Helping authors publish

Category: Print books

Why pay for formatting?

When done well, a reader doesn’t notice a book’s interior formatting. The purpose of the formatting, after all, is not to draw attention to itself, but rather to allow the reader to concentrate on the words in the book and the author’s message. When the interior is not done well, on the other hand, the reader is drawn out of the story. The reader notices the imperfections, and these will lead to a poor impression of the book as a whole.

There are many elements to a book’s interior. Authors are readers first, but as stated earlier, good formatting is invisible and doesn’t get noticed. Consequently, we don’t notice all the little things that make a professional interior. That makes it difficult to create an interior that will live up to a reader’s expectations.

Ebooks add an extra layer of complexity. The interior of a print book is fixed, but with an ebook, the reader can change almost anything. An ebook can be read on a tiny phone screen, a large monitor, or anything in-between. The interior formatting has to be able to adjust elegantly to all these possibilities. The elements of the book (cover, start position, epigraph, dedication, etc) must all be specially coded so that the reader device or software to identify them. It should also contain a metadata table of contents that can be displayed by a menu item or similar, in addition to the standard table of contents at the start of the book.

An ebook file should conform to the ePub standards. If it doesn’t, many vendors will refuse to accept it. A professional formatter understands all these requirements. They will be able to create a file that looks good on any screen, and passes the validation checks performed by vendors so that it will be accepted for sale.

Large print books have their own set of rules and expectations, to make them easier to read for people with limited vision. Some of these contradict the standard rules, so it’s not enough to simply increase the font size.

It’s possible to learn to do this yourself, using online resources to learn how to format a print book interior and an ebook. But these require an investment of time and possibly money, which is unlikely to be worthwhile for most authors. There are also converters online, some of which are free, but the results are unlikely to compare well to the work of a professional.

If you want a professionally designed interior that will allow your readers to enjoy your story, contact us.

New Year, New Service: Beautiful Interiors

We are very happy to announce that we now offer two levels of formatting for both print and ebooks.

A book interior, showing a chapter start.
Chapter start using our standard formatting

Our standard formatting looks good, is properly laid out, and follows standard industry conventions. We offer several different styles so that you can choose the one that is right for your book.

A book interior, showing a standard page spread
Scene break using our standard formatting

But up until now, our interiors were somewhat limited. They’re stylish, classic, and are easy to read, but some of our clients wanted more than that. We’re pleased to announce that we have now partnered with a company that specialises in interior formatting to provide a premium interior formatting service. We still offer the standard interiors, but if you choose to use the new premium option, you will get a completely bespoke interior, beautifully laid out, and you have complete control.

Several book interiors
Examples of our new premium formatting

So, if you want your book to look amazing inside and out, contact us for a quote.

Make and Sell a Flip Book

I own a copy of a rather unusual book, Monty Python’s Flying Circus: Just the Words. It includes volumes one and two in a single flip book. Volume one starts at the front, but to read volume two, you flip the book over and start from the back. The two meet in the middle.

I started wondering recently if I could create a flip book and get it printed and on sale. This article will explain how I made such a book and put it on sale via Ingram Spark. KDP Print doesn’t support this type of book.

For my book, I used the Project Gutenberg text of Little Wars and Floor Games, both by H.G. Wells. I chose these because they are in the public domain, they fit together, and they’re books that I’m happy to have on my shelves but didn’t already own.

Create the Interior PDFs

First, I created the interior files. I used Vellum to create two interior PDFs, one per book. In my book, Little Wars starts at the front, and Floor Games starts at the back. I had to rotate the Floor Games PDF, so it was upside down, and the pages had to be reversed.

To do that, I used a program named pdftk. I used the command-line version, although I believe a version with a graphical interface is also available. The command I used was:

pdftk Floor-Games-Print.pdf cat end-1south output Floor-Games-Rotated-Reversed.pdf

Then I used pdftk again to combine the Little Wars PDF and the rotated and reversed Floor Games PDF into a single file. I also added a PDF of two blank pages between the two:

pdftk Little-Wars-Print.pdf two-blank-pages.pdf Floor-Games-Rotated-Reversed.pdf cat output back-to-back.pdf

The resulting PDF looked normal for the first half, but the second half was upside down and the page numbers went down instead of up.

