There are lots of guides and tools to help you convert your manuscript or book to an eBook. But based on my conversations with authors and the dozens of “final” eBooks I’ve reviewed there are a number of areas that could use special emphasis.
A few of these are mistakes to avoid and a few are pointers. Pay attention to these seven recommendations and you’ll deliver a quality reading experience.
Just like a print book, you are ultimately responsible for the final product so proof accordingly.
1. Enable the “Goto” menu for readers. Ereaders (like the Kindle) have a menu option that allows readers to jump to the table of contents, beginning of the book and the cover. I’ve seen numerous eBooks where these options are greyed-out, in other words unavailable. This is something that should be enabled during the conversion process.
2. Link the Table of Contents (TOC). Make sure the TOC links to each chapter. If it doesn’t, send it back to your conversion company. Thumbing through a print book to find chapters isn’t so bad but it is frustratingly slow on an ereading device.
3. Use color images. It may seem unnecessary because most dedicated ereaders are black & white but they won’t always be this way. Besides, books can also be viewed on color devices like Smartphones and Tablets. If you have the images in color, use them.
4. Use a style sheet when formatting your manuscript. Not only will the file convert more easily but your readers will appreciate it. Here are three common drafting mistakes (the Smashwords Style Guide is an excellent resource for more details):
- Using the space bar or tabs to indent the first line of the paragraph. Indentation should be defined in the style sheet.
- No fancy fonts! This isn’t like a printed book. Typically you are limited to just a couple type faces and you should limit yourself further to just a couple sizes; e.g. 14 or 16pt for headings and 10 or 11pt for text.
- Limit paragraph or line returns (the Enter key) to no more than four consecutive lines. Adding more only annoys your readers by forcing them to page through blank pages.
- Begin each chapter on its own page.
5. Include links. Unlike a print book, linking to websites is an inherent capability of e-reading. Make it easy for readers to find your website, discover other books and read additional references.
6. Be mindful of sampling. A great benefit of eBooks is that the reader can read a sample before they buy. The goal as an author/publisher is to give the reader enough of the book to make a decision but not so much that they won’t need or want to buy the book. For fiction you want to hook the reader so try to limit the front matter and get to the story. It is a little trickier with non-fiction. Make sure the TOC is part of the sample and then think through what other content will encourage a purchase. (I’ve seen some books where the front matter is voluminous—they intentionally placed the high-value content beyond the free sample.)
7. For those that are converting print books, remove the ISBN. Every print book has as an ISBN and it has no place in the eBook edition. Either remove it or replace it with an eBook-specific ISBN. Check your online retailing store for their requirements. (Amazon and B&N do not require eBooks to have an ISBN.)
Good luck and remember that eBook quality not only reflects poorly on the author/publisher, but on eBooks in general. Call or write if you need help with your eBook conversion project.