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Typesetting for eBooks – Advice on how to structure your eBook interior like a professional publisher.

Typesetting for eBooks – Advice on how to structure your eBook interior like a professional publisher.


Note from our Guest Blogger.

I first met David Henderson at the Jozi Book Fair in 2014. I was immediately intrigued by his knowledge of the digital publishing space, especially his fascination with using Amazon as his preferred sales platform. At the time, my knowledge extended not much further than print publishing and selling books into bookshops.

From the beginning of this year I’ve been pestering Dave with the question of how I can establish my own voice. He kept on saying, “Clare, you need to start your own blog”. I thought to myself, “Oh my word, I don’t think I can write." Yes, on a daily basis I do work with authors, but the thought of actually writing scared the ‘hebejeebies’ out of me”. So when I phoned Dave a few weeks ago to say that I was ready to move forward with my blog, he said “I’ll tell you what. I need an article for my blogsite on typesetting.” This was it, then. I could hardly refuse his kind offer.

So here it is: my very first blog post. Yeeaaahhhhh!

Hopefully I won’t bore you to death but rather that you – the loyal followers of the My Ebook blog - will find this post helpful and interesting.

- Clare-Rose Julius


Before we start I would like to define typesetting.

Typesetting for books focusses on the elements of book design like spacing, margins, typography and layout. It’s all about page design and the process of preparing manuscripts both for printing and digital formatting. In this article I will only focus on typesetting for digital.


Often authors ask me why professional typesetting is needed.

It’s simple really. Professional layout design is an integral part of the book production process and is just as important as book cover design, proofreading and editing. There are so many interesting things happening in the publishing world today and the advances in digital technology have made it easy for anyone to become an author. The problem is that typesetting is often seen as the easiest part of the self-publishing process, which means that many authors often opt to do it themselves. The reality is that if you do not know what you doing, your book can end up looking more like a school essay or undergraduate academic assignment, than an actual book.

Quite frankly, if the layout of your book doesn’t look good you’ll probably lose readers, even if your sole purpose has been to have it available for free download or other promotional uses. Some book readers can be forgiving, but regular book readers often know and appreciate good typesetting.

The first thing you have to do after you’ve successfully completed the front cover and your eBook has been edited is to decide whether to use the services of a professional or if you’re going to be brave enough to do the typesetting yourself.


Deciding on the correct service provider

Okay, so you decided to use the services of a professional. Before identifying a suitable partner it’s important to know that not all graphic designers are book publishers. These professionals often design solely for magazines, websites and other business related publications, not knowing the first thing about what it takes to typeset for books. This often results in high typesetting costs and complex layouts suitable for books and certainly not necessary for digital publishing. Note that costs can be saved when authors decide to convert print books into eBooks.

Since I need to get into the nitty-gritties of the typesetting process, I’ll elaborate in my next blog post on how you can find the correct book publishing partner.


Deciding to Do-it-Yourself (DIY) 

Typesetting for digital can be easily done with Microsoft Word. Here are a few essential things to remember when you’ve decided to do it yourself.



- Do not add any complicated design formatting commands to your eBook. Two examples: A big no-no in digital publishing is the use of drop caps and bullet points other than the round ones. The use of both these design elements may lead to conversion problems and text corruption. Please note that it’s fine to use the normal round bullet points.

- Implement a design that is neat, clean and clearly readable.


eBook Typesetting 1      eBook Typesetting 2



- Apply a layout that is uniform and predictable.

- Place text and illustrations in an effective and appropriate combination.



- Do not use more than two types of fonts. (Find great free fonts for your eBook here)

- Assign uniform font, size, colour and alignment.

- Serif Fonts (Minion Pro) are always used for the body text, but you may use san-serif (Arial) for headings. For more in-depth information of types of fonts to use visit

- One thing to keep in mind is that you have less control over font and formatting with eBooks. The reader can choose a larger or smaller font size, or even a different font depending on the e-reader.



- You can easily design text in A4 page size, although I personally opt to use A5, just in case the author decides to use the files for POD (print-on-demand) distribution as well. A5 is a suitable POD print size, and if you decide to also use Amazon’s POD function via Create Space it would not be necessary to do much reformatting on the text files.

- Keep in mind that you can’t decide what size the page is, or how the graphics will scale on any particular reading device. My advice is to keep graphics to a minimum.



- First-line indents and space between paragraphs basically have the same use. Although you only need one to get the job done. Using both is a mistake.

- If you use the first line indent (my personal choice, since it looks more professional), you should not indent the very first paragraph. First-line indent only starts from the second paragraph of each chapter. The same applies when you use subheadings or simply copy breaks in the same chapter.



- On Microsoft Word go to Page Layout, click on page set-up, click on Paper and select A5.

- Go to Margins next and select Mirrored.

- Set the text to 11 point with exactly 15 points between lines.

- Always use full justification for text. The icon can be found on the home page, in paragraph options.


And that brings us to end of this blog post. If you found it informative, please feel free to follow me on facebook.



About Clare-Rose Julius


Clare Rose Julius


Digital Diva, Publishing Personality.

Clare-Rose Julius (Distribution & Marketing Manager of Porcupine Press) is one of the founding members, as well as the director for the not-for-profit company, African Narratives, that promotes the development of independent publishing and grassroots literature in South Africa.

In 2012, she successfully completed her honours degree in Publishing Studies at the University of Witwatersrand and has been working in the industry for over five years. She possesses comprehensive knowledge of the South African publishing terrain and her main expertise lies in the field of marketing and distribution of books in South Africa. She attended the London Book fair in April 2015.



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