Book Formatting 101: Common Terms and Definitions

Book Formatting 101: Common Terms and Definitions

A Guide to Common Book Formatting Terms

Formatting is how your book looks on the inside. It includes aesthetic choices like fonts and chapter headings and technical decisions such as spacing and margins. They may sound minor, but these things all add up to the whole package that is your professionally formatted book. Whether you’re self-publishing and doing the formatting yourself or working with a professional, you’ll probably come across terms that may be unfamiliar. However, it’s essential to understand the language of book design to make the right choices for your work. Here is a list of common book formatting terms authors should know:

Ascender / Descender

Ascenders and descenders are parts of letters that extend beyond the cap height. For instance, lowercase p, g, and y are descenders because they have a “tail” that hangs down, and lowercase h, l, and d are ascenders because they extend up.


The baseline is the invisible line on which the text sits. Descenders will extend below the baseline. The baseline is important for keeping text straight, and it is also used for spacing purposes.


Bleed refers to a printed design that goes to the edge of a page (or runs off the page). It is a term mostly related to picture books or books with illustrations and book covers. If a book has “no bleed,” the image stops short of the edge of the page, leaving a white border.

Blind folio

A blind folio is a page number that is not printed on the page. For instance, the first few pages of a book that contain the front matter (copyright, title page, dedication, etc.) typically do not have page numbers. In this case, Page 1 would start on a later page.


Both CMYK and RGB are color modes but for different end uses. CMYK is intended for printed materials and is a combination of the colors cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. RGB blends the primary colors of red, blue, and green and is used for screen display. Because of the way the colors mix, CMYK can produce a darker, richer result. When it comes to book formatting and printing, designers will use CMYK.

Crop marks

Crop marks are the physical or digital lines that indicate the final trim size. They can be used as cut lines in the printing and binding process or as guides for the digital cover design.


DPI stands for dots per inch, and PPI for pixels per inch. Both terms describe an image’s resolution but are used in different contexts.

DPI describes the resolution of printed images and refers to the number of ink dots per inch. PPI describes the resolution of digital images and refers to the number of pixels present per inch. A higher number for either results in higher-resolution images with more detail. Books should strive for images that contain a minimum of 300 DPI.

Drop caps

A drop cap is when a paragraph or chapter’s first character (usually the first letter of the first word) is enlarged. Drop caps give your book an elegant or professional feel.


A fancy word for “page numbers,” folio comes from the early days of printing. A few rules for page numbering include:

  • Odd numbered pages on the right
  • Even numbered pages on the left
  • Never page number the front matter (referred to as blind folio)
  • Start page 1 with the first page of text
  • Don’t place page numbers near the gutter


Grayscale is a color mode that uses only black, white, and shades of gray. Some novels that contain images like maps use it. When it comes to printing, grayscale is less expensive than color printing.


A gutter is the blank space between two facing pages of a book or a magazine, where the pages are bound together. The gutter is where the spine of the book or magazine is located, and it is usually the area that is most difficult to read because the binding partially obscures it.

Considering the gutter when designing a page spread is vital. If the content is too close to the gutter, it may become lost or obscured in the binding process, making it difficult to read or appreciate.


Margins are the blank perimeter around the text of a book. There are four types of margins: top, bottom, outside, and inside. Margin size often depends on the trim size and the number of pages in the book. Typical margin sizes for books range from 0.5 to 0.75 inches. The exception is the inside margin, also called the gutter, which requires a larger margin to accommodate readability.


Justification refers to the edge of the text and whether it is straight or jagged. Most text is left justified (or left flush), meaning the left-hand side is straight. If a text is Justified, the words have been spaced out so that the left and right edges are straight.


Kerning refers to the space between letters. Adjusting the default kerning can make the text more visually pleasing. It can eliminate awkward gaps and improve legibility.


Leading is the white space between lines of text. It’s a fancy way to refer to spacing. Having a proper leading size will make readability easier. Most novels are published with single-spaced lines. However, you can adjust the leading for additional space after the baseline. To give each line some breathing room, consider a 1.1 to 1.5 leading.

