10 Things You Should Know About e-Book Formatting

POSTED ON Jul 6, 2011

Joel Friedlander

Written by Joel Friedlander

Home > Blog > E-Books & Readers, Self-Publishing > 10 Things You Should Know About e-Book Formatting

by Guido Henkel (@GuidoHenkel)

I’m please to have an article today from self-published author and experienced e-book formatter Guido Henkel. Guido and I met on Twitter and that’s why you get to read his thoughts on this important aspect of e-publishing. Here’s his post.

e-book formatting is a skill that becomes increasingly important as our society moves towards an all-digital book world. The revolution is taking place at an incredible speed, but many authors who want to self-publish their work feel overwhelmed, intimidated or plain out of their depth with the process of actually creating these dreaded e-books.

No matter where in these categories you fit in, here are a few things you should know about e-book formatting.

Your book’s presentation is your calling card!

Just like the book cover is the point of contact with your prospective reader, the interior of a book is an important ingredient to keep the reader satisfied. Reading flow, a balanced layout and proper font usage are critical and should never be underestimated in creating a lasting impression.

Take pride in your e-book formatting

e-book formatting should never be an afterthought or a necessary evil; something to be done with.

You have labored over your book for months, maybe even years, you have read and re-read it countless times, cleaned out typos and grammatical errors, massaged the style and worked on the structure, grinding away in the wee hours of the night alongside holding a daytime job and maybe having a family. You did not get here just to break the first cardinal rule of book publishing: Don’t get sloppy on the home stretch! It will reflect poorly on your work.

Typography is an art and a science

I have seen countless recommendations on the web that tell authors not to use things such as curly quotation marks, em-dashes or ellipses because they supposedly cause problems. This is ill advice at its worst, really. When created properly all e-books can safely feature typographically correct text. You simply have to take the time to understand its underpinnings and do it right.

Word processors make for poor e-books

Word processors have been designed to enable writers. (Emphasis on WRITERS.) They are the replacement of the typewriter – in case you still remember those. Their goal is to make it possible for people to write text as cleanly and efficiently as possible, allowing them to simply dump their thoughts onto a computerized sheet of paper. In order to make this as easy as possible, word processing software puts a number of additional tools at the writer’s disposal which come in very handy and will help to keep writers focused on the task.

e-books are, by definition, an entirely different beast and need to be treated in a more specialized fashion that focuses on the text output, not the input (writing) side of things.

Even though your word processor may have an “Export as e-book” function, don’t assume it’s actually good at it. In all likelihood, it is just a afterthought feature du jour that helps sell the software.

You can learn it, too!

Creating solid e-books is a somewhat technical skill, but nonetheless one that can be learned. As a writer you have mastered the spelling of millions of words. You have internalized grammar rules and overcome countless stylistic challenges over the course of putting your book together, not to mention that, most likely, you had to plot it all out properly to create a dramatic arc, or to create a stream of conscious that readers can follow.

By comparison, creating professionally formatted e-books is as easy as burning a marshmallow over an open fire.

See the resource section for a link to a great in-depth tutorial on the subject.

Good enough is never good enough

You should never settle for less than the best. For the same reason that word processors make for bad e-book creation, online services like Smashwords are notoriously poor at creating e-books. They take a brute force approach that allows room for neither individualism nor creative control. It strips out many of the e-books’ actual capabilities and dishes out something that is the literary equivalent of jello: a featureless, artificial product of very little aesthetic value.

You are competing with professionals

If your e-book’s formatting is broken or defective it reflects poorly on your book and on you. With the physical limitations of book stores a thing of the past, in the digital world you are suddenly on a level playing field, competing with the big guys.

Stephen King is sitting cozily next to your book on the virtual shelf, while James Patterson is nudging you on the other side. In technical terms, all e-books can be the same.

Now, you can be assured that King has some of the best e-book formatters at work on his books and so does Patterson. The big publishing houses are acquiring the necessary skill sets and it is up to you to make sure your book looks every bit as polished as theirs.

Don’t let flawed approaches and half-baked technologies ruin your e-book. Make sure you get it right! Your readers deserve it, and they will thank you for it!

Ask for help when you need it

Not every author has the technical skills to create professional-quality e-books. Not every author has the time. And others yet would rather focus on writing than going through the spiel of learning how to create e-books. That’s where professionals like me who offer e-book formatting as a service come in.

Right now I’m working with a number of clients, including #1 New York Times and USA Today best-selling authors, to turn their books into highest quality e-books. These books are hand-tweaked to make sure they look great on every platform and oftentimes include images, illustrations, ornaments and all sorts of things to create a striking and engaging experience.

That’s it…

Okay, so these were only 8 things in my list, but I don’t want to begin repeating myself like a broken record. I think at this point you get the point. It is important to pay attention to your e-book formatting every bit as much as you pay attention to your writing and your cover. It is an essential part of an overall well-rounded product.

Guido HenkelGuido Henkel is an author who also provides professional e-book formatting services at affordable rates.


More information on Guido’s e-book formatting services.
Check out Guido’s books including ten Jason Dark supernatural mysteries.
Guido Henkel’s 9-part tutorial on e-book formatting
You can follow Guido’s blog.
Find Guido on Twitter at @GuidoHenkel.

Photo by goXunuReviews

Joel Friedlander

Written by
Joel Friedlander

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