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Updated: Dec 5, 2019

It’s often said that Gutenberg wold be amazed at how easy it is to publish a book these days. Is that really true?

After decades of being published by established publishers, I felt I needed more control of my work. I looked around and found the internet is a goldmine of information for would-be self-publishers. Full of confidence, I happily put together my first self-published book, an anthology of work co-created with my partner in life and crime, previously published by a “real” publisher

Finally, it was time to upload the file onto a self-publishing platform. These platforms all assert that they make the process smooth and easy. On the other hand, they all offer an additional in-house formatting service. Why? Because formatting is far from easy and can seriously affect how successful your book may be.


Don’t get confused – formatting and editing are two completely different things. Editing is all about correcting the grammar, sentence structure and overall flow of the text. Formatting is about the overall appearance of the text. This applies whether your publication is printed or digital.

editing and typesetting are two different things


Typesetting is the process of setting text on a page. The typesetter designs and arranges the interior of the book to create the best reading experience. Possibly you never thought about this aspect of publishing before, but a professional typesetter will make the book more accessible to your readers.

The readability of a book is governed by many factors, including:

- Size of the margins – “trim size”.

- Style of the chapter headings.

- Choice and size of font or typeface for the body text, chapter headings, captions etc.

- Illustrations, if applicable.


It’s a mistake to underestimate the importance of typesetting or formatting because it affects the readability of your book – which, in turn, has an impact on sales.


A friend, in the process of publishing her first book, confidently informed me that all the problems associated with typesetting could be resolved with Microsoft Word. BIG mistake! Although Word is a good software package for writing, it can’t in any way solve the problems of formatting, such as:

- KERNING: adjusting the spacing between characters.

- ORPHANS AND WIDOWS: “widows” occur when you have the last line of a paragraph appearing at the top of a page, and “orphans” are the opposite.

- WORD STACKS: these occur when consecutive rows of text start or end with the same word. They should be avoided.

- DROP CAPS: stylising the first character of the first paragraph of a chapter.

- BOOK BLOCKS: the block of text on each facing page of a book should end on the same row.

Being of a certain age and therefore from a time when formatting was done by hand, my partner and I were able to overcome all our typesetting problems, and so went on to self-publish several titles. But most first-time self-publishers don’t possess this know-how. What to do?

When you start thinking about writing your book, whether it be a novel or a cookery book, check how much you can afford to invest in the editing. After all, bad grammar can kill your book at the start, and poor formatting can put off your readers.

Written a book and want to self-publish? We can help you give it the right look and make it a success. Drop us a line!

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