Whichever type of book you aim to produce, an accurate manuscript is of the utmost importance. If you plan to produce a standard Kindle or ePub ebook, good formatting is even more vital. Why? Text reflows within the ebook depending on text size determined by the user. Incorrect formatting/punctuation and random spacing may not be discernible on your manuscript, but may wreak havoc once in ebook format.
Whether you submit your manuscript to one of the free converters or get a professional to do it, you’ll save yourself time and money by getting it right in the first place. Correcting errors in ebook formats can be a real pain.
Bear in mind that your ebook will be read on a wide range of devices including Kindles, mobiles, desktop computers, tablets etc. All of them will display your content quite differently. In most cases, the user can control fonts and font sizes and view landscape or portrait.
These guidelines are not only useful in making the transfer process simpler, they encourage good working practice and accuracy. If the reader comes across mistakes while reading, it is irritating for them, and makes you look unprofessional.
If the manuscript is for my attention, I am able to add other styles in the transfer process including decorative chapter starts, images, captions, quotes etc. in other fonts.
Styling a book for print is much more flexible and very complex styling can be incorporated if required. Nevertheless, it is still advisable to format for the ebook first, (mobi or epub). Get this 100% right, then duplicate and add extra formatting for the print version. Of course, this is if you want to publish an ebook AND a print version. But why wouldn’t you?
I’m basing this on Microsoft Word which appears to be the most widely used word processor, but it doesn’t really matter which software you create your manuscript in. They all have a similar structure and Dynamic Styling system.
Do NOT include any of the following:
The size of page doesn’t matter, A4 or US Letter.
Use standard setting. Margins are not important.
The best method is to use Word’s Quick Styles to set up a style to make sure everything is consistent throughout your manuscript. Use NORMAL for main text. The default alignment is ‘justified’ (not ragged on the right). Use 1.5 line feed.
The range of fonts on eReaders is limited, so stick to the basics like Times New Roman, Georgia and Arial. 11 or 12pt is fine. Black text. If you need emphasis, stick to Bold, Italic and ALL CAPS. Other fonts can be used, but you have to own a copy of the font and it has to be added to the finished file by a professional.
For chapter headings and sub-headings, use ‘Heading 1’, ‘Heading 2’ etc. These styles can be found in the Quick Style list.
You can add links to email addresses and websites but bear in mind that some eReaders don’t connect to the internet.
To link within the document, use Word’s bookmarks and hyperlink tools. Never use page numbers for linking as these are not fixed. Instead of ‘Go to Page 21, Caring for Pets’, replace with something like ‘Go to Caring for Pets’ section and hyperlink to heading.
Tables, Graphics and Photos
These can be tricky and you should get professional advice. Tables created in Word can look terrible on small eReaders as the columns break up.Sometimes a jpeg graphic can work better. Similarly, complex graphics won’t show up on phone screens and smaller devices. Colour can be a problem too as several eReaders such as the popular Kindle Paperwhite will only show them in greyscale.
Common Typographical Errors
Get it checked. Use a spellcheck and grammar check first, but don’t rely on this, it can create mistakes. Then get a professional to copyedit and proofread. This might seem an expensive option, but if you are serious about your book, it's worth it. A book with mistakes in is no fun to read. Editing after the book has been produced will be time-consuming and costly. If you really can't afford a proofreader, get someone else to check it through for you. Don't whatever you do, try to check it yourself.
If you follow these principles the process of formatting your ebook will be much easier.
My name is John Amy, I am a professional graphic designer based in the UK with over 25 years experience, and design Print books as well as Ebooks. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org with an outline of your requirements for a no-obligation quote or call me on 020 8462 0969 or 07773 218 349. If you have any questions or problems about design and branding or how to go about getting a professional-looking ebook, please get in touch. If you are outside the UK, don't worry. My clients span the globe. The beauty of the digital world is that it has a global reach. My graphic design website: www.promo-design.co.uk.