Step 4: Creating Format Styles

My favorite part about formatting paperbacks is there aren’t any restrictions on font styles like you have with eBooks. Since paperbacks can’t be changed once printed, no one forces you to choose from a small boring selection of fonts—or worse, change your fonts against your wishes the moment you upload it to their website. That allows you to get a little fancier with your printed books.

As a reader, I love aesthetically pleasing book interiors. But remember not to go overboard. You want people to READ your books, not just “ooh” and “ahh” over the frilly fonts and graphics.

These are the most commonly used formatting styles:

  • Title
  • Subtitle
  • Default Paragraph Style
  • First Paragraph
  • Chapter Title
  • Chapter Subtitle
  • Heading

To begin creating these for your document, open your styles menu. You can do this by clicking on the three bars at the top of the right-hand toolbar and choosing ‘styles.’

Or click on ‘Styles’ on the main menu bar at the top of your screen, then click ‘Manage Styles.’

  1. Right-click on ‘Default Paragraph Style’ and choose ‘New.’

  1. Name your new style ‘Chapter Title.’ (Hitting the Tab key afterward will auto-fill the same name on the ‘Next Style’ line for you.)
  2. Click on the ‘Indents & Spacing’ tab.

  1. Change ‘Above Paragraph’ to 2.00.”

  1. Click on the ‘Alignment’ tab and choose ‘Center.’
  2. Click on the ‘Font’ tab.

  1. Select your desired font and if you’d like it bold, regular, or italics, then choose the size.

  1. Click on the ‘Font Effects’ tab if you’d like to add any effects to your chapter title, such as Small Caps.
  2. Click ‘Apply’ and ‘Ok.’

If you’re working with unfamiliar fonts, you’ll likely spend some time tweaking the sizes and effects until you’re happy with the results.

Next, if you have subtitles for your chapters, you’ll repeat the above steps by creating a new style from the Default Paragraph Style and naming it ‘Chapter Subtitle’ instead. Refer to the previous visual aids for help, if needed. My only suggestion, is to change the ‘Below Paragraph’ to 0.10.” The rest of the steps remain the same as your chapter title.

For back matter pages, such as your Author Bio, it’s good to have a different kind of heading prepared. You’re not going to want those titles to be as large nor positioned two inches down the page.

  1. Right-click on ‘Heading’ in the styles menu and choose ‘Modify.’

  1. Click on the ‘Indents & Spacing’ tab.
  2. Change ‘Above Paragraph’ to 0.00.”
  3. Change ‘Below Paragraph’ to 0.10.”

  1. Click on the ‘Alignment’ tab and select ‘Center.’

  1. Click on the ‘Font’ tab and choose which font, style, and size you’d like to use.

  1. Click on ‘Font Effects’ if you’d like to use one of those options.
  2. Click ‘Apply’ and ‘Ok.’

*Note: Make sure you choose Heading and not Header, as LibreOffice automatically assigns the Header style to the headers and footers section, and you don’t want to deal with that mess later on.

As you can see, creating and modifying these styles is largely repetitive. But doing them all at once is the best way to keep track of those you’ve already done and allows you to apply them throughout your document more efficiently.

Now, we can focus on your main body of text. We’re doing this step after the others because it requires you to modify the Default Paragraph Style in a way you wouldn’t want applied to your chapter titles and subtitles. Mainly the indent and line spacing.

  1. Right-click on ‘Default Paragraph Style’ and choose ‘Modify’ this time.
  2. Click on the ‘Indents & Spacing’ tab.
  3. If you’re using indented paragraphs with no space, change the ‘First Line’ to 0.30.”
  4. If you’re using block paragraphs with a space in between, leave ‘First Line’ at 0.00.”
  5. Change the ‘Line Spacing’ to 1.15 lines if you want or leave it as Single.

I prefer the 1.15 lines myself, but this is a personal choice. Unless you’re a professional typographer, there’s really no way to perfect your line spacing, so just try to make it as reader friendly as possible. I wouldn’t suggest going any higher than 1.5 lines max. Readers will complain about authors using double spacing to force higher page counts so they can demand more money for their books. Amazon has been known to block books for this reason.

  1. Click on the ‘Alignment’ tab and choose ‘Justified.’ (Leave the Last line as ‘Start.’)

  1. Click on the ‘Text Flow’ tab and deselect ‘Orphan Control.’ You only want ‘Widow Control’ selected.

Orphan control leaves too much blank space at the bottom of some pages, making the reader think they’ve reached the end of a chapter when they haven’t. But widow control will keep the last page of your chapters from only having a few words on it.

  1. Click on the ‘Font’ tab and choose which font you want to use for your main body of text.
  2. Click ‘Apply,’ then ‘Ok.’

If you’re unsure which font is best, you can search online for readers’ favorite fonts in print/paperbacks. Just make sure to specify ‘in print,’ or it will give you feedback on eBooks instead.

Once you click ‘Apply’ and ‘Ok,’ your document should reflect all of the changes you just made since the Default Paragraph Style was already in effect. The rest of the styles you’ve created won’t show up until you’ve applied them.

Lastly, there should never be an indent for the first paragraph of a chapter. You can manually backspace the first sentence of every new chapter—or, if you’d also like to add Drop Caps, follow these steps:

  1. Right-click on ‘Default Paragraph Style’ and select ‘New.’
  2. Name your new style ‘First Paragraph.’
  3. Click on ‘Indents & Spacing’

  1. Change ‘First Line’ back to 0.00.”
  2. Click on the ‘Drop Caps’ tab.

  1. Check the box ‘Display Drop Caps.’
  2. Select how many lines you’d like the drop cap to take up.
  3. Choose the spacing you prefer between the drop cap and the letters next to it.
  4. Select which character style you’d like your drop cap to display.
  5. Click ‘Apply’ then ‘Ok.’

The easiest way to determine how large your drop cap should be is by knowing how long each of your first paragraphs is. If they’re short, I’d recommend choosing the 2-line option. A drop cap will not appear if you don’t have enough sentences to accommodate your choice.

I’ve never used a character style, so I have no idea what they look like printed. I leave it as ‘None’ so it will resemble the default font I’ve chosen.

*Note: After you’ve applied this style later, you’ll notice a gray box/background around the drop cap. Don’t panic. It will not show up in the printed copy, only the letter.

The purpose for creating the ‘First Paragraph’ after modifying the ‘Default Paragraph Style’ is because you still want the same font and line spacing you chose for the main body of text.

Those were all the styles you’ll be applying in several locations throughout your document.

The final step focuses on your Title Page, where the styles will get used only once. You can skip this step if you plan to insert a full-page graphic instead.

I’m not including visual aids for this one because you likely have these steps memorized now, and Title Pages are unique to each author. There’s no set requirement for size, spacing, or style.

  1. Right-click on ‘Title’ in the styles menu and choose ‘Modify.’
  2. Click on ‘Indents & Spacing.’
  3. Adjust the Above and Below Paragraph sizes to your liking.
  4. Click on the ‘Font’ tab and choose your desired font, style, and size.
  5. Click on the ‘Font Effects’ tab to apply any of those.
  6. Click ‘Apply’ and ‘Ok.’

Repeat this process for ‘Subtitle’ if needed. You can find that preprogrammed in the styles menu, as well.

For your author name, a series name, or any other words you want included on your Title Page, I suggest creating ‘New’ Headings from the one you already modified. You can name them whatever is easiest for you to find later.

Now that you’ve created all these styles, it’s time to start formatting your paperback.

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