book templates

Book Templates: Is It Cheating to Use One?

Salmaan Ahmad

Salmaan Ahmad

June 19, 2023

Should you use book templates? Authoring and self-publishing a book require writers to complete a surprisingly large number of non-writing tasks. From putting the book’s contents into a format that matches a reader’s expectations to developing an appealing cover design, self-published authors often find that these non-writing activities can take much more time and energy than expected.

But there is a trick that many authors take advantage of during the process of writing and preparing a book to be sent to the printer: they use book templates to help them complete specific tasks.

What Are Book Templates?

You might hear template and worry about an author employing a concept that means the use of a pattern or a pre-set organization, the opposite of the creativity normally expected by writers. But book templates are not a format for short-cutting the writing process or an AI-generated formula for writing a book.

Instead, book templates are a pre-set structure that authors can use to help them assemble their content faster, easier, or more completely so that their self-published book will look great. These ready-to-use book templates are perfect for both new and experienced authors because they take the guesswork out of many of the sometimes-complicated decisions an author has to make when they are transforming their ideas into a readable, traditionally designed book.

Is Using Book Templates Cheating?

The short answer is no. Using book templates is not dishonest for an author. Book templates help self-published authors to correctly format, structure, or organize their creative work, saving them time and heartache trying to figure out the many details that need to be correct for their books to look professionally printed.

Story Templates

One type of book template helps authors organize the contents of their story or the book’s plot. Most writers are familiar with the traditional story structure that includes the story’s exposition, inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution and denouement. But a story or plot template does more than just provide a basic framework for a story.

What They Are

Story templates act as outlines for writers to use when setting up their story’s basic structure. The templates provide a set pattern for you to follow to take your general concept from the introduction to the conclusion. Writers can employ different story or plot templates to frame their story concept in a new or fresh way. Some of the common plot templates are the Hero’s Journey, the Seven-Point Story, the Story Circle, and the Three-Act Plot.

When You Should Use One

Because a template is essentially an outline suggestion, it can help writers in certain situations when they are struggling to get their ideas down. Here are some common reasons why writers may want to try a plot template.

  • If you have writer’s block, a template can help you get going again because the next steps in the plot are already mapped out for you. The template doesn’t tell you what to write, but instead what types of content should come next. The template is perfect for combating the frustration that comes with writer’s block.
  • If you have trouble getting started, a plot template will direct you to how to begin your story.
  • If plot organization is challenging, story templates can provide guidance by helping writers with a straightforward organization strategy. Authors who struggle with making their stories easy to follow love to use templates because manuscripts may require less editing and revising, and ultimately readers will find their stories easier to read because of the set structure.
  • If you need help creatively with the structure of your story, a plot template can help provide a solid outline that can help you take your ideas and turn them into a well-designed story.

When You Don’t Need One

Not every author will benefit from using a template to help them organize the plot of their story. You may not need a plot template if you want to try a non-traditional story organization since templates will utilize a standardized and accepted literary structure.

And a plot template may not work for you if you like to make changes to your story structure as you write. The template will provide writers with a place to compose specific story elements and deviating from the structure within the program is not possible for the majority of templates.

Finding a Story or Plot Template

Some of the most popular story templates to help you organize your story are Chapterly, Dabble, LivingWriter and Plottr.

Format or Layout Templates

The second type of template that self-published authors typically use is a format or layout template.

What Book Templates Are

The layout of a book includes everything from margin sizes to page numbering style. Formatting a book can be complicated, and a layout book templates take the guesswork out of the small details that make a book appear professionally printed. These programs help authors to design the book’s appearance from cover to cover.

When You Should Use Book Templates

Not all authors are also skilled designers with an intuitive understanding of how to format a book. You should consider using layout book templates for these three reasons.

1 If you don’t want to spend a lot of time on the formatting details of your book, using  layout book templates is a good idea. This kind of template will provide the exact structure for your book’s pages and help you keep each section orderly and presented in a way that matches your reader’s genre expectations.

2 If your printing company doesn’t offer the services of a cover design expert or you don’t plan on partnering with a designer for your book’s covers, you may want to utilize a format template. This kind of template provides help with developing an effective front a back cover design for your book, a critical aspect of any book’s appearance. Self-publishing authors might not realize that how your cover looks plays a large role in whether or not potential readers will pick up your book at all, so using a cover design expert or a format template that includes cover design help is a must.

3 If you are not very familiar with problematic text layouts that can make your book feel off to a reader or how to add unique details to your book’s format, you may need to utilize format book templates. They can help authors fix common issues like orphans and widows or text rivers, all of which make pages look strange when left in the final draft of a manuscript. Format book templates also provide self-published authors with the tools to include beautiful details in their manuscripts like drop caps or an attractive section break element with the click of a button.

When You Don’t Need Book Templates

Highly creative types who want to have control over every detail and decision in a book’s format and styling may not want to use layout book templates. Because book templates are usually very restrictive on how much the user can change, authors interested in producing a book with non-standard formatting will not want to use this type of template.

Poets that write using a nontraditional structure may also struggle when using a format template because a unique presentation or structure of a poem may not mesh with the standardized model of page content that a format template allows. Books that include photos, charts, illustrations, drawings, or other types of graphics may not be able to use a layout template since they primarily work for text-only manuscripts.

And authors who want the cover of their book to look different from a typical book in their genre may want to steer away from using a format template because their book’s cover design will likely end up looking very similar to that of many others.

Finding a Format Template

Self-published authors can find excellent format templates to purchase or download at Scrivner, StoryShares and Ulysses as well as free, downloadable templates online. Book cover design templates can also be found at Canva and Adobe or authors can engage the services of a design expert on sites like Fiverr, Upwork or Reedsy to help with creating a beautiful cover for their book.

Turning Your Manuscript into a Printed Book

Whether you use a plot or format template, a template for your cover design or work with a professional to help you with any of these technical aspects of writing a book, working with a trusted printer is the final step in turning your manuscript into a book.

Publishing Xpress partners with authors of all kinds of projects to help them transform their manuscripts into gorgeous books that will be ready in just a few days with Publishing Xpress’s digital printing process. New and experienced self-published authors alike both struggle with the many non-writing aspects of becoming a published author, and many use book templates to make the process go more smoothly.

Once your manuscript looks great and you are ready to go to print, be sure to order a print copy of your book’s proof. This will allow you to review the formatting and layout to catch any problems you see before your printer begins. An especially helpful step for authors new to self-publishing, checking your proof to see how well the template guided your book’s design is the perfect way for authors to make sure that their project looks just right before it gets into the hands of readers.

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