Kindle Ebook Formatting Example

Ebook

KINDLE FORMATTING EXAMPLE

I just published a new Kindle e-book and it occurred to me that it might be helpful to show on my blog how I formatted it.

This way, you can see an actual example of the formatting in action. You can also check out the free sample if you have a Kindle to see how it turned out. (Or the whole book, free if you have Kindle Unlimited; just 99 cents to buy.)

It’s a fun little book (by fun, I mean it involves puzzles—word scrambles, but not the usual variety: these have a Romance theme). But even if you don’t like the book, you can still check out the free sample to explore the features and how they were made. After all, this article isn’t about word scrambles; it’s about formatting Kindle e-books.

Formatting a puzzle book or a workbook for Kindle poses several formatting challenges. We’ll explore some of these in this article.

If you’re self-publishing a novel or nonfiction book, even though it’s somewhat different from a word scramble book, it involves many of the same formatting features. So this article and the book itself serving as an example can help you see firsthand how to implement those features on Kindle.

It’s 2015 and publishing is dynamic. What worked well for Kindle in 2009 or 2012, for example, may not be quite the same in 2015. Some things have stayed the same, but much has changed.

Plus, the more books you design for Kindle, the more your eye for the design of digital books changes.

This book has a different look and style compared to my other e-books. It has some features that I feel are better. I’ll describe a few design choices along the way, and a few features of Kindle design that I’ve come to regard as ‘better.’ But remember, when it comes to style, ‘better’ is just an opinion. One designer’s ‘better’ is another designer’s ‘worse.’ 🙂

CONTENTS

I’ll begin with some basic Word formatting for Kindle. If you already know how to format a Word document for Kindle, you can skip the first sections below (though you never know when you may learn something you didn’t know before).

Then I’ll introduce a book to serve as an example of my Kindle formatting, and I’ll discuss a few design issues. I’ll also describe a few improvements that can be made rather quickly beyond Word to Kindle formatting, showing my recent book as an example.

You’ll find specific directions for how to quickly implement some formatting tricks toward the end.

MICROSOFT WORD KINDLE PREP

I began the Kindle formatting with a simple plain text version of the book. (It’s also available in paperback, so ultimately I needed one file for Kindle and a totally different file for print. Yet at the same time, it’s important to have identical content for both.)

I used the Replace tool in Word to remove:

  • two consecutive spaces. I put two spaces in the Find field and one space in the Replace field. I continued to hit Replace until there were no matches found.
  • blank lines. I typed ^p in the Find field and deleted everything from the Replace field. There isn’t a single blank line in the book, yet there is space between some lines which creates the same effect. More on this later. You may also want to put ^l (lowercase L) in the Find field in case you have another kind of line break.
  • tabs. Type ^t in the Find field and make sure that the Replace field is empty. (There were none to be found, of course, as I know not to use the tab key in the first place.)
  • page breaks. Put ^m in the Find field to remove ordinary page breaks. (If you have section breaks that are also page breaks, you want to remove those, too.) My book does have page breaks, but I make them a different way in the Kindle edition.

I don’t have headers, page numbers, or other print-only formatting features in my original Word file for Kindle.

You also have to be careful not to use any unsupported symbols.

What about the formatting? Don’t worry; we’ll get to that.

IMAGES IN WORD

I even removed all of the images from the Word file. You can leave them in Word, but I like to apply a simple trick to improve the way that pictures are displayed (revealed later in this article), and as long as I’m doing that, I just save all the pictures for later. I just write things like “Pic1” or “Pic5” on their own lines where I want the pictures to go later. Well, I did put one figure in, just so that Word would recognize the file as containing images, which I replaced later. (If my trick is new to you, things will be simpler if you leave the images in Word.)

If you prefer to leave the images in Word, or if you intend to upload a Word document to KDP, here are a few things that you may wish to know:

  • Word may reduce the size of your image when you insert it. Word wants your picture to fit in the margins shown on the screen, so if necessary, it will reduce the width. Right-click on the image, choose Size and Position, find the Size tab, and enter 100 for the width (and height). This may cause your image to appear larger than the page in Word, but don’t worry about that, as that isn’t how it will look on a Kindle.
  • Setting the width to 100% in Word does NOT make the image appear full-screen on Kindle devices.
  • Right-click the image and change Wrap Text to In Line With Text. Place the image on its own line.
  • Use Insert > Picture to insert your images; don’t use copy/paste from outside of Word.
  • Crop, size, and format the picture with image-specific software before inserting into Word. If you do these things within Word, note that these features won’t be saved and propagated through to Kindle with Word’s default settings.
  • If you upload a Word file, sometimes a drop shadow appears along the edge of one or more images. If so, the simple solution is to upload a compressed zipped folder instead (described later in this article). If you opt to do this, it also gives you the flexibility to make your images display better.

WORD FORMATTING FOR KINDLE

The key to predictable and consistent formatting from Word is religious use of the paragraph styles.

In Word 2010 (and 2007 and 2013) for Windows, these appear on the top right half of the Home ribbon at the top of the screen.

It’s a mistake to highlight a paragraph and apply formatting directly to what’s highlighted. If you’ve already done that, you can find a Clear Formatting button on the Home tab.

The way to format a paragraph is to create a style, format the style just the way you want, and simply associate that style with the desired paragraph(s). Place your cursor within the paragraph and simply click the style button to apply that paragraph style to the paragraph.

You can highlight a word, phrase, or sentence that’s part of a paragraph and apply formatting, like italics or boldface, to that. But don’t do this for an entire paragraph. To format an entire paragraph (or a chapter heading, like Chapter 1, which is a paragraph), instead format a style and apply the style to the paragraph.

The Normal style is the default for body text. Once you’re typing body text with the Normal style, simply pressing the Enter key will let you type another paragraph with that same Normal style.

Right-click a style to modify it. Click the funny-looking little arrow-like icon in the bottom-right corner of the group of styles on the Home ribbon. This opens up a window of styles at the right side of the screen.

Styles Location

Styles Options

Find the three buttons at the bottom of this new window. The left button lets you create a new style. When you create the new style, give the style a name that will help you remember which style is which. Choose which current style the new style will be based on.

MICROSOFT WORD’S STYLES

The Normal style is designed for the majority of your body text paragraphs, though you’ll want to modify the settings of this style before using it. You may need one or more variations of the Normal style, for example a similar style for the first paragraph of each chapter (e.g. if you don’t want to indent the first paragraph of each chapter, as is common among most traditionally published books).

Use Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3, etc. styles to format headings that you’d like to be used in navigation. Kindle tends to automatically use your heading styles for built-in navigation (though it may take some time after publishing before this is done). You may want to use the Heading styles for chapter headings (like Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc.) and some front or back matter sections (e.g. Introduction, Appendix), for example.

Think about other kinds of paragraphs that you may want to be formatted differently. For example, you might want a block of text for quotes that is indented from both the left or the right. Or you might want a centered line for figures or for text that you don’t want to be used in navigation.

Modify the Normal, Heading 1, and Heading 2 styles, and then create new styles—as described in the previous section. Once you have all the styles for the variety of paragraphs that are used in your book (including “paragraphs” that only consist of a few words or an image on one line, or lines from your table of contents, for example), then you just need to apply the appropriate style to each paragraph.

Except for the Normal style, you can check a box so that any changes you make to that style automatically apply to every paragraph of that style when you modify the style. Otherwise, and for the Normal style, if you want to update every paragraph of that style, open the style box on the right of the screen (see the instructions in the previous section), place your cursor on a paragraph of the style you want to modify and update, right-click the style in the box at the right (not the top), choose Select All, click Modify, and then update the style and the changes should propagate throughout.

FORMATTING WORD’S STYLES

For each style (Normal, Heading 1, Heading 2, and variations of these that you use), you need to modify the style to adjust the font and paragraph settings.