Page, Leaf, Spread

A page and leaf both refer to a single sheet of paper, either the right-hand or left-hand side of the book. A spread is the two facing pages when you open the book flat. For picture books, planning the spread for visual purposes is important.

Serif vs. Sans Serif

These terms refer to the style of the font. Serif fonts have decorative “tails” (lines/tapers) at their ends. They’re often considered more ornamental, sophisticated, and traditional. Sans serif—from the French meaning “without” —do not have these finishing strokes. They are cleaner and simpler. Times New Roman is an example of a Serif font, and Arial is an example of a Sans Serif font.

Trim size

The trim size is the final size of the finished book. Common trim sizes for novels include 6” x 9” and 5.5” x 8.5”. Some genres or categories may lean toward a larger or smaller trim size. For instance, mass market books are typically around 4.25” x 6.5”, whereas children’s picture books can be all sorts of sizes.

Widow / Orphans

Widows and orphans refer to the last line or word being left alone at the bottom or top of a page. It’s “stranded” or separated from the rest of the paragraph and is considered visually unappealing.

Using Dictation Software While Writing a Book

Using Dictation Software While Writing a Book

Writing a book is no easy feat. It requires dedication, research, and the ability to craft a compelling narrative. For those struggling to put words on paper, speech-to-text or dictation software can be helpful. Dictation software allows you to dictate your thoughts and ideas into a computer and have them automatically transcribed into text. It can be a great way to get your thoughts out quickly and with minimal effort. However, there are both pros and cons to using dictation tools to help write your book.

On the one hand, you can save time and energy by not having to type out your story, and you can capture ideas as they come to you. However, on the other hand, you may run into some technical difficulties. Therefore, it is important to weigh your options carefully and decide whether dictation software is right for you and your book.

Pros of Using Dictation Software

  1. Increased Productivity: With dictation software, you can quickly and accurately create books with fewer distractions or errors.
  2. Enhanced Creativity: Dictation allows for better ideas to flow uninterrupted and be captured on the spot as soon as they come to mind.
  3. Cost-Effective Solution: Compared to hiring someone else, dictation software is a more affordable way of writing your book without sacrificing quality or speed of production.
  4. Reduced Stress Levels: Writing your book with the help of this technology eliminates the need for typing up drafts manually, which can take time away from other vital tasks like research and editing, which are also essential parts of creating a successful publication.
  5. Improved Accuracy: When converting speech into text, the accuracy rate is usually much higher than any mistakes that may occur while typing.

Cons of Using Dictation Software

  1. Inaccurate Recognition: The biggest downside to dictation software is that it can often struggle to recognize the words you’re speaking accurately. It can lead to misheard or changed phrases, which will require a great deal of proofreading and editing for the book to be ready for publication.
  2. Limited Dictation Capabilities: While some dictation software may understand basic commands such as “delete that sentence,” these are limited capabilities compared with manually typing out your work using a keyboard and mouse combination instead.
  3. Technical Difficulties: As with any technology, there might be technical issues occasionally. Something outside of the user’s control has caused problems and could delay progress on their writing project by hours or days while they wait for assistance from customer service teams at tech companies.
  4. Noise Distraction Issues: Many dictate programs rely on noise filters, but even then, background noise will always come through if you’re not in an isolated environment when recording your voice – this could impact accuracy too.
  5. Increased Editing Time: Even after making use of many features included within transcribing programs like grammar correction tools etc., it’s likely that users will have more editing time required compared with traditional methods.

Tips for using dictation software

If after weighing the pros and cons, you decide dictation software could be beneficial to you, be sure to make the most out of it by following these quick tips:

  • Choose a dictation software compatible with your computer/device and tailor it to your needs.
  • Slow down your speaking rate when using the software to ensure accuracy.
  • Speak clearly and use natural pauses in between phrases and sentences.
  • Make sure to include punctuation in your speech.
  • Check the text generated by the software for accuracy and make corrections as needed.
  • Utilize the software’s built-in features and settings to get the most out of it.
  • Use the software in short bursts instead of one long session.
  • Take regular breaks between dictation sessions to avoid fatigue.
  • If possible, record yourself speaking and listen to the playback to improve accuracy.

