In today’s show, Tom Corson-Knowles answers your questions about self-publishing and book publishing. We cover questions about formatting, publishing, marketing, pen names, free vs. paid books, creating audiobooks, and much more.
Q: Does it matter what font, font size, paragraph and margin settings I select when formatting an eBook for Kindle?
A: Okay, so basically here’s the jist of how it works for e-books. Every e-book reader I’ve seen allows the reader to customize what kind of paragraph, font, and style settings they want for their text. Now usually, they’re just selecting the device defaults. And all the kindles I’ve seen have an automatic default font type for the device.
Amazon has a standard font type for each device it sells. When a person buys that device, they usually use that font type.
In order for the reader to actually read your document using the font and style that you used, they’d have to choose your exact settings on their device. That, I’m guessing, happens less than 1% of the time. I’ve never wanted to use the exact font and size that the publisher of the book used when reading a book on my Kindle. So as far as I can see, it’s almost completely irrelevant what font, size, and style you use when you make your ebook into a .MOBI file or whichever file type you use.
What I use personally for my books is a standard 12 point size normal font. The font type should be a simple, plain, common font type that everyone knows and understands and can easily read.
If you watch the training videos at ebookpublishingschool.com you’ll see I just use the simple style set in Microsoft Word to format my font and spacing for eBooks.
Paragraph spacing does matter. Your settings should be different depending on whether you’re formatting a fiction or nonfiction book. I have a free video series at ebookpublishingschool.com that goes through the formatting process in detail. The video series covers Mac and PC users who want to use Microsoft Word to format their Kindle book. I also go over the differences between formatting a fiction book and a nonfiction book.
Nonfiction books have no indentation at the beginning of their paragraphs, and a space in between paragraphs. Fiction books have an indentation at the start of each paragraph, and no space between paragraphs.
Q: Should I use standard single spacing or 1.5 line spacing when formatting my Kindle book?
A: I believe the standard is 1.5 spacing. But again it doesn’t matter, because the Kindle device or e-reader device will deal with how the text appears visually to the customer automatically.
Q: Should the margin be right justified or loose?
A: You can do either one. Some people do no justification. Some people choose to right justify their text. It’s really up to you, and what you think looks better. I used to prefer right justification, and now I prefer no justification. There are arguments and pros who do it different ways.
The customer will notice the difference on any e-reader. So, it’s just a matter of personal preference.
Q: If I use bold, italics, or underline something, does it show up in the e-book formatting?
A: Absolutely. If you bold, italicize or underline text it will show up in your formatted document that way.
Make sure you use these different font styles sparingly, when you need to use them. If you use them too much it will lead to a poor reader experience.
Q: what about all the AutoCorrect lines that appear in my Microsoft Word document? Will they carry over into my e-book?
A: No. Your e-book will have no AutoCorrect lines in it. Your customer will not see any AutoCorrect lines in the finished e-book.
Q: What about the cover? I have someone working on the cover design for my new book. Should I embed the cover image in the Word document?
A: When you publish an e-book you upload your cover separately from your manuscript, and then the platform you upload your book to will include the book cover within your manuscript automatically. If you embed your cover in the Microsoft Word document, you’ll simply have two cover pages in the final document. It’s unnecessary, and you shouldn’t do it.
Q: Is there a cover page and a title page?
A: No. The first page of the book is going to be your title page. It’s going to have the title of your book, and then usually your copyright information as well.
Q: What goes on the copyright page?
A: The copyright page should say the authors name, the year, and whoever owns the copyright. After that, you should have the phrase “all rights reserved,” and a standard legal disclaimer for books that explicitly states the book can’t be transmitted in any way without your consent.
If you’re concerned about what to put on the copyright page, study the copyright pages of other books you own. You might also want to consult with an attorney who specializes in intellectual property and copyright to make sure you have your bases covered.
Q: Do I need an ISBN number now to publish an e-book?
A: No. You do not need an ISBN number to publish an e-book. You will need an ISBN number if you want to publish a print book or a Print on Demand book. You don’t need an ISBN number if you want to publish an audiobook or eBook though.
