One of my favourite things to do is to take a messy manuscript and turn it into a lovely well-ordered file ready to upload to Amazon, Lulu and IngramSpark.

I’m also a bit of a troubleshooter when it comes to formatting issues, so I’d just like to share the 5 most common mistakes that you may want to avoid when formatting your book.

1. Double-spacing between sentences

Way, way back in the day, when we were taught to type on actual typewriters, the standard was to use double-spacing between sentencing. Somewhere along the way, this changed, but people who trained the old way, like me, may not have got that memo!

Remedy: You can use the edit/replace function in Word and replace two spaces with one.

2. Using the space bar or tab to indent your paragraph

This may be the standard way you do stuff, however, when you’re formatting books, then it will affect the way the book looks, especially if you’re uploading it as an ebook. Instead, set up a style for your indented paragraphs. This brings me on to number 3!

3. Not using Styles in MS Word

You may not have noticed Styles, and you may not use them, but they are a very powerful way of policing the formatting of your document.

When using them for a book, you need to set up a minimum of 3 different styles:

  • Header 1 – this is used for your chapter headings and is used by MS Word to create your table of contents.
  • First paragraph – the first paragraph of your book is usually not indented, so this needs to be set up specifically.
  • Body text – the main body of your book will be indented.

If I’m doing a book with headers, then I may also create a style for this as well, sometimes even having a different style for the left and right-hand pages e.g. left-justified on the left pages and right justified on the right-hand side.

4. Using paragraph breaks

I come across this time and time again, and yet it still surprises me when people do this.

MS Word has two types of breaks to move text onto the next line:

  • Line breaks
  • Paragraph breaks

What sometimes happens is that in order to get to the next page, the person uses these options instead of just adding a page break.

The problem with this is if the size of the text is changed, in styles or otherwise, the size of the page breaks will change as well, moving your text from it’s intended place.

By using a page break, you can be sure that your text will appear on the next page as you expect.

5. Not using section breaks to their max

Section breaks are similar to page breaks however, they are much more powerful. They are used to control the content of the headers and footers in your document or manuscript.

  • They ensure that your new chapter will begin where you have set it up in styles.
  • You can use them to ensure that the first page of a new chapter doesn’t have a header appearing.
  • You can set different headers for the left hand pages and the right hand pages.
  • And you can use them to make sure that your page numbers start where you want them to.

These simple actions can make your book look really polished and professional, so don’t under-estimate them.

That’s it.

These are the 5 most common issues I keep finding in manuscripts. They’re not biggies, but if you don’t address them, when you upload your book, especially if it’s an ebook where someone like me will change the text size to make it easier to read, then your book will not look as professional as you’d like, and that may be reflected in your reviews and consequently, your sales.

In the next post, I’ll walk you through my process of formatting your book.

Related posts:

How do I make a self-published book look professional?


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Let’s have a chat!

If you’d like a chat about formatting your books, then you can schedule a free, no-obligation call with me.

Just schedule a time in my diary.