Dictation software is excellent for those who want to write their book but don’t have the time or experience to adequately express their thoughts by typing them out. Having the ability to speak into a device and have your words typed out for you can help save time and boost productivity. It’s also a great way to record your ideas and get them on paper. While it is important to be aware of its limitations, it’s also important to remember that there are ways to work around them. With some practice, you will be able to produce great results and have it transform your book into a professional piece of writing.

Going From an Idea to a Published Book

Going From an Idea to a Published Book

Make Your Idea Come to Life

It can be overwhelming if you have an idea for a book but don’t know where to start. However, with some planning and organization, you can turn your vision into reality. The key is to take it one step at a time and be patient with yourself. Writing a book requires time, effort, and dedication but can be rewarding. With hard work and persistence, you can be a published author and share your book with the world.

Here are some steps you can take to turn your idea into a published book:

  1. Develop your idea: Take some time to think about your vision and what you want to write about. Then, consider your book’s audience and what you want to achieve.
  2. Create an outline: Organize your ideas and thoughts into an outline to help guide your writing process. It will help you stay on track and ensure your book has a clear structure and flow.
  3. Write your book: Set aside dedicated writing time and stick to a regular schedule. Set writing goals for each session to keep yourself motivated.
  4. Edit your work: Once you’ve finished writing, it’s essential to take the time to review and revise your work. It may involve seeking feedback from others, such as a writing group or a professional editor.
  5. Consider self-publishing, hybrid, or traditional publishing: Each has pros and cons. Consider which option is the best fit for you based on your goals and resources.
  6. Prepare your manuscript: If you choose to pursue traditional publishing, you’ll need to prepare your manuscript for submission to agents or publishers. It may involve formatting your manuscript to meet industry standards and writing a query letter to pitch your book.
  7. Marketing and promoting your book: Once published, you’ll want to promote it to reach as many readers as possible. It may involve building an online presence, giving readings or talks, or participating in book festivals or other events.

Develop your idea

Developing your idea is an important first step in the process of turning your idea into a published book. It involves taking some time to really think about what you want to write about and why. Consider your audience and what you hope to achieve with your book. It is also helpful to do some research to ensure that your idea is feasible and that there is a market for it. As you develop your concept, it can be helpful to jot down notes and brainstorm ideas to help you better understand your topic and what you want to say. Don’t be afraid to be creative and think outside the box – sometimes, the best ideas come from unexpected places. As you develop your idea, staying focused and persistent is essential, as this is the foundation upon which you will build your book.

Create an outline

An outline is a valuable tool for organizing your ideas and thoughts as you begin to write your book. It helps to give your writing a clear structure and flow and can make the writing process more efficient and effective. To create an outline for your book, brainstorm the main points and ideas you want to cover. Next, think about the purpose of your book and what you want to achieve with it. Then, group your ideas into broad categories or chapters. From there, break each chapter into smaller sections or points you wish to cover. As you create your outline, use subheadings and bullet points to help organize your thoughts and make it easier to read.

Once you have your outline, you can use it as a roadmap for your writing process. It will help you stay focused and ensure your book has a clear, logical structure. You can also use your outline to track your progress and see how far you have come and what still needs to be done. Remember that your outline is a starting point. You may need to revise and adjust it as you begin writing and your ideas evolve. However, having an outline can be a helpful way to stay organized and on track as you work on your book.

Write your book

Writing your book is crucial in turning your idea into a published work. It requires dedication, discipline, and hard work. When you begin writing your book, setting aside dedicated writing time and sticking to a regular schedule is helpful. It can help you stay focused and motivated as you write. Set writing goals for each session, such as a certain number of words or pages, to help you track your progress and stay on track. As you write, remain true to your voice and vision for the book. Don’t be afraid to revise and edit as you go. It will help you produce a stronger, more polished final product. Finally, remember to take breaks and give yourself time to rest and recharge – writing a book can be a marathon, not a sprint.

