A beginner’s thoughts on book formatting

So, Seregn is up to the book formatting stage. How exciting!


Ok, I admit it. At first glance, ‘formatting’ doesn’t exactly sound like something to be excited about.

If you are like me, when you first thought about formatting, you probably brushed it off as the kind of boring work necessary to get your book out into the world, but not exactly something to knock your socks off.

Well, I was wrong!

There’s actually a lot that goes into book formatting, and as I’ve just peeked through the window, I’ve felt the anticipation rise all the more.

After confirming with my publisher we were ready to start looking at the formatting stage, I got an email from my publishing coordinator, the lovely Sarah.

She asked me to flip through some of the books on my own bookshelf, and have a look to see what I do and don’t like.

And… I learned a lot!

So, I thought I’d talk about it. Here are seven books from my bookshelf – each with a combination of major and/or minor formatting differences between them.

Mistborn: The Hero of Ages

As much as I love the story of The Hero of Ages, the formatting is definitely not my favourite.

What I see here is quite thick, comparatively bold text taking up a lot of the page.

The boldness of the words seems heavy, yet the lines of text are quite close together. To me, this makes the text, and therefore my image of the story, seem quite dense. Perhaps that’s a strange way to put it, but for me how a page looks really can influence the feel of a story.

In addition, this book is quite unusual, in that it does not start new chapters on new pages. Instead, they run along one right after the other.

I much rather have a sense of finality when I finish a chapter.

So overall, I’m not a big fan of this formatting. It just seems a bit to thick and clunky for me, or at least, for Seregn. However, there’s another Brandon Sanderson book below, that is (in my humble opinion) far better.

House of Dark Shadows

Talk about contrast right! House of Dark Shadows is a YA sci-fi thriller, and to me, the formatting reflects this. Rather than the thick, tightly packed text of the chunky fantasy Hero of Ages, the font is thinner, the margins wider, and there’s more white space on the page.

The lines of text are farther apart, too. Practically, this means there’s less text on a page, and you fly through the pages faster – giving a sense of speed and urgency that lends itself well to this kind of fast-paced story. It’s so fast paced, in fact, that it’s chapters are noted down to the day and hour and minute, to help you keep track of everything happening.

This kind of formatting is also perhaps a bit easier and more accessible for younger readers, who might be turned off by the kind of dense text you see in some of the other books I’m comparing.

Overall, for me, there’s a bit too much space, I’d like Seregn to be a little more dense, but not at Hero of Ages level.

I really like the font here, it almost has a kind of pretty feel to it. I also like the chapter is spelled out, rather than just a number.

Now, onwards!

Kings Folly

The first thing that strikes me about this page is how different the text looks to the others.

The font is entirely different.

It’s more… geometric? Rounded? Compact? Something, anyway, about it is different, and I much prefer the other two.

Looking at it more as I write this, I think it’s the serif. It’s more pronounced in the other fonts. What’s a serif? It’s the little bits that stick out of letters in some fonts. The font I’m typing in now is sans serif – no serifs. Something like Times New Roman is definitely a serif font. This one, it is a serif, there are those little bits sticking out, but they’re far less pronounced.

Yes, I think that’s a big part of it.

The text is, again, also closer in this one; there’s less space between the lines. It’s a bit denser as a result, and the nature of the font makes it seem more so, I think. Again, not quite what I’m after for Seregn.

Overall, this is another one I’m not a huge fan of.


I love this book. I love the story. And, I quite like the formatting, actually. The font, font size, and line spaces are all really nice. The couple of things I would tweak are the margins (I’d make them a bit wider) and have the chapter start a little lower on the page. It just looks… nice. Like there’s plenty of story on the page, but it can… breathe a little bit? It’s not too squished or dense – which works well, because it is actually a fairly dense, long story.

Once again, I enjoy when chapter numbers are spelled out like this, rather than the numeral, too. The start of the text is just so high on the page for the start of the chapter, it feels, to me, a little off.

Overall, the formatting here makes it seem like there’s plenty of story, but it’s not too hefty, smooshed together, or dense; but neither is it too light and easy. I guess, it’s comfortable, a bit of a Goldilocks zone.

Rhythm of War (The Stormlight Archive)

This one is pretty close to perfect, I think. The font? Great! The space between lines? Spot on! The margins? Comfortable! The distance down the page the new chapter actually starts? Chef’s kiss.

For Seregn, there’s no way I’m going to have such an elaborate chapter heading graphic, though. It’s beautiful, and I love it in the context of Roshar; however, for Seregn, it doesn’t feel quite right. If I get a chapter graphic, I’d want it to be something fairly simple, light, but indicative of the story. I have My ideas on that, but I’ll keep them to myself for now.

And, although the chapters are written out in numeral form, I also love that author Brandon Sanderson has given his chapters titles. But more on that a little later.

The cool thing about this book is that it’s roughly the same size (i.e. dimensions) as Seregn will be, so I get a bit of an indication of what it will really look like too!

The Name of the Wind

Once more, font, and sizing are perfect. The margins I’d make a little wider.

The main thing that is interesting about this one is the chapter number is spelled out AND the chapter name is there too. I love this, I’d like to replicate it with Seregn. I’m not sure why I don’t like the numerals. It makes sense, but writing out the numbers just seems so much nicer to look at and read. Is anyonoe else like this?

Fun fact: originally I didn’t name Seregn’s chapters, they were just numbered (with the numbers written out. It was a last minute change of mind before I sent it to my editors to add the chapter titles. I think I was inspired by the likes of The Lord of the Rings to name them. I thought it was a bit of fun, gave a bit more flair, and also (in hindsight) also helps future readers find a part of the book again, because it’s easier to remember which chapter it was in when the chapter names themselves give a prompt.

I don’t have a whole lot more to say about this one, except that overall, I like it!

The Wolf of Tebron

This is one of my favourite books of all time. I simply adore it, so much so that we named the family dog after one of the main characters, Ruyah.

This novel is also about the same dimensions as Seregn will be, so it’s particularly interesting to compare this one with Rhythm of War. The font size here is bigger, which makes sense, as it’s aimed at both children and adults, and makes it a little more accessible for younger readers. The font is a nice serif font, and I think the margins and spacing are pretty spot on.

I love how they’ve done a bit of a fancy font for the chapter (which is also written out).

This one almost feels like the easier, or lite, version of Rhythm of War or The Name of the Wind in that it’s very similar, but the formatting is just, seemingly, adjusted for a slightly younger audience.

It works really well too. The story is all about a long, lonely journey into the wilderness. Having plenty of white space on the page with the margins and spacing I think lends itself to the sense of space, of wilderness, of emptiness, the story conjures.

So! These are my initial, unschooled, thoughts on what makes good formatting. I haven’t spoken about a lot, because I don’t know a great deal. But! I definitely enjoyed – and found it super interesting – to sit down and go through books, paying no attention to the story, to look at purely the visual side to their construction.

What do you think?

What’s your favourite from those pictured? What’s your opinion on book formatting?

Let me know!

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