Leave the color set to automatic, except where you need to create text a different color. For example, if you want a heading to appear in red or blue, you can change the color for that heading style. Don’t set the color to black for body text; leave it set to automatic. (Note that colored text may not appear as nice on black and white devices; for example, red stands out in color, but appears gray on black and white devices).

The default Word font style (Times New Roman or Calibri) is simplest. This will allow the user to choose a font to his or her liking. There is a better way to treat the fonts, as I’ll describe later.

Font size is something that you must set in Word if you intend to upload a Word doc, but which the user will ultimately take control over. So font size is relative. The points don’t translate perfectly from Word to Kindle. Kindle doesn’t discriminate between some close font sizes. If you use 12 pts for body text and want a heading to appear twice as large, you might try 24 pts, for example. Some trial and error is wise. If the font for a heading is too large, for example, a long word (like INTRODUCTION) might not fit on a single line on some devices (though when a user chooses a very large font on a cell phone, that’s virtually unavoidable), so it pays to test it out. There is a better way to set font size than by doing so within Word, as I’ll explain later.

To adjust the font in Word, don’t highlight an entire paragraph and change the font for that paragraph. Instead, right-click a style to modify it, click Format, choose Font, and modify the font for that style. Then simply associate that style with the desired paragraph(s).

You must similarly adjust the paragraph settings. Right-click a style, click Modify, choose Format, and select Paragraph.

This is where you can set Space Before (or After, but I prefer to use Before only), if you would like headings or the first paragraph of a chapter (only if you create a separate style for it) to have space above it. This is better than inserting blank lines with the Enter key. Why? Because it looks funny when a blank line happens to appear at the bottom or the top of a page, or a blank line that you’d like to serve as a section break may not be visible in such a case. (Using asterisks, * * *, centered on a line by themselves, or a glyph, provides a section break that won’t get lost. Pad your glyph with space on the sides so it doesn’t zoom to full-width on old devices, perhaps a clear background with a .gif, with black or sepia user options in mind.)

Instead of inserting manual page-breaks, you can include this in a style, too. You also find this in Modify > Format > Paragraph for a style, then choose the Line and Page Breaks tab, and check the box for Page Break Before (but note that most of the other options on that tab don’t propagate through to the Kindle; page-break works, though).

The paragraph setting is also what you need to use, within the style itself, to treat indents in a way that will work predictably and reliably.

HOW TO INDENT FOR KINDLE E-BOOKS

The wrong ways to indent lead to inconsistent indents in Kindle e-books:

  • Don’t use the tab key at all.
  • Don’t use the spacebar to create indents.
  • Don’t rely on automatic indentation.
  • Don’t go to the paragraph dialog box and set First Line for a particular paragraph. Close, but no cigar. You need to do this for a style instead to achieve the most reliable and predictable indents across all devices and the challenging, yet all-important, Look Inside.

Right-click a style to modify it, click Format, Select Paragraph, change Special to First Line, and enter a value for the indent there.

  • Do this for all non-centered styles, including justified and left-aligned (ragged right) styles.
  • Do this for Normal and variations of Normal that will be justified or left-aligned.
  • Set the indent to 0.2″ or 0.3″ for indented paragraphs. The default value of 0.5″ appears too large, especially on small devices like a cell phone. (There is a better way, which I’ll describe later.)
  • Don’t choose (None) for paragraphs that you want non-indented (like the first paragraph of a chapter, if you have a special style just for those paragraphs, or the lines of your table of contents page). This won’t work. Instead, set First Line to 0.01″ to create non-indented paragraphs.
  • For centered paragraphs, do set First Line to (None). This only works for centered styles. (You don’t want centered styles, like Heading 1, to include indents, otherwise they’ll appear off-center.)

OTHER FEATURES FROM WORD

There are two different ways to format a table of contents in Word for Kindle. There is a table of contents tool, or you can create bookmark hyperlinks. There is yet a third way to do it if you wind up exporting Word’s HTML to create an epub or mobi file. On top of this, Kindle may build in navigation (after a lengthy delay once your book is published) based on h1, h2, etc. tags (Heading 1, Heading 2 in Word).

You can also create other bookmarks for built-in navigation. For example, if you type “See Section 4,” you can use bookmark hyperlinks so that when the reader clicks Section 4, it takes the reader directly to that section. If you have external hyperlinks, e.g. the url to a website, you can similarly activate these.

Footnotes and endnotes in Word also propagate to Kindle.

MY KINDLE EXAMPLE

Below is a picture of how a portion of my sample e-book appears in Microsoft Word. If you look above Contents, you can see “pic 2” on a line by itself. Later, I turned that line into a picture. Remember, it’s not how the book appears in Word that matters, it’s how it appears in Kindle that counts. Later in this article, I’ll describe a few ways to improve the formatting from how it appears in Word.

Ebook Word

Here is how the beginning and introduction look in the actual Kindle e-book:

Ebook Kindle 3

I’ll discuss some design choices and a simple way to make further improvements. In case you may want to check out the free sample to see the example firsthand, click the image below:

Click the image to view at Amazon.

DESIGN ISSUES

DECORATIVE IMAGES

There are four decorative images in the front matter. The paperback edition includes some visual elements, so the hope was to incorporate a taste of that visual impression into the Kindle edition.

However, square images (like a heart), full-page images, or tall images take a great deal of room on a screen, which can impact the readability. For one, it serves as a long gap between the text that comes before and after the image. Also, you have limited control over where the paragraphs of text preceding and following the picture will appear. You can wind up with a lot of white space on the screen prior to the image, or you can have one line of text above or below the image, etc. When an image is a crucial part of the book, you do your best to work with it. But for decorative touches, I didn’t want to use an image that may cause such issues.

So I went with wide, short images. These don’t take up much space vertically. You can see one of these pictures in the previous section. (An alternative would be a glyph, padded on the sides so it doesn’t blow up to full-width on certain devices.)

FRONT MATTER CHOICES

Another design choice is which sections to include in the front matter. Some people move the copyright notice and table of contents to the back matter in order to maximize the potential of the Look Inside. A few cram extra stuff into the Look Inside, hoping to make it easier for customers to reach that 10% mark, so crucial for Kindle Unlimited. Neither of these reasons appealed to me.

I included a short, basic copyright notice in the front. I feel that customers generally expect to see this; it’s a standard part of a book; I didn’t want its absence to stand out, and I believe its inclusion, if done well, can help signify that professional touch. Virtually nobody will read the copyright page, but everyone will notice it briefly while passing by (except when they first open the book in a Kindle, where Amazon starts the book after this position; but I’m more worried about the customer on Amazon’s website, checking out the Look Inside).

I also opted to include the table of contents in the front. This book has 88 pages of puzzles. I didn’t want to include 88 entries in the table of contents. So I divided the table of contents up into Puzzles 1-8, 9-16, 17-24, etc.

FRONT MATTER ALIGNMENT

Both the copyright notice and table of contents in this book are centered. For a multi-level table of contents, I would format it left aligned (ragged right) instead, and use indents (through styles) for the various levels. I might use left alignment for most tables of contents, in general, but if you look at this puzzle book, very much of it is centered (including the puzzles), so this kind of fits.

Many traditionally published books center the copyright page, while others are justified and yet others are left aligned (ragged right). In the past, I’ve often used justified or left alignment for the copyright page, and I’ve often noted formatting issues on one or more devices. For example, the last word (like the line with the title or subtitle) might wind up on a line all by itself, or when justified, there can be some large gaps (or one line might not even justify, in the extreme cases). These problems tend to occur more with many copyright pages, and if you include it in the Look Inside, you want this section to look good. Some of these issues can be avoided with proper centering. (Don’t center each sentence of your notice; put it all in one centered paragraph; but the title lines and copyright date lines need to be on their own lines.)

