Basics of a Compelling eBook Design

ebook design

Technology has enabled many of us to become a writer and publisher. There was a time when writing was an elite job, and publishing the book and getting it to the market was more than half the challenge. Today, anybody who has an idea, who wants to share knowledge or experience, or someone who wants to promote products or services in the market deserves to write and publish an ebook. Content, design and delivery are key essentials of successful ebook publishing. A good design supports your content, besides being attractive and easy-to-read, it helps create good impression in the mind of the reader, and establishes your authority as a writer and publisher.

Cover and Title

An ebook cover has to be two things – beautiful and expressive. Just as they say face is mirror to the soul, your ebook cover should convey the essence of your story – a well designed cover should let the potential consumer peep through the window to the story inside. And since it’s your book you can let the cover design reflect your brand and personality, you can entirely exploit your creativity with the cover design. With a tentative idea in your head, ask your designer friend to lay down the picture for you. Hereafter things will start falling in place, also this is an opportunity to try your hands in designing (who knows…). Don’t stop until you are amazed, imagine yourself as someone surfing through an (online) store, your cover and title should stand out.

You might have finished your story, but you can still be in dilemma with choosing the most appropriate title. Just like the cover, a good title should convey the story and make it stand out among the sea of titles. A title can be explicit and inform the reader that this is exactly what they wanted to read, or you can leave just a subtle clue and let them find the meaning of the title in the story, either way, in words of Hemingway ‘a title must have magic’. A title should have feeling – mystery, romance, tragedy, science, crime etc. In case of an academic textbook or a professional content the title can be simple and straightforward, eg, fundamentals of mobile app development. It’s baffling to come up with a great title, but many a times in life first intuition happens to be the best choice – listen to suggestions but also follow your guts.

Table of Content

ToC of a book has two basic functions, letting the readers knows about the content of the book in detail, and helping them navigate to the specific location of the chapters and headings. A print fiction may not have a table of content but any ebook without a ToC is unimaginable. An ebook can leverage ToC in multiple ways, the chapter names can be linked to the pages, tap on a particular chapter (even the headings and subheadings inside the chapter) and you will land at the particular page, that’s smart navigation for a book! You could use bold and colored fonts for chapters and choose different colors for headings within. Leave enough space between elements to prevent fat fingering. The alignment and color should help distinguish between levels at ToC – chapters, headings, and subheadings.

Theme, Color, Styling

Your ebook should look and feel fantastic throughout the reading journey. Besides the content that makes sense, there are factors that add to the reader’s experience. Choose a nice ebook theme that suits your content, a theme dresses up the story and makes it look beautiful. Themes can be downloaded from the internet, a many of them would have been used by others, but it shouldn’t matter. Like dresses, designer themes may be on the expensive side.

Choose a suitable color palette for your ebook, color adds to the visual experience of the story, the color palette has to be predetermined and should carry your brand and the essence of your story, limit the number of colors used anywhere on your ebook to four or five, choose it wisely.

Most authoring tools allow styling the format of the text. This means you can decide on how different sections (elements), viz, header, subheader, body, quotes, captions etc will be formatted for the entire ebook. This keeps the text formatting consistent throughout the book, all you’ve got to do is choose the correct element for a certain text. An advantage of styling is that you can change the formatting of an element throughout the book by changing it at the master style.

Visual Experience

One biggest factor that differentiates a digital book from print books is the audiovisual experience. Ebooks don’t have to be entirely text based products, the long and gray array of text can be broken down with aptly placed graphics. Visual memory is stronger than text, let your readers not only imagine but see what you are imagining. Ask your designer friend (established writers hire them) to help you out, create some great images that help convey your story better. Text books can make liberal use of diagrams, graphs, and charts. Make sure the images follow the color code of your brand/ product/ ebook. Extract those genius quotes from your content and put them in a large colored blocks, even this should help break the monotony of a long text.

Interactive ebooks have taken the book experience to a new level, audio, video and animation can be embedded in the file in appropriate locations. They enhance the story experience or help explain the concept better way. Children’s books of fun stories in which text, images and animation complement each other are capturing the market at a steady pace. Interactive ebooks are going to be popular and useful but that doesn’t mean every ebook has to be interactive.

A book is not a design centered product, but an ebook can benefit a lot from good design. Since ebooks are technology products we need to make sure there are no errors and different elements don’t interfere each other’s functioning. A beautiful and consistent design helps in brand recognition, author is the brand in case of books (unless your ebook is part of a product promotion or information). Validate your ebook idea with those whom you trust. Besides, there are things to consider: use appropriate margins, spacing and fonts, do not use too many different fonts, break the pages with a full page quote or image, if your targeted audience largely uses mobile devices for reading use portrait mode, and so on…

Lastly, do not over think about the design and start writing the damn book!

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