Edit your work

Editing your work is essential in turning your idea into a published book. It’s important to take the time to review and revise your writing to ensure that it is the best it can be. It may involve seeking feedback from others, such as a writing group or a professional editor. As you edit your work, pay attention to grammar, spelling, punctuation, and clarity issues. Make sure that your writing is well-organized and easy to follow. Consider whether any sections need to be cut or expanded, and consider how to improve your book’s overall flow and structure. Don’t be afraid to make changes and take the time to get your work just right – the effort you put in now will pay off in the end. Editing and revising your manuscript may require a lot of time and effort, but it’s an important step that will help ensure that your book is the best it can be.

Consider self-publishing or traditional publishing

Once you have completed writing your book, you must decide how to publish it. There are three main options: self-publishing, hybrid, or traditional publishing. Self-publishing involves publishing your book yourself without the support of a traditional publishing house. It can be a good option if you want complete control over the publishing process and are willing to invest the time and resources to do it yourself. However, it can also be more challenging, as you’ll be responsible for all aspects of the process, including editing, formatting, design, marketing, and distribution. Traditional publishing involves having your manuscript accepted by a publishing house, which will go through the publishing process with you. It can be a good option if you want the support and resources of a publishing house, but you’ll only get a fraction of the royalties and give up some control over the final product. Lastly, hybrid publishing combines the best parts of self-publishing with the resources of a traditional publishing house. It gives you creative control, most of your royalties, and someone else handles the technical aspects of publishing. As you consider your options, consider your goals, resources, and what will best fit you and your book.

Prepare your manuscript

If you decide to pursue traditional publishing, you must prepare your manuscript for submission to literary agents. It involves ensuring that your manuscript meets industry standards for formatting and style. Some specific things to consider when finalizing your manuscript for submission include the following:

  • Font and font size: Use a standard, easy-to-read font such as Times New Roman or Arial, and ensure your font size is consistent throughout the document.
  • Margins: Set your margins to at least one inch on all sides.
  • Line spacing: Use double line spacing to make your manuscript easier to read.
  • Page numbers: Include page numbers in each page’s top or bottom corner.
  • Paragraphs: Indent the first line of each paragraph by half an inch, and do not add extra space between paragraphs.
  • Headings: Use clear, descriptive titles to help break up the text and make your manuscript easier to read.

It’s also a good idea to have a few people review your manuscript to catch any errors or typos before you submit it. Then, once your manuscript is ready, you’ll be prepared to start the submission process.

Marketing and promoting your book

Marketing and promoting your book are essential to getting your book in front of readers. You can use many different strategies to promote your book, and the best approach will depend on your goals, resources, and target audience. Some ideas for promoting your book include:

  • Building an online presence by setting up a website and creating social media accounts
  • Giving readings or talks at bookstores, libraries, schools, or other venues
  • Participating in book festivals or other events
  • Partnering with bookstores or other retailers to promote your book
  • Using paid advertising such as online ads, print ads, or radio or television ads
  • Offering promotions or discounts to encourage readers to try your book

Remember, being proactive and creative is the key to promoting your book. Don’t be afraid to try different approaches and see what works best for you and your book. By putting effort into marketing and promoting your book, you can increase your chances of success and reach a wider audience.


Turning your idea into a published book requires hard work, dedication, and a willingness to take risks. However, by following the steps outlined above, you can increase your chances of success and achieve your dream of seeing your work in print.


Self-editing Your Book: A Guide for Authors

Self-editing Your Book: A Guide for Authors

The importance of editing your book

Writing a book can be daunting; the real challenge begins when the writing is finished, and the editing process begins. Reviewing and editing your work is critical if you want your book to be clear, concise, and error-free. Editing is also essential for ensuring your book doesn’t confuse your readers and have them asking questions, which could lead to less success. While it is crucial, the editing process can be overwhelming. Use this guide to help you through the process, from gathering feedback to proofreading and polishing, as well as tips and tricks to make your book the best it can be. Proper editing makes your book more likely to be recommended to others and achieve higher sales, publicity, and success.

