Let’s Talk About E-Book Formats

Learn more about e-book formats to help you discuss your options with your publisher.

There are many things to consider about the various e-book formats available to you as an author, and your publisher can help you choose which one is going to be optimal for your particular work. Today, we are covering question 5 in my “Top Ten Questions You Should Ask a Publisher Before Signing” series, “eBooks: What e-Reader formats do you provide?”

Most publishers will offer to convert your printed book into an e-book format, but the conversion process (and possibly cost) will depend upon the complexity of your book. For example, children’s picture books heavy with illustrations, or a coffee table book with numerous photos will require additional conversion work as opposed to a straightforward novel with little or no artwork. Some non-fiction (business books, medical books, etc.), that contain varying elements (quotes, extracts, case studies for example) can also add to the complexity of converting a printed book to a visually-appealing digital file.

In addition, authors should be aware of possible conversion errors as it relates to fonts as some may not translate well so a spell check should be performed prior to publishing the e-book. There are a limited amount of font choices to be viewed via e-Reader device so the fonts chosen for your printed book will likely be different for the digital version.

In the past there used to be proprietary e-book formats needed specifically for the Kindle, (.mobi file format) but Amazon now accepts an e-pub file format (which they will convert to .mobi). While some require only a Microsoft Word file (formatted to be e-pub-ready), others prefer a compressed .html file folder. An additional step would be to validate the file format, particularly epub files. (epub2 included).

I recommend finding out what file formats the publisher will provide, and which channels will the digital file be available on. Also, ask what the royalty arrangement would be. It’s important to understand that every epub distributor will take it’s cut (anywhere between 30% and 70% depending upon which territories the digital file will be sold). It can be a bit complex to track but it’s important for authors to have an understanding on how distribution works for the digital version.

And last, I do not recommend authors share native digital files directly to reviewers, or colleagues by way of emailing or file sharing method. Instead find out what their eReader-specific email is and email it specifically to that address. This will ensure the content will be safe from any pirating potential.

Which e-book formats will work best for your particular work of art will be extremely helpful in knowing both how your book will render in an e-reader and how it can help  become a success in this alternative format of publishing. Be sure to cover all your questions when talking with publishers and their responses will help you know who can give you the best results.


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