Templates: Formatting Your Manuscript

Formatting your manuscript for printing is no big deal–if you know what you’re doing. I knew before I started this process I was going to have trouble with my headers and footers, and after struggling for ten hours, I was crying and ready to chuck the paperback option of my book. When I tweeted how desperate I was S. Hunter Nisbet (@ShunterNi) and RR Willica (@RRWillica) came to my rescue. (Shameless plug, both their books are on Amazon, in Kindle and paperback.) Templates they both said. Copy and paste your manuscript into the Word template CreateSpace provides, and at 11 pm after almost giving up, I did.

If you know where to look, or have the dearest friends like I have to point you in the proper direction, CreateSpace does hold your hand and makes publishing a book less painful than a root canal.

You might be asking why formatting is a big deal. It’s a big deal because your manuscript printed into book format is not the same as taking it to Staples and printing it out. You have to consider the gutters (the extra space in the margin for when your book is bound, actually glued into the front and back covers), headers, footers, where your front matter goes, etc. While the template takes care of some of it, it doesn’t take care of all of it, and I’ll write you up a quick list in a minute so you’ll be able to do those things yourself.

Where to find the template is easy enough. If you haven’t gone into the CreateSpace website and created your project, you can, or you can just read this blog series first, up to you. After you create your project, enter in your title info, and enter your ISBN choice (or skip that if you haven’t decided), you come to the screen I blogged about before. Choose your trim and paper color. After you choose those, at the right, you can download the template that will have all the measurements in place for the page set up.


These are the choices I made for 1700. My size on cream paper. On the very right-hand side, you click on the formatted template link and download the Word template. When you open the template there are pages for your front matter:

first pages of template

I turned on the formatting marks so you can see them. In my opinion, the most important thing they do for you is give you the end of section breaks at the end of the pages and at the end of the chapters. These are imperative when doing your headers and footers, and I’ll tell you why in a minute. This is the second set of pages in the template:

second pages

Notice they give you a table of contents. I didn’t use it, and most fiction books don’t. Plus, after ten hours of struggling, I just didn’t want to mess with anything extra. Of course, you’re doing this in a smarter manner, so if you want to take the time to add a table of contents, that’s your choice (but if you want your book to look like other books, a table of contents in a fiction book is pretty rare). Here is the third set:

third set of pages

I didn’t keep the order of these pages. I took a traditionally published book and copied the order of its pages. 1700 has the title, author, and imprint page, then my copyright page, my acknowledgments, a blank page, my dedication page, a subtitle page (1700 is two novellas printed together) then Chapter One. You can make your pages in any order you want, but please please please do not delete the End of Section breaks at ends of the first pages. These keep the headers and page numbers off your front matter. You’ll see that Chapter One starts with page one and that there is no header on the page. That is what you want; don’t delete the section break after the ends of all the other chapters in the template. The template includes nine chapters. If your book is longer than that, and mine was, copy and paste the section breaks into the ends of the extra chapters. It kept the header off the next title chapter pages in my book just fine.

Just one more quick thing, don’t be turned off that your text is not centered. That is the gutter I told you about, and that space is needed for binding. You can see it on the first chapter page of the template.

Because I know you want to see them, here are the first few pages of my book:

front mattefront matter 2


Some quick formatting tips that will help your book look professional:
1. First paragraphs of chapters and scene breaks are not indented.
2. Chapters begin in the near the middle of the page. Keep the number of blank lines before the Chapter Title and first paragraph consistent from chapter to chapter.
3. Use one space after a period.
4. Your text should be full justified (even, not jagged, on both sides).

You can experiment with the font, font size (I’ve read no bigger than 12 point unless you are specifically printing a Large Print book), italicize your name in the header, bold your title, etc. I was too scared, and I didn’t page through my manuscript as thoroughly as I should have. There are a few formatting mistakes I need to fix. Yep, I just saw the roman numeral on my dedication page. At first, I thought it was a speck on my computer screen. Dammit. The great news is that after your manuscript is copied and pasted into the template, the pages will look exactly the same printed into a real book. So it’s worth it to take a look, page by page, and search for mistakes, formatting errors, that kind of thing. I have an extra space I need to fix, and some cute little squares at the end of some of my chapters.

The bad news is after you publish and see mistakes, if you want to fix them, your entire project goes through CreateSpace’s review process. It’s a 12-hour process and it’s bad news because while you are waiting for your new file (they also go through the cover, or vice versa if you’re fixing your cover after already publishing your book) your old file becomes unavailable which means disappears as a paperback on Amazon. So, after you just release your book, and you have your initial sales coming in, you don’t want to fix anything unless it’s a huge mistake. I would hope if it’s that huge, you would have caught it while you were proofing your work. You can have a proof sent to you for around $3.00 plus shipping depending on how thick your book is, so page through it carefully. It’s something I didn’t do and regret it now, but no one is perfect and that’s okay.

I’ll leave this here for now. The next is covers and I’ll have to figure out how to write it up since there is just so much information on them.

Happy formatting!  I’ll be off fixing my mistakes.

1 thought on “Templates: Formatting Your Manuscript

  1. Hi Vania, I’m very excited about your blogs on self-publishing. I’m about to self publish my latest story and I honestly did not even know where to begin. After reading your blogs I feel I can do this. Thank you for that. And I’m truly amazed that you learned and did all of this on your own. Very impressive! Thanks again, David


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