for the Writers

How I made my book look like a book

In a timeline of things to be done in the journey of self-publishing, on one end is the writing and editing. And on the other end is the selling and marketing.

But there’s a whole lot of in between that doesn’t really get talked about.

If you type a jumble of words into a Word document, that doesn’t look like a book. And so once I finished my 6 steps of editing, I moved on to researching how to make my book look like a book.

You can of course hire a book designer. And you probably should. But I wanted it to look book-ish for my beta readers, and I wasn’t about to pay for that. Plus I thought it’d be fun to figure out what all goes into it.

Disclaimer: I probably don’t have it all right, and I certainly don’t have it all here. This is just the steps I took after alot of research but without knowing everything professionally. Heck, I could even be completely wrong on something. This is more to give you an idea of what goes into it, what to think about, and what to research. This is certainly not a complete how-to.


Turning a manuscript into something that looks more book-ish

1) Fonts

There’s only certain fonts that work for books. Visually pleasing and easy for long reads. Plus you have to make sure the fonts you choose actually work well together, not just alone.

Serif is recommended for body text, and sans serif is recommended for other content. Also, Times New Roman is bad! Baaaad! Like it’s designed for newspapers to squish words together to fit on the page and it’s not great for long reads. That’s the main points I got out of my research.

Beyond that, you need to actually research which fonts play well on a page together. It’s kind of a toss-up if you’re not a graphic designer or at least more experienced with typography.

After some research, I chose to go with Corbel for the chapter titles, Palatino Linotype for the non-story content (page numbers, table of contents, etc.), and I went with Bookman Old Style for the story.

2) Spacing and Indents

I went with font 11pt with a 15 pt spacing. I indented at 12 pt.

From what I found, fonts are usually 11 or 12pt. Spacing is debated; some recommend single, and some slightly more than single. Indenting should be less than the amount of spacing.

Also, with Bookman Old Style I found the spacing between letters to be a tad close. I adjusted the font spacing to .5″.

3) Justify the text

Once you do this, you got to watch out for weird formatting. A huge space in a certain line. You may need to adjust spacing, indents, or minor edits to make that work well. The font spacing also helped with this.

4) Make mirror margins

Each page of a book has a side that goes into the center of the book where its bound, and a side that is on the edge. The bound side needs more space, but which side (left or right) that’s on depends on what page number you’re on (odd or even.) So you have to go into settings and select “Mirror Margins” for it to know you’re switching sides for each page number.

I found it was recommended to do .5″ outer margin with .8″ inner margin, and the top and bottom are 1″.

5) Page and section breaks

I inserted a page break before each chapter. Then I entered a section break (odd page).

The “odd page” option means that the next chapter always starts on the right side page, not a left side page. So there’s a blank page if needed there. Some books do that, some don’t, and I couldn’t find a particular reason of one over the other, so I just chose what I liked best for this book.

Psst! The section break helps with page numbering. Don’t skip that part. 

6) Header & Footer content

Here was the tricky part. I actually had to do this 3 times to figure out, because you have to watch the “Link to Previous” button. You don’t want it linked to previous for the stuff before the story or the stuff after the story, because you usually don’t put page numbers there.

Next you make sure you have “Different first page” and “Different odd & even pages” checked also.

You can of course copy whatever book you like with what you want style-wise.

For the first page, I put just the page number in the center of the footer. No header, which detracts from the Chapter title.

Then for the other pages, I had no footer, only the header. Odd pages had the page number and my name on the right side (the edge of the book), and even pages had the page number and the book title on the left side (the other edge of the book).

7) Make chapter names style the Header style

Those Style options in Word aren’t just handy dandy ideas for you to use. You can actually change them to be whatever style you want. So change the Header style to be whatever your Chapter titles formatting will be. Then make all your chapters that Header style. That will allow for the chapter titles to automatically be pulled into the Table of Contents page.

8) Make proper spacing between chapter title and story content

It’s not like the chapter title is actually at the tippy-top of the page and the story content right underneath. There’s a whole chunk of space to make the title stand out and give the reader some breathing room. Once again, look at some books and see what seems right to you. I just played around with it until it looked right.

Psst! This is another item you can play around with to get rid of lonesome words or lines on the last page of a chapter.

9) Insert Table of Contents

This should be more or less as simple as choosing Insert Table of Contents and deciding what that formatting will be. The chapters should automatically drop in from the above steps. And then make sure you choose the option to update page numbers if you make any changes to the document after inserting the Table of Contents, because it won’t automatically update. It won’t do anything until you click the button for it to update.


I think that covers all or at least most of how I designed the book.

  • Anything I missed or did wrong?
  • Anything you’re doing differently?
  • What are you currently researching for your book design?

Let me know in the comments below.


8 thoughts on “How I made my book look like a book”

  1. Wow, I never imagined all of this work going into the design process. Thank you so much for the heads up because I would’ve been completely blind-sighted! It’s great to hear you working so diligently to make your goals a reality.

    1. Yes, prepare yourself! you can do it though 🙂

      And my goals are becoming more and more tangible by the minute! I just received my final book cover design last night <3

        1. P.S. I’ve fallen off the face of the WordPress planet the past month or so with all my busy-ness, but I keep thinking: “I need to get back on there and see Lyz’s blogposts. I’ve missed her take on life!” You’re in my thoughts specifically, more than any other blogger, and I will get back to fangirling over your posts real soon <3

        2. Oh my freaking goodness, Amy, you have no idea how much it matters to hear you say that. It’s such encouragement that I need right now. You’re so awesome, my love. 😍😚

    1. Haha yessss! I’m making edits from my beta readers and that means a couple formatting things I accidentally messed up and had to re-fix, and I’m just like “No, not again!!!!” ugh, so much work lol. But it’s exciting to see it starting to look book-ish instead of manuscript-ish at least 🙂

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