Formatting Your Book

Note: This is the Slider Two page on Authormaps home page. To read the Slider One page,”Branding Your Book” (brown tab) and the Slider Three page, “Distributing Your Book” (green tab), just click the “More” link below their introductory paragraphs on the top of Authormaps home page.

Impact of its genre on your book’s format

Print book formatting

Brick & mortar bookstores usually will not sell POD books. For one thing, most POD books are self-published books. Unless an author is a local celebrity or writes on an unusual topic or the store specializes in indie books, bookstores won’t take self-published books. Exceptions might be made for small publishers who issue POD books, but bookstores prefer to stock books they can return to the publisher if not sold.

Traditionally, librarians didn’t like to buy POD books as they considered them to be “vanity” publications. In addition, the Library of Congress will not provide pre-publication catalog records for these books. However the boom in self-publishing over the past decade has changed librarians’ thinking. And, authors can now buy pre-publication library catalog records from private companies.

If you’re thinking of creating a print book with the aid of book professionals and a printer, you may also want to contact a bookbinder, like Martin Pugh at Houchen Bindery, interviewed in my blog post, What Kind of Binding Does Your Book Need?” Just as with ebooks, there are many ways of putting together a print book.

For example, a print book can be hardback, a library-bound hardback, a softbound book, or even, in the case of very young children’s picture books – “boardbound,” meaning all the pages are rigid as boards.

Also, the first few chapters in my book, Marketing Your Book to Libraries: An Insider’s Guide for Authors, discusses other qualities, such as sizes of books, that librarians prefer to purchase for their libraries and tells you why.

Print book example of why genre matters

Let’s say you are writing a cookbook titled, Croatian Cooking for Catholic Holidays; Meals for Family and Friends to Enjoy Together. Cookbooks are a popular and well-known genre of books. They’ve been in existence for centuries.

Over time, cookbooks have come to have traditional design conventions that set them apart from all other genres of books.

For example, most cookbooks list ingredients separately from the recipe instructions. And because cookbooks are used over and over again, many cookbooks come in hardback rather than paperback format.

Cookbooks also must have indexes in order for users to quickly find recipes, and cookbook indexes must have a distinctive appearance in order to work. To see what I mean, see “Six Sizzling Cookbook Indexing Styles,” on my site,

Cookbook indexes aren’t easy to create for an ebook. However, the reason cookbooks tend to be published in print rather than digital formats is NOT because cookbooks must have indexes.

Professional indexers regularly make indexes for non-fiction ebooks.

Usually there’s no excuse for leaving an index out of an ebook. Even though eReader Search is useful tool for finding some things in an ebook, it is not a complete substitute for an index in a nonfiction ebook.

So, if it isn’t because cookbooks need an index, why aren’t more cookbooks published in regular ebook format? The unique layout of cookbooks means that to look familiar to the reader and thus, be useful, an ebook cookbook would have to be formatted in “fixed layout”.

Fixed-layout ebook format

Fixed layout ebooks look just like the print version of a book. However, unlike typical ebooks, fixed-layout font size and design cannot be changed by the reader.

Fixed layout ebooks have several disadvantages A fixed layout ebook is more expensive. It also takes longer to produce than a “typical ebook,” i.e., the kind of ebook that can be set to display different sizes of fonts, and where any excess text on the ebook “page” can overflow onto subsequent screens of that ebook.

There is another feature of cookbooks, along with children’s books and art books, that requires these ebooks to be in fixed layout form—many cookbooks offer scrumptious pictures of their dishes. This is why fixed layout ebooks are also called “illustrated ebooks”.  

For a detailed technical discussion about fixed layout format, see eBookArchitects’ page on children’s ebooks. Childrens’ ebooks are often fixed-layout or enhanced ebooks.

Note that if you plan to sell your book to libraries, OverDrive, the chief distributor of ebooks to libraries around the globe, now supplies fixed-layout ebooks to libraries.

