What is the real purpose of a book cover?

With the lowering of the barrier of entrance, self-publishing books has become the norm rather than the exception. Something that was traditionally handled by big, lumbering publishing houses or by individuals with a lot of money, has now become a reality for anyone. It no longer has the stigma of vanity publishing, but has instead evolved into a perfectly viable route to market.

But the fact that it is easily possible does not mean that it is easy to do. There are countless pitfalls along the way, and for someone who has never even had tangential contact with the publishing industry there are inevitably a good number of lurking misconceptions. The number of decisions that have to be made, and the impact these decisions can have on your potential success are immense.

Choosing the right cover is perhaps the most important decision you will make surrounding your book

Let’s take a look at book covers, for example. It is so easy to get them wrong—and for all the right reasons.

For many years now I have been working with authors who self-publish their books. I have been formatting their books, as well as providing cover art for them on many occasions, and if there is one red thread that weaves itself through the nearly one-thousand book projects I have worked on, it is this: passion!

Authors spend a lot of time writing their books, massaging them to perfection, editing them, reading them again and again, proofing them, the whole spiel. It takes a lot of time and passion, naturally, and as a result authors always have a very close attachment to the project. A lot of passion. It is the essential ingredient or else the project would never have come to fruition.

Don’t let the fact that you are, perhaps, too close to the project cloud your judgment

However, this passion can easily become detrimental when it comes to certain aspects of the actual publishing of the project, because publishing a book requires a number of business decisions. A cool head is required to make the right choices, or you might get in the way of your own success.

Covers are one of the areas where these problems often manifest themselves very quickly, creating a dangerous slope, because covers are, perhaps, the single most important decision you will ever make regarding your book.

So, let me ask you this question… what is the purpose of the cover?

The purpose of a book cover is not to perfectly illustrate the story down to the smallest detail or to showcase every aspect and facet of the plot. If you think this way, you are too close to your project, and you are thinking about your cover too literal—especially in the digital world where books are bought primarily online and the presentation of the cover has changed from a beautiful piece of art to a small 100 pixel-wide thumbnail.

The sole purpose of a book cover is to help sell the book

A book cover is a selling tool! Nothing more, nothing less. It serves the purpose to attract eyeballs and then get those people intrigued enough to click on the cover thumbnail and learn more about the book, which, hopefully, will then result in a sale. If visitors on Amazon do not notice a book cover because it is easily overlooked and disappears among other covers, it serves absolutely no purpose and is actually detrimental to the author because uncounted potential sales are lost right there.

Forget how much you love your friend’s illustration, or how you feel this frilly font really reflects your main character’s taste for the intricate. If people do not notice your cover or if it is muddled up, you won’t make a sale.

You always have to keep in mind that for the most part you are trying to sell books to people who are not familiar with you and who do not know the book or the story—at all. It is the cover that will hopefully draw them to it. It is the cover that will hopefully connect with them and intrigue them enough to find out more. Only then will you be able to tap into new readers. Readers who are essential for growing your customer base not only for this book, but also for your next.

A good cover will open your book up to a new readership

I suppose it is easy to see that the impact one good cover can have are very far-reaching over the course of a writer’s career.

What makes a good cover then?

Again, with the digital revolution, software has become available to anyone with a computer that enables us to do everything by ourselves. But should we? A better tool does not necessarily mean the output is getting better. Even with a better knife you will still not be able to carve a better statue, because you lack the necessary skill set, and you really have to ask yourself whether you feel that you are qualified enough to tackle something as important as your book’s cover by yourself.

Among many things, I am a trained typesetter. I took a three-year apprenticeship to learn about fonts, their impact, their structure, the creation and design, and the subject of printed matters on the whole.

This apprenticeship taught me things that allow me to make educated decisions when it comes to the visual presentation of the written word. Which font to choose, which size to choose it in, how to properly kern it, how to adjust and tweak it for best visual impact or for best readability. The list goes on.

Covers are not just an image with a few words sprinkled on for good measure

See, it is a very common misconception that covers are just images with a handful of words thrown on them. Nothing could be further from the truth, really. A cover needs focus. It needs to create intrigue. It needs to guide the eye. It needs to create emotions that connect the story with the person browsing the virtual bookshelf.

