book design and layout software

If you thought writing your book was hard, wait until you start working on its design and layout!

For self-published writers and authors, the art of book design is one of the most challenging aspects of the writing process. In order to get your novel seen by the public, it needs to be professionally aligned, organized, and designed.

For most of us in the creative writing world, that’s a tough order to fill! How do you get started on layout and book design, and what sort of software is available to help you reach your goals?

We’re going to take a deep dive into the topic’s most pressing issues, and discuss some of the best tools and tips to get started. Let’s look at:

  • What book layouts are
  • Why book design is important
  • Types of book design and layout software
  • Tips for getting started with book design
  • Frequently asked questions about eBook layouts

What Is A Book Layout?

A book layout is the interior and exterior factors of a novel that are seen by the public. Plain and simple! You may also hear book design referred to as ‘typesetting’ or ‘book branding.’ They all mean the same thing: creating an interior style that looks just as good as the exterior.

A few elements of your book layout may include:

  • The front cover
  • Body copy (the actual story material)
  • Font choices
  • Book size
  • Indexes, dedication pages, and glossaries

The layout of your book is adaptable to the story you are trying to tell. For example, a young adult book may contain more formatted images, poetry, or small snippets other than text. In contrast, a nonfiction textbook may require deeper margins, boxed text, and chapter subheadings. The genre and size of your novel will help you to determine the types of formatting needed before publication.

Why Book Design Is Important

Just like the story you are composing, book design is an important part of setting the mood for your audience. Every time a reader comes across your book, they are creating an unspoken ‘pact’ in their minds about what to expect. If your book layout is unattractive, difficult to read, or does not follow the general conventions of graphic design, they may not want to continue reading.

Book design is also important for helping readers access information. If your novel contains pictures, maps, or figures, it will be very important to help your audience get to where they’re going quickly. Not only will your readers love you for it, but it will make your book look much more professional as well!

Is it important for your book design to look professional? Absolutely! Here’s why:

  • Novel reading flow is less interrupted with better book design.
  • Proper book layouts create a lasting impression on your audience.
  • Book design keeps readers coming back for more!

Although book design may seem daunting, there are some actionable ways (and amazing software tools) that help revolutionize your manuscript for publication. While some tools are pricier than others, most are 100% free to use!

Related article: What Is a Publisher Imprint? How To Create One For Yourself

Book Design & Layout Software

Why work harder when you could work smarter? Online tools and applications could be a one-stop shop for many of your layout needs. All you need to do is upload a Word document or PDF file of your book, and watch the magic roll in! Other systems are a little more complicated, but they still provide excellent formats with beautiful outcomes. The real question is: which tool is right for you?

There are quite literally hundreds of different book design and layout software types. Some programs require very little knowledge of book layouts, while others may be more effective with basic graphic design skills. Knowing your needs up front will help you make the best possible decision moving forward.

Adobe InDesign

This capstone of the book formatting world is considered the industry standard. From longer novels to picture books and pamphlets, Adobe InDesign is one of the strongest tools on the market. Be warned: it may also be one of the most expensive, depending on how you purchase the application.


The team behind QuarkXpress wanted to make a tool that could be used by anyone with any project. Not only can this app accommodate manuscripts of any size, but it is quick and easy to use! This is one of the most expensive programs on this list, weighing in at almost $500 for a one-year plan.

Microsoft Publisher

This handy program comes free with every Microsoft 365 subscription. It’s quick to learn and very easy to implement, even for large books! This is highly recommended for users with little experience.

Apple Pages

With a host of free templates and helpful editing tools, Apple Pages is a go-to tool for book writers all over the country. The platform is easy to access, and extremely effective for self publishers. Just remember that it is only for Mac users (or those with Apple products).


From screenwriters to self publishers, the Storyist app is an effective way to prepare your document for KDP upload. If you are interested in trying to work from any device, this program is the right choice for you. Unlike Adobe InDesign, Storyist is a one time purchase program at $60 total. There is also a free trial available before purchase.

5 Tips To Get Started With Book Design

Before you make any rash purchases or invest in software you don’t quite understand, do what you can to frame your mindset with these helpful book design tips:

1. Focus On Your Book’s Cover

A beautiful book cover is a step closer to published bliss! Use a tool like Canva for the best outcome, or rely on the KDP internal cover maker.

2. Understand Sizes & Formats

If you plan on printing your self-published book, you should be familiar with the size and formatting it will require. Most printed and bound books are 6″x 9″. Online published books (ebooks) are 11″x 8.5″. In either case, format your document to include the following recommendations:

  • 3/4-inch margins on outside edges
  • 1-inch margin on spine edges
  • Top, bottom, and outside margins should be 75″
  • Your inside margins should be 1″
  • Tabs should be 1/4″ at most

3. Harness Your Typesetting

The typography of your book is a very important thing!

  • Stay away from cursive fonts
  • Don’t use bolds or italics (unless necessary)
  • Use serif fonts (like Times New Roman)

4. Prettify Your Body Copy

The actual material of your book is going to be great! Make sure that you are presenting it in a way that will be beautiful to look at, too.

Here are a couple of things to keep in mind about the organization of body copy:

  • Leave plenty of white space
  • Give yourself good margins
  • Don’t forget the bleed marks
  • Make everything the same size

5. Pick A Color Scheme

The colors used in your book should have some sort of relationship with each other. This color wheel is an extremely useful tool for identifying monochromatic, complementary, and triadic colors.

Related article: Mastering Self-Editing: How To Check Your eBook

eBook Layouts FAQ

Sometimes a little direction is all it takes to set your book format up for success. Here are a few of the most frequently asked questions about book layout and design (especially for learning authors):

Q: Can I upload Word Documents to the KDP system, or does it need a different file type?

A: If you have a fully formatted Word Document with all elements of your book layout, congratulations! You’ll be good to go. Some book design tools will allow you to convert your book directly into .doc files, while others may need to be converted through other means. In either case, pay attention to the final outcome!

Q: How many pictures should I format into my book design?

A: Every book is different, and the number of pictures you choose to include will be entirely up to you. Most professionals recommend using three photos per page at most. You may go over or under these numbers according to the book template you choose to use. Be sure to get some good feedback from friends, family members, and other book pros!

Q: How much does book design and layout software cost?

A: The cost of your software is directly related to the type of tools you need. A program such as Adobe InDesign will cost $20.99 per month as a part of the creative cloud suite. Other programs, including Apple Pages, come free with every Mac-related purcha

Plus, it eases the whole publishing process!

The book writing and publishing process is a long one. Remember: it’s not a race! Take all the time you need to properly format, execute, and remodel your layout and book design. When it’s all said and done, you’ll be able to take that much more pride in the book’s final outcome.