HEADING & SUBHEADING ALIGNMENT

If you have any lengthy chapter titles, headings, or subheadings (for large fonts on small screens, it doesn’t have to really seem ‘lengthy’), you can run into similar issues, deciding between centered or left aligned. (Definitely, don’t justify the headings.) (Another thing to note is that left alignment, i.e. ragged right, can sometimes be a little tricky to pull off if you upload a Word document; it’s more reliable if you just go a quick step beyond Word, as shown later in this article.)

FORCED LINE BREAKS

Sometimes, it pays to force a break to avoid a bad break. For example, the authors are listed as Carolyn Kivett & Chris McMullen. I spread this onto three lines (with the & on its own line). Why? Because on a smaller screen or with a larger font size selected by the user, we could wind up with Carolyn Kivett & Chris showing on one line and McMullen on the next line, which would look unnatural. Separated on three lines avoids that possibility. You can’t do such things with body text, but everywhere else you can keep such things in mind.

But be careful. If you take something too long and break it in half, you might get bad breaks in between. For example, suppose you have two short sentences and decide to place each on its own line. This sounds good until you see the last word of the first sentence wind up on the second line all by its lonesome on a smaller screen or with a larger font.

Remember, don’t try to force breaks in body text paragraphs. It will surely backfire on some devices.

PARAGRAPH ALIGNMENT

Novels and most nonfiction should have indents, but no spaces between paragraphs, in the body text. (But the first chapter of each paragraph is ordinarily not indented.)

My example is a puzzle book. The puzzles themselves are centered, as is much of the front matter. I formatted the Introduction with block paragraphs, i.e. it has space between paragraphs, but no indents. This isn’t your standard nonfiction book, so these block paragraphs fit in with the design.

Definitely, don’t use indents and block paragraphs, or your book will stand out, probably not in a positive way; readers just aren’t accustomed to that.

Readers expect novels and most nonfiction to have indents, but no space between paragraphs. A few kinds of technical books, for example, tend to have block paragraphs (space between, but no indents). If you have a nonfiction book, see what’s common among very similar books.

DESIGN CHALLENGES

One of the challenges in designing a puzzle book or a workbook is that in print, answers are usually collected in the back. That’s just incredibly inconvenient in an e-book.

It’s more convenient to use footnotes for the answers. Unfortunately, if you publish a workbook or puzzle book with answers in both print and digital editions, this would entail much restructuring. (But if you’re really handy with programming, you might be able to restructure your book efficiently that way. I actually went into Excel and efficiently restructured the book there to move the hints and answers from the back of the book into their respective puzzles, but let me warn you, it’s much more straightforward to restructure this with programming than to do it with Excel.)

Another challenge with puzzles and workbooks is that you can’t write in an e-book (well, maybe you could create an ‘app’ instead of a ‘book’). A crossword puzzle, word search, or Sudoku puzzle can’t be ‘read’ as a ‘book,’ for example. But you can do a word scramble in your head.

My biggest struggle with this book was that each puzzle contains 6 word scrambles plus a theme (also scrambled). Since all 7 words go together, it really makes sense for all 7 words to lie on a single page. That’s the way it looks in print (the print edition also includes nice visual decoration). But it’s a big problem for Kindle.

The only way to guarantee that all 7 word scrambles for each puzzle would appear on a single ‘screen’ in Kindle is to format the entire page as an image, but then it wouldn’t likely be readable on a great many devices. Unfortunately, one or more words for a puzzle will go onto the following screen on smaller devices, or any device with a large enough font size selected.

I could have tightened the space between puzzles, but I preferred to add space between the lines of each puzzle (using Space Before, in the styles, not with the Enter key), as readability is important to help focus on one word scramble at a time.

I made a draft without using page-breaks at all, and I rather liked how that looked and read, but in the final product, I included page-breaks. Since each puzzle has a theme, a page-break seemed the natural way to collect the themes together.

IMPROVEMENTS

I took a few quick and simple steps to improve the Kindle formatting.

Below, I show you exactly what I did and how I did it.

You can follow the same steps. Really, there is nothing to learn. You just have to follow directions. 🙂

It will improve the formatting.

FILTERED WEBPAGE

In Word, Save As a filtered webpage (don’t choose single-file webpage), then open the file in Notepad. (An alternative is Sigil, which can help you create an epub, but there is a learning curve for using Sigil.) I’ll describe minimal changes to look for in Notepad. Don’t open the filtered webpage in Word.

If your file has images, there is another step to take before you open the file in Notepad. Find the file on your computer (in My Documents, or wherever you saved the filtered webpage). Right-click on the file, click Send To > Compressed (zipped) folder. This creates two folders: one with images and one zipped folder. Find the image folder (you may have scroll to the top) and drag it into the zipped folder (both folders have the same name as the filtered webpage file).

When you want to edit the file in Notepad, open the filtered webpage, and after saving the filtered webpage, find it and drag it into the zipped folder to replace the old file.

STYLES

When you open the filtered webpage in Notepad, you find the styles at the top.

I delete the font definitions: Everything beginning with /* Font Definitions */ and just before /* Style Definitions */.

I next improve the styles that you find under /* Style Definitions */.

Be careful to type everything exactly (or use copy/paste, as typos here can create havoc). Don’t forget the semi-colon (;) at the end of each line.

The top of each style (Normal, Heading 1, etc.) should include:

margin-top:0in;
margin-right:0in;
margin-bottom:0in;
margin-left:0in;

Exceptions: (1) When you want to include space before a paragraph, change margin-top from 0in to 2em, for example, where an ’em’ is a helpful unit in typography. (2) When you want to a create a block indent, e.g. for quotes, change margin-left and/or margin-right to 2em. This indents every line from the left (or right, or both), not just the first line.

For styles where you want a page-break before (perhaps a chapter heading style), include this line in the style definition:

page-break-before:always;

Control paragraph alignment and indents with lines like these in the styles:

text-align:justify;
text-indent:0;

The word justify could also be left or center, depending on how you want that style to be aligned. Heading styles are often centered. Most body text is usually justified.

Set text-indent to 0 for any paragraph that you don’t want to be indented. While zero doesn’t work in Word, it does work here.

For the Normal style or any other styles that you do want indented, I recommend 2em (two em’s), as in

text-indent:2em;

This way, your indent size will depend on the font size that the user selects. While a percentage seems like it would better match the screen size, it comes out way too big in the Look Inside, which is your main selling feature.

However, you should control the font size with a percentage, such as

font-size:100%;

Regular body text should be 100%. I used 150% for headings.

I remove all mention of font families by changing these lines to:

font-family:;}

You should only have the closing brace } if this is the last line of the style’s definition.

There are other changes that I make, and other things I do to clean up my file; I’m taking a minimalist approach here to keep things simple.

IMAGES

Find the paragraphs that call your images. One way to format them better is like this:

<img style=”width: 100%; height: auto;” width=”2048″ height=”342″ alt=”” src=”Filename/Picname.jpg”>

Only include the “width: 100%; height: auto;” if you want the image to fill the width of the screen. (Note that older Kindles automatically fill the width anyway, so if you don’t want an image to zoom full screen, you should pad it instead.)

Don’t use 2048 and 342. Use whatever size the image is (most likely, if you have multiple images, they will differ in size; find the sizes of your images).

It may seem redundant to also include the width and height size if also setting the width to 100%, but this may speed things up on some devices.

Word can resize your images on you, so you should check the point values in the HTML and also in your compressed image folder. If it was resized, you can delete an image from the compressed image folder within the compressed zipped folder and copy/paste it back in (based on your original).

If the src= part at the end doesn’t specify your file location correctly, the image won’t display in the Kindle e-book. (So you should check every picture when you preview it.)

The img style should be part of a paragraph, like:

You’ll probably have a p class instead of a div class. I use the Replace tool in Notepad to change every <p into <div and every </p into </div throughout the file.

