Publishing: Why You Should Care About Ebook vs Print Formatting

One of the fantastic rewards of writing a book is being able to hold a physical copy in our hands. Regardless of other definitions of success, the thrill never goes away.

letterpressI’m a huge fan of print-on-demand, and one of the most popular posts on the blog is Top 10 tips on self-publishing print books on Createspace by Dean Fetzer. Today, Dean is back to share a common question about formatting ebooks vs print.

I get asked this question a lot: “Can I use my CreateSpace PDF for the ebook version?”

The simple answer is ‘no’. Well, you could, but I doubt you’d be very happy with the finished results — and more importantly, neither would your readers. Frankly, a PDF is the last format you should use to create an ebook from as it does so many things that you just don’t want an ebook to do.

Flow vs rigid formatting

With a printed book, you want to control as much as you possibly can, from how the text aligns to the headers at the tops of the pages to where the page numbers sit on the page: that all needs to be exact to provide the best printed reading experience you can for your readers.

Ebooks, on the other hand, need to flow. You’ve no idea what the person reading your book is reading it on, much less whether they use really small text or enlarge it so they can read it easily. Even if all you format your book for is the Kindle platform, each model varies in the way it displays the written word.

If your book doesn’t adjust to that, they’re not going to enjoy reading it.

Differences in Kindle formatting


You can see from these three examples how different even the Kindle platform is when each device displays the book differently.

Ebooks are basically created using hypertext, the same language that web pages use to format content for the internet, albeit with fewer options for styling the text for the viewer. (No, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to learn HTML to set out your book, it just means you need to think differently about how you do it.)

The key for ebooks is about ‘flow’: how does your text look when you enlarge the font size on your reading device? What happens when it gets smaller? The pages reformat themselves automatically to fit the screen of the device and your book needs to do that, too. This is the main reason page numbers are pretty much worthless on an ereader — how do you know what page it is if the text has reflowed to fit the screen or the needs of the reader?

Minimal formatting

Your printed book looks great on paper, but that’s because a lot of effort has gone into making it fit the page, not to mention all the other work that goes into setting a book out for the printed page. Not so with ebooks – if anything you want less control.

The key to a successful ebook is to minimise the amount of additional formatting: that means no funky fonts, no weird margins and try to avoid tables or other text constructs in your copy that require a specific format.

I know, I know, “it looks so much better if that funny bit is in Comic Sans” — trust me, nothing looks better in Comic Sans. And if you want to keep your reader interested, you need to make the reading experience as easy for them as possible.

Keep formatting to a minimum. This means that rather than use an unusual font that isn’t supported by a lot of devices, go for bolding a basic font or use italics instead. If you have to use a different font, put it in a graphic. That way you can control the look and feel without resorting to embedding unusual fonts or anything else that will look bad on an ereader screen.

Sure you can indent a paragraph, just don’t try to lock it into a particular size or style at the same time. Don’t use drop caps as that’s another option that will just cause problems.

First tip: keep it simple. By that I mean take out any text formatting that is going to cause the reader problems with your book.


Photos or other images need to be high resolution for a print book – at least 300 dpi – it’s just the way printers work and the best way to get good results from your printed book. Graphics for ebooks, on the other hand, only need to be screen resolution.

So the simple explanation is that graphics need to be resized. Don’t worry, this is done by a lot of the converters out there, so it’s not a huge worry, but if you use a lot of images, I would recommend resizing them yourself before you put them in the ebook to avoid complications later. And by all means, keep them to a  minimum.

Tip: keep images to a minimum and resize them before you submit your ebook.

Page breaks

Page breaks or section breaks are important in print and ebooks, as they keep chapters from flowing into each other and separate text you don’t want flowing on from a previous text block. Use them.

One of the worst crimes in terms of manuscript formatting I’ve seen is the use of paragraph returns to separate pages. I spend a good portion of my life taking paragraph returns out of manuscripts. So don’t do it. That’s what page and section breaks are for. I prefer section breaks between chapters because that’s more useful than a simple page break and provides a better standard of break.

