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Formatting Guidelines

When formatting your book there are a number of things to consider, font, leading, trim size, margins, headers, folios, and specialized formatting will all affect how your final product looks and feels. Below I have briefly outlined the standards for each.



The font you choose will greatly effect the look and feel of your book. As a general rule fiction novels are formatted in Serif fonts. It is widely accepted that Serif fonts help create better flow in large blocks of texts. The Serifs (small flourishes) help the eye flow from letter to letter and help to tie words together for the reader. There are a number of Serif fonts available however some of the common fonts for fiction novels are:

  • Garamond
  • Minion
  • ITC New Baskerville
  • Bookman Old Style

All of these fonts will range drastically in size for example 12pt Garamond will be much smaller than 12pt Bookman Old School. When choosing a font size I suggest that you test print a few to ensure that the font reads well.



Leading is the amount of extra space between lines for example if your book is set to use 12pt font with 14pt line spacing then you have 2pt leading. As a general rule 20% leading should be the absolute minimum for a fiction novel, you will find most professional formats use 30% or higher to ensure adequate whitespace between lines. As with font size the best way to test and ensure you have sufficient leading is to print a few pages of text and read it. If the text feels tight, increase your leading.


Trim Size

Trim size refers to the measurements of a single page of your book. The following are the industry standard trim sizes for a trade paperback.

  • 5″ x 8″
  • 5.25″ x 8″
  • 5.5″ x 8.5″
  • 6″ x 9″

Something to keep in mind when choosing a trim size is that most print on demand services charge by the page. By increasing the trim size of your book you can reduce the page count and in turn the cost.



When formatting your book you will want to ensure your margins are set to mirrored. This will allow you to have an inner and outer margin as opposed to left and right. The reason this is important is that your inner margin will need to be wider in order to account for page loss within the spine of your book. Most print on demand services have a tight spine that will take up approximately 0.25″ of your inner margin.

When setting margins bear in mind that it is important to leave adequate whitespace for the reader. Your inner margin will be required to vary depending on the number of pages in your book but the following chart is a good guideline for margin sizes.

Page Count Inside Margin Outside Margins Top Margins Bottom Margins
24 to 150 pages .65″ .5″ .6″ .5″
151 to 400 pages .75 .5″ .6″ .5″
401 to 600 pages .875″ .5″ .6″ .5″
More than 600 pages 1.0″ .5″ .6″ .5″


Headers and Folios

There are a number of different ways to layout your headers and folios (page numbering) but a few basic guidelines do exists. Your front and back matter should not included any headers.

  1. Your front matter can include folios however these should be in the form of roman numerals.
  2. Chapter opening pages should not contain headers or folios
  3. Any blank pages or Part Sectioning Pages should not contain headers or folios

There are a number of ways to layout your header but I prefer to have my book title on one page of a spread and the author name on the other. In order to do this you must ensure that the headers for your layout are set to be different for odd and even pages.

Folios can be located in either the header or footer of your document. For my templates I have placed them in the header on the outer corner. There is no hard and fast rule for where numbering should begin but the two most popular options are to start counting at either the title page or the first page of text in the body of your book. Either way no folio (other than front matter roman numerals) should show until the second page of text in your body.


Specialized Characters

Specialized Characters such as drop-caps to begin chapters or glyphs to separate scenes can add a nice style to your document. Test a few options but most of all ensure that they feel natural. The best formatted book is one where the reader does not notice the formatting.


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