OTHER

There are more things you can change, but again I’m trying to keep the changes to a minimum for simplicity.

If you want to see how clean your Word file is, try using the Find tool and looking for span, font, color, <br, clear all, and things like that. If you have a lot of spans (other than endnotes), it probably means you had a habit of highlighting text or paragraphs and applying formatting to what’s highlighted. The more you get in the habit of using styles for paragraph formatting, the more that will reduce those spans. Those breaks (br) and clear all’s can arise from manual page breaks, Enters, etc.; these come out cleaner when you build the page-break into the header style and when you use Space Before in the paragraph style instead of using the Enter key (don’t add these features to every style; just figure our which kinds of paragraphs should have space before and add it to paragraphs of those styles). If you find the word font (other than in your style definitions), it probably means that you highlighted text or paragraphs and selected a font style, size, or color. Try to break that habit (except when you need a portion of a paragraph, rather than the entire paragraph, to format differently).

CONSISTENCY AND PREDICTABILITY

It’s worth browsing through your p-tags. They begin <p class=, such as <p class=MsoNormal>, unless you changed all the p tags to div tags like I do, then you’ll have things like <div class=MsoNormal> or whatever you called the style.

Your HTML will tend to produce more consistent and predictable results if you don’t have overrides in your paragraph tags. Examples of overrides in your paragraph tags include <p class=MsoNormal align=center> or <p class=MsoNormal style=’text-indent:.3in’>. These are contradictions. The Normal style says to justify, while your p tag says to align center. Unfortunately, when you have contradictions like this, the Look Inside doesn’t always choose the way you’d like.

These contradictions come about when you don’t use the styles religiously. If you highlighted a paragraph and changed the alignment to center, you create a p tag like <p class=MsoNormal align=center>. What you should have done is create a centered style and simply associate that style with the paragraph to create a p tag like <p class=Center>. Similarly, don’t highlight a paragraph and change First Line for the highlighted text, as that creates a p tag like <p class=MsoNormal style=’text-indent:.3in’>. The better thing is to create a new style with the indent you need, then simply associate that style with the paragraph. If you see overrides in your paragraph tags, you want to change your habit of formatting highlighted paragraphs and use the styles instead. That will give you the most reliable formatting.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more

We Had a Publishing Dream

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Flag border from ShutterStock.

 

Who doesn’t dream of freedom?

Though no dream of freedom may be more famous than the one by Martin Luther King, Jr.

With no intention of taking away from the holiday related to King’s famous dream, I wanted to write a humble poem about another kind of freedom that has come about recently.

We had a dream of writing,

Of putting pen to paper,

Of sharing our written words with others,

Of publishing.

We had a dream of publishing,

Without fear of rejection,

Without jumping through hoops,

Without knowing the right people,

Without wasting energy on queries and proposals.

We had a dream of publishing freedom,

Where all books are given opportunity,

Where all authors have potential,

Where readers decide what is or isn’t worthy.

And then one day, several years ago,

I was shopping at Amazon,

I discovered a link to CreateSpace,

I learned about Kindle Direct Publishing,

I tried out self-publishing,

And I found that some dreams do come true.

Self-publishing brings authors together,

Connects readers with authors.

Self-publishing is open to everyone,

No matter who you are.

(And if you don’t want to publicize who you are,

You can even hide behind a pen name.)


 

Copyright © 2015 Chris McMullen

The Ebook Doctor — Part Three – Anatomy of an Ebook, continued

Helpful info here.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Inside the Ebook file

In the previous section we looked at the principles and some useful tools for examining Ebooks. Today we will take a detailed overview of what is inside the Ebook file.

Apart from the book text, the files stored inside the Ebook Container will also include some key administrative files that help the E-reader navigate through the files and also give it the information about the book:

  • a Metadata file
    This holds the information about the book title, the author, the publisher, the language of the book, ISBN, description of the book, keywords etc.
  • a Contents file
    This holds a list of all the files contained in the package/container
    It also contains the reading order for the text files tells the E-reader where to place images;
  • and an NCX file
    This is the Navigation Control file for XML, which holds the navigational Table of Contents for the book…

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Kindle Unlimited Myths

Kindle Myths

KINDLE UNLIMITED MYTHS

There are many myths about KDP Select floating around.

We now have several months of data, including data released directly from KDP.

In some cases, these facts debunk popular myths.

Let me begin by answering a question that may be on many authors’ minds, and then I’ll get to the myths vs. facts about Kindle Unlimited.

WHAT DID KINDLE UNLIMITED PAY IN DECEMBER, 2014?

Kindle Unlimited paid $1.43 per download read to 10% in December, 2014.

This brings me to the first myth.

MYTH #1: KINDLE UNLIMITED IS GOING DOWN EVERY MONTH

Actually, it’s gone up a little the past two months.

In October, 2014, it was $1.33. It climbed up to $1.39 in November, 2014, and again to $1.43 in December, 2014.

Despite the extra holiday traffic in December—especially, the after-Christmas traffic with people who received new Kindles—the Kindle Unlimited payments went up.

I think that’s a great sign.

MYTH #2: MANY AUTHORS ARE DROPPING OUT OF KDP SELECT BECAUSE THE ROYALTIES ARE TOO LOW

Amazon released data today (January 15, 2015) that contradicts this myth.

According to Amazon’s announcement, the renewal rate for KDP Select has remained above 95% each month in 2014.

Have you heard that 25%, 50%, or even 70% of KDP Select authors are dropping out of Select? Have you heard that soon there won’t be any good books to read in Kindle Unlimited? Wrong!

Fewer than 5% are dropping out.

This also shows that the vast majority of KDP Select authors are content (at least) with the KOLL payments.

At least, many feel that the benefits of staying in outweigh the cons of leaving, or continue to wait one more month to see which way things are headed.

With another month of the KOLL payments increasing, they’re headed in a positive direction.

MYTH #3: AUTHORS ARE LOSING MONEY WITH KINDLE UNLIMITED

In an announcement released by Amazon today (January 15, 2015):

  • KDP Select authors have seen faster “a la carte sales growth” than both KDP overall and Kindle overall during the five full months of Kindle Unlimited.
  • The total royalties paid to KDP Select authors for the full five months of Kindle Unlimited “more than doubled” in comparison to the same data from 2013.

No wonder there is a 95% renewal rate.

For every author who is losing money with Kindle Unlimited, there are several others whose books are thriving in the program.

MYTH #5: KINDLE UNLIMITED FAVORS 99-CENT E-BOOKS

This myth comes from the notion that 99-cent e-books earn the same Kindle Unlimited royalty as $9.99 e-books. In fact, for a 99-cent e-book, the KOLL payment actually exceeds the list price. Imagine earning $1.43 for a 99-cent book, instead of the usual 34 cents.

The worry is that more authors will put out less effort, writing shorter and shorter books.

But wait! That doesn’t mean that Kindle Unlimited subscribers are suddenly going to start preferring e-books that reflect less effort! Most authors who write shorter e-books will discover that the shorts market isn’t easy to crack.

Here’s the FACT:

According to Amazon’s announcement today, “total earnings on titles priced $2.99 or greater are growing faster than the overall average. The same is true for titles 150+ pages in length.”

Aha! Kindle Unlimited subscribers aren’t diving down for shorter e-books after all. They’re looking for a good value, just as might be expected.

A related worry is that authors of $2.99 and higher e-books will put out of the program, so all that will be left are shorter e-books.

But here’s another FACT: There is a 95% renewal rate. With KDP Select authors seeing the fastest Kindle growth, many will be staying in the program.

MYTH #6: AMAZON DOESN’T CARE IF THE KINDLE UNLIMITED PAYMENTS GO DOWN

Back in the days where there was only Prime, the KDP Global Select Fund was around $1,000,000.

This jumped up to a few million when Kindle Unlimited came out.

In December, 2014, the KDP Global Select Fund started at $3,000,000.