Tip: use section breaks between chapters.

File formats

Okay, you’ve got your file ready for publication in print, so now what? That print file is a good place to start, just remember that you’ll need to simplify it for your ebook. It’s probably too complicated and not necessarily laid out in the right order to suit your electronic version.

For your ebook, you need to get it into the right format for the device you’re planning to publish on. The most popular version of format is the ‘.epub’ file format. Yes, I know, Kindle Direct Publishing until recently preferred a ‘.mobi’ file format (don’t write in), but they will now accept an unbundled .epub file, but that’s a whole different kettle of fish.

Personally, I always submit a .mobi file to KDP as I know where it’s been. By that, I mean that it is formatted in such a way that nine times out of ten I can predict how it’s going to behave.

This is probably the most common question I get asked: “How do I convert my book to the right format?” The straight answer is there is no simple way to do it that will guarantee you the best results. I usually code my books by hand until they’re ready to be made into an epub file, then convert them to .mobi for Kindle.

“How do I get my book into a .mobi format?”, I can hear you ask? Well, that’s the difficult part. No one has yet come up with an easy way to generate a .mobi file, although it’s easy enough to convert a file with a shareware app like Calibre. I find that Calibre’s conversion is a bit too rough and doesn’t always compile the files correctly.

A simple way to get to an .epub is to import a modern Microsoft Word file (.docx) into Calibre and then convert it to the epub format. You will need to add a table of contents and either link them to bookmarks for each of your chapters via the Hyperlink function or produce the file on a PC which will allow you to embed the links as HTML. Why the Mac version doesn’t do this, I don’t know.

Once I’ve got the epub file, I put the book through Kindle’s free application KindleGen on the Mac to convert it to a .mobi file. This isn’t something I’d recommend for everyone, as it uses Apple’s Terminal application and does take a bit of know-how of the Unix command line to do this kind of conversion.

If you’re converting to a .epub file, I would recommend Calibre as the results for that conversion have been pretty good for me. Once you’ve produced an epub file, you need to see if it validates by using something like ePub Checker or use an online validator to test it. If it doesn’t pass the checks, it won’t be a submittable file. And it won’t always give you enough information about what is wrong with the file.

There are a number of places to look for advice online but I’d recommend Mobile Read for general advice and great forums, Joel Friedlander  is always a good source (here he talks about decision making when producing your ebook) and this blog entry has some great resources, too. Oh, and Joel Friedlander has just added a new kind of template that allows you to do both versions from the same file.

I know Joanna uses Scrivener to compile her ebooks and is happy with the results, but again, it takes a bit of work to get it to come out correctly to the standard you want. Personally, I don’t like giving that control up – hey, I’m a control freak with a perfectionist streak, what can I say?

Alternatively, you can always pay someone like me to do the conversion, so you don’t have to or you can submit a Word file that you’ve reformatted to be as simple as possible, to KDP or one of the others and hope for the best.

The end result

This is what you’re looking for: a file that passes KDP or any other ebook platform’s checks to get your book published. It’s not an easy job and if you’ve seen a badly formatted ebook, you know exactly what I mean.

The final tip I’d give is to do the best you can to make sure your book provides a great reading experience for the reader.

And I can help!

If this all this seems too daunting, I can help you produce the best ebook for your project. And I’m reasonable!

Dean Fetzer -

You can find more information on the services I provide at or contact me through the form on the site.

Dean Fetzer is the author of four thrillers, a former pub reviewer and has been a graphic designer for more than 20 years, designing for print and then the internet before naturally moving into book design.

Selling Books At Kobo And Publishing News With Mark Lefebvre

We’re lucky to have more than one option to distribute and sell our books globally as self-published authors, and today I’m focusing on Kobo.