You might want to get an ISBN number if you have an author platform that will allow you to sell at least 5,000 copies of your book and you want to get a traditional book deal in the future. When you get an ISBN number the traditional publishing industry will track your sales numbers. If you don’t think you can sell 5,000 copies of your book you should avoid getting an ISBN number if you want to pursue a traditional publishing deal.
When you query agents and publishers the first thing they’re going to do is look for your publishing history. It’s much better for a new author to have no sales tied to their name than to have a poor sales record. If you release a book and you don’t sell at least 5,000 copies with your registered ISBN, it will be very difficult for you to gain the interest of an agent or publisher because of your poor sales history. Agents and publishers only want to deal with authors who have a proven track record of success, or no track record at all.
If you can sell 5,000 copies of your book or more, agents and traditional publishers will be interested in talking to you, because you have a proven track record of success.
Q: I’m creating a table of contents for my e-book. Do I want a dynamic table of contents?
A: The table of contents for an e-book should have no page numbers whatsoever. There’s no such thing as pages in e-books. There are times when your e-book reader may tell you you’re on a certain page number, but when it comes to the actual file itself, there are no page numbers.
E-books actually use locations, which is basically the line of text you’re on. An e-book is one large file. That’s how it’s read by an e-book reader. Traditional page numbers don’t affect the e-book reader in any way. That’s why you shouldn’t have page numbers in your e-book table of contents.
What you want for a table of contents in an e-book is a list of hyperlinks that connect to the chapters and sections of the e-book that you want in your table of contents. You create your e-book table of contents by placing an internal link in the table of contents to the place where you want people to go in your book.
My training videos at ebookpublishingschool.com go into this process in great detail.
Q: What about HTML? Do I want and need to learn this language to format my e-book?
A: No. Absolutely not. There are a lot of indie published authors who disagree with me. They say you have to know HTML, and you have to use Sigil and Calibre to format your e-book. I don’t do that, and all of my e-books have turned out fine.
The only reason you might have to understand that stuff is if you’re publishing to iBooks directly. If you’re not publishing to iBooks directly you don’t need to deal with HTML.
Of course, if you do know HTML, that can help. Like anything in life, the more you know, and the more skills you have, the better you’ll do, but it’s not absolutely necessary.
At ebookpublishingschool.com I teach you my e-book formatting process without using HTML. The same process that works for Amazon also works for Kobo, and Barnes & Noble. A very similar process works for Smashwords. And Smashwords distributes to all of the major online bookstores except for Amazon.
Q: How do I use the Kindle previewer tool?
A: You can’t upload your word file directly into the Kindle previewer. What you have to do is convert it to a .MOBI file first. Then your Kindle reader will be able to read it. You can use calibre to convert your Word document to a .MOBI file so the previewer can read it.
Calibre will actually convert your Word document or PDF into a number of different formats including .MOBI and EPUB.
I very rarely use the downloadable Kindle previewer tool, because usually it just adds steps to the process and when you upload your .MOBI file in KDP, they have a Kindle previewer tool on the cloud that will allow you to see what your book looks like. There’s usually no reason to take the extra time to view your manuscript on the downloadable Kindle previewer.
Q: For marketing, I have a shorter freebie version of my book. Do I want to give reviewers the full version of my book, or just the freebie version?
A: Always give reviewers the full version of your book. Reviewers and their reviews are valuable to your marketing efforts. You don’t want to shortchange a reviewer to try and get them to buy the full version of the book. That won’t work well for you in the long run.
Some reviewers will buy your book if they really like it to make sure you get a verified review, but that isn’t necessary at all.
It’s a no-brainer for authors to give reviewers the full version of their book for free. Reviews are highly valuable.
Q: Should I publish a shorter free version of my book along with my full book?
A: I don’t like to do that personally. It’s hard to stand out in the indie publishing marketplace. It can also be really confusing for readers to have two versions of your book available. You don’t want a free version of your book competing with the paid version of your book, especially if the free version isn’t as good. You’re likely to get some bad reviews that way.