The interior of Floor Games, after it had been rotated and reversed
The interior of Floor Games, after it had been rotated and reversed


Since this was an experiment, I created a simple cover on Canva. Again, the back cover had to be upside down. Because the book is very short, it didn’t have a distinct spine for me to worry about. I allowed Ingram Spark to add the barcode, and they added it to the default location. Normally, this would be on the bottom right of the design, but when the book is turned over to read the second book, the barcode appears in the top left, and upside down. A professional cover designer could have moved the barcode to a better location, although the barcode would still be upside down in relation to the back cover design.

On Sale

I uploaded the cover and interior files in the normal way. Ingram Spark approved it for printing, but KDP Print would not. I have approved it for distribution, so if you would like to see the finished product, you can buy it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or others (ISBN 978-1-912680-29-0). I have set the price deliberately low, since it’s on sale mostly so that people can see the results for themselves.


This was an unusual project that I undertook mostly as an experiment, but I’m pleased with the results. If you have a project that would suit the flip book treatment, we’d be happy to help. Email us for more information and to get started.

Animated gif showing the Little Wars and Floor Games flip book
The finished book

What to do if Amazon Discounts Your Book

Every now and then, Amazon discounts one of my paper books. Sometimes the discount is so steep that the price is less than author copies cost me. This can happen to any indie author, and it can be disconcerting, but there’s no need to worry. Here are some ways you can take advantage of the situation.

First, it’s important to note that you will be paid the normal amount for every copy sold, regardless of the price the customer pays. In this article, I’ll use an example book that has a printing cost of $5, with a normal list price of $10, and a royalty of $1.

Option 1: Tell People

If you were running a sale, you’d tell people about it, so do the same in this situation. The only difference is that it’s not something you planned. It’s still a bargain, though, so email your mailing list and post on social media. Even your fans that already own a copy or prefer ebooks might want to buy a copy to give as a present.

In this option, your readers get a bargain, and you get your standard royalty ($1 in the example book) from every sale, but the lower price could lead to more sales.

There’s no way to predict how long such a discount will last. Make sure you make that clear — you don’t want your readers to think that you’ve lured them into a bait & switch.

Option 2: Buy Some Yourself

Sometimes Amazon drops the price to less than the cost of author copies, in which case you can get a double benefit by buying copies yourself. Not only do you get copies at a reduced price, you also get your usual royalty.

Taking the above example, if the price has been reduced to $4, you can buy it for a dollar less than the usual price of $5. This is a bargain in and of itself, but you also get a dollar in royalties, making the effective price just $3.

If you have a way to sell them, or use them as prizes, this is a great opportunity to get them at a lower price than usual.

Images, Resolution, and DPI

If you’re an author, you should be comfortable with words, but you’re probably less familiar with images, especially technical issues such as resolution and DPI (dots per inch). For most authors, this isn’t a problem most of the time. But if you’re dealing with images in print books or on merchandise, you may come across a phrase such as “Images must have a resolution of at least 300dpi”. This article will help you understand these terms and their importance, so that you can select suitable images for print books and printed items such as bookmarks.

Digital Image Sizes

Digital images are made up of pixels, and so their size is given as pixels wide and pixels tall. By zooming in, you can see the individual pixels that make up the image, and instead of looking smooth, edges start to look rough and jagged.

The word "Pixels" as an image
The image viewed normally
An image of the word "Pixels", zoomed in to the top of the letter e, to show the pixels.
The same image, zoomed in to the top of the letter e

See the images above. The first one is the image viewed normally, the second one shows the top of the letter “e”, zoomed in so that individual pixels start to become visible.


Example image, 300 pixels wide and 600 pixels tall

When printing, each pixel in the digital image becomes a dot of ink on the page, hence the term “dots per inch”. A lower resolution image has a smaller number of dots to distribute, and so has less detail. When printing images that are to be viewed at a close distance, such as book covers and bookmarks, the resolution should be at least 300dpi. In other words, there should be 300 pixels for every inch in the printed image.

As an example, an image that is 300 pixels wide and 600 pixels tall, printed at a size of one inch wide and two inches tall, would look good. In this example there are 300 pixels for every inch of printed image. If it were printed at two inches wide and four inches tall, the 300 pixels of width would be spread over two inches, so each inch would only have 150 pixels. Viewed at a typical reading distance, the image would appear indistinct and low quality. If you’re printing something like a poster that will be viewed from a greater distance, you may be able to use a lower resolution, but your printer will be able to advise on this.

Taking book covers as another example, a common size is six inches wide and nine inches tall. For the cover image to be 300dpi, it needs to be (6 x 300) pixels wide and (9 x 300) pixels tall. This equates to 1,800 pixels wide and 2,700 pixels tall. If the image was 600 pixels wide and 900 pixels tall, it would have a resolution of only 100dpi when printed at 6” x 9”.