In the intro, I talk about the launch party for Deadly Dozen (valid until March 8), 12 mystery/thrillers for just 99c (or equivalent). Plus, the royalty change at ACX and updates on my own writing.

mark lefebvreMark Lefebvre is Director of Self Publishing and Author Relations at Kobo. He also writes horror and dark humor under Mark Leslie.

  • How Kobo differentiates itself by being a collaborative partner with leading booksellers around the world. Kobo Writing Life was the first to offer payment in the author’s currency, which Amazon KDP then picked up. It’s great to have a comparison service, a challenger to keep everyone honest!
  • We also discuss the scheduling of promotions which you can do on Kobo, and can help you get visibility, as well as making sure the promotions start on time. It’s not dependent on being exclusive, and you can be free on Kobo at any time. [I use free on Kobo to get Amazon to price-match for permafree]. The Kobo Writing Life team mine the scheduled promos for gems and great deals for customers.

What do the Kobo merchandising team look for?

  • Obviously you need the best book you can write, plus a book cover that is aimed at your target audience. It’s
    kobo mark lefebvre jf penn

    J.F.Penn with Mark Lefebvre at the Kobo booth, London Book Fair 2013

    also important to think of the perspective of the booksellers’ curation process. Kobo is a bookseller and will make more money on higher priced products, or on pleasing customers with deep discounts. Mark also mentions the networking potential of being a ‘real person,’ so definitely say hi to the Kobo Writing Life team at conferences.

  • Kobo Next is a list of new authors and new books for people to discover. The authors and books that make it there are handpicked, and are proposed to merchandising teams.

Kobo News: Sony, new CEO & global expansion

  • We talk about the potential for global growth in 2014-2015, as well as translation deals, for example, what Kobo are doing with Bella Andre/Lucy Kevin. Plus, pricing by different territories, critical to seeing update in other economies.

On balancing two author brands

kobo writing lifeIf you’re not on Kobo yet, check out , which also has a blog and podcast for authors. [I’m on the next episode!]

You can find Mark on twitter @MarkLeslie and his fiction blog here.

Publishing And Marketing Tips For The Apple iBookstore With Mark Coker From Smashwords

As much as I love Amazon and KDP, it’s important to remember that they are not the only publishing option for authors.

smashwords appleAs ebooks move far beyond the mature markets of the US and UK in 2014, I think all authors should be aware of the other platforms that compete, and in some cases, dominate.

A few weeks ago, Mark Coker did a presentation for the Alliance of Independent Authors on the opportunities for publishing and marketing in the Apple iBookstore.

It’s a long video but well worth watching if you’re not making many sales on iBookstore, because there are things you can do to maximize your chances of sales. I’ll certainly be making some changes myself based on Mark’s talk.

Watch the video below, or here on YouTube.

Here’s some of my key takeaways from the video:

  • On the Apple eco-system, the iBooks app is downloaded more then the Kindle app and the Apple hardware devices have a far more hardware penetration into markets than Amazon’s Kindle. iBookstore is now in 51 countries and on every Apple device.
  • Different books break out at different times on different platforms. Apple has a more human-powered marketing approach vs Amazon’s automated algorithms. This can mean some opportunities for marketing that aren’t just based on sales spikes. Apple’s team are looking to find new books to please their readers and they find them through many different methods.
  • There is no restricted free period on Apple and no price-matching. Free books have 91x more downloads than paid books on Apple and iBookstore promote free more because they are primarily a hardware company, wanting to keep readers in their eco-system.
  • For Apple sales, try using the Widgetbuilder and tools that link directly to your Apple sales page. How do you expect to sell anything if you’re not directing people there.

I’ve been a fan of Mark Coker for years. You can check out an early interview I did with him in 2010 here. We were raving about the exciting times in publishing several years ago, and Mark’s site Smashwords continues to explode with exciting news every few weeks and more opportunities for indies.

I’d love to hear any comments you have about iBookstore. Have you had sales success on iBooks? Have you used any of the Smashwords functionality for Apple? Do you have any iBookstore specific marketing tips? Please do leave a comment below.