Amazon added another $4,250,000 on top of this.

This brings the December, 2014 KDP Global Select Fund up to $7,250,000.

They more than doubled the three-million dollar starting value.

That’s a lot of money.

Amazon paid a huge sum of money, much more than originally announced.

Amazon did this to raise the KOLL payments up to $1.43 from November.

They could easily have dropped it down to the $1.20’s, not much lower than it had been, and this small difference would have saved Amazon a very large sum of money.

To me, this shows that Amazon wants to retain the authors who’ve remained in KDP Select, by trying to prevent the KOLL payments from dropping too low.

MYTH #7: AMAZON DOESN’T CARE ABOUT AUTHORS

I know, Amazon is first and foremost a business. The number one priority is profit, right?

But the customer is paramount toward long-term profit, and Amazon has proven itself to be focused more on long-term gains than short-term gains (sometimes to the dismay of its investors).

Amazon has also demonstrated itself to be strongly oriented toward customer satisfaction.

Amazon rolled out its red carpet to indie authors who were being rejected time and again. Amazon has thrived from this decision, and continues to do so.

Amazon pays upwards of 70% royalties to indie authors for sales.

Kindle Unlimited is benefiting indie authors. KDP Select authors are seeing faster growth than non-Select Kindle authors. Amazon released data to support this today.

In Amazon’s announcement today, they specifically mentioned great feedback that they have received from authors, and that they are considering this feedback and how to continue to improve Kindle Unlimited for both authors and readers.

Amazon needs the support of both authors and readers to make Kindle Unlimited work.

Amazon just poured $7.25 million into the KDP Global Select Fund for December to raise the KOLL payments to $1.43 per borrow. That’s a big investment in the program.

MYTH #8: AUTHORS ARE LOSING MONEY BY ENROLLING IN KDP SELECT

If your book is priced $2.99 or higher, your royalty is $2 or more (unless you have a huge delivery fee).

Some argue that if a customer borrows your book through Kindle Unlimited and you earn, say, $1.43, you’re losing money because a sale pays $2 or more.

But here’s the thing: The customer who borrowed the book probably wouldn’t have bought the book.

I’m a Kindle Unlimited subscriber myself. In the past month, I turned down several books that I was strongly considering, but which weren’t in Kindle Unlimited. If they had been in Kindle Unlimited, I would have borrowed them. But they weren’t and I passed.

There are now three main markets:

  • Customers who aren’t in Kindle Unlimited who buy Kindle e-books.
  • Customers who subscribe to Kindle Unlimited who borrow Kindle e-books.
  • Customers who buy non-Kindle e-books.

KDP Select authors reach two of these markets.

The Kindle Unlimited market is a huge potential asset for indie authors. Customers might be willing to try a book they normally wouldn’t have read because they incur no additional cost to take a chance on that book.

MYTH #9: KDP SELECT WAS BETTER WHEN IT WAS ONLY AMAZON PRIME

The KOLL payments were higher when it was only Amazon Prime. The KOLL payment was usually $2 or a little more.

But Amazon Prime customers can only borrow one free book per month.

This means that most books didn’t receive many borrows when it was only Prime.

Kindle Unlimited is paying about 30% less, presently, than in the days of only Amazon Prime.

But there are many, many more borrows through Kindle Unlimited than there ever were through Amazon Prime.

Many KDP Select books are benefiting from these additional borrows. Not everyone, of course.

But according to Amazon’s announcement today, KDP Select authors are seeing the fastest growth, and most authors are content or happy enough to renew their enrollment.

MYTH #10: KINDLE UNLIMITED DOESN’T HAVE MANY CUSTOMERS

Amazon just put $7.25 million into the KDP Select Global Fund for December, 2014.

Yet the KOLL payment was $1.43 per download read to 10%.

That’s a very large customer base. There are millions of downloads read to 10% each month.

The KDP Select Global Fund continues to rise, a sign of a growing customer base.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Comments

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How to Remove the Background from an Object (PhotoShop Tutorial)

Background Jupiter

HOW TO REMOVE A BACKGROUND IN PHOTOSHOP

Sometimes, you find the perfect image for your needs, but it’s part of another picture.

You don’t want to use the entire picture. A simple crop won’t suffice. You’d really love to extract just that image from the background.

Similarly, if you shop for a stock image at ShutterStock or iStockPhoto, sometimes you can purchase a whole set of similar objects in a single picture, instead of buying each one individually. When the images are packed tightly, sometimes a simple rectangular crop won’t work to extract just one image. What you need to know is how to remove one object from the background.

There are several ways that you might remove an image from its background (or remove the background from an image) using Adobe PhotoShop.

I will discuss two different ways to approach this, and discuss both simple and complex cases.

The process is easiest when the background consists of a single solid cover, but in practice, that’s often not the case.

It’s good to know a variety of methods, so you can use the simplest method when it works, but have back-up plans for when it doesn’t.

Just in case your version of Adobe PhotoShop may be a little different, you may want to know that I’m using Adobe PhotoShop CC (i.e. through the Creative Cloud).

QUICK SELECTION

When the quick selection tools work the way you’d like them to, they’re fantastic.

The idea is to quickly grab one object that you “see” in the picture, and then you can simply cut it (Edit > Cut), open a new file, and paste it in (Edit > Paste).

The problem is that PhotoShop doesn’t always “see” the same sets of objects that you see with your eye and interpret with your mind.

If the background is a solid color that contrasts well with the image, the quick selection tool often proves to be very convenient.

But if the background is complex or blends in part with the image you want to grab, you might discover that this tool doesn’t always grab things the way you’d like.

Fortunately, it’s easy to test this tool out and see if it will work easily for your task. If not, you can try something else.

Find the quick selection tools on the toolbar (which appears in a column on the left of my screen). For me, it’s the fourth icon down from the top.

PhotoShop Quick Selection

There are two tools in one: A quick selection tool and a magic wand tool. Click on whichever icon appears in the toolbar and hold it down for a moment (or just right-click the icon) to display both choices, then you can switch to the other tool.

I use the quick selection tool to try and grab the object. I sometimes find the magic wand tool helpful to grab one small part of an image (or several small pieces) that I couldn’t grab all together with the quick selection tool. Despite its name, the “magic wand” tool doesn’t simply read your mind and do whatever you hope for; but the “magic” comes in when it succeeds in grabbing a small, odd shape that’s otherwise hard to select.

When you choose the quick selection tool, another toolbar appears (in my case, it shows horizontally at the top of the screen). One of these icons has a number, and allows you to choose the brush picker. Click this icon and adjust the pixel size. I usually work with 100% roundness. If it’s not doing what you want, other things you can play with include hardness and spacing.

My first goal is to get the pixel size just right. When you hover over the image, you’ll see a circle appear with cross-hairs in the middle. As you vary the pixel size, the circle resizes accordingly. I first want as large a circle as I can make without any part of the circle extending into the background. Then I position the cross-hairs over the object with the complete circle within the object, and left-click once.

You’ll see a selection path appear on the screen. If this path happens to be exactly what you want, then ta-da, you can simply go to Edit > Cut to put your image onto the clipboard.

If the selection path extends into the background, then if you cut the object out, it will include part of the background along with it. If you want to avoid grabbing part of the background, too, then you want to be careful that the selection doesn’t extend into the background. (However, in complex cases, sometimes it pays to select the object along with a little of the background, put this image into a new canvas, and then work on removing that little bit of excess background.)

If the selection path includes less than what you want to select, you can increase the selection path by placing the cross-hairs at another position in the image and left-clicking again. You can resize the circle before making the second selection. You can click a third, fourth, fifth, etc. time, as needed, to try and build up exactly what you want.

But sometimes, PhotoShop just doesn’t see the object the way you that you do, and no matter how you try to select the object, the quick selection tool just doesn’t provide the convenient option you’re looking for.