Do a little experiment, if you wish. Do a search on Amazon that should bring up your book, and then quickly scan the results with one glance. If your book is not the first one that jumps to your eye, your cover is missing something. How could I say something like this? Because you are so familiar with your cover that your eyes should immediately pinpoint it—with your eyes closed, almost. If they don’t, you know that something is seriously wrong, because the odds of a stranger honing in on your cover at a glance are deteriorating rapidly here.

Aside from the cover motive itself, font choice is vital. A font that is unbalanced and hard to read is useless, but what is “unbalanced” and what is “hard to read?” These are the things that typesetters and graphic designers have spent years learning and studying. A well-chosen font on a single-colored background can be extremely dramatic in the hands of the right cover designer. It can cut to the chase and deliver its message, and that is exactly what you need. That is what trained professionals are for, and access to trained and professional talent is easier and more affordable than ever.

If you can’t see your cover, no one will

Though custom designed covers are still quite pricey and not within everyone’s budget range, a new alternative has emerged over the past years—pre-designed covers. One of the players in the field of pre-designed covers is my most recent venture, Covertopia.com, where I team up with experienced long-time graphic designer and illustrator Lieu Pham to bring bestselling book covers to authors at affordable rates.

The concept of pre-designed covers, or premades as they are often called also, is very simple, really. The cover designer creates and hosts a catalog of covers that have been prepared ahead of time, without any particular book in mind. These covers are usually following themes and trends that reflect the current state of the market, without honing in on exact details of any one book. This way the cover can be potentially applied to a variety of books, because it illustrates more general subjects, while maintaining the high quality and professional design elements you would normally find in much higher priced custom designed covers. Reputable designers will make sure that the covers remain nonetheless unique, by selling a particular cover design only once. In these cases, after it is sold to an author, the cover design is taken off the market, and no longer available to others.

Predesigned covers are a cost-effective and fast way to get that professional look

This kind of service should not be mistaken with supposed cover designs you can get on sites like Fiverr. These are usually not created by professionals, but hobbyists with extra time on their hand, and therefore often lack in real design and typography fundamentals, not to mention that many of them are using imagery without obtaining proper rights clearance, etc. A professional cover designer will always ensure that the images used will be legitimate and will not create copyright nightmares for you.

So, if you are a writer, looking for an affordable cover for your next book, while making sure it plays on a professional level and doesn’t break the bank, a pre-designed cover might just be the ticket. In addition, pre-designed covers have a very quick turn-around, because they can be finalized with your book title and handed over to you much faster than a custom job. Reputable designers will get the final cover to within a day or two. This means no delay for your project, so you can go to press anytime you’re ready!

On Covertopia.com my partner Lieu Pham, a long-time graphic designer and illustrator, and I are offering covers for a wide range of genres, in a wide range of themes and looks, all optimized for best discoverability, all making a statement and an impact, and we strive to give each pre-designed cover the same kind of feel that we afford our custom design projects. Sound interesting? It should, because getting professional covers has never been easier.


Scotland Yard, well, hello…

ScotlandYard2For most of us, the name of Scotland Yard is synonymous with detective stories. Whether it is Sherlock Holmes, the books of Agatha Christie or Edgar Wallace, or even the exploits of Jack the Ripper, the involvement of Scotland Yard roots these stories, often elevating the institution to mythical heights. Its involvement lends credence to the powers of traditional law enforcement.

The Yard has long been part of my Jason Dark supernatural mysteries in a variety of ways, not in the least through the fact that Inspector Lestrade calls upon Jason Dark and Siu Lin on occasion. Since the cases of the ghost hunters involve killings and deaths, it is only natural that the two occult detectives have a lot of contact with Scotland Yard.

At one point I began to wonder what would happen if the powers of the Yard would were to realize Jason Dark’s skills and acknowledge his legitimacy. An idea evolved in my mind that, perhaps, they would offer him a job. More to the point, perhaps, would they even open a department for the special kinds of cases he is regularly involved in?

