Have you ever opened a book and found the formatting to be awkward? Maybe the margins are inconsistent, so the block of text on the page looks like it’s been stamped at an angle. Maybe there are strange inconsistencies with spacing or font size. Maybe it’s in a font that’s hard to read.
These kinds of things will feel unprofessional and unpolished to the reader, and this will make them view your story more negatively, too.
If you can’t afford to hire a formatter, that’s okay! Fortunately, there are plenty of book formatting softwares on the market.
In this article, we’ll cover free and paid book formatting software, cover some features, and discuss the pros and cons of each option.
There are plenty of ways for self-published authors to create clean, polished books without hiring someone else to do it. Here are a few options:
Free Book Formatting Software
If you’re a self-published author on a budget, good news—there are a couple free options available to you!
While these options might be more limited than paid book formatting softwares, don’t let that deter you. It’s still possible to use these to make clean, readable manuscripts, and if that’s all you need, then there’s no need to break the bank on a formatting software you may not use more than once or twice.
TIP: If you’re a children’s book author, you’ll definitely want to pay for formatting.
These are especially helpful for authors who are looking to publish e-books only through sites like KDP. Formatting ebooks is generally a little easier than formatting a book for print, and you won’t need as powerful of a software to do that.
- Pre-existing templates automatically put your book into chapters that look professional
- These templates include chapter titles, drop caps, and image placement options
- This software allows you to view the book as your reader does, so you won’t be surprised at how different it looks when it’s published
- Kindle Create makes a table of contents for you automatically as you upload your book
- This software is free to use for Kindle publishers
- Kindle Create is pretty intuitive, so you’ll have a professional-looking book easily and quickly
- This is only an option for self-published authors who publish through KDP. You can’t print from Kindle Create, and you’re only distributing through Kindle.
- The software is free to use, but you’ll need to agree to Amazon’s requirements before you download it.
Reedsy Book Editor
- Import .doc files from other processing softwares
- Use commenting and track changes to work with editors in-document
- Apply basic formatting to the entire manuscript
- Export file to PDF for printing or distribution
- This program is completely free with no premium version, meaning you can access all of the features without paying anything
- This software allows you to produce clean manuscripts and work with editors, which means you can keep your revision and production all in one place
- This software is super user-friendly, and Reedsy has a ton of articles and FAQ’s to help you along the process
- There aren’t a ton of formatting features with Reedsy—you do get the basics, but not much else
- This formatting software isn’t very powerful. The features are quite limited, so while your manuscript will be clean, it won’t be particularly nice.
Paid Book Formatting Software
Investing in book formatting software is a great idea if you’re a self-published author with a platform and a long-term plan to publish multiple books. Learning to use a formatting software will enable you to create your own books, and this will give you more creative control over the process as well as give you more control over your book’s production and launch schedule.
If you know for sure how long it will take you to format, you’ll be able to plan accordingly.
I talked about how free formatting software can save you some cash, and paid book formatting software might seem like an expensive alternative. However, these software options will still be cheaper than hiring a formatter. You may even have some of these software options already downloaded, and you may be using them to draft your novel already!
With that in mind, here are some paid book formatting software options to take a look at if you’re thinking about investing:
Price: $139.99 or $6.99/month, comes with Microsoft 365
- MS Word has several book templates available to help you format
- Adjust headings, footers, margins, page numbers, font size, font, and pretty much anything else you can think of
- Insert images, including cover pages or illustrations
- Microsoft Word is also a word processor, so you can draft your book and format it in the same place
- Microsoft Word also comes with track changes and comments, which means you can also revise with it and add other people, namely editors, to the document
- Most people already have Microsoft Word, so there’s a good chance you’ve already got it downloaded and you’re already familiar with it
- This comes with more features and options than you might get with something like Reedsy or Google Docs
- You can create a very polished ebook, and while it might take some elbow grease to format a book to print, it’s definitely possible
- If you don’t have Word, it’s a bit pricey
- It’s intended for use as a word processor and not a book formatter, so the book formatting isn’t super user-friendly or easy to do. (You can see how long and involved it is to format in Word here.)