Take a break

You might feel like you’re on a hamster wheel as you get into the editing process. You’re in the middle of the project, there’s a lot to do, and suddenly you can’t see the end in sight. It might be worth taking a break if you find yourself getting overwhelmed. Take a walk, take a trip, do something that lets you clear your mind and get ready to jump back in, refreshed and motivated. You’ll find that you have a better perspective when you return to your work.

Read your work aloud

Reading aloud while editing your work is a great way to find errors in your writing. It lets you hear your work as if someone else is reading it, which can help you pick up on typos and incorrect punctuation. Additionally, reading aloud can help you detect wordy phrases or sections that could be rewritten for clarity. Finally, it can help you discover sentence structure errors, such as run-on sentences.

Outline your edits

Editing your work is about more than just catching spelling and grammar mistakes—it’s also about improving the quality of your work. To ensure everything is addressed, it’s a good idea to outline the changes you want to make. Then, as you read, take note of anything that needs editing. Make a separate item for each change. For instance, if a section is too long, mark it down as the first item. If there’s a spelling error, make it the second item. A grammar mistake could be the next, and rewording a sentence could be the fourth. An outline helps you see what you need to do and can help you move through your edits faster.

Check for accuracy

While editing your book, be sure to check for accuracy. This involves verifying facts, figures, and data to ensure they are correct and up-to-date. Researching outside sources and consulting experts can provide additional insights. Finally, make sure sources are reputable and current. Having false or outdated information in your work will reflect poorly on you as a writer.

Have someone else read your work

As you get to the end of the editing process, consider having someone else read your work. It can be helpful to get a fresh perspective on your work, even if you have already edited it. Of course, you can eventually hire a copyeditor, but asking family and friends to read your work is a great start. Having a new set of eyes review your work is a great way to get a real sense of how easy your work is to understand and help you identify places where your information is unclear.

Edit for consistency

When you’re editing your work, it’s also worth looking at the overall style of your book. Is it consistent with your brand? Are the titles, subtitles, and chapter names consistent? Check for any inconsistencies in spelling, grammar, punctuation, and capitalization. If your brand is consistent, your readers will recognize it and be more likely to read your work. It can also be helpful to look at the length of your chapters and sections. If you have particularly long chapters or sections, consider breaking them into smaller chunks so readers can follow the information more easily.

Format your work

Whether you plan on self-publishing or working with a publishing house, it is important to consider formatting before you begin the publishing process. Most publishing houses will give you guidelines on how they would like your work formatted, but if they do not provide specifications, it is best practice to use a 12 point serif font, double space, and one-inch margins with page numbers.

Note: we don’t require special formatting, but many publishers do.

Editing your book can be challenging and feel tedious, but it’s important to remember that you are making your work better.

Book Marketing Ideas For Authors

Book Marketing Ideas For Authors

The Definition of Marketing

Marketing is an umbrella term that encompasses promotional activities designed to sell products. When it comes to books, marketing aims to reach readers and sell copies. It’s a mix of public relations, advertising, publicity, and other forms of spreading the word and raising awareness among booksellers and consumers.

The Importance of Book Marketing

As much as authors wish it were true, writing the book is not enough. The truth is no one will read it if they don’t know it even exists. So how do you let people know about your book? That’s where marketing comes in. It’s critical authors assume a business mindset—your book is a commodity that needs promotion to succeed outside your inner circle of friends and family. It may be out of your comfort zone to talk about your book (and yourself!), but the good news is that you can market your work in many ways. Read on to discover different marketing strategies to find which one(s) are the best fit for you.

Let’s Talk Marketing!

Here are seven things you can do to market your book. Some are easy enough to start today!

