Distributing free ebooks is now an important part of the marketing mix for many new and established fiction authors.
For most self-publishing fiction writers, the quickest and easiest way to produce an ebook is to convert a manuscript to PDF (Portable Document Format.) This is the most accessible and versatile cross-platform (PC and Mac) format, which also provides the closest simulation of a printed work: retaining cover-art and page layout properties rather than being pure digital text. The audience for this format is greater too: almost all Internet users have access to a computer but, comparatively, only a few possess the financial resources to purchase a modern handheld ebook reading device.
Unfortunately, too many authors are distributing free PDF ebooks without considering the presentation of their pages. The most noticeable mistake being to double line-space (space between each line.) How many printed paperback novels have you read that are double line-spaced? This practice is based on a submission format requested by publishers for assessing draft manuscripts; it is not suitable for final output. One opinion as to why this practice arose is that it is easier for proofreaders to scrutinize each line when it is separated more effectively from those above and below. Apparently the space is also used for inserting notes and correction marks.
The problem occurs when, unwittingly, self-publishing fiction writers decide to convert their draft, double line-spaced, manuscript to PDF without considering the audience to which it will be delivered. While it is advisable to open up the lines by adding a couple of points to standard line-spacing, doubling the space affects readability by disturbing the natural flow of words from the end of a line to the beginning of the next. It also increases the size of the PDF file. Ensure people enjoy reading your work: avoid double line spacing!
Looking a little Ragged at the edges?
PDF ebooks can be formatted to look like the real thing, a printed book. So why do we see so many with text that is so difficult to read? Double line -spacing is hard on the eyes, but the wrong choice of text alignment can be equally detrimental.
Have you noticed how many PDF novels have text aligned left (ragged right)? Pick up any printed novel and you’ll notice that, apart from indents, both left and right sides of a page of text are aligned. They are flush. They are equal. They are Justified.
While left alignment is acceptable for short texts like articles and captions appearing in websites, magazines and brochures, it is not the most appropriate format for novels and other forms of lengthy prose.
OK, when you are self-publishing free ebooks, it might be easier and quicker to align left, and you’ll not have to worry about hyphenated words. But, besides being more aesthetically pleasing, justification makes text easier to read: there is a natural flow of words; the eye having a clearly defined limit at which it stops and moves to the next line. It must be harder for our brains to have to keep stopping at random points on shorter lines. Try it yourself, which is easier to read? Don’t give your readers eyestrain: justify your text!
If you are a self-publishing writer, ensure you create your PDF ebooks with the end-user, THE READER, in mind; resist the urge to copy the layout of other e-books and try to emulate the formatting of REAL printed books.
Enjoy watching your readership and fan base grow by spending more time on achieving the best possible presentation of your work.
Tim Johnson is writer liaison officer at free ebook publishing and distribution site http://www.obooko.com where he also gets to design book covers and mess about with all things technical. Did you know that writers can publish free of charge on obooko? And if you are a new fiction writer you can download Free Book Templates to help you get started: http://www.obooko.com/writers6.html