t hear from us within 2 business days of submitting it, email us. 

When it comes to Print Formatting:

  • Manuscript Preparation: Like with eBook formatting, begin by ensuring your manuscript is edited and proofread for any errors. Make sure the text is clean and ready for formatting. Since you’re only providing us with one file (which we format into an .epub and a .pdf), this should go hand-in-hand with the steps above.
  • Headings, fonts, and spaces: Please use similar headings and automated spacings wherever possible (i.e. no using the space bar to add spaces or new paragraphs, or the enter bar to move into a new chapter).
  • Page Size and Margins: Determine what will be your desired page size (common sizes include 6″ x 9″ or 5.5″ x 8.5″), margins (or leave these to the formatter’s experience), and whether you have a maximum of amount of pages you do not want the print book to hit. For example, if you wrote a mammoth 150,000-word novel, but you don’t want the printed version to be over 600 pages—this is the point to say so! Please keep in mind that any changes to trim size and font size after work has begun will incur additional charges.
  • Fill in our requirements form: Ensure you’ve provided all the details requested. When in doubt, email us. If you don’t hear from us within 2 business days of submitting it, email us. 

Though this post has been long, we wanted to do our best to provide you with all the information you will need to make a decision, so that you can save yourself additional reformatting fees down the line. Always keep in mind that your manuscript might incur additional charges if it’s:

  • in rough shape (containing manual hyphens or manual spacing)
  • significantly longer than 90K
  • requires extensive formatting work (due to pictures, lists, or tables)
  • or hasn’t been proofread (therefore might lead to extra revisions)

We will always reach out to you if we notice these things, before we do any work.

A final word

Remember, book formatting requirements may vary depending on the publishing platform or printing service you choose, so always check their specific guidelines for the best results. Keep us in the loop and we will do the same throughout! It’s normal that we’ll be quiet in between the previews of your files as we work diligently towards their completion, but if ever you have questions, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Ready to book your formatting? Fill in our form.

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