Three ebook formatting tips, part IV

Ebooks follow different formatting rules than books printed on paper. That’s because a book made of ink on paper is a different platform for presenting information than a book made of digital bits on an electronic screen. Even though the same content (your book) is being presented, the platforms will need to be handled differently, just as certainly different production methods are used for a play presented on stage and on a television screen.

Because of that, there are a number of things you might do when formatting a paperback but never would do when constructing an ebook. Following are three tips about what to differently.

Don’t place text – such as the book’s title or a page number – within the header section of a word processing document. Typically this information won’t show up in an ebook, making your work for naught. Sometimes (and worse) it will show up, placing text where it shouldn’t appear in the ebook. Remember, ebooks don’t use page numbers, and most automatically will place the title of your book at the top of each screen page that the reader of you ebook sees.

Limit the size of photographs appearing in your ebook. Most ebook publishers restrict the size of the manuscript that is uploaded, and large photos will quickly push you over that watermark, leading to rejection. Since photographs need not be larger than most ereader or tablet screens, it never should be more than five inches wide by five inches deep in actual size (and probably can be even smaller, depending on who you are publishing your book with). Make sure the photo’s resolution is in 300 dpi. In addition, the image quality usually can be reduced to a six on a scale of 1-12.

Don’t indent the first line of each paragraph by either using the tab key or the space bar. Doing so usually will result in one paragraph beginning so many spaces from the left margin and the next paragraph at another spot. This occurs because most ereaders automatically distribute your text evenly between the margins and ignore the word processing program’s instructions to begin at a specific location relative to the left margin. Instead, use block paragraphs in an ebook, just as you would if designing a web page. This means no indentations but a blank line between paragraphs.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.