Congratulations, you’ve done it.
You’ve finally finished writing that eBook you swore you’d make to help your audience with a problem you see all too often.
Well, now that the writing is done, you need to pull it all together in a nice layout and get it ready for distribution. But what’s the best way to do that? Is there any “tricks of the trade” when it comes to eBook design? How do you create an eBook layout that’s both appealing and easy to navigate all at the same time?
OK, first of all B-R-E-A-T-H-E. Repeat after me: “it’s going to be OK.”
There, feel better? Cool. Now on to the good stuff…
I’m about to give you a whole bunch of ideas on how you can make your eBook appealing, glamorous, and downright sexy. 101 ideas to be exact. Some are super easy, others require a little more effort – but all of them will help you produce a more interesting eBook for your audience.
So go grab a drink, get comfortable, and get ready for a bunch of tips, tricks, and techniques that will help you take your eBook from “snoozeville” to sexy in no time flat.
Ready? Here we go…
1. Don’t try to apply all these ideas into a single eBook. Pick and choose which ideas will work best for the one you’re working on, and save the rest for another time.
2. Choose a font that’s easy to read for the content of your eBook. The fonts Verdana and Georgia are considered by many to be the easiest to read on a computer screen, because the spacing of the letters is specially designed in those fonts to keep the letters from touching each other.
3. Make your type size large enough to read easily. For printed materials, 11 point type is usually the easiest to read for most audiences. However, for text that will be read primarily from the computer screen 13 or 14 point type is easier on the eyes (depending on the font). And make it slightly bigger still if your audience is over 65.
4. Match the colors used in your eBook design to the colors of your website and overall brand.
5. If most people will be printing your eBook to read it, make the orientation “portrait” – which is a fancy word for making it vertical. 8.5″ wide by 11″ high in the USA.
6. If more people will be reading your eBook on their computer make the layout “landscape” orientation – which means make it horizontal. 11″ wide by 8.5″ high in the USA.
7. If you expect people to print your eBook, keep the page count low and don’t use big photos, design elements, or areas of color. Your reader’s toner cartridge will thank you.
8. Most people can’t print color that runs right to the edge of the page. Remember to leave at least a 1/4″ margin of blank space on all sides of your pages if you want people to print your eBook.
9. Choose colors that resonate with your audience and attract their attention.
10. Never use the font “Comic Sans” unless your eBook is for kids.
11. Script fonts can be hard to read, and at times, completely unreadable. Use them with caution.
12. Never use yellow type on a white background. You can’t read it. For that matter, never use light-colored type on a light-colored background for the same reason.
13. Some people get freaked out by the number 13. Never have just 13 points, or 13 items in a list. Trust me. It’s weird.
14. Never use dark-colored text on a dark-colored background. Black type on a navy blue background is about as readable as yellow type on a white background – which is to say, not at all.
15. Don’t forget to include your logo in the design of your eBook.
16. Images help break up the page and makes a lot of text seem less intimidating. You can find nice images at good prices at iStockPhoto.com, Shutterstock.com, photos.com, or by searching Flickr for images with a “Creative Commons” license – just make sure you give proper credit if you use Creative Commons images.
17. Use headlines and sub-headers to break up your text and make it easier to read.
18. Use smaller paragraphs of 3 to 4 sentences to break up your text into “bite sized” chunks.
19. Use a minimum leading (spacing between lines of text) of 3 points larger than the actual text size. Don’t just leave the default leading. So if your type size is 14pt, your leading should be a minimum of 17pt. Slightly more is better.
20. Want a clean, modern look? Use lots of white space, pick a thin, sans-serif font (like Myriad Pro Light), keep the type size larger than normal, and make your leading twice the size of your type.
21. “Pull-quotes” are another great way to make large amounts of text visually interesting. Pick a significant point you make in the text, copy it, and place it in a colored box, then wrap the text around it. See #’s 12 & 14 about what color to make the text and what color to make the box.
22. Keep your margins consistent on every page. Having different margins on different pages looks like a mistake.
23. Make your margins uniform on all sides of the page. Having a 1/4″ margin on the top and 1/2″ margin on the sides makes you look like an amateur.
24. Be consistent with your justification (text alignment). If you start with left-aligned text, don’t switch to justified (straight edges on both sides) part way through.
25. Never center all the text on a page unless it’s a poem or the lyrics to a song.
26. Want ultimate control over your eBook design? Use professional page layout software like Adobe InDesign or Quark Xpress.
27. Pay attention to alignment throughout your document. If your text is left-aligned, make sure your header and footer elements line up with the same edge as the text. Same goes for photos, icons, infographics, etc.
28. Use red text, highlights, and bold type sparingly. If everything is bold, nothing stands out. Remember, using a lot of those text enhancements works great for sales pages, but looks cheesy in an eBook.
