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Should you hire a professional to design the interior layout of your self-published book?

The short answer is yes. 

The long answer is that it’s pretty easy to tell when a self-published author didn’t pay for interior formatting. This is a specialized skill and not just anybody can do it. And no matter how much you know about formatting in Microsoft Word (or any other word processor), and no matter how pretty your fonts are, it’s going to look cheap and amateur if you don’t pay an interior formatter to do it professionally.

As we’ve mentioned before (here and here), when you choose to self-publish, you need to do everything in your power (and your budget) to make your book look professionally published. Otherwise, potential readers and potential media who might feature your book, won’t take it seriously. And since the interior of your book is also the majority of your book, it’s 100% worth investing in interior formatting so you can style it to look like other successful books in your genre. 

If we haven’t convinced you yet, here are six reasons why you should hire a formatter to design your book:

Six reasons why you should hire a formatter to design your book:

1. It won’t look self-published.

We already said this above but it’s worth saying again…the goal behind our self-publishing formula is to not look self-published, which means to not look cheap, rushed, or otherwise less than professional. We’ve all seen those books and we don’t want to read them, even if the story is a good one. To do this, it requires bringing in the professionals where you need them.

2. There are a lot of details to consider.

Interior formatting is much more detailed than you might think. It requires making decisions for every little part of your book, from the fonts for chapter titles, subheadings, body text, etc. to where you want page numbers and what they should look like, to which symbols you want to use to break up your text (called fleurons) and how you want new chapters to start. 

To make it easy, we recommend finding some examples of interior formats you really like in books similar to yours. This is the easiest way to determine all the nitty gritty details of your book, and spare you the headache of having to define every single element of your interior style.

The best place to start is on your own bookshelves, or in your favorite bookstore. Search for other successful books in your genre and take note of which elements you like (and any that you don’t). For example, you might like the body font but not the title font, or you might like the layout of the table of contents and the chapter headers, but you don’t like how the running headers look. This can be a fun way to create your own style template and choose every little detail of your book design.

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TIP: When choosing a style, it’s important to focus on your print book only, and the formatter will automatically code it for the ebook as well. 

3. There are different styles for different genres, niches, and themes.

If you’ve written a nonfiction book about the history of field hockey, for example, your interior should look different than that of a historical fiction novel set in World War II. Many readers don’t think about it when they pick up a book, but every design choice has been made to reflect the content, so fiction readers often see different interior formatting than nonfiction readers, but the nuances go much deeper than these two overarching categories. 

A good formatter should walk you through the details, or provide templates for you to choose from, based on what your book is about.

4. You’ll need to consider the size of your book.

Most Microsoft Word documents are 8.5×11, or the size of a piece of printer paper. And most writers create their masterpieces in this format. But paperback books are commonly either 6×9 or 5.5×8.5, and one doesn’t fit into the other unless it’s strategically done. When you upload your Microsoft Word document to your book distributor, it will try to fit it into your chosen trim size, as it’s called in the industry, with an automated system that doesn’t usually perform very well and could leave your book looking scrunched or stretched in ways that don’t do it justice.

5. They’ll convert it to an ebook.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to convert your paperback into an ebook format. You can simply upload a PDF to your chosen distribution platform (like Amazon KDP) and they’ll automatically convert it to ebook. But if you do it this way, it will likely look inconsistent across ereaders and won’t have that seamless, responsive design that makes ebooks so easy to read. So make sure you hire a formatter who knows how to code your book to look good across all ereaders.

6. It’s affordable.

With the rise in popularity of self-publishing, hiring professionals to design and format your book has become very affordable. Interior formatting can cost anywhere between $150 – $800 depending on the length and your style choices. We like to aim somewhere in the middle for high quality work that won’t break the bank. 

It’s important to note again here that this is one of the most crucial parts to get right. It’s where you can stand out for looking professional, or stand out for looking like you simply turned a Microsoft Word document into a printed PDF. The interior of your book matters. Period. If you simply upload a raw manuscript to your self publishing platform(s), it will look terrible.

This process from beginning to final formatting can take several months, depending on the turnaround time of the formatter you choose to hire (you can ask up front). However, you’ll want to make sure to set aside time for when you get the drafts to go through them and check every detail, so part of the timeline is up to you.

Where to hire a formatter?

There are several companies that specialize in interior formatting, and below are a few at varying price ranges:

Things to be aware of

When hiring an interior formatter for your book:

  • Make sure you see samples of their work
  • Ask if they are hard-coding the manuscript for ebook so that it will be responsive across all e-reader devices
  • Find out if they’re willing to have you send them examples of what you like and approximate them in their design
  • Beware of formatters who charge shockingly low prices (you generally pay for what you get) 


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