Also, if you confuse your customers, they aren’t likely to download either version of your book.
Let’s say someone buys your book. They really like your book, so they go to your author page and see that you have another book that’s free. They download your free book only to find that it’s an abridged version of the book they paid for.
That devalues the book they paid for and it’s likely going to make some of your customers upset. It also wastes your readers time.
A better idea is to have a series of books and offer the first in the series as a free book, then future books in the series would be paid books. This is totally aboveboard, and readers understand this process. Offering a full novel or book for free is a great way to build up an audience.
I don’t like to confuse readers. I don’t like the idea of having duplicate content in multiple books. The ultimate cost to an e-book consumer is not just the price they pay to buy your books. It’s also the time they spend reading your books. Time is the biggest price readers have to pay, and you should value their time. Valuing your reader’s time is the only way to build a strong loyal fan base that will be evangelists for your work.
Q: Should I create a separate website and social media account for each of my books?
A: This is a great question. I’m all about simplification. I made the big mistake in the past of having multiple websites, multiple Twitter accounts, multiple Facebook fan pages, and all this different stuff I tried.
I did all that because I was in different markets and had different interests, and I didn’t want to mix my audiences. It kind of made sense for me to create different websites and social media accounts at the time. But, given my seven years of experience online, I can tell you it’s been a huge pain in the butt to have several websites to keep up with. And don’t even get me started on having several social media accounts for different things. It’s an absolute pain to manage it all.
For instance, having multiple accounts on twitter means that there are many times when I want to login to a specific account on twitter, where I have to log out, because I’m already logged in under another account. The more social media accounts you have, the more likely you are to run into this problem, and the more time you’re going to waste just trying to manage everything without getting any real work done.
Trust me. It’s not worth the headache to have multiple social media accounts.
My recommendation is that you create one website and social media account for you. If you have a pen name, and you want to be totally anonymous, you might consider creating a separate website and social media account for your pen name.
This is where you have to make the decision whether your pen name is just to provide readers with a different brand of content, or if it’s to provide anonymity. If it’s to provide anonymity, then everything has to be completely separate. And if you want complete anonymity, you should have separate bank accounts and a business entity for your pen name. You also might want to consider enabling privacy controls when you register your website.
When you buy a domain, it’s public record who bought the domain name, unless you buy WhoisGuard which costs a little bit more.
Personally, I’m not interested in anonymity. I’m interested in a simplified business where I don’t have to login to multiple accounts to do things. I want:
- One author website
- One twitter account
- One Facebook account
I don’t want to have to deal with logging into multiple accounts to manage my business.
All the time it takes to manage multiple accounts is time you can’t spend writing new books and connecting with your readers on a deeper level.
Keep everything as simple as possible so you can spend your time doing what’s important: writing more books and connecting with your readers.
Q: Does Amazon allow me to record and sell audio versions of my books?
A: Yes. Amazon owns ACX which is the biggest audiobook distributor in the world. ACX distributes audiobooks to 95%+ of the US market. They completely dominate the world of digital audiobooks. So if you want to publish an audiobook, go through ACX.
Through ACX you can find your own audio talent. You can put up a portion of your book and have narrators audition to narrate your book.
In the past, I’ve used Archangelink.com to narrate some of my audiobooks. They are audiobook producers and narrators who have really reasonable fees. They send me all of the files I need to simply upload to ACX. I’ve used them and I recommend them.
Resources Mentioned in This Fpisode
https://calibre-ebook.com/download – go here to download the calibre software. Calibre can read and format e-books. It’s a free piece of software.
https://sigil-ebook.com/ – another e-book formatting software. This one is also free. Sigil works differently and is more advanced than calibre. Sigil helps you make sure that your e-book file will render properly in iBooks, Smashwords and the other major platforms.
http://www.acx.com/ – go here if you want to create an audiobook version of your work. Here you’ll find independent narrators to team up with in producing your audiobook.
https://www.archangelink.com/ – the audiobook producers I use and recommend. Their professional and they have reasonable prices.