29. Italic type is hard to read. Use sparingly or use underlines instead.
30. Reversed-out type (white type on a dark background) is hard on the eyes. Use with caution.
31. According to this article on CNET the font Century Gothic uses the least amount of toner when printed. Again, your reader’s toner cartridges will thank you.
32. Create a master page template with standardized header and footer content for consistency when creating the rest of the pages of your eBook.
33. Include a table of contents at the beginning of your eBook and link the items in the list to the actual page, so when a reader clicks the chapter title, it takes them right there.
34. Don’t forget to include a link to your website in the footer of your pages.
35. Protect your hard work. Put a copyright notice in the footer of your pages, or if you prefer, distribute it under a “Creative Commons” license..
36. Title pages are a nice way to segment your eBook, and help the reader know when they are moving from one chapter or topic to the next.
37. Try a magazine-style layout by formatting each page into 3 columns of justified text with a 1/4″ gap between columns.
38. Don’t be afraid of blank space. Use it to your advantage. A main point or key sentence on an otherwise blank page can make a bigger impact than making it bold on a crowded page.
40. Add an author bio page to the end of your eBook with links to your blog, Twitter account, Facebook profile, LinkedIn, etc.
41. Create a nice cover page design for your eBook.
42. Never let your Aunt Matilda’s-brother’s-second cousin-twice removed design your eBook.
43. If you’re not comfortable with design or lack the skills to do it yourself, outsource the design. (hint, hint – I do eBook design if you need help.)
44. Add a subtle drop-shadow effect to your photos, headlines or other design elements. Don’t over-do it though.
45. Once you save your eBook as a PDF, open it with Adobe Acrobat Pro and set the page layout to “Single Page” and the magnification to “Fit Page” by going to File > Properties > Initial View. This lets your readers use the scroll wheel on their mouse to flip pages.
46. If you need ideas for color combinations for your eBook, check out Adobe’s Kuler.
47. Want some new fonts to design your eBook with? You can buy them online from MyFonts.com.
48. Want to get the reader’s attention in a hurry? Make your eBook a non-standard size, like 11″ wide by 6″ high.
49. Tasteful, artistic icons can give your eBook a cool “web 2.0″ look. Here’s a link where you can download 100 icon sets for free.
50. A good photo with an appropriate caption can greatly enhance a point you make in your text.
51. Including a foreword at the beginning of your eBook is a nice way to introduce your topic and help engage your audeince.
52. If you have other eBooks or informational products for sale, don’t be afraid to put a page promoting them at the end of your current eBook.
53. Want to know how to create cool graphics effects with Photoshop for your eBook design? Check out PSDtuts.
54. When you have text that flows from one page to the next, or one column to the next, never leave one line of text at the top of a page or column it continues on. This is called a “widow” and is a rookie mistake.
55. Keep your eBook looking professional by using no more than two or three different fonts in the whole piece.
56. Save your eBook as a PDF. Not everyone has Microsoft Word or Powerpoint.
57. Add worksheets to the end of your eBook to help people use what they’ve learned.
58. Surprise your audience with something cool at the end of your eBook. This can be a discount off your other products/services, additional content, a cool list of resources, etc.
59. Create a survey in your eBook using the PDF form tools, and set it up so that readers can complete the form in Acrobat Reader and press a button to e-mail you their answers.
60. Don’t use the watermarked “comping” sample images from stock photography sites.
61. Want a classic, historic look? Use a serif font for the main text and a rough, weathered script for highlights and design elements. Using tans, beige, and golden colors will help the effect. Make the text dark brown to give it an “aged” look.
62. Use bulleted or numbered lists to get points across quickly, and break up the monotony of a long string of text.
63. Maintain even spacing around photos and graphic elements. Nothing says “amateur” than having text run right into a photo.
64. Hire a cartoonist to illustrate the main points in your eBook and place the artwork they create at the beginning of each section or chapter.
65. Don’t forget to include page numbers.
66. If you set up your text in two or more columns, make sure the top line of text in each column is lined up at the same height on the page as the other columns.
67. Make your text appear “softer” to the eyes by making the type color a dark gray instead of black. This only looks good with type on a white background.
68. An eBook that contains nothing but text is boring. Spice up your eBook with a nice design and appropriate images/graphics.
69. If your eBook is about something computer or Internet related, screenshots are a great way to illustrate how to do what you explain in your text. In Windows 7 and above, you can use the “Snipping Tool” to take a “picture” of your screen by going to Start > All Programs > Accessories. On a Mac, hold down the “command” and “shift” keys and press the #3 to take a screenshot of everything on your display, or hold down the “command” and “shift” keys and press #4 to draw a selection of what part of the screen you want to capture as an image.