Note that you can press Ctrl + Alt + Z to go a step backward, and press it repeatedly to undo several steps (but note that there is a limit to how far you can go back, so be careful not to go too far forward if you’re just experimenting).

In the example below, I used the quick selection tool to easily remove Jupiter from the solar system picture.

Background Jupiter Before

Background Jupiter After

It wasn’t as easy to remove Saturn from this photo, however, as the dark shadows from and within the rings blend with the background. I used the quick selection three times: Once to grab the planet, and twice (with much smaller sized circles) to grab the two sides of the rings. Below it looks like it came out well because I pasted it onto a black background:

Background Saturn

However, the following picture shows that this technique didn’t work perfectly. In this case, I could use the background eraser (with a fine scale) to wipe off the little background that came with the image.

Background Saturn 2

BACKGROUND ERASER

If you’re not having luck trying to select an object with the quick selection tools, you may have better luck removing the background.

The eraser tools can help you do this. For me, the eraser tools are the 11th icon down the toolbar.

These include the eraser, background eraser, and magic eraser tools. Right-click the eraser icon to see the alternatives (or hold it down for a moment).

I usually begin with the background eraser.

PhotoShop Eraser

The background eraser can be convenient when you have an image that is distinct from a simple background.

The erasers can also be useful (though not necessarily convenient) for complex images or backgrounds. Some cases are simpler than others. The more complex cases can involve some work and patience.

Let’s look at the simple case first.

In the image below, I first attempted to remove the earth with the quick selection tool (followed by a cut and paste).

Earth 2

It looked pretty good at first, but when I pasted it into a new file, I noticed some imperfections. It’s not smooth. Look closely and you can see the inconsistency along the border.

Earth Clipped

So next I used the background eraser tool.

First, adjust the size of the background eraser. Look for the icon on the top toolbar (when the background eraser is already selected) that has a number in it. I like as large a circle that I can use that won’t create problems.

Don’t place the cross-hairs in the image that you’re trying to keep. Place the cross-hairs over the background. It’s okay for the circle to extend onto the object you’re trying to preserve in the foreground, provided that the color of the background is distinct enough from the colors in the foreground. When you have whites or grays in your image, and white on the background, for example, then the background eraser can remove the light colors from your foreground. In that case, you must be careful not to let the circle extend into those similar colors of the foreground.

It takes a little trial and error to get the size just right, and sometimes you need to use a large size for parts of the background, and a smaller size for other parts. You can eliminate a huge part of the background with an extremely large circle, but often need a smaller circle if precision removal is needed near the foreground object (but if the foreground and background colors are distinct enough from one another, you don’t need those smaller circles—precision isn’t called for).

I set the roundness to 100% for most jobs. Also play with the tolerance to get that right (is it removing too much? too little?).

I usually like to have Limits set to Find Edges, but on complex backgrounds, PhotoShop can find edges that you’d like to ignore. In that case, try adjusting the tolerance, or try contiguous or discontiguous.

Below, you can see how I used the background eraser to remove the background near the earth. (Note that with large circles it would be very easy to remove the rest. I left it like this so you can see how I got the process started.)

Earth Background

Compared to the quick selection tool, the outline of earth’s atmosphere is much smoother.

It helps to pay attention to detail when using the erasers. Sometimes, you wipe out a lot of background and wipe out just a little foreground along with it, and it’s not always easy to notice that little bit of foreground that disappeared. Watch closely.

The eraser tools don’t always work so easily. It depends on the complexity of the background and whether or not parts of the foreground and background can easily get confused by PhotoShop.

Sometimes, it’s a challenge to remove the part of the background adjacent to parts of the foreground. This often happens when there are similar colors in both.

In that case, I first trim away as much of the background as I can easily without interfering with the foreground.

Then I use the regular eraser (not the background eraser) to do some precision trimming. (Or sometimes, after removing much of the background, the quick selection tool works better than it had originally. It doesn’t hurt to try, as long as you don’t go more steps forward than you can undo.)

After selecting the regular eraser, on the horizontal toolbar at the top, a tiny drop-down arrow (at the left of this toolbar) lets you choose a chiseled or pencil eraser. The mode options include brush, pencil, or block. I find the block convenient for cutting out straight sections (and you can go to Edit > Transform to rotate the image so that the part you want to trim is perfectly horizontal or vertical). I don’t hold it down and drag the block; I cut out one block at a time (click, move, click, move, etc.), careful to line up each cut (and press undo if it’s slightly off). If it’s not straight, I may use something other than the block, and then I try dragging to erase. I do it in stages, unclicking to save one section when I’m happy with it. Precision erasing can get tedious, especially with complex boundaries.

Let me illustrate erasing with the following picture of dice that I took for my math blog.

Dice

I first cut out the purple die with the quick selection tool, but that included the shadow along with it.

Die

So then I wanted to remove the shadow. It proved not to be easy, as PhotoShop easily confused the dark purple of the die itself with the dark shadow.

I used Edit > Transform to free rotate the image until the bottom edge appeared horizontal (I later realized that the cut shown wasn’t quite parallel to that edge), and then I used the eraser tool in block mode to cut across.

Die Clipped

I next made the right edge vertical to clip up the right side, and finally cut out the corner.

Die Clipped 2

The cuts shown aren’t perfect. If I needed more precision, I could continue with precision erasing, or I could try to blur these edges to match the fuzziness of the others, etc.

The blue die was easier to extract with the background eraser, as it was easier for PhotoShop to discriminate between the blue faces and dark shadow. If you look closely, though, you’ll see that it didn’t erase completely (but that light mess could be cleaned up with some more work).

Die Rotated and Clipped

ALTERNATIVES

PhotoShop is loaded with options, from masks to clipping paths to filters. There usually are several ways to do something, not just one or two ways.

Do you have another method of extracting an image from a picture that you prefer? Please share your idea in the comments. 🙂

Image credits

All of the images used in my examples are from NASA’s website (except, of course, for the dice photo that I took myself).

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Comments

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My #Book #Marketing Secret by #Indie #Author Nicholas Rossis

Simple and effective, with three main points unlike the common “strategies.” Definitely worth checking out. 🙂

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books I made this on Quozio.com

My marketing strategy is really simple. In fact, it can be summed up as follows:

  • Be real,
  • be fun,
  • be helpful.

If you do that, people will buy your books simply because they will like you and will want to support you. In other words, “if people like what you’re saying, they’ll like what you’re selling.”

I have read many marketing guides, but have come to realize that it all boils down to how people perceive you. In marketing speech, your brand.

Having a consistent author brand is liberating. It allows you to publish pretty much anything you like, irrespective of genre. People will read your books because you have written them – and they trust you to offer them a good time.

That’s great. How about some real tips now?

The other day, a visitor to my blog asked me for…

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Which FONT Should You Use for Your BOOK? #pubtips

Images from ShutterStock

Mock covers created using ShutterStock images.

FONT SELECTION

Whether designing a book or just the book cover, the choice of font is a very important design element.

  • The right font on the book cover helps to attract the specific target audience.
  • The wrong font anywhere on the book can be a sales deterrent.
  • Overused fonts, like Times New Roman, Arial, Papyrus, Algerian, etc. can make an unfavorable impression with those who recognize them.

Fonts come in many different shapes, from rectangular to curvy. They can be simple or complex. They can be serif or sans serif (the little decorations that you see on the ends of letters). They can be thin or thick, light or bold.

So which font should you use for your book or book cover? That’s the million-dollar question. It’s worth taking time to consider it carefully.

It’s not hard to find a free or low-cost font that allows commercial use. It just takes a little knowing what you’re looking for and investing the time to do a thorough search.

CONTENTS

I will begin with a discussion of font use in book design, both inside and on the cover, including font tips.

Then I will focus on genre-specific fonts, including:

  • sci-fi fonts
  • fantasy fonts
  • romance fonts
  • horror fonts
  • western fonts
  • and other fonts

In addition, I will illustrate this with several examples of genre-specific fonts.

