Ebook Functionality and the Writing Process

Are you planning on publishing an ebook soon? If you are then you need to consider how ebook reading devices function. If you don’t format your own books then you may think you don’t need to be concerned with this aspect of things. You may think that it is the person’s job that hire to format your book so that it functions properly in a reading device. This is only partly true. Some of what makes an ebook function well starts in the writing process which starts with you. If you do format your own, then there are ways to make it a simpler process.

As a professional book formatter, I work with a lot of new authors who don’t have a clue about how ebook reading devices work. But it is an important aspect of self-publishing that an author really shouldn’t overlook. Being a self-publishing author means that you should understand every part of the process. Or at least have a basic idea if the way things work even if you hire some of the work done.

Once you know how ebooks function you will know how to write your book for them. Most people write their books in Microsoft Word so everything in this blog post is directed towards that.

Here are some things to consider when you are writing your ebook:

  1. The fonts you use.
  2. All chapter titles need to be clearly distinguishable.
  3. The content style should be basic
  4. The self-publishing guidelines of the company you are going to publish your ebook with.

1. The fonts you use: The user has the ability to change the font style, font size, the line height, and even the margins in their individual reading devices. So it really isn’t that important what type of font you use in your document because chances are your readers are going to change it according to their preference anyway. If you are that particular, then it only for your benefit and not for theirs.

Another thing is some fonts just don’t show up in reading devices, particularly fancy fonts. I have run into this issue a lot with customers. Some authors use fancy fonts to display things likes hand-written letters which looks really nice in print books. But when it comes to using these fonts in an ebook it doesn’t always work. Even if you have it in your document or file when you upload, it will probably just look like the standard font in reading devices after your ebook is published. A good alternative to fancy fonts is to use a standard font in italic. This distinguishes that section of text that you want to look different from everything else.

2. All chapter titles need to be clearly distinguishable: The reason for this is that the table of contents in an ebook is a list of links that a user can click to go to any chapter that they want. The chapter titles are used to create those links that make up the table of contents. So if you are writing your book in Word, you should be using Heading 1 through Heading 6 styles for all of your chapter titles and subtitles and nothing else. It is easiest to use them right from the start in the writing process. Rather than to go back and change everything later.

The Heading 1 through Heading 6 styles are the appropriate styles to use and the ones that the program will look for if you use the Table of Contents feature to create your table of contents in Word. If those styles aren’t used then you will have chapters that won’t be included in your table of contents if you use that feature. Readers are accustomed to a linked table of contents in ebooks. If all of the chapters aren’t there then there could be information that your readers could miss out on in your book.

3. The content style should be basic: If you are formatting your book in Microsoft Word the only style that you need to use is the Normal Style. That’s it. You don’t need anything more than that for your content. If you use bullet and numbered list, which a lot of people do – I do, all of the fancy ones that Word offers won’t show up in a reading device. So you should just use the basic ones.

Microsoft Word is loaded with all sorts of feature that you can do to the text in your document. But just because something can be done in Word doesn’t mean that it can be done in an ebook. This is something I stress to my customers.

Using basic styling has two advantages for you. It will make writing your book easier and it will also be easier to format if you are doing your own.

4. The self-publishing guidelines of the company you are going to publish your ebook with: These can vary depending on where you decide to publish. So it is always a good idea to be aware of what the guidelines are for that particular site.

The Look of Your Ebook

Many authors are very concerned about the way their ebook looks and it is ok to want your ebook to look good. But it needs to be understood that some design aspects just can’t be done. The design aspect of an ebook is limited by its functionality. If you also have print book version your ebook is not going to be a carbon copy of that.

In a print book, everything stays fixed in one spot. But in an ebook, the text and images are meant to flow with the font size changes. There are also no pages in an ebook. I know that it may look like there are but they are sections that the reading device displays. And since there many different types and sizes of reading devices including apps for cell phones and computers, those sections will look different to everyone. Where your images and text fall will also look different in every device according to the font settings used. There no controlling that. It is just how ebooks work.

The important thing is that your ebook has the largest distribution possible so as many people can read it as possible. That is what will make you a successful self-publishing author. So don’t sweat it if your ebook version of your book looks plainer than the print version. The important thing is that you are able to reach as many people as possible with your content.

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