Introducing Libiro. The New Ebook Store For Indie Authors

The current publishing eco-system changes every week right now, and there are new opportunities around every corner. This expanding marketplace is only a good thing for authors, and some enterprising types are taking it further.

LibiroFantasy author, Ben Galley, has just started Libiro, an ebook store for indie authors and in today’s article, he tells us a bit about it.

Amazon is a beast. We all know it. A beast of sheer size and might. It’s also quite a friendly beast, where authors are concerned. Via Amazon’s useful and simple Kindle Direct Publishing platform, authors have the chance to upload directly to the Kindle store, set their own price, and have the choice of taking part in programs such as Kindle Select and MatchBook.

Essentially what Amazon provides is an alternate route to market – the ability to bypass the publishers and compete with the best of them.

And that’s exactly what its mammoth marketplace is – a competition.

A competition for sales, and ultimately, that coveted No.1 spot. The title of bestseller.

Without going into too much depth about how the cryptic Amazon algorithms work, books rise and fall on the rankings due to several key factors:

1)      Sales

2)      Reviews – both starred and written

3)      And the competition

The three really go hand in hand. Sales may rise thanks to a glowing review. More sales increases the capacity for reviews. More reviews come in. More sales occur, and the chain reaction goes on until, hypothetically, you’re at the No.1 spot. The problem is that everybody – every author and publisher – is doing the same thing. Every hour, every day, in each genre, for each book, little battles are being fought. This is why competition plays a big role in rankings.

The fact of the matter is that we don’t all have the same promotional skills or marketing punch.

Competing alongside the traditionally published authors might be no sweat for some indies, but unachievable for others (at the moment anyway – we’re all constantly improving!) The problem we authors face is that publishing houses have a long reach and very deep pockets. Very few indies, if any, have the budget to match that of a publishing house. This is why we rely on interacting on social media, sourcing reviews, clever pricing, and the pure quality of our books, rather than paid ads, bookshop POS material, and billboards. Even though indies actually garner a closer relationship with readers than most traditional authors, thanks to our marketing techniques, it’s still hard work to stand out.

These are the unfortunate problems with Amazon and KDP – over-crowding, and the way that traditional is usually favored over indie.

This is why I decided to create an eBook store just for us.

Libiro is a brand new store exclusively for indie books by indie authors. We exclude traditional books because it removes the traditional competition, and at the same time it promotes the concept of indie books and self-publishing, while offering the reader a dedicated, easy-to-browse store at which to shop.

Libiro offers indie authors an 80% royalty as standard – no matter what book, what price, or what country you’re from. This means that you aren’t just selling to an intrigued and interested market, but that you’re actually making more money per sale.

We’ve also got some exciting ideas in the pipeline too – marketing tools for authors, hopefully some sales analytics, and also a new eBook discovery tool that we’re quite excited about.

Empowering authors. That’s really what Libiro is all about.

I’m immensely proud to have launched it, and also very excited to see what the platform can do for authors in the future. It’s already been a great first month for us, so here’s to many more!

Of course, Libiro isn’t the only store that can help you sell more books.

Different readers like to use different stores, and so that’s why it’s wise to distribute to as many stores as you can. Kobo is a great store, and very similar to KDP in the fact they have an eBook publishing platform called Kobo Writing Life. Barnes & Noble is another important store, as is iBooks. You could even try using an eBook distributor like Smashwords or BookBaby, and publish to multiple stores at once. Try them all out! It’s important for accessing the whole spectrum of the market, not just the Kindle-users. Just remember to stay consistent in your information and pricing – perhaps keep a master document with all the information stored in one place. That always helps me.

If you want to see what Libiro is all about, then you can find it at

Please do leave any questions about the site or any comments below. I’d love to hear what you think about this opportunity.

ben galleyBio: At 25, Ben Galley is a young self-published author from sunny England. He is the author of the epic and gritty fantasy series The Emaneska Series. He has released four books to date, and doesn’t intend to stop any time soon.

