Wednesday, March 22, 2017

7 Formatting Tricks with Aubrey Hansen

Hello! I have Rachel Greene here today to talk about some tricks for formatting your paperback editions. Rachel formats professionally for her small business Penoaks Publishing, so I think that she just might know what she's talking about.

Rachel writes under the penname "Aubrey Hansen." I've read both her books Red Rain and Peter's Angel, and quite enjoyed them.

Find Aubrey/Rachel on the interwebs.

As someone who formats her own books, I'll let you know that it's no simple business, and I probably have room for improvement. I'll let Rachel have the floor now -

You know what's annoying about readers? They don't listen to you! You give them very simple instructions, like "Don't judge a book by its cover," then they go and do just that! But they don't stop there, oh no! As if being picky about covers isn't enough, then they go on and judge the book by its interior too! Not only does it have to have a nice cover, but the guts have to look good too!

Okay, okay, I guess we can't be too hard on readers. An improperly formatted book is very difficult to read, like trying to decipher a letter from a friend with atrocious handwriting. (We all know that one person!) What's worse, bad formatting pulls the reader out of the story, making them focus on the packaging instead of the words themselves. And as every writer knows, the last thing we want to do is pull our readers out of the story.

But the good news is that proper formatting doesn't have to be fancy.  In fact, for most books, simpler is better. By following a few rules of the trade, it's easy to create a crisp layout that meets industry standards and makes your book look professional, while allowing your words to shine through. Below are 7 easy formatting tricks that you can apply to your next project to take it to the next level.


  1. Start your chapters on the right-hand page. Industry standards dictate that all important content (title page, dedication page, first pages of each chapter) should start on the right-hand (odd-numbered) page. Making this easy change is a great way to add a level of professionalism to your layout. This may result in some blank pages in between chapters, but that's okay--just make sure your blank pages don't have page numbers or headers/footers!


  3. No headers/footers or page numbers on the first page of chapters. Similarly, the first pages of your chapters and sections will look cleaner and classier if they don't have headers, footers, or page numbers.


  5. Small caps. Small caps, which can be found in the "font" menu of most programs, is a great way to add sophistication to a layout. It's also a great way to add variety without having to use a different font. It's a nice touch if you're using a serif font or want to keep the layout clean and professional.


  7. Avoid using Times New Roman, Arial, Courier New, and Calibri. While you want your body text to be in a simple, readable font, avoid overused system fonts. Times New Roman and Courier New are academic fonts used for term papers and manuscript submissions. For a published book, Garamond, Goudy Old Style, and Baskerville Old Face are also common, basic fonts that have just enough character to be classy.


  9. Line spacing. For some books, where space is premium, you'll want to keep your line spacing at the default single-spaced. But for most novels, boosting your line spacing to 1.15 or even 1.25 can make your text much more readable by allowing the lines to breathe. But don't make it any wider than 1.5, or your book will look like a double-spaced manuscript. (Children's books and easy readers might be the exception to this.)


  11. Drop caps. The oldest trick in the book, drop caps have been used since the days of illuminated texts. A simple drop-cap dropped two or three lines is an easy way to add style and vintage flare to your layouts. Just make sure to format them properly using your program's drop cap feature, and don't try to force it manually or by using a text box, as it won't look as pretty.


  13. Left-align the first line of chapters and scenes. Left-aligning (no indent) the first line of new chapters and the first line after a scene break is an excellent way to make your book more professional, plus it helps visually differentiate the new section.


  14. Okay, Kendra back real quick to put in a word about kindle formatting. It's a whole 'nother beast. I, unfortunately, didn't get anyone to talk about it as part of e-Con, but I do have this awesome post that I found elsewhere that you guys might will find helpful. 


    1. Thanks for hosting me! If anyone has any questions about the content in this post, feel free to ask! :)

    2. This is a great summary of the basics. I am always surprised at how many authors don't notice these details. :)

    3. Wow! I love your seven steps! It simplifies this intimidating process. I may try this myself next time around. Keyword here is 'may'! ;D

      Do you have to use special software to do InDesign.. or can you do this on Word or Office?

      1. I personally use Word, because I try to keep my prices low. Eventually I will add InDesign as an option, but because of the cost of the program, it would require a more premium price. Additionally, Kindle still plays nicely with Word as opposed to any other program, so for the time being it still makes sense to know how to manage with Office.

      2. That's great to know! Yes, InDesign is pricey! I've been considering taking an InDesign class, but the cost of both... the class and the software... is giving me second thoughts. :(

    4. Thank you for this! It's good to have some refreshers on things to look for when formatting. :)

    5. Thanks for sharing this! I'm not sure when I'll use it (publication and formatting and such are still far in the future for me), but I found it very interesting!

    6. Thanks for sharing this summary with us, Rachel! It was lovely to have some of the confusion of formatting cleared up ;).

      ~ Savannah

    7. Wow, what great tips! This is very timely for me because I'm in the middle of formatting one book right now. I'm thankful for these reminders (some were new to me, though) and applied the small caps trick to the book I'm working on immediately. :) I love the effect!
      Are those fonts that you mentioned (Garamond, etc.) completely free to use? I've resorted to Times New Roman in the past because I was afraid of using the wrong fonts for commercial use.

      1. Most system standard fonts (like Garamond) are free to use. You can find an abundance of free for commerical use fonts on (just limit the search to fonts that are "100% free") and Font Squirrel (I think that entire site is free for commercial use).

      2. I've been curious about free fonts, too - so thank you for answering that question! ;)

        ~ Savannah

      3. Thank you! Garamond is a lovely font. :)

    8. Thanks for linking to my post on Kindle formatting, Kendra! Glad you found it useful. :)


    Hi! Now that you've read my post, hast thou any opinions that thou wouldst like to share? I'd love to hear them!

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