To help you format your own ebooks and to deal more effectively with formatting service providers, professional book designer and indie publisher Derek Murphy kindly shares his top 5 tips for formatting self-published ebooks.
Ebook publishing is the magic wand that has given indie authors the ability to grow their platform quickly by pricing cheap or giving away free copies (at no cost to them). It has the advantage of being speedy and responsive – you can publish immediately and make changes whenever you need to.
Yet despite all of this, actually making an ebook continues to be a major hassle for most authors. An ebook is really a collection of html files, a css “stylesheet” telling everything how it should look, other folders containing the images or fonts, and some meta-data with information about the author, publisher or title.
Getting in deep to really make everything look the way you want is difficult and frustrating – but you can get pretty close and save a lot of hair-pulling with these top five recommendations.
#1: Ebooks are supposed to be responsive and fluid.
You can’t set up everything exactly, because readers need the ability to enlarge the text, change the font, widen the line-height; plus the ebook will look different on every device and previewing tool. Rather than add a lot of style, you need to remove as much style as possible and make everything very simple.
Don’t set a font for the main body text, although you can usually get away with it for chapter headings. You can insert images for breaks or decoration but keep in mind HD devices have higher resolution and will make all the images look really small. (You should start with images that are 1440px wide and try to keep them under 127kb still.)
The most important thing is that the text works and is easy to read – so if you’re trying to do anything too complicated, let it go. Simple is usually the solution. Look at any mainstream published ebook – they rarely have special fonts or images and are super minimal.
#2: Start with your Word file
The easiest way to make an ebook is to start by setting up your Word file the right way. Use line-indents, not tabs. Use the “heading1” style for all chapter titles, and check that a TOC is being made automatically. Set a new paragraph style for non-indents on the first chapter. There’s an in-depth guide to this here: www.diybookformats.com/ebooks.
If you’ve done it right you can use a simple online ebook conversion tool, or upload it straight to Kindle, or run it through Calibre, and everything should look just as you set it up in Word.
#3: Working with an epub file
If you’re using Scrivener, you’ll be able to export an epub file but won’t be able to make changes easily – you’ll have the same problem with Calibre or automatic converters. To make changes or fix typos you’ll need to download Sigil. Sigil can be complex to learn, but if you already have an epub file and are just making fixes, it shouldn’t be overwhelming. You can also use Sigil to add fonts or images, or edit the style sheet (for example if you want the indents to be a little larger, or the subtitles to have more space below them).
InDesign will export an epub with fonts, but you’ll usually have to strip out at least the body font attributes (because you want each ebook device to be able to handle the body text, so your book doesn’t look strange or different than every other book viewed on that device).
For something with a little less of a learning curve than Sigil, you can try Jutoh – it’s a paid software but most of the options are pretty easy to find, including embedding fonts.
#4: Online Tools
Since an ebook is mostly a collection of different chapters – each set up like a webpage, there have been a bunch of new sites recently that let you add chapters in one by one, use a simple “What you see is what you get editor” and export everything directly. They work similar to WattPad.
Some of the interesting ones are:
But some of these require monthly plans, or that you use them for distribution. There’s also a WordPress plugin so you can just put your chapters into your WordPress blog and export them from there. I’m building my own, and it’s pretty slick so far, but not quite ready for release.
But really it’s much easier to let someone else do it. Ebook formatting often costs around $100, but you can get it done for $15 or so on Fiverr.com (although it’s still worth learning Sigil for when you find those inevitable typos).
OVER TO YOU If you have another great tip for ebook formatting, please feel free to share via the comments box.
#Writers: 5 top tips on #ebook formatting by @Creativindie via @IndieAuthorALLi: http://selfpublishingadvice.org/ebook-formatting/ #selfpub