Ben is also incredibly zealous about inspiring other authors and writers. He also runs the popular advice site Shelf Help, where he offers advice about writing, publishing, and marketing. Ben can be found being loquacious and attempting to be witty on Twitter (@BenGalley) or at



Why And How To Use MultiMedia To Enhance Your Ebooks

Recent surveys have shown that children are reading more and engaging with digital devices.

ElearningThey are true digital natives. But I’m 38 and while extremely comfortable with technology, I’m still part of the generation that was raised on print. I think our minds are trained to what we’ve always known so we can be resistant about the possibilities.

The enhanced e-book has been discussed for a while now, but hasn’t gone mainstream, while at the same time apps have exploded. How can we shift into using multimedia in our books? In this guest post, Harry Guinness from Bawdy Zebra explores some options.

A book no longer has to be printable.

The very idea of what makes a book is beginning to change; are eBooks still “books”? What about eBooks that would never work as print books, say ones with hundreds of pictures? If they’re still “books”, what happens if you start to include video? For years instructional books have come with companion DVDs, why not just include it in the text itself?

The technology is out there to begin creating books with more photographs than words, and even videos, slideshows and interactive web content like twitter streams. 

Now not every book should begin including photos and videos – that would be ridiculous. For example, I have a soft spot for epic fantasy (I finished the last book of the Wheel of Time in a single seventeen hour sitting; if you know what that means, I’m judging you, as well as myself!), and not for a second do I think the inclusion of reams of photos or videos would add much to my enjoyment. Likewise, a lot of fiction really won’t benefit by adding such content directly into the text – but there are still options. Here are five points on why, or how you could begin to add multimedia content to your books.

1. It costs you practically nothing.

A few years ago if you said you were going to release a book with close to one hundred full-size colour photos for the price of Big Mac Meal you would have been laughed at. But that’s what we did, it’s just not printed on paper! The additional expense of adding photos in particular is minimal. The camera in your iPhone is more than capable to take stunning photos – especially of landscapes – so why not add a few.

2. It adds to the readers experience.

This is more of a non-fiction point, but if you are writing a biography or a travelogue or anything else really, it is the perfect opportunity to include photos and videos. Nothing adds more to the experience of a travel book as photos of the stunning vistas – except perhaps an interactive 360 degree panorama. If it’s a biography, instead of just including a few pictures in the centre, litter the book with relevant photos, include videos of famous performances and speeches even!

3. Build it into the book.

I think there is a serious market for an enterprising mystery writer to write a book that builds photos and videos and audio segments into the story. I genuinely think that someone is going to have a huge hit on their hands with a book like that and if you want to have a shot and that, come, talk to me. I am interested in doing business with you!

4. Use it to make the readers see you.

In so many books, the author becomes a secondary consideration after the characters. I can’t begin to list the number of books I’ve read where the authors name is forgotten as soon as I put it down while the characters live on in my head. Why not have it that instead of a written introduction, as soon as the reader opens your book they are treated to a video of you thanking them for buying it. Suddenly the author becomes significantly more memorable.

5. More and more people are reading on these devices, make use of them.

The number of tablets out there is going up and up and by extension, the number of people reading on them. These devices all have features that are not being utilized. Differentiate yourself from the competition and use them! Don’t be left playing catch up in a few years.

If you want to see a simple example of whats beginning to be possible, please check out There Are Other Rivers by Alastair Humphreys, I worked with Alastair to create an unprintable version of his book! Go to for more information.

What do you think about multimedia in books? Is it just for kids books or textbooks? How can it be used with fiction? Please do leave your thoughts or questions in the comments below.


Harry Guinness is the founder of Bawdy Zebra (, a new multimedia publishing company; he worked with Alastair Humphreys ( to produce the best possible version of There Are Other Rivers available! You can get it for the iPad here ( or in loads of other formats – including dead tree – here (

Bawdy Zebra has a load more exciting content in the works and you can find out more on Harry’s blog (http//

Top image: BigStockPhoto E-learning concept