ScotlandYardDivisionMapTraditionally, Scotland Yard worked in Divisions. Greater London was divided into a number of sections that had a degree of autonomy under the Scotland Yard umbrella. In history, H Division became the most notorious one, no doubt. It covered London’s East End, and among it the Whitechapel district, the part of town with the largest crime rate and, of course, the killing grounds of the infamous Jack the Ripper. Other letters of the alphabet were assigned to other parts of the city. Interestingly, what many people do not know is that the City of London itself, which makes up only the very heart of what we typically consider London as a whole to be, had its very own police force and was not part of Scotland Yard’s jurisdiction.

While this divisionalization had its benefits, particularly as the city continued to grow, it also had its limitations, of course. To counter the shortcomings that arose from the many disjointed divisions, another department was founded, commonly known as CID, the Criminal Investigation Department. Without the jurisdictional limitations of separate divisions, CID operated independently and quickly took charge of cases surrounding murders and rapes. It is this division, in fact, that we usually associate with the name Scotland Yard. It consisted of detectives in plainclothes, often working undercover in disguise as they investigated the most notorious and brutal of cases in the Greater London area.

ScotlandYard1With all that in mind, I began to imagine the possibilities. What if Scotland Yard would indeed open a department dedicated to supernatural incidents? I foreshadowed the idea in a previous Jason Dark mystery also, “Curse of Kali,” and in the latest adventure, “Hunted,” I took that leap all the way and made it official. In the story you will find a scene in which Dark and Siu Lin are approached with the concept, as proposed by the Home Secretary and the Queen herself.

Like many of the historic references and character cameos I have constantly built into the series over its course, this once again added a nice touch to the story, I felt, expanding the horizon of Jason Dark’s world and the possibilities for me to play with the characters and settings. He would no longer be a civilian, scrutinized suspiciously by policemen on the beat. He would no longer be the prime suspect as people fall dead along his path, and he would suddenly have an entire police force at his disposal to help him solve cases. Not that I would want him to be regular copper, of course. Far from it. He is just not the type, but as you may agree, it would open up certain new thematic possibilities, not to mention the drama that would undoubtedly unfold if he were suddenly accountable to Queen Victoria herself. What is his relationship with the Queen, anyway?

Check out “Hunted” to find out how Jason Dark reacts to the Yard’s offer, though. It may be good for a few chuckles along the way as he improvises in critical moments. Naturally, the story as a whole is probably more interesting than that small tidbit alone, but it is like a proper spice. It adds dimension without getting in the way.

Hunted_Flat-192x300Therefore I would like to invite you to check out “Hunted” and get a taste of Jason Dark dealing with an exotic hopping vampire from China in an action-packed mystery that takes every last ounce of resourcefulness out of Dark and Siu Lin. The book has just been released and is now available for a limited time only for $0.99.

I hope you’ll have a blast with the story, and I’d love to hear what you thought of it, so don’t be shy to write to me.


The return of Jason Dark

TerrorLord_Preview-192x300Today is a big day for me! It is a make-or-break kind of day, to be exact, because today I am giving Jason Dark a second lease on life.

When I first started my Jason Dark series of supernatural mysteries six years ago I had no idea where the adventure would take me. Ebooks were a technological aspiration that had not yet fully emerged, let away broken into the mainstream, and I simply wanted to spread my wings into true fiction writing, after having spent decades writing for computer games.

Consequently I wrote seven adventures featuring the inimitable ghost hunter Jason Dark and his sidekicks Siu Lin and Herbert, along with a serialized short story that was published in Fangoria magazine. Those who read the stories enjoyed them. some loved them—or so they said, and yet, the series never took off and I was forced to abandon it after finishing and publishing “Fu Man Chu’s Vampire” more than three years ago. It was a hard decision for me to walk away from the series. I had fallen in love with the characters and the setting of the series in Victorian England. Writing these stories was a dream come true on so many levels, but I simply could not afford spending any more time writing, publishing and promoting books that did not sell enough to make a living.

