Designing E-Books for the Virtual Bookshelf

acim author design is about so much more than the cover these days. Lately, the publishing industry has literally been inundated with news about the rise of the e-book this season and the predicted death of the bookstore and the printing industry. Retailers of print books continue to be hit hard while digital sales have gone through the roof.

So, let’s get past the cover for a moment and assume you’ve got a cover and jacket material that is award winning, spectacular and jumps right off the shelf and into the cart.

The first thing you need to do is totally eliminate each and every preconception you ever had of what constitutes a “book.” Digital publishing is the Anti-Christ for traditional print authors. It’s a different game and there are different rules. Let’s go through them one at a time.

The first rule of digital is that pages don’t exist. If you actually have an e-reader, you can probably wrap your head around this to some extent. But this truly goes against what it is to be a writer as we measure our genius in page numbers, and it’s hard to get over. Every e-reader is different. If you try to create pages, you will bang your head against a table over and over again. You just cannot make it come out right unless you completely eliminate the concept of pages from your brain. When separating chapters, add one – maybe two – extra lines and type out your chapter title.

Again, this is a rule that goes against our mindset as writers. We toil and sweat to create a thing of beauty, only to be told that we are not allowed to make our books look the way we want. There’s really an excellent reason for this – the reader. E-book readers are geared to allow the owner to customize the way the material looks. It’s your audience who gets to choose things like font, font size and the like. Not you. Take out all of those tabs, all of the extra lines (except one or two separating chapters), and even the fancy font.

Choose simple fonts, a “normal” paragraph style, left aligned, and single space everything without extra space after the paragraphs. If you want to make your life easier, get rid of any columns, tables, text boxes or footnotes. If you are creating a non-fiction book where these are absolutely necessary, you will have to go into your publisher’s style guide and get down and dirty with your manuscript. Or wait until later in 2012 when I get a chance to write a follow-up article that addresses these issues.

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