It may seem like a simple matter to take a small image and resize it to make it large enough to print at high resolution. Image editing software makes this easy, but won’t always give good results. A small image simply doesn’t have the same amount of information as a larger image. When resizing in this way, the software adds pixels in a process called interpolation, but the results are often of poor quality.

On the other hand, if you have a large file such as a print book cover, you might want to resize it to a smaller version for posting on the web. This works well, but make sure that you use “Save as” to save the small version as a new file. It’s important to keep the large original because you can’t use the small version to recreate the large one.

Also, note that JPEG (.jpg or .jpeg) files are lossy. Every time you save a file in this format, some information is lost and cannot be restored. For this reason, always keep the original file and work from that.


My thanks to Henry Hyde for checking the technical details, and Glory Ralston for checking the advice was understandable. Any remaining issues are my responsibility.

Large Print Editions

At the time of writing, Robin has released large print editions of three of their books. It’s not necessarily something that we would recommend to other indie authors, unless you have reason to believe that there is a market for a large print version. In that case, this post should help you create something that is genuinely useful for those people that struggle to read standard print.

Font and Font Size

Obviously, large print books need a larger font size than normal. 16 point is generally considered a minimum size, though 18 point is recommended if at all possible. Having decided on a minimum font size, there should be no text in a smaller size. Page numbers, copyright information, etc should all be at least as large as the main body text. Headings should use a larger font size, as with normal print, but nothing should be smaller than the minimum size that you choose.

Large Print

It is also important to consider the font face. A sans-serif font should be used, and if at all possible, avoid using italics, underlining, or blocks of capital letters. We use the Tiresias LP font, which was specifically designed for use in large print documents. Download a copy here:

White Space

In general, plenty of white space makes a book easier to read for those with sight issues. Single spacing can make it difficult to find the start of the next line, so use 1.25 or 1.5 spacing instead. Similarly, indented paragraphs can make it hard to find the start, so use block paragraphs instead of indented paragraphs.

Margins should be wider, at least 25mm (1 inch) wide. If you have footnotes, move them to the end of the chapter or to a section at the end of the book, so that they do not clutter the page.

Left Align

Most print books use full-justified text, so that the right side of the text is lined up along the right margin. However, this leads to uneven gaps between words. For this reason, left-justified (or ragged-right) text is more readable, and so should be used in large print books.

Headings should also be left-aligned rather than centre-aligned. This makes them easier to find.

Images should be aligned to the left for the same reason, but there should be no text to the right of the image. A partially-sighted reader may not realise that there is text next to the image. The image should be clear, and any text inside the image should obey the same rules as the rest of the text in the book. If possible, move the text out of the image. If this isn’t possible, ensure that there is good contrast and that the text is on a plain background.

All text must be horizontal, including things like labels on diagrams and images.

Keep Things Together

It is important to keep related items connected, without large spaces. If your contents page doesn’t already have a row of dots between the chapter name/number and the page number, add them. Tables should usually have lines around the cells. It is also important to avoid widows and orphans (single lines from a paragraph at the top or bottom of a page).

Don’t use hyphens. If a word won’t fit on a line, put the whole word on the next line rather than splitting it with a hyphen. Hyphenated words (eg u-boat) should be on one line, not split over two lines at the hyphen.

Use a Clear Layout

Hopefully your books have a consistent layout already, but this is particularly important when designing books for the partially sighted. Headings should be clearly different to the body text. It’s a good idea to include chapter names on page headers if possible, as it allows the reader to easily determine where they are in the book.

Mark it as Large Print

Large print banner

Finally, make it clear that the book is a large print edition. In KDP Print, make sure that the “Large Print” box is ticked on the Paperback Details page. In IngramSpark, tick the “Large Text Edition” box in the Print Options section. This will set the metadata so that retailers can categorise it as a large print edition. In order to make it clear to human readers, however, the title should be modified. This need be no more than appending “(Large Print)” to the end of the title. The cover should be marked to show that it is a large print edition. This can be as simple as a coloured band with “Large Print Edition” printed in it.

Further Reading

This blog post covers the essential points. If you wish to find out more, the following are likely to be useful:


Making a large print version of paper books isn’t too difficult, although a large number of images will make it more challenging. In Robin’s experience, sales have been minimal. That may be true for you too, but other authors report that their large print editions sell well. The only way to find out for sure is to try it. If you don’t want to do all this yourself, we can do it for you.

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