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. Chances are, the author could have benefitted from book formatting software.
Formatting issues 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 software options on the market.
In this article, we’ll cover both paid and free book formatting software, and discuss the features, pros, and cons of each option.
This blog on book formatting software will cover:
Free Book Formatting Software
If you’re a self-published author on a budget, I have good news—there are a couple free book formatting software 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 Amazon KDP. Formatting e-books is generally a little easier than formatting a book for print, and you won’t need as powerful of a software to do that.
Here are the best free book formatting software options:
1. Kindle Create
- 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 book formatting software, 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.
2. 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 files to PDF for printing or distribution.
- This book formatting software is completely free with no premium version, meaning you can access all of the features without paying anything.
- The Reedsy Book Editor 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 FAQs 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 book formatting software isn’t very powerful. The features are quite limited, so while your manuscript will be clean, it won’t be particularly nice.
Related: Reedsy Review
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 book formatting software will enable you to create your own books, and this will give you more creative control over the process and over your book’s production and launch schedule.
Having a good book layout template to start with can expedite the formatting process. Then, if you know for sure how long it will take you to format the final version, you’ll be able to plan accordingly.
I talked about how free book 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. And many of them have book writing software options as well.
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:
- Has a huge variety of themes and templates to choose from.
- Can be used on any platform (Mac, Chromebook, Linux, Windows, etc) – this is huge and what sets it apart from competitors like Vellum.
- Integrates with ProWritingAid, one of the best grammar checking softwares.
- Gives you the ability to write in the app and not just format, as well as word count tracking, goal setting, and writing timers.
- Autosave backups to the cloud or to your computer.
- Works for e-books & print books as you can export to epub or PDF files.
- Books created through Atticus look extremely professional and well done.
- Features are easy to use both on the writing and formatting side.
- One-time purchase means you don’t have to worry about additional subscriptions and fees down the road, plus it's cheaper than many competitors.
- You can create both e-books and print books.
- Uploading images into your manuscript can be finicky.
- As a newer program, there are some features still in development.
Overall, Atticus is one of the best do-it-yourself book formatting tools on the market. If you can afford the $147 for the program, it will be well worth your investment in your author career. You can check out our Atticus review post for even more features, pros, and cons.
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 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 are 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 e-book, 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 formatting software, 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.
Related: Microsoft Word Review
Price: $199 for an ebook, $249.99 for e-book + 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).
Related: Vellum Software Review
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.
- Inexpensive book formatting software.
- 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.
Related: Scrivener Review
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 e-book.
- 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 e-book—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.
- One of the best writing apps for Android and iOS.
- 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.
8. Adobe InDesign
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 e-books 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.
9. Blurb BookWright
- BookWright integrates 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.
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 software options, or pay a professional to do it.
If you need help determining which option would be best for you, you can take the quiz below to find out!