Enhanced ebook format

Another special kind of ebook that could work for our hypothetical Croatian Cookbook is called an “enhanced ebook”Enhanced ebooks come with what eBookArchitects calls  “…interesting features like embedded media, interactivity, narration and more.

Just imagine an enhanced-ebook cookbook. It could offer videos of the chef at work, along with enabling us to hear his or her voice narrating the techniques being taught. But alas, enhanced ebooks are not taking off as expected. Why?

Here is what Peter Costanzo, ebook formatter, says is the reason there are so few enhanced ebooks:

The main problem is that the market as it currently exists does not allow publishers to deliver the same enhanced product across all current digital platforms, whether it be Apple’s iPad, Amazon’s Kindle Fire, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, and Kobo’s Arc. And when you stop and think about it, no other content creator is faced with this conundrum.

But the ebook market is in flux right now. If enhanced ebooks do take off, it may be smart to publish your cookbook in digital form as well as print form. Note that you can charge more for the added features of an enhanced ebook than you might for an ordinary ebook.

Nevertheless, the typical ebook is usually a genre fiction book – offered at a much lower price than its print counterpart.

But for those authors who wish to charge a higher price for their books, there is another kind of digital book that could work for marketing a cookbook or publishing many other “how-to” guide books. This kind of digital book already comes pre-formatted in “fixed layout”.

Instant-download PDF books

Downloadable PDF books are fixed layout digital books. PDF pages look like print-book pages, but there’s a difference. Readers can easily use the magnifying glass icon on a PDF to enlarge the page’s font for better viewing on their computer, iPad, or tablet screen.

PDF books, can be hyperlinked just like ebooks. PDF books can have an index too, even one that is linked to the text. PDF books can contain links to information on the Web as well.

Downloadable PDFs can be quickly published and updated with corrections or new information. Authors with expertise who publish how-to-guides and sell them at a price equal to or higher than a hardback book, often find that PDF books are sometimes their best choice of format.

To see examples of features that an instant-download PDF can have, see the index and table of contents for my PDF book, Marketing Your Book to LibrariesAn Insider’s Guide for Authors.

PDF format is a good choice for those who want to test a book before creating a final version or who have a book about a field with fast-changing information. With Adobe Acrobat, PDF books can be more easily and quickly revised than any other kind of book format currently on the market.

PDF format is also useful for creating free booklets in order to sell related services and products.

For example, the author of the Croatian cookbook could advertise it by offering a free PDF of a few recipes on the author’s web site.

Downloadable PDFs are used most often by authors who have special expertise that they want to share with readers or who may be possible future clients for their services.


My new page on Authormaps, “Audiobooks at The Library” covers audiobook apps for library patrons, what formats of audiobooks libraries are buying, and ways to get your audiobook into the library.

This page also discusses the  Audio Publishers Association (APA), the sponsors of an annual award event called the “Audies”. The APA web site includes valuable FAQs about Audiobook publishers and narrators that authors wanting to create an audiobook may find useful.

For self-publishers getting an audiobook purchased by libraries may be more difficult right now than for authors with a publisher, but the rate of growth of audiobook sales to libraries is doubling every year, and demand for new quality audiobooks is rising fast. Click here to read about this booming library market.

For information about audiobook distributors and rental sites see my article about  “Distributing a Book” under the green tab on the top of the Authormaps home page.

Final note about formatting your book

If you are still unsure what kind of format you want for your book, see “Book Format Pros and Cons“.

AND before you make your final decision about how how you will format your book(s), I highly recommend reading Slider Three, “Distributing A Book” because the format you choose will affect the distribution costs for your book and how you can price your book. Just click on the green tab at the top of Authormaps home page, and the “Read More” link, to view the entire article, “Distributing A Book”.


Marketing Your Book to Libraries, An Insider's Guide for Authors


   How to format indie books for the library market

Types of publishers you may want to ask to publish your book

Ways any author of any kind of book can use to get their book into libraries


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