1. Create a website.

If you mention your book to someone or a reader happens to stumble across a copy, one of the first things they might say is, “Where can I learn more about this?” The answer: Your website. Having an online presence is super important for authors. The first step is setting up a basic landing page with your headshot, book cover, and contact information, which you can grow into an entire website with pages, links, and more. It might sound intimidating, especially for the tech-challenged author. However, it may be simpler than you might think. Platforms like Squarespace and Wix offer templates and a user-friendly interface.

TIP: Invest in purchasing your domain, which comes off as more professional and legitimate.

2. Establish a social media presence.

Social media is a must when it comes to marketing your book. It’s free and generally easy—posting pictures or videos is a great way to capture reader attention and drive them to your book or website. But here’s the thing: You don’t have to be on every platform. Instead, choose one or two platforms that best fit you and your audience. For instance, if you’re writing YA, that would probably be TikTok. If you’re writing for women 40+, that would probably be Facebook. Then, set up your accounts for consistency and recognition using the same profile picture (a professional author headshot is nice) and cross-linking posts.

3. Start an email list.

Email marketing targets consumers through things like newsletters. Have you ever seen those website pop-ups asking for your information? That’s one way authors capture new readers. It is a form of direct marketing since the email is sent to someone who is already a fan or reader. Therefore, they are more likely to be engaged with your book/brand. But how do you go about starting an email list? The key is to start small. Reach out to friends and family, then post on social media and ask followers to sign up if interested. Once your list is established (even if it’s tiny!), send periodic newsletters, including progress updates, cover reveals, launch dates, behind-the-scenes looks, giveaways, and more. Some authors email more regularly (monthly, for instance), while others reach out less often (perhaps quarterly). There are lots of email marketing platforms that are user-friendly, such as Mailchimp, Substack, MailerLite, and many more.

4. Pitch podcasts.

Do you listen to writing/book podcasts? (If not, you should!). Many writing and genre-specific podcasts accept guest interviews. Being a guest on a podcast is an excellent way for readers to learn about your book and you as an author. Do a simple Google search or ask your writer friends for suggestions, then form a list of podcasts that interview authors. During the interview, talk about your writing and publishing journey, the content of your book, what you hope readers will get from it, etc.

NOTE: Many podcasts book out months in advance, so if you’re trying to time an episode to air around a launch, it’s best to inquire ahead of time.

5. Cross-promote with other authors.

You’ve heard the phrase before: It takes a village. The same is true for book marketing! Your village is your author community (if you don’t have one, now’s the time to start forming those connections!). Tap into other writers to cross-promote each other’s work. Perhaps your book is coming out around the same time as someone else’s, or several of you are writing in the same genre. Use each other’s audiences to help grow your own.

A few ideas include:

  • Newsletter swaps
  • Joint giveaways
  • Interview each other
  • Multi-author book bundles
  • Joint Instagram lives
  • Sharing social posts

6. Run a giveaway or promotion.

Who doesn’t like a discounted (or free!) book? Consider running promotions through your website or book platforms like Bookbub, Robin Reads, The Fussy Librarian, and many others. For example, sign up for a Goodreads giveaway, during which readers can enter for a chance to win your book. When they do, your book is added to their “Want to Read” list and shows up in people’s feeds. Whatever promotional strategy you choose, spread the word far and wide by posting on social media and asking people to share.

7. Create ads.

Ads are a great way to attract reader attention, but mastering ads is another story. Fortunately, there are courses (some free) authors can take to learn about creating and running ads on platforms like Google, Amazon, and Facebook/Instagram. Done well, they can be highly effective. If done poorly, they can suck significant cash from your budget. Either way, ads cost money, and as the saying goes, sometimes you have to spend money to make money. So if you’re unsure or worried, consider hiring an ad expert to manage them.

This list covers the basics of book marketing but is not exhaustive. Many creative ways exist to market your book and grow your author brand. The most important thing is that you do something. And remember, you can ask us about our marketing services.

