From Louise Wise

Wednesday 26 October 2011

The difference between formatting an e-Book and a "real" book.

E.S Lark guest-posted an article here last month and glutton for punishment she's back!

Self-Publisher’s Diary -

Formatting the Interior of Your Book 

As a self-publisher, I’m responsible for writing, finding an editor, purchasing cover art, marketing and laying out the interior of my books. Even though interior book formatting isn’t as crucial when it comes to ebooks, it’s an art form for any author looking to get their books printed.

There are a few key items a print book has that ebooks do not, and they are: 
  • Headers and footers. The header of the document generally includes the author’s name or title of the novel along with the page number, unless it’s added in the footer. 
  • Chapter breaks are another piece of formatting most ebooks don’t use. The reason for this is because every ereader will look at your book differently. Your chapter break might happen in the middle of a page instead of at the end of one.  
  • Fancy fonts. Because readers can change the font type and size of their ebooks with the touch of a button, fancy fonts aren’t necessary. That’s why most ebooks come in a standard font such as Times New Roman.
Now, I know what you’re thinking—how do you format the interior files for a book you plan to print through services such as Lulu or Createspace?

One of the best pieces of software you can buy for interior formatting is Adobe Indesign. While I could format my interior files in Microsoft Word, it’s a hassle. Adobe Indesign or another piece of formatting software’s built to make our lives easier. Instead of putting the headers (author name, book title and page number) in by hand on each page, you can create what’s called a ‘Master Page’ so the program does it for you. 

But the biggest thing you need to worry about when formatting your book are those widows and orphans. Widows and orphans are  single lines of text from a paragraph that appear on the very bottom of a page or at the very top.

This also includes those lines at the end of one paragraph that are one word long. One word takes up an entire line on the page. This is a waste of valuable printing space. To fix this, you’ll either need to tighten the sentence or change what’s called the tracking—spacing between words, so the hanging word gets bumped up to join its friends.

Open up any book you have in your home and look at the text. Notice how the text’s in blocks? Each line of text lines up with the one before it. That’s accomplished through good formatting. Adobe Indesign allows you to work on blocks of text by changing the spacing between letters, words or even by hyphenating longer words, just so everyone lines up correctly.

I admit, this isn’t something I generally look at as a reader. However, a book that has an interior that’s formatted incorrectly screams ‘self-published’. And even though self-publishing’s become more popular over the years, there’s still a sigma about it. Take your time when formatting the interior files of your book. The cover might be what draws your readers in, but the inside text is what keeps them there.

E. S. Lark is the author of fantasy fiction such as The Waking Grove and Trueblood’s Plight. You can learn more about her and the worlds she creates by visiting her website at:


  1. Thanks for the info and explanations. I'm not ready to epublish now, but it's something I might consider in future.

  2. I have better sales with my eBooks than hard copies. I think people are more willing to give self-pubbers a go if it's "just a download" rather than forking out six plus pounds per book.

  3. I found adobe indesign and acrobat pro to be the most frustrating thing to work with when I did the formatting for my first novel, printed through Lightning Source.

    I ended up doing everything in MS Word and porting it over. The only thing I used indesign for was the headder/footer and running it through distiller to meet Lightning Sources specs.


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