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Formatting Basics You Should Know About

Whether you’re printing independently, or with a large platform like Amazon’s KDP or Ingram Sparks, there are a few formatting rules that apply to any printers’ specifications that you should know about.

I want to start out by saying, formatting is confusing so don’t be discouraged if a printer rejects your file on the first, second … or tenth try. It’s all a part of the self-publication process. Sometimes, even the best formatters have to revise their files and re-submit.

But First … Book Size

Why is book size important? It’s important because printers often have set sizes that you must abide by, if your book doesn’t fall under those sizes, there will be cropping and it won’t be pretty. Discuss the size of your book with your formatter/illustrator BEFORE any media is created. Furthermore, in addition to determining book size, discuss the bleed.

What is Bleed?

Bleed is the area around each page that gets cut off in the printing process. Make sure you research how much bleed your printer requires you to add.

Last time I checked Amazon KDP wants .125” for the left and right sides, and .25” added to the top and bottom. Ingram asks for .125” around three sides of every page.

You do not want to forget about the bleed because if you do, then say hello to awkward cropping. Or you’ll have to pay your illustrator extra to go back in and create illustrations that account for bleed.


RGB and CMYK are colour profiles and can be set when exporting the file or before creating the file. RGB is designated for any media only seen digitally. CMYK is for all print media. Use the RGB colour profile for your eBook and CMYK for your paperback/hardback.

E books, fixed or reflowable?

Without getting into an overly detailed description. Fixed format is best for kid’s books and reflowable is ideal for comics, magazines, chapter books and anything with a table of contents. You can set your eBook to fixed or reflowable when exporting.

Last minute tips

  • When working on the layout of your book. Have a physical printed book in front of you to use as a guide. This will help you envision the book design and pagination.

  • I highly recommend creating test sheets that can be printed on a standard home printer. Authors tend to request larger type. That is because everything looks smaller on the computer. Test your type size with a printer before you make any final decisions.

  • Read the printers specifications carefully. I know they can be long and wordy, but the more you understand about exporting and layout, the less likely you will be to receive a file rejection.

  • Don’t be afraid to email questions to your printer/distributer. They are the pros and they are there to help you!

I specialize in formatting and have a ton of experience under my belt! If you are looking for a formatter feel free to reach out through my website form submission or send me a direct e-mail at (

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