Book Formatting Basics
Formatting a book has, historically, been something of a specialized art. Book formatters charge quite a lot for their service and, quite frankly, in most situations, they deserve it!
Atticus was designed to offer book formatting basics without the need to spend a year scratching the surface of complex programs like InDesign. You don’t need a degree to format your book with Atticus, but there are some basic elements of book formatting that you should know in order to deliver a reader-friendly book to your audience.
Of course, as the self-publishing author, the final choices of your formatting are entirely yours, but there are some standards that readers expect and, if you’re able to follow them with your manuscript, they’ll generally lead to a more comfortable and invisible reading experience. In other words, your audience will forget they’re reading and be able to fully immerse themselves in your story-world.
This post helps you prepare your manuscript not only for the most efficient use of Atticus, but also for the best reader experience.
- Do not copy and paste your content from any program other than Atticus
- Keep your chapters under 8000 words or reference this post: Handling Extra-Long Chapters.
- Save images separate from your manuscript and insert them directly into Atticus
- Size images properly before importing into Atticus. See Calculate Image Size for Print and eBooks.
- Title all pages and chapters so they have unique, relevant names – even if you aren’t showing them on the page
- Do not import hyperlinks, insert them from inside Atticus
- Leave Advanced Settings at the Atticus defaults to meet general industry standard
- Always carefully proof both ePub and Print version before publishing!
Formatting the Content of your Book
How you write your book directly affects how you format your book. While we, at Atticus, will be the first to encourage authors to take control of their books, there are a few best practices to be considered while writing that will make formatting and publishing substantially easier.
Your Manuscript In Atticus
If you are writing your manuscript in Word, we have a separate post dedicated to helping you prepare the document itself for importing into Atticus. You can find that here: Prepare your Word Document
If you are writing directly in Atticus, you can treat it like a regular word processing program.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Copy and pasting content from other programs – anything other than Atticus – will often bring hidden, foreign coding with it, causing odd formatting issues. If you absolutely cannot avoid pasting content into Atticus, we recommend pasting without formatting.
- Press CTRL or CMD + SHIFT + V or
- Right click and choosing “paste as plain text”
This should prevent formatting issues but you will have to go back and reapply any special formatting you may want, such as URLs, italicized or bolded text, etc.
Every genre and every book within each genre has its own set of unique rules for how chapters are divided. There is no single perfect length to write each chapter, nor is there any rule whether chapters should be the same approximate length or vary at every turn.
The most common chapter word count across all genres in modern books published range between 2,000 to 5,000 words per chapter. This can vary widely depending on the genre, author, and specific book. Some genres, such as thrillers or fast-paced action novels, may have shorter chapters to keep the pace of the story moving quickly, while others, such as literary fiction, may have longer chapters that delve deeper into character development and setting.
Ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer, and the chapter word count should be determined by what works best for the individual book and its audience.
There are, however, some best practices that will help Atticus work at its best. Based on industry standards, Atticus will comfortably handle individual chapters that are up to 7,000 or 8,000 words long. If your chapters are longer than that, we have a separate tutorial to help you break it up so Atticus can handle it more efficiently, while your readers’ won’t even realize special formatting has been applied.
Read more about Handling Extra-Long Chapters.
Images and Graphics
Depending on the type of book you’re publishing, you may want to include images.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you have your manuscript written in Word, we recommend keeping the images saved in a separate folder and importing your content only. Insert the images as part of the formatting process inside Atticus, after importing your manuscript.
One of the many perks of Atticus is the fact that you can export your ePub and Print versions from the same file in Atticus, with little to no need to alter the content between the two. Atticus handles all the tricky conversions for you.
However, if you have more than a handful of images in your book, you may want to consider creating two separate versions in Atticus.
eBooks are best formatted with images that are lower resolution than you would use in a printed version of your book. This is in part because of how a screen displays an image, compared to how images are printed, but also due to the final file size of your book.
Atticus compresses eBook images in a very strategic manner, which allows KDP to compress even further, giving you the smallest files size possible for delivery.
Smaller ePub files load more quickly for readers and, if you’re part of KDPs 70% royalty structure, they also cost less to deliver.
That said, it’s wise to have the images pre-sized for optimal compression as much as possible.
Print books, on the other hand, will deliver better quality with higher resolution images, and those images also need to be properly sized to fit the selected trim size of your book.
For more information on sizing your images, please reference Calculate Image Size for Print and eBooks.
Easy Button Settings for eBooks
Exporting for ePub has never been easier. Atticus takes care of all the HTML and coding necessary to deliver your book to any eReading device beautifully.
