Making Your Book Look Good with Formatting

Putting Your Best Font Forward

In today’s post, I will be giving you a behind-the-scenes look at me putting together my next book, Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with your Cancer. Today, it’s all about making your book look good with the right formatting.

Making Your Book Look Good starts with no formatting at all

I’ve found this to be incredibly important. To help you see the transformations process that happens when you are making your book look good I have taken some screenshots of my manuscript along with some hints.

formatting: making Your Book Look Good

Putting Your Best Font Forward

With print projects, I often forget about the importance of font until it’s time to publish. Then I scramble to make it more visually appealing. Originally the paragraph font was Courier New, 12 pt. with the lines at 1.5. The chapter headings were 20 pt.

It was boring and screamed, “self-published!” So, I decided to play around with it. I recommend looking at other professionally published books in your genre to see what they are using.

  • After a little trial and error, I decided that Cambria was the font to go with for my non-fiction book. This change, alone, made a big difference.
  • I then decided to change the font to 11 pt. and chapter headings to 18 pt. in the print copy of my book.
  • I reduced the line spacing from 1.5 to 1.2.  Seeing the proof copy confirmed that this was a good decision.
  • Still, something else was missing. It needed a little pizzazz. The subheadings needed to stand out without being obnoxious. I decided to simply go bold. I used these headings sparingly.
  • The chapter headings were 18 pt. bold and italicized.

Getting everything in the right (or left) place

One matter of convention (though it really is personal preference) is what goes on the left and what goes on the right. When you open a book, the page on the right-hand side of the book is called recto. The page on the left-hand side is called verso. I believe making your book look good includes keeping (most) front matter pages as well as starting all chapters on the right hand (recto) side of your book.

I put the copyright page on the backside or the verso of the half-title page. I have seen it both ways and for some reason, I like it this way. Likewise, I center it for no good reason other than I like it that way. You can also left-align it if you like.

Center the dedication page. This is important.

Choose how far down the page you will have chapter title or numbers. This is also personal preference. I chose to start mine 2 inches down. and then the content down an inch further. If my chapter title was 2 lines, the content was pushed yet a half an inch lower.

Your paragraphs should be “justified” rather that “ragged.” Ragged edges are fine for online content such as this blog post, but the smooth justified text that matched up along the margins looks far better in your book.

Wait to add page numbers to your table of contents until the very end when you know exactly what page each chapter/section will begin on. Until then, just list the chapter titles. I began my table of contents 1 inch down rather than 2 so that I could fit all of the contents on 2 pages.

Formatting Making your book look good

Easy as 1-2-3…or Not

If there was one thing that drove me out of my mind when formatting my book for print, it was page numbers. Getting them right is a huge part of making your book look good. I finally got them (mostly) right.

Some basic rules for making your book look good while formatting your page numbers are as follows:

Front matter pages should be left blank, but you still count your pages so that you know which page number you will be on when you do start to put the numbers on the pages.

You will begin actually numbering when you are on the Foreword or Introduction (if your book has these). If you have these sections (as well as the prologue, acknowledgments, and other sections of this type) you will number them with roman numerals. My forward started on the 9th page of the book so I numbered it ix.

formatting: Making your book look good

Any blank pages should be left blank (no page numbers). Like the front matter, count the pages so that the next section has the correct numeral in it. This is where I failed miserably, though not for lack of trying. If anyone can figure this out, I would love for you to write a guest post on this topic, for me. I got the front matter numberless, but after that, it was all downhill.

The pages in the body of your book will be numbered with Arabic numerals.

formatting: Making your book look good

Don’t Forget

Facing Cancer as a ParentIt’s important to consider your headers and footnotes, as well. Their font doesn’t automatically change with the rest of the document.

Also, use care when deciding whether or not to use bullet points. They are a benefit to web-based work such as blog posts. They can also look good in print books. E books are another matter entirely. Readers can change font styles and sizes on their devices. When they do, bullet points get thrown all out of whack. Therefore, you should never use bullet points in an e book. What I do is create my print copy first. Then I make the needed changes to create a good e book.

When your work is stylistically and visually consistent, it will look more professional and will give your readers a better reading experience.

*Incidentally, as a rule, I spell numbers out except on web-based media where numerals are more eye-catching.

Coming soon!

Facing Cancer as a Parent:

Helping Your Child Cope with Your Cancer —->>>


I’ll be out of town this week and my internet might be unreliable. I would still love to hear your comments on your experience in formatting books, blogs and anything else you can write. I will definitely respond as soon as I return!

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace. My books are available at

The Memory Maker’s Journal 

Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer

Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer

I also blog about living with cancer at Facing Cancer with Grace.

My Family
The Erickson Family, Photo by Everbranch Photography