Discovering the Right e-Book Format

As I start to get more involved in planning my first self-published e-book, I’ve been looking into the requirements for putting such a document together. When you write for a living, you get used to having a whole plethora of skilled individuals to help you put a nicely rendered document together. There are a number of editors to help, along with the production staff that takes the document from ethereal bits to actual paper. So, the thought of doing everything myself is a bit daunting because I really want the final product to look great.

There are several considerations and reading about self-publishing online usually fails to break these elements into manageable pieces. The first piece is the document itself. I’ve read a number of sources that suggest using HTML or a direct output format, such as EPUB. However, I’m starting to believe that while they leads will work, they aren’t necessarily optimal if you want to publish your work through a number of online vendors. The advice offered in Clearing Up Confusion About Self-Publishing seems to ring true—using the .doc format will work best. Actually, the article mentions both .doc and .docx formats, but I have good reasons to use .doc:

  • The format is used more often by third party products.
  • It’s easy to scan a file in .doc format using a utility such as FindStr.
  • There seem to be fewer glitches with the .doc format.
  • I have more templates that work well with the .doc format.

Of course, you can just as easily use the .docx format if that format appeals to you. The choice is one of personal taste in this case, but choosing one of the two seems to be best because it’s accepted by three major online vendors.

Another consideration is the actual content and formatting of the document. I have years of experience with the content part of the question and have a good idea about formatting. However, self-publishing and going exclusively after the e-book market puts a few twists into the picture. After reading a lot of documentation online about the issue of formatting, I found a lot of good material in Creating an e-book: Tips on formatting and converting your document. Although all five pages of this article are good, the best formatting information begins on page 4. However, what a lot of these articles fail to mention are the obvious sorts of things that some people fail to do:

  • Create a comprehensive outline for your book.
  • Actually stick to the outline as you write.
  • Format the outline when you put it together so that you can use the same formatting in the book.
  • Ensure you collect the resources needed to make your outline work and note them in the outline.

If you’re seeing a pattern here, it’s that outlines are important. The better you define the outline, the better the book will come out. Part of formatting your e-book is creating a good outline and then sticking with it.

After you decide on a document format, the formatting of the book content, and the content itself, you need to consider one other element—presenting your book to others. Of course, the presentation starts with a great cover. Most of the material I find online for creating covers is negative. For example, avoiding the use of book services. I’m used to thinking about how to market my books because it’s part of what the publisher asks me to provide, but I’m also having to start to think about the cover in more ways than simply the content the cover provides. Actually, it’s a creative process that I plan to enjoy.

I’ll keep you updated as I work through these first several self-published book projects. However, for now, I’ve been putting some content together and thinking a lot about what I need to do to get the book out there and make it sell. Let me know your thoughts on self-publishing at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.