photo-of-Michael-CampbelleBook design Q & A

by Michael Campbell

Q: I have my book in PDF format already. Is that the same as the ePub format?

Nearly the opposite, really. A proper ePub conversion lets your words re-flow at a readable size to fit any device, much like words on a web page re-flow when you resize the window. Readers can change fonts, sizes, even colors, to suit their personal preferences. Because an ePub format book is flexible, your book may be 200 pages on a big device, 600 pages on a small one. But it’s always perfectly legible. PDFs were designed to look exactly the same on every computer screen: the fonts, size, and layout are all locked in place, as if they were a photograph. That’s great for big displays, but on small e-reader devices PDF documents shrink to unreadable proportions.

Q: Is a professional eBook conversion service worth it?

More so every day. People are buying iPads, Kindles, Sonys and Nooks by the truckload, and they’re eager to fill their new gadgets with eBooks. When Apple announced that the iPad will rely on the ePub book format, potential customers went up by over 100 million. Add another 300 million who can already read books on their iPhone, like me.

Real numbers: according to, writers who offer an ePub version of their book sell 40% more books than those who don’t. eBooks are predicted to outsell print books by 2014. Writers usually make more money on each eBook sold. Put another way: remember when musicians wondered whether it was worth it to convert their music to MP3?

Q: What’s the difference between eBook format and ePub format?

An eBook is any electronic version of a book. PDFs, ePub formatting and Kindle design books are all eBooks. ePub formatting is the most popular open standard for eBooks. Other formats, like Amazon’s Kindle (MOBI) format, are proprietary and can only be read on their own devices.

Q: What things should I look for when comparing eBook creation services?

At the very least, your eBook design should look consistent from iPad to Sony to Kindle to mobile phones. Your chapter titles should look smart, and each chapter should start on a new page. (You’d be surprised how few services meet that basic expectation.) Then add little flair, like a drop-cap to start each chapter and decorations for your chapter headings. A digital Table of Contents should jump to each chapter with a click. Your eBook cover should appear full screen in all its colorful glory. (Many skip this programming step, leaving you with a generic ePub logo. Uff-da!) Last, your book’s info, including Author, Publisher, ISBN and Description, should be installed in the ePub book’s metadata, so it appears in indexes, searches and libraries. We add search keywords to your eBook that comply with BISAC standards, so your book is easier for people to find.

Q: Can I make an eBook myself?

Sure. You can build a car yourself too.

Q: Can you make an eBook cover design for me?

Yes! We offer eBook cover design for $190. We design print book cover art also, to the exact specifications of major print-on-demand services like CreateSpace and Lulu.

Q: I saw a website that says it will create an eBook free. Can that work?

Try it. You definitely get your money’s worth.

Seriously, beware of those who quietly assign themselves as your publisher in return for giving you a free eBook. Computer “meatgrinders” can only deal with the simplest documents, and the resulting eBooks look like they came out of a can. We create beautiful, unique eBook formatting tailored to the feel of your content, leaving all publishing rights with you.

Q: What makes an eBook design cost more?

Images require special attention, and thus raise the cost of eBook design. If your book has unique styling, or formatting that is inconsistent (that is, the formatting style doesn’t repeat throughout the book), our designers will give it the attention it needs to look its best. That takes time and thus costs more. We look at each book individually so every price quote is fair.

Q: Does an ePub eBook need an ISBN?

The ISBN is an independent identification number associated with your book. It’s like your Social Security Number. It belongs to the book, not to the vendors. Currently, Amazon does not require an ISBN for your eBook, using their own ID system instead. Most other vendors require it. Your eBook can’t use the same ISBN as your paper version since they are unique editions. Thanks to our publisher discount, we can register an ISBN for you for $59. We file all your paperwork and install the new number in your book. Or you can register your own ISBN here.

Q: How do I get on Apple’s iBookstore? Amazon’s Kindle Bookstore?

If you have a quality eBook, you can upload it directly to your favorite vendors and keep all sales to yourself. We’ll give you instructions when we deliver your finished eBooks. You can also use an “aggregator,” a service that uploads your book to the major vendors in exchange for a commission on your sales. Google “eBook aggregator” to learn who they are and compare.

Q: What is ePubCheck?

ePubCheck is an indepent standardized test of your ePub’s structure, to flag any code errors that might cause problems. We create eBooks that are guaranteed to pass the highest ePubCheck validation. eBooks that don’t pass ePubCheck will be rejected by Apple’s iBookstore and most other vendors.

Q: I already have an ePub book, but it doesn’t pass ePubCheck validation. Now what?

We can fix it for you. Email me your ePub book, and I’ll give you a free repair estimate. It’s usually around $75. We guarantee your repaired book will pass ePubCheck.

Q: What is an eBook’s metadata?

Metadata is information about your book that is hidden inside it, kind of like a database. It doesn’t appear in the text pages. Some reading devices have a "Get Info" button which calls up the metadata. Metadata may include Title, Author, Description, ISBN, and keywords. When the author name and title appear at the top of an eBook page, the device found that information in the metadata. It's important that the metadata be created properly, and we take care of that for you.

Q: Do you add Digital Rights Management?

No. Although DRM is meant to help protect your eBook from being shared, it causes problems with some eBook devices. It also makes it hard for vendors to handle your book because they get locked out too. DRM doesn’t protect much anyway. Online distributors like Amazon and Lulu add eBook copy protection for you if you want it, and we recommend you leave it to those vendors.

Q: Who are you, really?

I am a real live human based smack in the middle of the United States. I have a 25-years of experience in book design, typography, and writing. I’m obsessive and enjoy getting all the little details right. (All the picture frames in my house are straight.) I'm also an avid musician, sailor, juggler, and I can ride a unicycle, for what that's worth.

More questions about making eBooks? Email me.


“I worked hard to get my book into ePub format, using Calibre and Sigil, but it ended up with all kinds of spaces in words, breaks in the middle of grafs — so frustrating! Now both Apple's iBookstore and Amazon's Kindle have it up for sale today, thanks to your excellent eBook formatting!”John D. Perron, author of Frenz

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