Friday, February 15, 2013

Ebook Parts

I've been self-publishing ebooks on Kindle since April, 2009, and was making my own work available via free pdf since 2005.

I've learned a bit about putting an ebook together. Not the actual nuts and bolts of it. For that I use Rob Siders at He's an artist when it comes to laying out ebooks. I pay extra for his premium service, where every chapter has its own, distinctive header, he uses multiple fonts and sizes and colors, the first paragraph has a large dropdown letter consistent with print, and there are many other bells and whistles make the ebook look better than 99% of what is now available.

But that's not the focus of this blog post. Today I want to talk about the parts of an ebook. Specifically, what should be included, and the order these things should go in.

When someone downloads one of my ebooks, this is what they see in the order they see it:

1. Cover art. That should be at the very beginning, like a paper book.

2. If it isn't a compilation, the very first page should be the product description. AKA the back jacket copy.

Why? Simple. People often download ebooks, then forget what they are about. Reminding the reader on the first page why they bought the book makes it easy for them to remember, and helps them figure out what to read next. It's the equivalent of picking up a paper book from your TBR stack and reading the back or inner flap copy.

If it is a compilation, it should contain hyperlinks to each of the books in the collection, followed by the product description for the first book in the collection.

3. Title page. Include author name.

4. Hyperlinked table of contents. Links should go to every part of the ebook mentioned here, except the cover art.

5. Dedication, if any.

6. The book, with hyperlinked chapters.

7. Any extras. A short sample of the next book in sthe eries, or an author afterword, or Q&A, etc.

Avoid long excerpts/too many excerpts. Readers don't like to think they have twenty pages left of the novel, and then it abruptly ends and all that is left is extras. They feel cheated. So skip long excerpts unless it is for the direct sequel.

8. Acknowledgements, if any. Why put that in the front matter when people skip over it and it takes up sample space? When people download a free sample to try, they should get the book, not stuff they have to skip.

9. About the author or bio.

10. Bibliography. I used to have hyperlinks in my bibliography, then stopped because the URLs kept changing and were tough to keep track of, and I had to keep updating it for different platforms. But YMMV.

11. Ads. A one page add, with small cover art, of your other books. Or, if you have writing buddies, swap ads with them. In this case, a URL is advised.

12. Copyright page. Why put that in the front matter when people skip over it and it takes up sample space?

And that's that. Some of this may seem obvious, but I don't notice too many authors putting the book description in front, and traditional front matter in back. I also don't see a lot of hyperlinks. Ebooks make it easy for readers to find their place and jump around, so we all should take advantage of this technology.

As for how a beautifully formatted ebook looks as done by Rob Siders, I've got six free examples for you.

For the next five days on Amazon (Feb 15 - 19) you can get these six books that Rob formatted. Three are by me, two are by Barry Eisler, and one is by Blake Crouch. Coincidentally, Barry and Blake managed to get the rights reverted to their work at the same time I did. How's that for lucky?

BTW, Blake did the formatting for Grab himself. No Rob Siders premium formatting on that. So that's a good opportunity to see the difference between premium layouts and bare-bones.

Dirty Martini by JA Konrath

Trapped by Jack Kilborn

Timecaster by JA Konrath

Snowbound by Blake Crouch

A Lonely Resurrection by Barry Eisler (Previous Published as Hard Rain)

Inside Out by Barry Eisler

BTW, I'm also running an experiment with this free promotion that you folks can follow along with.

A peer (I lost his name in my ebook pile, but if you're reading this I'll link to you here) said he had some success using So I thought I'd give it a try.

BookBub is an opt-in service that uses its website and various social networks to make subscribers aware of ebooks that are free or on sale. Authors pay a modest fee to have their book announced to as many as 600,000 members.

I paid for Trapped to be announced to BookBub's Horror members on the 16th (100,000 members), and Timecaster to be announced to its Sci-Fi members (110,000 members) on the 17th.

So we'll see how much momentum these ebooks can generate on their own (rank, units given away) and then see if BookBub gives them a boost. If I see a big increase in downloads due to BookBub, I'll change my long-held stance that advertising isn't effective.

Regardless, I encourage everyone reading this blog to download the above ebooks. First, to see how good Rob Siders layout work is. Second, because these six books are lots of fun, and they are free.

If you don't have a Kindle, download the free Kindle app for your computer, smartphone, or tablet. Rob's layouts also look great on other platforms (Kobo, B&N, Sony, Apple, etc.)

So let the grand experiment begin...