BOOK FONTS

Different fonts are used in different parts of the book design:

  • The cover font may be different for the title, subtitle, author name, and back cover blurb. The title keywords and the author name should be abundantly clear in the thumbnail. The title may use a fancy font to convey the genre, but not at the cost of inhibiting readability. The other fonts should be simple, so as not to clash or detract from the main font. All the fonts need to go together. Avoid using more than three fonts on the front cover (two may be better, in general).
  • The body font used inside a print book needs to be clear and easy on the eyes. Don’t use a fancy font for the body text. It may be worth going with a popular novel font like Garamond or Minion, rather than a genre-specific font, since the main feature of the body font is easy reading.
  • Inside the book, you may also have a different font for headings and drop caps, for example. The drop cap is typically fancier, but should fit the genre, yet still needs to be clear. Especially, any drop caps in the Look Inside must be very legible. Focus more on clarity than fanciness for the headings.
  • It may be best not to embed a font for the body text of an e-book, as readers are accustomed to having the freedom to choose a font of their liking.

FONT TIPS

  • Study the covers and interiors of top-selling books, including self-published books, in your specific subgenre. This will help give you a feel for how the font style should look on the cover, drop caps, headings, and body text.
  • Black fonts on white backgrounds are probably easiest to read (but you have to choose the font color that’s appropriate to the visual element and background). Keywords in the title really need to stand out in the thumbnail. Red text on black often doesn’t come out clear enough (and it’s a common mistake because red, black, and white make for a good three-color rule, just not with red text on a black background).
  • Some fonts require kerning. This refers to the space between letters. An extreme example is the Papyrus font, which is not only overused, but very difficult to kern properly. Kerning is most important for your cover fonts and heading fonts. There is an option to kern fonts in PhotoShop or InDesign, for example. Even Microsoft Word has kerning options. Place your cursor between two letters, click on the funny-looking arrow-like icon in the bottom right corner of the Font group on the Home tab, select the Advanced tab, change Spacing to Expanded or Condensed, and play with the point value. Some letter combinations are more extreme than others, such as the WA in WATER.
  • Don’t rely on the font selection to convey the genre all on its own. Phrase your title so that the genre is clear from the wording. Then the right font helps to reinforce this signal. (A subtitle can help, when necessary.)
  • Take the time to research cover fonts and drop cap fonts that suit your genre. Google things like, “perfect font for a romance novel,” and variations like that. Also, see below for some tips on selecting fonts for a few popular genres. Check the font license to ensure that commercial use is permitted (in some cases, you can purchase a license directly from the font designer or from a website that sells fonts; there are also many fonts that allow free commercial use). You do need good anti-virus software and caution when downloading any fonts.
  • Title keywords are even more important for nonfiction books. These need to be large so as to be clear in the thumbnail. Readability is most important.
  • Emphasize the right words. Essential keywords should be larger (or at least no smaller) than unimportant words like “to,” “the,” “and.”

FONT MISTAKES

  • Don’t use a cover font that signifies the wrong genre. That makes it difficult for your book cover to attract people who may actually be interested in your book.
  • Avoid overused fonts like Times New Roman, Arial, Papyrus, Algerian, etc. Though the much bigger mistake is an inappropriate font or using a font that’s too extreme, fancy, or unreadable.
  • Make sure that your fonts are clear and readable. The body text font should be very clear and easy on the eyes.
  • Keep fanciness to a minimum. Readability is more important. If a font is too fancy, you might use it just for one keyword, or one letter (but the corresponding fonts better be a great match).
  • Avoid arranging text vertically, diagonally, and in ways that impair easy reading.

SCIENCE FICTION FONTS

Sci-fi fonts need to look futuristic in some way. A common way is for the letters to be made up of mostly straight lines, i.e. no curves (or only subtle curves).

Think like a rocket. The sides of a rocket are straight, like most of the letters of sci-fi fonts. If there are curves, they need to feel spacey, perhaps like the smooth arch of the rocket’s apex. A metallic feel for the color may help (but not necessarily).

You wouldn’t want to use a sci-fi font for an entire novel (unless it’s subtle enough that it’s very clear and readable), but a good sci-fi font can help the cover send a harmonious signal.

The following Space Age font illustrates the spirit, though note that not all of the letters are clear. Avoid this font for non-obvious words, or when many of the letters of a word happen to be hard to read. (This particular font doesn’t allow free commercial use, though the cost may be affordable. You can find out here: mickeyavenue.com/fonts/spaceage/license.php. I have no connections with the font licenser; I simply found this font during my research. Personal use is free, however.)

Font Sci Fi Space AgeThe Space Marine font below is bolder and easier to read, though not quite as suggestive.

Font Sci Fi Space Marine

The following Orbitron font has sci-fi character, and is still fairly easy to make out.

Font Sci Fi Orbitron

My last example of a sci-fi font is Mashine, but don’t simply pick one of the few examples I used. There are dozens of others to choose from.

Font Sci Fi Mashine

FANTASY FONTS

Unlike sci-fi, fantasy fonts tend to be curvier, but not as much as romance fonts. This gets a bit more complicated with paranormal romance, for example. Remember that the color scheme can help a little with the differentiation (red, for example, is common in romance, though it may be the image that’s red, not the font).

A fantasy font may have a magical or other-worldly feel to it.

You have to be careful with the most extreme fantasy fonts, which can be harder to read.

There are different kinds of fantasy books, so the specific font you choose needs not just to be a good fit for fantasy, but for your specific content.

My first example of a fantasy font is Auriol (which is not free, by the way, but I purchased a commercial license for $30):

Font Fantasy Auriol

The Endor font shown below has some extreme touches. It’s more readable with some words than with others, so use it wisely.

Font Fantasy Endor

This Merienda font illustrates how the shape of the font can look more like fantasy than like romance. The strokes themselves are indicative of some romance fonts, but the shape makes it fantasy instead.

Font Fantasy Merienda

My last example of a fantasy font has some straight edges typical of sci-fi, yet the shapes of the letters look more ancient than futuristic, which makes it fantasy. Remember, there are many other kinds of fantasy fonts than just the brief sample shown here.

Font Fantasy Becker

ROMANCE FONTS

Romance fonts tend to be curvy, sometimes in a script, but not always. Beware that the script fonts are often harder to read and aren’t always available with a bold stroke.

Another consideration is that teen romance, paranormal romance, contemporary romance, historical romance, etc. are different subgenres, which may require different title fonts on their covers. It’s worth researching the top-selling books, especially those that are self-published, in your specific subgenre.

The Lust Script font below illustrates some of the curviness of romance fonts, along with some of the touches that you often see on capital letters and the ends of some letters like r’s and v’s. This font won’t come out well in all caps, by the way (though there is a non-script variation).

Font Romance Lust Script

Here, I used the same Lust Script font for the first letters and combined it with Lust (the non-script companion) at a reduced size. The result serves as a good reminder that you need to manually kern the title fonts (compare the large gap between the NA of Naughty and the RO of Romance).

Font Romance Lust and Script

The following Pollen font is more subtle. You may not want to use an extreme romance font for the title, subtitle, and author name. You need to do some research to find combinations that work well together.

Font Romance Pollen

There are many, many romance fonts to choose from, and some fonts work better in some romance subgenres than others. It’s worth doing some research to see what your options are. Script is not uncommon, but place emphasis on readability and ensuring that all your cover fonts work well together.

I made the following fancier option using pictures from ShutterStock (artist Augusto Cabral). You wouldn’t want to make much text fancy like this, but one short keyword that is easy to read might work.

Font Romance ShutterStock

Of course, you could do the same in other genres, too. But you really have to be careful not to go overboard. Using images or very fancy fonts can be hard to read, and they can detract from the main visual element of the cover. Keeping the cover fonts simple, but relevant, is a good philosophy.

