Is Formatting for Print Book and Ebooks Too Much Work?

by | Feb 24, 2014

It’s rare these days to talk to an author who isn’t planning to publish both print and ebook versions of their book.

There are still a lot of books that suit one format better than the other, and which can safely be published as only print—or ebooks—without giving up any sales in the process.

No, authors have learned the “be everywhere” book marketing lesson pretty well. Even novelists who publish almost exclusively in ebook formats keep coming back to print books for at least some of their readers, for reviewers, or simply to have books to put on their bookshelf.

As a longtime lover of print books, I get it. There’s nothing quite as seductive as sliding a proof copy of your book out of the packaging it arrives in, and holding it in your hands for the very first time.

Although I’ve produced scores of books over the years, it’s still a thrill.

The Fly in the Formatting Ointment

The only problem with this picture is that authors, who are hard pressed to find time for writing, for marketing, for making a living, and for all the promotion they want to do, don’t have all that much time to spend formatting their books.

Authors who are using professionals for the technical aspects of book publishing—an ideal situation for authors who need, for one reason or another, to produce top-quality books—don’t have to worry about the time all this takes, they just have to pay for it.

But for vast numbers of authors who for one reason or another take on their own formatting, the time invested can be substantial.

You can spend days setting up page sizes, experimenting with fonts, making sure your pages look the way they’re supposed to.

But even then, if you’re planning on print books and ebooks, your workflow might look something like this:

  1. Establish design for the book
  2. Make sure manuscript is really “final”
  3. Set up a file in the program you’ll use for formatting, which might be Microsoft Word for some people, Adobe InDesign or Apple’s Pages, or Open Office for others
  4. Pour file in and format the front matter, all the chapters, then the back matter
  5. Proof and correct the book file
  6. Output a PDF for reproduction as a print book
  7. Take a pause for other important tasks
  8. Start over again to format and output your ebook files

Although you don’t have to do all that work on the manuscript again, formatting your book twice is pretty much built into the system.

We even sell pre-designed matching print book and ebook templates on our site. These allow you to keep a lot of the design from the print book versions when you do the ebook version.

But you still have to do the formatting twice.

It really bothers me to think about all the authors out there slaving away over their formatting chores when they could be doing something that will help them much more.

And formatting, for most people, is painstaking and unfamiliar work. Some people think it’s pure drudgery.

Escaping the Double Formatting Trap

Well, I’m very excited to tell you that tomorrow, I’ll be announcing a breakthrough product that can save you a huge amount of formatting time.

A product, quite frankly, that I didn’t think could exist, because it just seems impossible.

Make sure you read tomorrow’s blog, I think this is going to be awesome.


tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. Patrick Burrows

    Great post. Good summary of the annoyances of publishing multiple book formats (or even just one!)

  2. Martin Roberts

    I am a non fiction writer of Christian books. Is the 2way template ok to use for this type of work. As I read your blog it seems to sway to fiction writing but that may be me incorrectly interpreting what I am reading about the menu for your template. Also, I was seriously thinking of using bookbaby for my next book. Will your templates be acceptable for their program?


    • Tracy Atkins

      Hello Martin!

      The 2Way templates will work great for non-fiction works too, especially literary non-fiction. We include a hose of reference styles for any kind of notes or citations you might need too.


  3. Michael W. Perry

    My problems don’t lie between print and ebooks anymore. For the less complex books, I’ve got a InDesign format for print that creates an equally attractive ePub book. The answer lay, as with you, in creating the right, switch-hitting templates.

    In part of that lay in not trying to include pictures inside the body of a chapter. That only leads to hopeless complications with the varying page breaks of ePubs. Now I break the page for chapters and include one picture just after the chapter heading where there is enough room for a picture on most digital devices.

    You can see the result here, where the cover pictures or from the print version and the interior shots are how it appears on an iPad.

    The results are remarkably similar, with the print version simply having more text per page and perhaps a better looking drop cap.

    No, my real hassle is the varying standards for digital books. Apple is easy and long as I get the cover image right. Adobe targets its ePub 3 for Apple and Apple is flexible about image size.

    The hassle comes when I need to create a Kindle version even though I also send Amazon an ePub. Amazon is real miserly about image sizes, with 127 K being the max. That means two sets of images, which can run into the dozens.

    Smashwords (for all the other ebook retailers) is another hitch. I refuse to move the text to Word and reformat like they like, so they get ePub also, but they want it to be ePub 2, which means yet another file. And the last time I sent the an ebook, I was getting a cryptic message that left me confused. Fortunately, someone on my staff told me that was a special file that Adobe included for Apple. All I needed to do was delete it. That worked, but I could help but ask myself why Smashwords couldn’t just do that sort of cleanup. Why trouble us non-techies with that sort of thing.

    I’m now facing an additional hitch. The latest version of InDesign can generate popup notes from footnotes. That finally lets me generate attractive digital versions of the books I have with footnotes. But Amazon, jerks as always, hasn’t yet added that. Do I create an ePub for Amazon with ugly in-line notes, or do I wait for them to catch up?

    Hopefully, in year or two things will settle down. Perhaps Amazon will even update their Kindle plug-in for InDesign and catch up in features with Apple. Perhaps…. So far, they’ve not even promised the plug-in or set a date.

    –Mike Perry, Inkling Books

  4. Jeanne Ketley

    Dear Joel:
    I love the idea of your new formatting template. I’m getting a lot of positive feedback for “Happy Homes: A Consumer’s Guide to Maryland Condo and HOA Law and Best Practices for Homeowners and Boards.” People want it now! Any you’ve just helped make it a possibility.
    Jeanne Ketley

    • Joel Friedlander

      That’s great, Jeanne, so glad to be able to help.



  1. Breakthrough Technology Cuts Book Formatting Time in Half — The Book Designer - […] I talked about the frustration of having to format your books twice, once for print and once for ebooks.…

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