This is a guest post from Aubrey Hansen, who most recently formatted my latest book, into an ebook. She is here today to talk about - well - ebooks. ;)
3 Things Most Authors Don’t Know About Ebooks
The ebook revolution has come and gone, and the media industry will never be the same. Bookstores and major publishers are still struggling to recover while thousands of indie authors are still fighting to capitalize on the potential wealth. Half the time, experts can’t agree whether ebooks will completely replace hard copies, or whether ebooks are a passing fad that will soon lose their sensation and earning potential. But one thing's for certain: Releasing an e-edition of every book has become an industry standard, and no author can afford to ignore it.
But despite the onslaught of ebooks, ereaders, and related information into our society, many authors still don’t understand this electronic being that has invaded their bookshelves. Many of them don’t own ereaders; of those that do, a better portion still prefers their soft, warm paperbacks. Many authors simply regard ebooks as a necessary evil.
The result is that very few authors truly understand the medium in which their books are now being published. And whenever indie authors try to do business in a medium they don’t understand, more tears of frustration will be made than money.
As an author who helps other authors publish their books in eformat, I have firsthand experience with the unnecessary sweat and blood--as well as missed earning potential--this misunderstanding produces. In an effort to reduce the amount of frustrated authors (and readers) in the world, I offer 5 facts about ebooks that you may or may not have known:
1. There is no such thing as “pages” in an ebook.
Page count is irrelevant with ebooks. While paperbacks have a set number of pages, ebooks have no “pages” at all. Ebooks are a fluid medium; they flex to fit the size of the screen on which they are being read. The text flows from screen to screen seamlessly as the user is reading. You can force the text to start on a new screen, such as at the start of the chapter, but you cannot dictate how much text will appear on a given screen, or how many “screens” your book is long. (So don’t try.)
Pro Tip: When publishing your book in eformat, be sure to edit the text for any references to specific pages, i.e., “as discussed on page 12.” Instead, you’ll need to reference the specific chapter/section title, or create a hyperlink that jumps directly to the text being referenced.
2. What you see is not what you get.
In a paperback, what you see on your computer screen is (usually) what you will get when the book is printed. If you put a text box in the middle of your page, it will print in the middle of your page. With ebooks, however, what you see on your computer is largely irrelevant. Not only do ebooks not have pages (so it’s effectively impossible to dictate where elements are spaced on the user’s screen), but most ereaders give their user the power to override a number of settings. Most ereaders allow users to set their own font style and size, among other viewing options. This means that while you might be viewing your book in Word on 8.5x11” paper with 12pt Times New Roman, the user might end up reading it on a 2x4” phone screen at 18pt sans serif. Consequently, this also means that most of the fancy style work you do to your document will be wasted on the reader, so don’t bother putting it in the document.
Pro Tip: Because most ereaders override most styling, the simpler you keep your document’s formatting, the better. A cleaner document will convert into a cleaner, more professional ebook. Less is truly more! Use a basic font (and only use one), use the default page size and margin width, and keep your headers and titles basic--center them and use a slightly larger font size, but don’t try to do any fancy word art.
3. Ebooks are meant to be boring.
After those last two depressing points, you might be thinking that ebooks sound really boring. Frankly, they are. You can’t use fancy fonts, you can’t have headers or footers, and you basically can’t do any interesting design work at all. Trust me, it’s okay; that’s how they were designed, and the masses of ebook consumers don’t seem to mind. So don’t worry about it. And don’t ask your interior formatter to do anything fancy. And don’t ask them why the ebook doesn’t look the same paperback. Because now you know why!
Pro Tip: If you have a design element that’s important to you, such as a particular fancy title or a graphic you want in between your scene breaks, put it in the ebook as an image. Of all things, images actually show up great in ebooks. So if you can put it in an image, go for it!
***Aubrey Hansen is one of the indie authors behind Penoaks Publishing, a company committed to helping self-published authors succeed in their careers by making their books the best they can be. Penoaks offers indie-budget-friendly services such as interior formatting and editing, all done by two newlywed geeks. They are currently located in Chicago.