Once you’re satisfied with the content of your ebook (which, if you’re like me, you wrote in simple text) you’ll need to format it so it looks good on a page.
The following tips are for PDF formatting. If you want to format your ebook for Kindle and Nook, I highly recommend checking out the Kindle Direct Publishing Help and PubIt! FAQ & Support Resources Page (Nook).
Choose a good word processor.
You’ll need to be able to save your document as a PDF. You can do this in Micorsoft Word, but for some (like me), Word is a bit finicky when it comes to keeping links (like to your website) intact. In the end, I switched to Open Office (it’s free) and my problems vanished. (By the way, here are some good Open Office Tutorials.)
Choose a page size.
I recommend formatting it to fit a standard page size (8 1/2 by 11 inches here in the States). This will make it easier for you to set it up and for your readers to print (if they do). You can choose either a “portrait” or “landscape” setup, however, if you go with landscape, I suggest you break up your text into at least two or three columns across the page to make reading easier.
Set up a template.
You might also set up a page template in your word processor which allows you to use the same format on each page without having to reformat each one separately. Because my ebook was pretty straightforward, I didn’t use a template, but this step could potentially save you quite a bit of time. Here are tutorials for setting up page templates in Open Office and Word.
Use generous margins.
I think a 1-inch margin all the way around is a safe bet. Not only does this make reading easier, it also eliminates the problem some printers have which is to cut off a larger portion at the bottom (portrait) or on one side (landscape) when smaller margins are specified.
Importing your ebook text.
Whether you use a template or not, copy and paste your content from your text editor into Open Office or Word (or whatever you are using). Once it’s in there, move things around, add headings, make things bold, etc. until it works for you.
I vote for clean, simple and uniform. Don’t go crazy with a wide array of font sizes, colors, underlining, etc. If a reader turns a page and thinks, “Wow, that heading is large,” or “Bright font color!” you’ve gone to0 far. A reader’s attention should be on your content, not your formatting. Only format enough to make your ebook more easily readable.
Whitespace is your friend.
Whitespace refers to the parts of the page which are empty and not filled with text or other content. Large margins create whitespace, as does a wider-than-normal line height (like 1.5), a larger font (I used 14), bullets, lists etc. Again, you want reading to be effortless and whitespace is a key factor in making that happen.
Decide if you’re going to get fancy.
If you’re so inclined, you might consider inserting captions, pull-quotes (highlighting special portions of your text in a larger font or box somewhere on the page) call outs (like labels for illustrations; similar to captions for images), etc. (You can find examples of how these look here.) It’ll be more work, but done right, it could add a nice touch to your finished product. On the flip side, it might cause formatting issues, so I’d recommend checking on several digital devices to see how it renders before you make it a definite go.
Pay special attention to images.
If you’re using images, make sure they are well done and proportioned correctly so they aren’t skewed. If you’re not a photographer yourself, consider purchasing professional images from a site like iStockphoto. If your photos are only average and you don’t want to spend the money on professional ones, I think it’s better to leave them out altogether. Low-quality images can diminish the perceived value of an ebook.
Utilize your footer and/or header.
Even though I didn’t use a full-fledged template, I did use the footer option to insert page numbers (done automatically) as well as a link to my website. (Read your word processor’s Help section if you don’t know how to insert page numbers.)
Pages to Include:
- Copyright Information. This is something I did not pay a whole lot of attention to and will certainly update (eventually). So, because I’m a bad example, I’ll send you over to Dave Taylor’s site where he discusses this issue and gives you some examples.
- Table of Contents. This is just a plain good idea. Make it better by linking your Table of Contents to the actual sections in your ebook — something I didn’t do that I wish I had and will do next time.
- About the Author. A bio at the end of your ebook gives you the chance to tell a little bit about yourself but more importantly, it gives you a natural opportunity to insert a call to action, such as inviting your reader to visit your website.
- Acknowledgements, End Notes, Bibliography, etc. If your ebook calls for any of these pages — particularly credit to anyone quoted or referenced — by all means, include them. However, keep in mind that they are likely only going to be glanced over. So, be accurate, but don’t spend untold amounts of time getting them “just so”.
- Printables. If you are providing printables, they could be included within the body of the ebook or at the end. My recommendation is to put them where they fit naturally and cause the least amount of reading disruption.
Get an ebook cover.
Make your cover a good one since it will set the tone for your whole ebook. You can make your own if you’re comfortable with designing or you can use an online resource like eBook Cover Creator ($3.95 per download). Alternatively, you can pay someone do it for you (Joy at Five J’s Design did mine). There are pros and cons for all, but basically it comes down to skill, cost and final quality. The nice thing about having someone do it for you (if you aren’t too keen on designing it yourself), is that they can also make matching banners and graphics that you’ll need later.
If you’d like to find a designer, you have a ton of options. A few resources I have not used myself but have read good things about are oDesk and 99designs — both allow you to find people you can outsource projects like this to (as well as things like Virtual Assistance, logo creation and all sorts of things). Please do your homework and be sure to read up on anyone you might work with, but an ebook cover might be a great and cheap way to test one of these services out.
Once you’ve put everything together, be sure to print out your ebook to make sure it prints correctly and as you intended. Also, check it out on digital devices to make sure it renders properly.
And now, with ebook in hand, let’s get ready to sell it Next post: How to Write an Ebook: Setting Up Accounts!
Other posts in this series
- How to Write an Ebook
- How to Write an Ebook: Why It's a Good Idea
- How to Write an Ebook: Choose a Sellable Topic
- How to Write an Ebook: Preparing to Write
- How to Write an Ebook: Writing Tips from a Non-Writer
- How to Write an Ebook: Editing and Naming
- How to Write an Ebook: Formatting
- How to Write an Ebook: Setting Up Accounts
- How to Write an Ebook: Pricing
- How to Write an Ebook: Distribution
- How to Write an Ebook: Creating a Sales Page (or Site)
- How to Write an Ebook: Preparing for Affiliates
- How to Write an Ebook: Taking care of your affiliates
- How to Write an Ebook: Paying your affiliates
- How to Make Your Ebook Available on Kindle & Nook