Strategy Resources Structure Style Layout Composition Production Infrastructure


E-Book Formats Explained Image Formats Explained Advanced Styling & Layout Better Photography Working with SVG Unicode and All That Troubleshooting


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Copyright © Dodeca Technologies Ltd. 2016


I published ‘Publish!, E-Book Formatting Step by Step’ in the spring of 2016, having gained considerable experience of the e-book production and publishing process through work that I did for a client of mine. It flopped miserably, not because there is anything wrong with the book, but because the market simply was not there for it (so I failed to satisfy my own Rule 1​that the first chapter stipulates).

This came as a surprise, given that competent, comprehensive guides to the e-book production process were rather thin on the ground, and those that were available were not terribly good. Indeed, one of the few titles that you could buy at the time was available only in print, when it seems obvious that such a book should, at the least, be available in the electronic format in order to demonstrate the principles it documents in situ.

One might opine that nobody wants to sit and read such a book on a Kindle in the same way that one would sit and read a novel, but this ignores the fact that you can read e-books using a suitable e-book-reading application running on your desktop/laptop/tablet computer. This allows you to keep the formatting guide open in one window while the editor you are using to actually generate an e-book is open in another.

However, reality never budges, even in the face of sound logic, and so putting the entire content of the book on-line realises one of its principal aims, which is to help people with the intricacies of putting an e-book together. Note that the Kindle version remains available on Amazon​for a very reasonable £2.49.

What then, precisely, is Publish? It is a complete and comprehensive guide to e-book production, that picks up where content creation leaves off, and which delivers you to the point of upload to retailers. It assumes you have content ready to go, and adopts a ‘What, Why, How’ approach that explores what you must do to avoid guarantees of failure, why you must do those things, and how you should go about doing them. It assumes also that you have, at best, only minimal technical understanding and skills, but that you have the spirit and wit to roll up your sleeves and give it a go.

There is no essential difference between the content on this site and the Kindle version, with the exception of much of this introduction, and the revenue calculator and contact form, which, obviously, one would never find in a book. I have also replaced every instance of the term ‘this book’ with ‘this guide’, as using the former on a web site is rather incongrouous. I have, however, preserved the internal references to the various chapters as ‘chapters’, rather than ‘pages’.

It is not necessary to read this guide entirely to get a publication on the road. The text refers throughout to ‘the majority’ of e-book producers (and, in kind, e-books), meaning those who are creating books that comprise a linear run of prose, partitioned into chapters, with no compositional devices such as sidebars and the like, and no graphics other than the cover image – your common or garden novel, for example. That majority can ignore completely the more-advanced material in many of the chapters; indeed, given that it is entirely possible to publish a book that contains no explicit styling, layout and imagery of your own, you can skip entire chapters with impunity.

Even if your goal is more adventurous, you need go no further into the chapters on HTML and CSS than your requirements demand, and the text directs you explicitly at key points over whether to continue or skip. Indeed, it is likely that your principal concern lies in step-by-step process. Duly, Chapter Seven, Production, covers those procedural matters in precise, structured and sequential detail, using simple flow charts and screen-shots throughout to illustrate the steps you must take. The text relegates all rarefied techical minutiae to the appendices.

Whether you seek simply to put, say, a first novel out into the world, or if you aim to publish a more-technical work, this guide will take you a very long way indeed towards your goal. If you have your content, and you are willing to extend minimally to the acquisition of just a few extraneous skills, then no more than a decision on your part stands in the way of seeing your great experiment to completion.

Some additional points:


Chapter Three, Structure, relates not to ‘plot structure’ but to the semantic partitioning of your content (the way in which chapters, sections etc. are delimited within the file that comprises an e-book). Similarly, Chapter Four, Style, relates to the visual appearance of your content rather than writing style.


You will see the term ‘User Agent’ frequently in the text, which is the formal, technical term for e-reading devices and web browsers. It means simply any system – hardware or software – that is capable of presenting HTML-/CSS-formatted content. As with ‘render’, It carries no esoteric meaning beyond that (and so need be no cause for concern) and it is used herein simply because ‘e-reader’ could be taken to mean ‘hardware user agent’ only (i.e. Kindles. Kobos, Nooks etc.), and because phrases like ‘web browsers and e-readers’ are needlessly verbose.