But let me illustrate one more example of using imagery within the font itself. The following image is also from ShutterStock (artist Mr. High Sky).

Font Romance ShutterStock 2

WESTERN FONTS

Western fonts should look like something you’d see in a wanted poster or in a western movie, for example.

They should have a more rugged feel. The color scheme might look more like a desert or the sun (red, orange, yellow), though that doesn’t mean to make the font one of these colors. Search for some authentic western posters, books, movies, etc. to see what is common.

The following Rosewood font has some familiar western character.

Font Western Rosewood

So does this Smokum font.

Font Western Smokum

There are a variety of other kinds of fonts that clearly have a western style. Do some research to find the best one for your needs. But beware of a few that go overboard (like being entirely made out of rope).

HORROR FONTS

One way to illustrate horror is a small degree of fading. Too much fading renders the font unreadable.

Another way is to add dripping blood, but it’s not easy for that blood to look right.

Fortunately, there are many bloody, faded, and other chilling fonts to choose from, so you can find the font that fits your book perfectly with a little research. Filter out the ones that are overdone or which don’t quite pull the effect off correctly.

This Misproject font illustrates a small amount of fading away. It’s still readable.

Font Horror Misproject

Here is one more example of a horror font. This is American Shopworn.

Font Horror HWT American

While the Chiller font installed on your computer might seem convenient, it may be worth taking time to find something more appropriate. Again, don’t just limit yourself to one of the two examples that I provided to help illustrate the horror genre: Explore your options thoroughly, and also browse top sellers in your subgenre.

BODY TEXT

The body text needs to be very clear and easy to read.

Times New Roman may be overused.

Garamond, shown below, is a popular alternative.

Font General Garamond

There are other good fonts for body text, like Minion, which follows. Look at the ‘a’ and the ‘e’ to see the difference. Both of these are serif fonts, which have little marks at some letter ends to help aid in the reading.


Font General Minion

Georgia is a bolder font than Garamond, but is sometimes confused with Times New Roman.

OTHER GENRES

Another consideration, besides the genre, is the book’s era and setting. For historical fiction, it may help to signify the period more than the subgenre. For example, you might find a good font to represent the Victorian era for a Victorian novel.

The distinction between mystery, thriller, and suspense can get a little tricky. For mystery, you may be able to find a few icons to help serve as a guide, especially if your novel is similar. For example, check out the fonts used in the Murder She Wrote t.v. series or Agatha Christie’s mysteries. Whatever your genre is, you want to browse the covers of top sellers to get a feel for what the font is trying to convey and how they pull it off. Use my examples as a guide to get you thinking (e.g. sci-fi is futuristic, western is rugged, fantasy is magical or other-worldly).

For nonfiction, a very clear light serif or sans serif font is common on the cover. Clearly conveying the keywords in the thumbnail can be a valuable marketing tool for many nonfiction books.

There are many places to browse for fonts, but it may be best to start with a variety of genre-specific inquiries with Google, and remember to browse the covers of top sellers in your subgenre. Be careful where you download material from the internet. There are many sites, like Font Squirrel, Da Fonts, and fonts.com, offering free or low-cost fonts for commercial use, or you can buy font collections. Even Adobe offers a selection of fonts through TypeKit (Creative Cloud users can use TypeKit for free).

Chris McMullen

Note that I made up the names of the sample titles used to illustrate fonts. Any resemblance to any covers of books that actually use these titles or similar ones is purely coincidental.

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set now available for Kindle and in print

KINDLE UNLIMITED

Kindle Image

Background image from ShutterStock

 

KINDLE UNLIMITED

Toward the end of July, 2014, Amazon introduced a new subscription service called Kindle Unlimited, which allows customers to read unlimited books for $9.99 (US price) per month.

  • This includes 100,000 traditionally published books in addition to 600,000 KDP Select books.
  • Most of the traditionally published books are from smaller publishers, but include some popular books such as Harry Potter.
  • Customers can borrow up to 10 different books at a time (whereas Amazon Prime allows just one borrow per month).
  • Kindle Unlimited only pays a royalty when a customer reaches 10% of the book’s length.
  • All Kindle Unlimited downloads affect sales rank, regardless of whether or not the customer reaches the 10% mark.
  • Royalties for Kindle Unlimited borrows have been as low as $1.30, down considerably from around $2 prior to Kindle Unlimited.
  • Many books receive numerous Kindle Unlimited borrows, while borrows were much more scarce when it had been only Amazon Prime.
  • The KDP Select Global Fund has increased dramatically, from around $1 million to around $5 million per month.
  • Self-publishers must enroll in KDP Select in order to participate in Kindle Unlimited. The trade-off is exclusivity: You can’t publish your e-book elsewhere while your book is enrolled in the program (and you can only opt out when your 90-day enrollment period is about to renew; you must deselect the auto-renewal first).

PUBLISHING IMPACT

Remember the early days of self-publishing?

  • The naysayers claimed that it would ruin literacy, that it would be impossible to find quality books, that it would devalue books, that customers wouldn’t support it.
  • Traditional publishers and their advocates either ignored it or marketed against it, highlighting its faults and the benefits of traditional publishing.
  • Thousands of authors who had heard successful self-publishing stories sought to get rich quickly with little effort. They soon realized it wasn’t as easy as it seemed, that you really have to produce quality content for a target audience and package and market the book well, and the worst tend to fall to the bottom where they don’t get in the way.
  • But millions of readers continue to support self-published books, it’s not too hard to find good books with a little shopping wisdom, and self-publishing now takes up a significant share of the publishing industry.

History is repeating itself with Kindle Unlimited.

  • Some authors see the low payout (around $1.30) and the 10% threshold and feel that Kindle Unlimited favors shorter books. But those authors who plan to use Kindle Unlimited to get rich quickly with less effort will find, just as with self-publishing in general, that you still need to produce quality content that pleases and attracts a target audience. Nothing is easy, and there is much competition. Just turning out crud isn’t likely to be rewarded.
  • Naysayers continue to complain about literacy being ruined and books being devalued, especially now that you can read books for a low monthly subscription. But really, this works out to $120 per year, which isn’t cheap in the long-term. Kindle Unlimited may actually encourage more reading than ever before, as you need to read more books to feel like you’re getting your money’s worth.
  • Traditional publishers and their advocates aren’t sure what to make of Kindle Unlimited. Hoping it will go away doesn’t appear to be a viable solution. Some self-publishing books landed on bestseller lists when Kindle Unlimited launched.
  • There is a significant audience for Kindle Unlimited. Just compare the $5 million or so global fund to the $1.30 or so payout. There are very many books being read through Kindle Unlimited.

NEW AUDIENCE

What Kindle Unlimited really does for the publishing industry is divide the digital audience into two distinct groups:

  • Customers who purchase e-books.
  • Customers who borrow e-books through Kindle Unlimited.

Both audiences are significant.

A Kindle Unlimited subscriber isn’t likely to purchase an e-book. Not when you can get 600,000 for free. For the most part, a borrowed book isn’t a lost sale. It’s in addition to sales.

The real question for authors is this: Would you sell enough e-books through Nook, Kobo, and elsewhere (keeping in mind that Apple customers can use the Kindle app) to compensate for the borrows that you would get through Kindle Unlimited?

For new, self-published authors trying to establish themselves, it may be wise to start out with Kindle Unlimited. Many feel that Kindle Unlimited customers are more likely to give their books a shot, since there is nothing to lose. If you’re not happy with Kindle Unlimited, you can always opt out when the 90-day enrollment period ends (but you have to uncheck the auto-renew box).

I’ve read a few articles about various ‘problems’ with Kindle Unlimited. To me, these articles are ‘validating’ Kindle Unlimited more than anything else, even when they highlight drawbacks.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set now available for Kindle and in print

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