70. If you mention a website in your eBook, make that a hyperlink to the actual site so your readers can click that link to see the actual site if they want to.
71. Charts and graphs help drive home the point you’re trying to make about sets of numbers or statistics.
72. For a classy way to divide text on a page, use a horizontal line that’ split in the middle by a filagree.
73. Putting text IN ALL CAPS is the visual equivalent of shouting.
74. Put an extra space between items in a bulleted or numbered list by putting a “soft return” (hold down the Shift key and press Enter) between them. This makes each item in the list easier to read, and keeps the whole list from looking like the items all run together.
75. Indenting the main body text makes the headlines and sub-headers more noticeable.
76. Kerning (the spacing between letters) is adjustable. If you really want to look like a pro, use this to your advantage by cleaning up the spacing between letters manually. The default spacing in fonts leaves unsightly gaps between letters (type the number “10″ for example and you’ll see a gap between the 1 and the 0). Correcting that spacing manually makes your eBook look more polished and professional.
77. A lightly-shaded or colored box at the end of each section that contains “take aways” or “do this” (action steps they can take) text helps readers apply what you’re teaching.
78. Drop-caps at the beginning of each section can add some visual appeal to your text.
79. Don’t use drop-caps at the beginning of each paragraph.
80. Don’t underline entire paragraphs of text. Find another way to make that information stand out, like making it bold or a different color or both.
81. Make sure your text and headlines are consistently at the same height on the page. Making sure they’re in the same place from page to page will prevent your text from looking like it’s “bouncing” up and down as readers scroll through the pages.
82. A single word at the end of a paragraph is called an “orphan” and is another rookie mistake. Each paragraph in your text should end with no less that three words. You can correct this problem by adding soft-returns (Shift + Enter) as needed on other lines in the paragraph to force more words to the bottom line.
83. Make the bullets in your lists more interesting by making just the bullet a color, or by replacing it with a checkmark or other dingbat.
84. Friends don’t let friends use Comic Sans.
85. For bold text to really stand out, it needs to be significantly darker than the rest of the text. Unfortunately, in some fonts the bold type isn’t much darker than the regular type. If this is the case for the font you’re using, try making the main body text the “light” weight of the font, and the things you want to be bold, the “heavy,” “extra bold,” or “super” weight of the font. Doing both works too.
86. Indenting text at the beginning of each paragraph is old-school. We’ve outgrown it.
87. Putting two spaces between sentences is an obsolete rule. Only one space is required with today’s fonts. The double space is a an artifact from the old typewriter days of monospaced fonts. Single-spacing has been the standard for publications since 1950.
88. The 1990′s just called. They want their purple and teal color scheme back.
89. Using just color in your design leaves your eBook looking “flat.” Add some visual appeal with textured backgrounds or photos.
90. Put a square of color in the lower-right corner of your eBook and put your page number in that square for a nice design effect.
91. Create a book graphic to use when promoting your eBook by superimposing your eBook cover design on a 3D rendering of a book, which you can find at the stock photo sites mentioned in tip #16.
92. If your eBook contains no affiliate links, be proud of that and tell people. Likewise, if you do use affiliate links in your eBook make sure you let them know that as well. Your readers will appreciate your honesty.
93. Does your eBook contain footnotes for sources that you reference? Place them at the bottom of the page in a smaller font than the rest of the copy, and for an added touch, put a thin line above the footnote to separate it from the body copy.
94. Choose the colors that you use wisely. Each color in the spectrum conveys specific emotions and symbolism, some even have a physical effect on the body (like blue suppresses the appetite and orange increases oxygen flow to the brain). If you want to understand the psychology behind the colors you plan to use, check out the resources at Color Matters.
95. Never let your wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, kids, uncle, mother, etc talk you into a style for your eBook that your gut instinct tells you is wrong for your audience.
96. Create a 125px by 125px (px = pixel) banner ad graphic that you can use to promote your eBook, and that others can post on their blog promoting it as well.
97. Is your eBook going to be one of your “flagship” information products? If so, create a logo for it – give it an identity of its own.
98. Carefully crafted typography can create an appealing info-graphic to add some spice to your layout.
99. Did I mention Comic Sans is bad? Yes, I do have a grudge against that font…is that a problem?
100. You can create a neat “cigar band effect” by putting a bar of color (or a texture) across the center of a page, with dashed lines just inside the top and bottom of that band in a slightly lighter version of the same color. Then add a subtle drop shadow effect and place your text on top. This works best for cover designs and title pages.
101. Do not let perfectionism cause you to doubt publishing your eBook, or fear that it’s not “ready.” The “perfect” design is the one that works for YOUR audience. So don’t get hung up over-analyzing the design. Just give it the best you have. Your audience will appreciate your authenticity.
Got another eBook design tip I missed? Please share it with everyone down in the comments!