How to format your self-published book’s text

After the foreword, preface and introduction comes the bulk of your book – the main text. This is when Chapter 1 (or an prologue if you have one in your novel) begins.

Generally, each new chapter begins on the right (or odd numbered page). You may need to leave the left-side page blank between the table of contents/introduction and Chapter 1/Prologue.

Chapter Header
Next, you’ll need to decide how the chapter header will look. Will it appear a quarter way or half way down the page? Will it be centered or aligned to the left or the right? Will the chapter title (if there is on) be in a different font size or style than the chapter number? How much space will appear between the chapter number/name and the actual text of the chapter? Will there be any special symbols of illustrations that appear as decoration between the two?

There’s no right or wrong answer to any of these questions. The design mostly is about the how it reflects the book’s tone? The more flamboyant the book, then the more flamboyant the chapter title can be; the more utilitarian the book, then the more utilitarian the chapter title should be. Whichever approach you use, be sure to be consistent with it throughout the book. A chapter title that is in all caps in on p. 27 but that has only the first letter of each word capitalized on p. 46 looks sloppy and unprofessional.

As a side note, if writing an anthology of short stories or essays, each story/essay can be treated like a new chapter.

Drop caps
The first word of each chapter can have a drop cap if you like. A drop cap is when the first letter of the chapter’s first word is larger than the others and sometimes stylized. Microsoft Word has a drop cap function under its “Insert” function on the ribbon at the top of the screen. You only have a couple of style choices (traditional drop cap or in margin), but you can modify their size, font, style, color and more to suit your needs.

Text can be centered or the margins on the page’s right side either can be ragged or set up so that the last letter of every line stops at the same spot (except in a paragraph’s last line). The option you choose is the text’s alignment. In Microsoft Word, opt for the “Justify” alignment, so that all letters end in a standard straight row.

This either can refer to the alignment selected or to where your lines end at the bottom of the page. Regarding the latter, presuming the text fills the entire page, you want the last line of every page to end at exactly where the bottom margin begins. You wouldn’t want the text to end a half-inch from the page’s edge on an even-numbered page but then 4/7 of an inch from the page’s edge on the facing odd-numbered page, as this would look amateurish.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.