6 Types of Book Endings—And How To Master Them

6 Types of Book Endings—And How To Master Them

Every great story must come to an end (booo!), but the good news is that you, as the author, get to choose what you want that end to be (yay!). When it comes to fiction, not all endings are created equal—each book dictates the conclusion that makes the most sense for the story. Sometimes endings are guided by genre expectations, and other times the author surprises readers in a way they weren’t anticipating. Either way, one of your duties before finishing your book is to decide which type of ending to employ. Not sure which to choose? We’ve rounded up 6 common book endings—read on to learn about each one and how to write them effectively.

1. Resolved Ending

All loose ends are tied up in a resolved ending, leaving the reader without any lingering questions. All storylines come to a natural conclusion, and the story threads are resolved. In many stories, especially fairy tales and romance novels, this is referred to as a Happily Ever After ending, where the book concludes on a high, satisfying note. A fun spin is the Happy For Now ending, which creates a sense of hope and optimism. However, not all resolved endings are happy—many famous tragedies have resolved endings despite being sad or depressing. The key word here is resolve (not the emotion attached to it).

2. Unresolved Ending / Cliffhanger

In contrast, unresolved endings intentionally leave the readers with more questions than answers. A popular technique for unresolved endings is the cliffhanger, a plot device that creates shock and suspense and makes the reader want more. Series authors use cliffhangers to encourage people to read the next book in the series. You may leave your protagonist in peril, about to make a significant choice, or racing against a ticking clock. Cliffhangers shouldn’t be used if there’s no follow-up story to finish the storyline (See below for Ambiguous endings, a type of unresolved ending used for stand-alone books).

3. Unexpected Ending

Have you ever finished a book and thought, “I didn’t see THAT coming”? Chances are you just read an unexpected ending or an ending with a twist. This type of book ending is often used in domestic and psychological thrillers. The trick for mastering a surprise ending is to not make it predictable—it should genuinely shock the reader by strategic foreshadowing and dropping breadcrumbs along the way. Twists shouldn’t be used “just because” or to resolve plot problems in a manner that’s not natural to the story. The best unexpected endings create such a surprise that it stays with the reader long after reading.

4. Ambiguous/Open-Ended

Ambiguous, by definition, means to be open to or have several meanings or interpretations. Therefore, an ambiguous book ending is one in which individual readers come to their own conclusions about what happened or might happen in the future. It’s subjective—readers might completely disagree with their own interpretation. When done well, ambiguous endings leave the reader with a multitude of possibilities, and readers are encouraged to draw their own conclusions. This type of ending is divisive—some readers love them, and others loathe them.

5. Full Circle Ending

Also referred to as a Tied Ending, this is when the story ends where it began. It could be as simple as using the same opening and closing sentence or scene (sometimes called “bookending” because like matching book ends, the beginning and end match). A common trope is the Hero’s Journey, often used in mythology and folktales, where the protagonist experiences a sudden or unexpected journey and must find himself, followed by a triumphant return home. A caution for full-circle endings is that they can sometimes feel pointless to the reader, so authors should be sure that the journey/story is meaningful and worthwhile.

6. Expanded Ending / Epilogue

An expanded ending usually occurs in an epilogue, where the narrative jumps forward. Some epilogues jump days, months, or even years into the future. Others change perspectives or narrators. Not all books with an epilogue require a prologue—those two literary devices serve different purposes. A benefit of expanded endings is that they allow the author to resolve unanswered questions that weren’t possible to answer in the main narrative. As a result, readers often feel satisfied with epilogues as the conclusion of a novel. An important note about epilogues: They shouldn’t be overly lengthy. Most epilogues don’t exceed the length of a typical book chapter, and many are even shorter.

Some authors have the ending of their book planned from the beginning (plotters), while others figure it out organically as they go (pantsers). There is no right or wrong, only a personal preference for what works for you and your story. When choosing the type of ending, consider what feels natural and logical and what is expected for your genre. If you’re still unsure, try writing more than one ending, then compare and contrast the impact of each. The good news, at the end of the day (pun intended), is that when you’re writing the ending, chances are you’re nearing the finish line!