Table of Contents
In print, not all books have a Table of Contents. For eBooks, you don’t need to have a TOC in the content of the book itself, but you do need to ensure its properly coded to allow for the NCX or Navigational contents list that is required for all published eBooks.
Atticus does this automatically for you. All you need to do is ensure:
- every chapter in Atticus has a relevant title in the “Chapter Title” area, and
- that no two chapters have the exact same title
Atticus will take care of the rest!
Links are live in the ePub version of Atticus. We strongly recommend you do not set your links in the Word version as they don’t always import properly. Instead, we suggest applying all hyperlinks from directly within Atticus.
Highlight the text you want to be anchored to the link and click the Link icon from the toolbar. You need to include the https:// or http:// with each link, but when properly formatted, your readers will easily be able to tap and be redirected where you want them to go.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Atticus does not currently support importing anchored internal links. Do not use them in your Word document. You can import Footnotes but no other internal links.
The PDF version of your book does not export live links since print is not designed for connecting to the internet. If you need to include a link, we recommend using a “pretty link” or short url to make it easy on your readers, or include a QR code they can scan with their phone.
Easy Button Settings for Print
Now let’s look at the ways Atticus sets your book up for success by default:
If you’re creating a printed version of your book, selecting the size for your book is important and can be tricky for authors who are not familiar with formatting jargon like “trim,” or “bleed,” and aren’t sure how to set the appropriate margins. Atticus does this automatically for you. All you have to do is decide what size you want your book to print, and click the corresponding page size in the formatting tab.
Different genres have different expectations, so you may want to do a bit of outside research for this, but getting all the nitty-gritty details correct is automated by Atticus.
Margins are critical to provide enough space for readers to comfortably read the text so it doesn’t fall off the page or get lost in the book’s crease. Most publishers share their requirements, but if you leave the margins set to their default settings in Atticus, they meet industry standards.
Font, Font Size & Line Spacing
In the Print Settings, you will find a limited number of font choices for the body content of your book. These fonts have specifically been chosen for readability and publishing expectations, but they are also free for commercial use. This means you can sell your books for a profit without worrying about needing a special license to use the fonts.
In the Advanced Settings, you can increase or decrease the font size and line spacing if you choose, but the defaults are the most common settings for published books.
Headers, Footers, and Pagination
Headers and footers can include information such as the book title, chapter title, or author name and the page numbering. Atticus makes sure they’re consistent throughout the book.
Page numbering is required by all publishers, so Atticus takes care of that for you automatically, though you can choose whether to display the page number in the Header or the Footer.
Following industry standards, if the page number is in the Footer section, it will display on all pages after the Table of Contents. Any pages that are in the Front Matter portion of your book will display the page number in Roman Numerals. The first page of the Body section will always begin on the right side of your book as page 1.
If you choose to have the page number in the Header, the first page of any chapter will not show the header, as the Chapter Heading takes priority. The pagination will be continuous, but you will see it beginning on the left side of your book as page 2.
Advanced Easy Settings for Print and eBooks
Chapter Titles and Headings
One of the ways Atticus allows you to customize your book easily but with dramatic effect is through the chapter titles and headings. This gets more into the design of your book, and there are a variety of tutorials to help you find your perfect design.
If you navigate back to the main tutorials page, you’ll find a variety of additional tutorials to walk you through all the various options available to you in Atticus.
Proof Your Book
The development team behind Atticus is doing everything possible to make formatting your book and exporting publish-ready files as easy as possible, but as with any project, there are always unexpected twists that may surprise you.
Before publishing, proofread the book carefully for any errors or formatting inconsistencies. It’s a good idea to have someone else review the book as well. Hopefully it will be perfect with your first try, but it’s always worthwhile to be thorough.
To proof the eBook version, we recommend using Kindle Previewer. This allows you to see how the formatting will show when readers download your book to their device from Amazon or any other major distributor.
For the print version of your book, we recommend using Adobe Acrobat Reader. To have it display as a printed book will, once it’s open, you’ll want to tweak these settings:
- Click View
- Choose Page Display
- Choose Two Page View
- Click View and Page Display Again
- Enable Show Cover Page in Two Page View
Final Formatting Thoughts
Every book is unique and this brief guide may not cover everything you need to know about formatting your specific work of art. There are many additional resources to come to your rescue:
- Check out our Tutorials Page
- Browse our YouTube Channel
- Join our Atticus Authors Facebook Community
- Open Atticus, click the turquoise ? button and work through our Knowledge Base
- Contact our Support Team for world-class author-to-author help
We wish you all the best with your writing, formatting, and, of course, publishing!
Last Updated: 05/24/2023
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