By Colin Dunbar

You want to self-publish your book and you have MS Word. But you don’t have advanced experience with Word. You’re nervous as heck because you have no idea how to get your book to look professional; there’s just so many things that you need to know…

“I just can’t get the headers and footers right.”

“I can’t get my images to stay where I want them to.”

“Do I have to embed my fonts?”

“I want to add an index, but don’t know how to.”

You may have heard the doomsayers saying that Word is not a desktop publishing program, and shouldn’t (mustn’t) be used for formatting (even less, designing) a book.


You can format and design your book in Word, and it will look as professional as any traditionally published book.

I’m here to make life easier for you, and guide you on how to format (and design) your book in Microsoft Word. Even though book cover design is a discipline on its own, I will share basic book design principles.

Why do I use the term book design when this is about formatting a book with Word?

Books have along and prestigious history, and now your book is part of that history. Decades ago book designers were craftsmen, painstakingly designing each page. The goal being to create a work of art. Today, we have computers, and advanced software, but nevertheless, it does take know-how to design a professional looking book.

So yes, even though I’m going to cover the steps to format your book with Word, I will also be sharing book design principles.

This is what we’re going to be covering over the following months…

  • Book Design Basics
  • Book Structure
  • Book Design Examples
  • Design Elements
  • Global Settings in Word
  • Book Type and Size
  • Margins
  • Page and Section Breaks
  • Headers and Footers
  • … Everything you need to know to format and design your book.

Your book can entertain, educate, inspire, motivate, or evoke any number of other emotions for your reader.

What’s with the book design thing?  I just want to format my book in Word.

Fair enough.

I talk about book design because I want to share book design principles with you, and not only show you Word features to let you format a book. At the end of the day I want you to learn something about book design and not just Word, so you can take it with you for books you’ll write in the future.

“But a person buys a book for the content, not the way it looks.”


I couldn’t agree more.

Book design is not about fancy trimmings, it’s about turning a good book into a great book; making it an effective, easy-to-use or entertaining professional piece of literature that gives your reader a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Even though there are no rules that specify how a hard copy book should be formatted, there is a long-standing tradition in book design. As a self-published author, it is in your interest to follow these principles; this way when you format your book, you will not be regarded as an amateur, and your chances of succeeding will be greatly improved.

Similarly, there are principles that can be followed in formatting PDF ebooks. Again, following these principles will show your ebook as a professional, quality piece of literature.

In order to give yourself the best opportunity to succeed with your book, you should also consider having it available as a Kindle ebook, as well as having it available at Smashwords (a major distributor of self published ebooks). Formatting these ebooks will also be covered in this blog.

In the words of veteran book designer, Richard Hendel in his book, On Book Design: “As omnipresent as books are, few readers are aware of the “invisible” craft of book designing. The task a book designer faces is different from that faced by other designers. The challenge isn’t to create something different or pretty or clever but to discover how to best serve the author’s words.”

Just follow along here, and I’ll share everything I know about formatting and designing books, and give you the tools to easily format your book in Word.  I look forward to your visits, and hope to hear from you.


Filed under Introduction

7 responses to “Introduction

  1. Great first post. Looking forward to reading more.

  2. How do I subscribe to this blog?

  3. Marty

    Colin – I am so happy to run across your blog! It is EXACTLY what I need. Your writing is clear and compelling and I really can’t wait until you write a post on exactly how to use Word for the formatting.
    I wish you a very happy New Year and much success with your blog. There are many people who need what you teach and I will help spread the word when you get into the actual formatting.
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge!

  4. Pingback: Self-Publishing: Carnival of the Indies Issue #39 — The Book Designer

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