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Formatting Your Book as an Ebook (Part 1)
Publishing today is very different than it was ten or twenty years ago. Part of that reason is due to the increase in POD (Print-On-Demand) technology that helped make self-publishing a reality for many writers. The other major technological advancement during this time has been the rise of ebooks. In 2013, ebooks made up just 12.3% of the book market and for 2018 this share is expected to be over 25% (source: Statista: The Statistics Portal: https://www.statista.com/statistics/234106/e-book-market-share-worldwide/). With such a large increase and a growing share of the reading market, putting out a high quality product is very important. This is even more critical for self-published authors as the stigma associated with self-publishing (that it is poor writing, poor quality, and poor appearance – even when this is not true) has been a hard one to overcome for many self-published authors. The faults of a few have done a lot to taint the many in the eyes of agents, reviewers, publishers, and the reading public. Whether you are planning on just making your book available for Kindle, or plan on distributing it on multiple platforms (Nook, Kobo, EPub, PDF, etc.) getting the book formatted is critical to make the reading experience as enjoyable as possible and avoiding being labeled as an amateur or unprofessional.
Performing the layout for an ebook shares some similarities with laying out your manuscript for a traditional print book, but there are many differences as well. For a traditional print book, margins, font style, font size, page numbers (style and location), and header info, etc. are all things that the self-published author or a traditional publisher must take into consideration. These concerns are not important for an ebook because of how e-readers work. E-readers allow the reader to select different font styles and font sizes based on their personal preferences and, because of this, much of the formatting that goes into a print book is not required for an ebook. Most e-readers won’t support fonts that are not basic true-type fonts, and even that is not a guarantee. Fancy fonts that might depict handwriting, computer code, or fancy script are not going to work in an ebook. Because the e-reader scales the text to fit the font selected by the user and the screen size of the device being used, the margins are no longer important as the e-reader will default to its settings.
But that doesn’t mean that you can ignore formatting your ebook. While you don’t need to concern yourself with margins, fonts, and page numbers, you need to focus on making sure the ebook will flow and appear correctly with proper line, paragraph, and chapter breaks, bookmarks, web links, and illustrations (if applicable). Ebooks need to be designed so that the breaks between chapters and other material (front matter, title page, copyright page, etc.) are distinct and clear. It is also important that there are not extraneous and distracting line breaks, or that text and other material blend together. I have read a few ebooks where there were no chapter breaks, header and footer information was still included (and thus merged with the text of the story), and there were extraneous line breaks in the middle of sentences and paragraphs. These types of formatting errors distract the reader from the purpose of the ebook, which is to convey your story. A distracted reader may stop reading the book (a drastic situation if you are using Kindle Unlimited and depend on those page reads for payment), or return the book for a refund.
In Part 2 I will cover the different steps you should take to ensure your ebook is properly formatted.
Written by Readers’ Favorite Reviewer Geoff Habiger