- Design options, while more varied than what you get for free, are still limited compared to other book formatting software options
Price: $199 for an ebook, $249.99 for ebook + print
- Free trial which lasts until you export your first book
- Includes pre-made book designs that look impressive and professional
- Tons of customization options for formatting
- Metadata integration, which helps you prep your book for searchability on sites like Amazon
- Ability to make box sets or series
- With your purchase of Vellum, you also have access to future updates and features
- Books created through Vellum look extremely professional and well-done
- Features are easy to use
- One-time purchase means you don’t have to worry about additional fees down the road
- You can create both e-books and print books
- Relatively expensive compared to other formatting options
- Only available for Mac users (can’t use on a PC)
Price: 30-day free trial, then $49 for Mac/Windows users or $19.99 for iOS users.
- Scrivener is a word processing software, so you’ll be able to draft your novel here as well as edit and format
- Scrivener’s templates allow you to structure your novel so that formatting it is much easier down the line
- Features are incredibly customizable, allowing for lots of creative freedom in formatting
- Lots of exporting options
- Like Vellum, Scrivener also lets you personalize metadata
- Lets you plan, edit, and format your book in the same place
- Super customizable
- Steep learning curve for customization
- Not intended for formatting, so options are limited
- Formatting can be inconsistent when uploaded for publication
- As a writing processing software, some users get overwhelmed with the amount of features Scrivener offers—these features are super useful for some, and inhibitive for others. It’ll depend on what sort of style you prefer, and it’s worth trying it out for yourself to see which side of the fence you fall on.
Price: $8/month or $60/year
- NovelPad allows you to plan, draft, and format your novel
- Planning features automatically structure the novel to export as an ebook
- Includes places where authors can see their chapters laid out scene by scene and physically move these scenes around, which makes revising and formatting easier
- Word count trackers and goal trackers help authors stay motivated and on-task
- Includes a dark mode
- Relatively cheap
- NovelPad is set up so that when you export the document, it’s already formatted for a clean, readable ebook—you don’t have to do any extra work
- Intuitive and easy to use
- The planning features mean that you stay organized throughout the entire writing process, which is convenient for drafting and for formatting
- Additional features are useful without being too inhibitive or time-consuming to learn—it’s easy to get the hang of
- Formatting only works for e-books
- Formatting options are limited
- As of right now, no options exist for other people to be added to the document, so you can’t utilize track changes the way you might be able to in Word or Google Docs
Price: $20.99/month as part of the Creative Cloud
- Integrated with other CC programs, so authors can use Lightroom or Photoshop in conjunction with InDesign
- Creates high-quality layouts intended for print
- Hugely customizable options with dozens of different features
- User interface itself is customizable
- Creates very high-quality ebook and print books
- Includes options for publishing through InDesign
- Professional-grade features for authors looking for a step up
- Fee is a subscription instead one a one-time payment—this may be a pro or a con depending on your view. Some people prefer to pay once and be done, so they don’t mind a higher price point for something like Vellum, while others might like a lower price point per month
- It’s not super difficult to learn, but if you’re completely new to Adobe, you will need some time to get acquainted with these features
- Integration with InDesign for users who also use Adobe software
- Existing layouts make it easy for authors to set up their book
- Formatting options are customizable without being too much of a hassle
- Built-in tutorials help authors along the formatting process
- Pretty easy to use with the built-in tutorials
- Especially useful for picture book authors
- Some inconsistencies with formatting
- Might be more user-friendly for authors creating photo-heavy books
- See our full Atticus review post for features, pros, and cons.
What to Do Next
Book formatting might not seem like that big of a deal at first, but as you can tell, there’s definitely a market for it. And more importantly, book formatting actually has a huge impact on the reader experience.
Think of book formatting as the way you’re physically delivering the book to your readers—this impacts the way they literally read the book, and having sloppy or unprofessional book formatting can leave a negative impression.
Self-publishers have to sweat every step of their book’s production, and there’s a tendency for first-time authors to skip the step of professional formatting. Don’t skip it!
Learn how to format it yourself using one of these book formatting softwares, or pay a professional to do it.
If you need help determining which option would be best for you, schedule a consultation here.
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