Kindle & eBook Formatting Frequently Asked Questions

Publishing Questions

How do I publish my book to Amazon (for the Kindle)?

I will produce a file called a “.mobi” file for you. This file is the file that you upload through It’s a fairly simple point-and-click process, but I am happy to either walk you through it over the phone or do it for you at no additional charge.

CreateSpace has a publish to Kindle option, should I use it?

No! This will create an eBook based on your PDF. Because PDFs have formatting that is specific to the printed document, including, sometimes, forced line breaks or page breaks that you won’t want in your eBook, as well as different methods of formatting, it is important that you do not choose this option and instead upload a custom-created .mobi file for best results.

How do I publish my book to the Apple iTunes Bookstore?

If you have a Mac and are technically inclined, you can do this with an ePub file and the Apple iTunes Producer software (you have to remove all links to Amazon before you publish–Apple doesn’t like to share!). If you don’t have a Mac, or are not technically inclined, the best solution is to use a specially created ePub file that I can provide to you and go through Smashwords. Smashwords is a distributor which allows you to publish through a number of other vendors, as well. Smashwords does not charge an annual fee, but does take a percentage of your sales.

How do I publish my book to Smashwords?

I am able to create one of two types of files for you for Smashwords. I can create an ePub file or a .doc file. The type of file that is the best choice depends on why you want to publish to Smashwords. If you’re using Smashwords to get into the Apple iTunes Bookstore, an ePub is the best choice. If you have a lot of special formatting in your book, an ePub is the best choice. If you just want another venue through which to sell, a .doc file may be the best choice.

What’s the difference between a .mobi and an ePub file?

A .mobi file is a proprietary format used by Amazon. It contains the same information as the ePub but is encoded specially for Amazon Kindles. Amazon purchased the MobiPocket company several years ago and has adopted and changed their format in the time since then. An ePub file is “standard” eBook format used by a number of vendors. ePub files are easier (relatively speaking) to open and edit and are the basis for all .mobi files that I create.

What do I need to put on my copyright page?

The simplest copyright page, which is just as valid as a complex one (I’m not a lawyer!), says the following:

Copyright © 2013 by Author Name. All rights reserved

Sometimes people choose to list other individuals on the copyright page, including cover photographer/designer, book formatter, etc. Whether you do that is entirely up to you.


ISBN Questions

Do I need an ISBN?

If you are publishing only an eBook for the Kindle, you do not need an ISBN. If you plan to publish to some other vendors, like the iTunes bookstore, they may require that you have an ISBN. If you are publishing a paper version of your book then you’ll need an ISBN.

How many ISBNs do I need?

Technically each different version of your book: .mobi, ePub, print, etc., should have its own ISBN. Some people have invented the mythical concept of an “eISBN,” which is good for all eBook versions, but there is no such thing.

How do I get an ISBN?

That depends on a few different things, including 1) How and where you are publishing your book; 2) What country you are in, and 3) How much you want to spend.

For US-based authors, you can buy your own ISBN through 1); 2) Amazon/CreateSpace, if you are publishing a paper version of your book; 3) through a third-party. I provide ISBNs under the publishing imprint Mercuria Books for $10 each to my clients. However, I recommend a CreateSpace ISBN as being the most useful, if that is the company through which you’ll be publishing your print book.

The ISBNs I provide may be used anywhere, provided that the imprint is maintained (this is not my rule, but the rule of the ISBN “powers that be”).

If you need help acquiring an ISBN through any of these avenues, I would be happy to help, just contact me.

How much do ISBNs cost?

As mentioned above, my rate is $10 each, because I buy them in blocks of 100. The rates for is $125 for 1 ISBN or $250 for 10 (it gets lower as you go up). The rate through CreateSpace (Amazon) is free, in some cases, or $10 to $40. One limitation with a CreateSpace ISBN is that you cannot use it elsewhere. So if you decide to print through another commpany, you’ll have to get a new ISBN.

Can I re-use an ISBN?

Not if you’ve already set it up for another book. You need to have a new ISBN for each new book, and even each new edition of a book. A new edition means that you have made significant changes to the content of the book, or changed its format. Fixing a few typos does not constitute a new edition.


Table of Contents Questions

Do I need a Table of Contents in my eBook?

Yes! A Table of Contents is important to your book, and some vendors may not accept your book without it! You do not, however, need a Table of Contents in a print book, unless you want one.

Where should the Table of Contents go in my book?

If you don’t already have a Table of Contents, don’t worry about it, I’ll place it in the correct place. If you really want to put it in yourself, The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition says it should go after the dedication/epigraph and before the foreword/preface. Don’t worry if your book doesn’t have either of those – just stick it in there somewhere and I’ll work it out for you.

What about putting the Table of Contents at the end of the book?

Amazon used to encourage eBook authors to place their Table of Contents at the end of the book, so as to maximize the size of the automatic free sample. However, it became apparent that this practice caused problems with the “last read location” feature, so they no longer make this recommendation.



Image & Color Questions

Can my book have color in it?

Absolutely! That being said, however, the color should not be a critical part of the book unless you intend the book only to be read on color-capable devices. For example, don’t color-code your text, or refer to “the red section in the diagram,” because people reading your book on a black-and-white device, which are still actively being marketed and used, will not be able to follow along.

Some things that are not recommended: white or very light text, forced black text (disappears if the user chooses a black background), and very light images.

Do I need a cover image for my book?

Absolutely! While the saying goes that you can’t judge a book by its cover, we all know that people really do. A professionally designed cover runs between $35 for a “pre-made” cover from some companies that specialize in that type of thing, to $300 or more for a professionally designed custom cover. Most eBook cover designs run somewhere in between. Yes, that’s more than I charge for the conversion in many cases – but it’s important to make your book look as appealing as possible. If you were going to a sales meeting you wouldn’t dress in sweat pants and a t-shirt you pulled out of the hamper, right? So don’t dress your book like that!

If you need help with your cover contact me and I can put you in touch with an artist.

What are the requirements for the book cover?

Your cover should be at least 625 pixels wide by 1000 high, and should be in portrait orientation. Ideally, according to Amazon, the cover should be 1563 pixels wide by 2500 pixels high, but in reality it doesn’t have to match this exactly! The resolution should be 300 dpi/ppi. If you are having your cover professionally design and think you might possibly decide to publish in print as well, it’s best to design for print. The two sizes I prefer for print, unless there is a pressing need to print at another size, are 6″ x 9″ and 5.25″ x 8″. If you go with either of these sizes, your cover will not match the “ideal” dimensions Amazon lists, but that’s OK!

What are the requirements for images for the inside of my book?

Ideally, images should be 300 dpi/ppi and in JPG format. Please don’t artificially increase the resolution, it doesn’t really work. I’ll resize images as necessary.