Sunday, 9 June 2013

Design and Format An Ebook like a Pro! – Part 2

By Colin Dunbar

As promised here is the second part on how to design and format a PDF ebook like a Pro.

Page Layout

Your page layout should be designed for visual appeal, but always be careful not to overdo it. Make use of white space - a page with cramped text and random images is more difficult to read (and understand). When designing your page, constantly think of your target reader. For example, if your e-book covers a business subject, your reader will very likely be pushed for time, and will want to find and read the information quickly. So use tables and graphs where possible. On the other hand, if you have an e-book for young kids, your font can be a little bigger, and you can use double line spacing. Use colorful graphics, too.

In her book, The Non-Designer's Design Book, Robin Williams offers the following: "Very often in beginners' designs, the words and phrases and graphics are strung all over the place, filling corners and taking up lots of room so there won't be any empty space. There seems to be a fear of empty space. When pieces of a design are scattered all over, the page appears unorganized and the information may not be instantly accessible to the reader."


This is not limited to e-books, but with on-screen reading, it is a little more important.

With non-fiction, easy-to-understand language is paramount. If your reader has difficulty understanding the text, they will not enjoy your e-book, and there will be no word-of-mouth promotion.

Even though it's a guide for writing web pages, SiteSell have a great free ebook that can be a great help with writing clearly: Make Your ContentPREsell!

Margins, Headers, and Footers

Margins should not be too narrow (the default 25.4 mm or 1 inch is suitable for most e-books); too narrow and the text on the page becomes very wide, making it harder to read.

Having a header graphic in a page header is a sure sign of an amateur. Your header can display your site's URL, or the title of your e-book. Nothing wrong with having a blank header either. Footers should only have your page number - there's no need to include a copyright notice in the footer, as the copyright notice will be a page in the front of your e-book.

Tables and Graphs

If your subject warrants it, look at where you can put information in tables. This is a neat way to make it easier for your reader to see the information, and remember it.

Using color in your tables makes it visually appealing, and when creating your tables, don't cram too much information into your rows and columns.

Example styled table

Similarly, if it's possible, think of creating graphs. Again, data in a graph is easier to grasp than a block of text.

Numbered and Bullet Lists

Bullet list example

Numbered and bullet lists aid readability.

Be careful though. Lengthy lists can detract rather than enhance.

When you have a long list, split it up into 2, 3 or 4 sections or columns - that way the shorter lists are easier to read.

In Closing

Even an e-book needs to look professionally designed. It is a monetization model, after all, and a good one at that.

It's really about how serious you are about your book (whether e-book or hard copy), and how serious you want to be taken as an author. If it's just a fun thing (not for monetization), then overall design has less importance. But, if you are serious about your book, then having your book professionally designed is worth the effort/cost. It can be the difference between successful and just mediocre results - maybe even the difference between lots of sales and dozens of refunds.

Imagine for a moment, what you would think if you purchased a hard copy book that has plain text with the title and author's name... no page numbers, or table of contents or perhaps, depending on the type of book, no alphabetical index. What would your reaction be? Amateur? Junk? Waste of money? Would you buy it?

If your reader finds your e-book very user-friendly, there's a slim chance that they'll ask for a refund, and, as I mentioned earlier, they will be more inclined to recommend it to others.

I have no doubt that you will have spent a lot of time writing your book, and making sure all the facts are accurate, so why throw it away with a poor e-book design?

Last, but certainly not least... Create a quality e-cover for your e-book. Remember, this is the first thing your prospective customers will see. Make it attractive and polished-looking, and your visitors will easily click through to the sales page, or the order page.

Are you thinking, "But, I've written an e-book that I'm going to be giving away for free. Why should I have my e-book designed?"

What's the purpose of giving away free e-books?

Unless you do it for fun, the reason is to promote your business or service. As such, you need to ask yourself what impression does my reader get of my business?

First impressions count.

It's almost more important to have free e-books professionally designed when we think of the damage that could be caused to our business, and the loss of possible future business.

Special thanks to Michelle Houser of for permission to use screenshots from her e-book.

While designing an e-book is fairly straightforward, it will take time and experience with the word processing program you use (Word, InDesign, etc.). If you don't have the time to design your e-book, you can hire a book designer.