Note that when you see the term ‘reader’ (without the ‘e-’), you can take it to mean the human reader of a given book.


When referring to external resources that you can find on the Internet, the text avoids citing addresses explicitly. Links to only the most enduring and stable of sites will retain currency over time, and so the text gives search-term suggestions as a reliable alternative.


‘At the time of writing’ is a cumbersome phrase, yet relentless technological development renders it or an equivalent necessary in technical guides such as this. Given this, you should take any instance of the word ‘currently’ to mean ‘at the time of writing‘, which you can consider to be Autumn 2015. It means also that things may have changed by the time you read the text, and thus implies that you should observe due diligence before you make any big decisions.


I am reluctant to write in the first person anywhere herein, even in this introduction. The aim is to be as objective as possible, while yielding just a little here and there for some hopefully-deft and apposite humour, and for the occasional heartfelt observation. However, the marketing section in the first chapter, Strategy, benefits greatly from the inclusion of three entirely personal anecdotes, as they provide prima facie evidence for the arguments in question. First-person accounts are unavoidable at that point.


Accuracy is a principal concern with any technical publication, so do get in touch should you come across an assertion that is misleading or just plain wrong, or if you have constructive criticism to offer.


If you are interested in the Kindle version of this guide, and the UK is not your locale, you can acquire it from one of the non-UK flavours of Amazon via the following links:


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This guide also uses a formal notation scheme, which is as follows:


Links. Links are denoted by a small arrowhead graphic. For example:

Material in a​previous chapter
Material in a subsequent​chapter
Material​above within the same chapter
Material below​within the same chapter
Material on an external​web site

…which has the advantage of indicating the presence of a link and the direction within the text that the link takes you.


Keywords and Values. CSS keywords and HTML tag names are rendered in bold, as are values for filenames, colour, size etc.


Lorem Ipsum. In many places, you will see text that looks like this:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit...

This piece of nonsense Latin does not really mean anything, nor is that the intent. Its use is common in typography and publishing as a filler that absolves the designer of having to come up with something else that will act as a placeholder, and which will not distract the reader with real content. If you are interested in the origin and history of Lorem Ipsum, then suggested search terms are:

wikipedia lorem ipsum


Unicode Codepoint Names. In places, you will see phrases like this: zero width space, this reflects the canonical naming scheme (and the typeface used) in the Unicode standard. As with enumerated points considered above, the words are rendered in small capitals and are the name of a given Unicode ‘grapheme’.


Flow Charts. This guide uses flow charts in some places to demonstrate the steps that are involved in a particular task. More accurately, they are a very slight variation on what are known as UML Activity Diagrams, which is the more-modern notation that a proportion of software developers use. They are the same essentially as flow charts, in that they represent steps in a given process, along with the conditional steps that that process may entail.

In case the meaning of the notation is not immediately apparent, the following diagram explains the symbols:


Principal cover-art text and chapter/section/table headings set in Lucida Casual (used under a commercial license).

Code examples set in Roboto Mono, a free typeface by Christian Robertson.

Diagram text set in Quattrocento Sans, a free typeface by Pablo Impallari.

Calligraphic font-examples set in Tangerine, a free typeface by Toshi Omagari.

Image​of dead tree in flat waters, Chapter Six, Composition, by Vadmary (used under a commerical license).

Image​of train against mountain backdrop, Chapter Six, Composition, by Ferrantraite (used under a commerical license).

Sillhouette​image of horse, Chapter Six, Composition, by Moi Cody (used under a commercial license).

Image​of Saturn, Appendix B – Image Formats Explained, courtesy the Cassini Orbiter, courtesy Nasa (image reference: PIA08387).

Image​of speeding train in underground railway tunnel, Appendix D, Better Photography, by Tomas Sereda (used under a commercial license).

Image​of waterfall in woodland, Appendix D, Better Photography by Daniel Kay (used under a commercial license).

Cuneiform​Tablet, Appendix F – Unicode and All That, courtesy Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

All other images, photographs and diagrams copyright © Richard Vaughan 2012-2015, all rights reserved.

Special thanks go to Grahame Farrell for his keen-eyed proofreading, and for being an invaluable sounding board during the development of this guide.