Book Formatting Disasters in InDesign


When learning how to self-publish, I read article after article about all of the little things that a self-published author needs to keep in mind when using a POD (print-on-demand) publishing service. Alignment, "em" indentation, and running headers were not things I ever noticed or considered while reading on my own. But, of course, if you design the interior of a book correctly, the point is that you don't notice the interior design. The only time a reader really notices design is if it is poorly executed. Or, if you've tried doing it yourself!

Nearly every article stressed how challenging it is to format your book. I didn't believe it...

...and I should have. So far I've spent about a week trying to make my book pretty on the inside. I'm getting closer, but InDesign has caused me way too many headaches as I deal with the book formatting. A few tips for anyone else out there trying to do this:

Do as much as you can with styles in Word before moving your book over to InDesign. It will save you lots of time. If you wrote your book using styles, you're already far ahead of the game.

book formatting indesign

  • Take a look at books that you've read and note the size of the pages BEFORE you place your text in InDesign. Don't forget to look at margins!  I assumed that it would be simple to change my book size in InDesign after editing my paragraph styles. It isn't.
  • Review the interior of  some professionally published books and check out what your preferences are as far as running headers, page numbers, and white space. Keep notes!
  • Leading should be 50% larger than typeface. (In other words, use the 1.5 spacing option.)
  • Turn ON optical margins.
  • The first paragraph indent for each new style should be flush left. The other paragraphs shouldn't be 1/2 inch, the way it's set up in Word automatically. It should be em indented instead.
  • Use an established font like Garamond, Minion, Janson, Electra, Caslon or Bembo. Your print book font should be 10 point. EBooks should be 12 point.

The good thing about self-publishing is examples of professional publishing formats abound on your bookshelf. Anytime I felt stuck, I opened books at random on my shelf and figured out what I liked and didn't like about various set-ups. Copy the masters!

Food for thought!