Since this article was
written, it is a lot easier to create PDF files –
OPENOFFICE and Miscrosoft Word programs will do it with one
simple click on the PDF icon on the top task bar. The
author's original text has been modified to reflect
There are a number of situations in which you may find
it necessary to create your own Ebook.
Perhaps you want to offer information from your Web
site, or self-publish a book that you haven't been able
to market to a "traditional" publisher.
Perhaps you're working with an e-publisher, distributor
or print-on-demand publisher who wants you to provide a
fully formatted book (or who will charge extra
formatting costs if you don't).
The good news is that, with a few clicks of your mouse,
you can convert your manuscript directly into an Ebook.
The most common file format for an Ebook is Adobe Acrobat PDF.
You'll be doing the actual "design" of your book in your
word-processing program, however. (If you have a complex design
that includes lots of illustrations, you may wish to use a
desktop publishing program such as Pagemaker or Quark; however,
that's beyond the scope of this column.)
Since Word is the most commonly used word processing program
(and the program in which most e-publishers will expect your
document), this article will focus on formatting in Word.
You do not need to actually own Adobe Acrobat to convert your
Ebook into a PDF file.
However, if you want to add more features to your PDF document
(such as hotlinked URLs, forms, or pages imported from other
programs), you will need to buy the program.
It costs around $200 and is well worth the price, particularly
if you expect to create more than one Ebook.
A badly formatted Ebook will alienate readers more
quickly than a badly designed print book. At best, it will look
amateurish; at worst, it will be difficult to read or
"navigate." Fortunately, you can create a professional "look"
with just a few simple Word* commands.
* Microsoft Word and
OPENOFFICE have similar commands.
The references to specific commands in the rest of this
article usually are applicable to either word processor.
You'll need to consider
the following elements:
Most books aren't formatted to an 8.5x11-inch page. Ebooks are
typically between 5x7 and 6x9 (with 5.5x8.5 being a typical
format). Your first step, therefore, is to set a custom page
size in Word's or OpenOffice's "Page Setup" menu.
Use Word's "Format: Document" command to set margins to a
minimum of three quarters of an inch on all sides. (You may wish
to set top and/or bottom margins slightly larger if you plan to
use a header and/or footer.) Since Ebooks don't have "left" and
"right" pages, turn off the "mirror margins" option.
Headers and Footers.
Place a "running header" at the top of each page. The easiest
approach is to simply include the title of your book and the
page number. You can place this information flush left, flush
right, or centered. Place the title flush left and the page
number flush right. I recommend using a slightly smaller font
size for the header, and (if you like) using italic or bold. Another option is to put the title in your
header and the page number in your footer.
To make sure that your header doesn't appear on the first page
of each chapter, you'll need to use the "Insert: Break: Section:
Next Page" command (rather than a page break) to separate
chapters. Then, make sure that you've checked "different first
page" in the "Format: Document: Layout" menu. You can also
create a new header for each chapter (e.g., using the chapter
title rather than the book title); to do this, turn off the
"same as previous" option in the header command.
It's best to use standard fonts such as Times, Times New Roman,
Century/New Century Schoolbook, or Palatino. Non-serif fonts
such as Arial or Helvetica are good for chapter headings and
subheads. Use a minimum of 11 points for your text, and 12 to 14
points for subheads. (Keep in mind that the reader can increase
the display size of your book when reading it onscreen.) Since
some fonts look better onscreen than in print, and vice versa,
test your fonts both ways!
One nice feature of an Ebook is that it doesn't cost extra to
include photos, drawings, charts, etc. Illustrations do add to
the total file size of your Ebook, howeverÑand this is an
important consideration for the reader. (Keep in mind that many
e-publishers and POD publishers won't accept illustrations.)
If you have a scanner, you can scan your own illustrations and
convert them to .gif or .jpg files. A program like Photoshop
will enable you to crop, enlarge, or reduce those images, or
make other modifications. It will also enable you to save them
at a lower resolution, thus reducing file size.
While Word does allow you to incorporate illustrations in your
text, it's not always easy to position them precisely where you
want them. If you plan to use a lot of illustrations, you might
want to consider using a desktop publishing program. When laying
out photos or illustrations, be sure to leave an ample margin
between the image and the surrounding text, and, where
appropriate, include captions.
Your book doesn't really start with "Chapter One, page one." It
starts with "front matter," including:
A title page
A copyright page. The
easiest way to generate one of these is to check the copyright
page of any print book and type in the same information,
substituting your own name, book title, date, etc. Don't include
the "Library of Congress" information or the numbers that
indicate the "edition" of the book. Don't bother with an ISBN
unless you actually plan to offer physical copies of the book
(e.g., on disk) through electronic bookstores like Amazon.com.
Table of contents (you can
generate this automatically in Word by using "headings" formats
for your chapter titles and subheads).
While many print books number front matter separately from the
rest of the book, this can be awkward in an Ebook. The easiest
approach is to treat the first page of your book (even if it's
the title page) as "Page 1."
The back of your book is a good place for an index, your bio,
and contact information. It's also a good place to include
advertisements for any other books that you are selling. (Keep
in mind that even though your book may be formatted in one page
size, you can easily include 8.5x11 flyers in the same book!)
Formatting in Acrobat
Adobe Acrobat takes your Word document and displays it "as is"
in a PDF file. To generate a PDF file, use the "print" command
in Word and select the "Save as File" option under the "General"
pull-down menu. Select "Acrobat PDF" as the file type and set
"Destination" to "File." Hit the "print" button and your
document will be converted to a PDF file.
*In current versions of MSWord and OPENOFFICE,
clicking on the pdf icon
in the top taskbar
will create the PDF file.
You can automatically hotlink every URL in
the text (be sure to include the http:// prefix on all URLS). I
recommend underlining links or formatting them in a color, such
as blue, so that the reader will easily recognize them as
You can link
your table of contents directly to the text. You can also import
pages or files from other programs, including charts and
illustrations. (If you plan to import files, leave a blank page
in your original document, to be replaced by the imported page;
otherwise, your pagination will be incorrect.) You can also set
various protection levels for your book (including a restriction
on printing, though I don't recommend this!).
You Zip It?
If you have a "long" Ebook i.e., a large computer file you may
wish to compress it. Otherwise, your Ebook may take too long to
download. All you need to compress your Ebook is a program
such as DropStuff or DropZip; you can download free demo
versions of these programs for Windows or Mac from Aladdin
DropStuff will create a .sit file; DropZip will create a .zip
file. (I have found little difference between these two.) If you
compress your Ebook file, your readers must be able to open
those files again, so it's a good idea to provide a link to a
site where the user can download a free version of such programs
as WinZip or Stuffit Expander.
Self-publishing no longer means paying a small fortune for
design and printing. With a little planning and the right
software, you can create your own Ebook with a few clicks of a