And so, the books languished for a long time, until earlier this year, I felt the urge to give it another try. The market had changed so much in those years. Ebooks are now fully established in the market, self-publishing was the only viable way for authors to get their work out, having practically replaced traditional publishing industry altogether, which had imploded by its own hand, helping its own demise along with an abandon of intelligence I have never seen before in any industry. But I digress…

It all started when I re-read “Fu Man Chu’s Vampire,” the last book in my series. I have the habit of taking notes constantly when I read—regardless of whose book it is—and I found that I had a lot of notes on this particular book. Notes where I felt the wording was weak, where more information would have been à propos, where the flow wasn’t as well-rounded as it could have been, and so on. It was then that I decided to give the book a good do-over and perhaps try to bring to full novel length. And so I got to work—and when I was done the book was 45k words long and deserved a new title—Hunted.

Theater_of_Vampire__Flat-192x300With that done, and the knowledge that new title would require a completely new launch of the book, it was almost a foregone conclusion to relaunch the entire series along with it. So I talked to Lieu Pham who has been creating hundreds of covers for clients and her Covertopia.com website. Together we went through every book in the series and she created a stunning new cover for each one.

At this time I also decided to make the first book in the series, “Demon’s Night” permanently free as a hook, to get readers to try out the series and hopefully continue from there. Although each of the Jason Dark adventures is a stand-along book that does not require any knowledge of the previous books, I understand that mean reader simply want to get into a series with the first book.

DemaonsNight_NewFont_Flat-192x300For me, the problem was that “Demon’s Night” was the first book I ever wrote—six years ago—so I wasn’t sure if the book would live up to expectations. While one could argue that a free book is a free book, my intention is to use it to introduce new readers to the series, and to hook them, and if that book is weak, clearly, the plan will not work.

I daresay that I have grown as a writer since and when I began re-reading the book to check on the quality of the writing, I very quickly realized that it, too, would require a bit of extra work, so I made some changes. Not to the same extent as I did with “Hunted” but I did clean out some sections and added more information, while also looking for grammar and, most importantly, wording issues.

The last step was reformatting all eleven eBooks in the series to update their look, making it more contemporary and more what you’d expect from current eBook technology. You may recall that I discussed the subject in a previous post called “The new look of Jason Dark.”

Doctor_Flat-192x300Which brings us to today’s launch. The new website is live, all the books have been updated in online stores, making sure readers can now grab fully updated copies with their beautiful new layout. And, of course, the crème de la crème, “Hunted” is now available for everyone to read!

The book is currently available at a $0.99 introductory price to help give the book a strong start. The first weeks of a book are the most critical because they determine how online stores like Amazon will treat the book, whether it is something worthy of recommending to their millions of readers or whether its fate will be more along the lines of “also ran.”

Help me bring “Hunted” to the forefront of readers’ minds, would you? It’s a 99 cent investment, less than a cup of coffee or a candy bar, and it will keep you entertained—I promise. Better yet, it will lure you back to the fog-shrouded streets of Victorian London and throw you in the middle of an action-packed mystery.

Heavens_on_Fire_Flat-192x300New York Time-bestselling writer Joe Nassise even compared my character Jason Dark to the likes of Carl Kolchak—don’t be afraid to show your age—and Fox Mulder. I felt incredibly humbled when I read his endorsement. I mean, we are talking about Mulder here… THE Fox Mulder!

So, if you’ve gotten curious, do yourself a favor. Buy the book—once again, it is only 99 cents currently, an investment I am certain you can afford—and help my Jason Dark series back on its feet. There are so many cool stories in the series, and so many more in my head that I have yet to write.

So, let’s get this show on the road. Let’s put Jason Dark and Siu Lin on the map for all fans of supernatural mysteries to find, and your purchase of the book will go a long way towards that goal.

Enough with the procrastinating, already… click on one of these links and get your copy of “Hunted” right now! If you don’t like the book, throw it in my face, and I’ll give you your money back. How’s that for a deal?


The new look of Jason Dark

Many of you have probably heard by now that for the past months I’ve been busy at work to reinvigorate and relaunch my Jason Dark series of books. All the hard work is about to pay off, I hope, as I am nearing the launch date of September 14 for “Hunted,” the latest book in the series, and with it the relaunch of the series as a whole. Just to get you started off, here is a look at the cover for “Hunted,” which shows off nicely the new style that all new covers in the series sport.


As part of the process to breathe some new, fresh air into the Jason Dark books, I reworked the first book “Demon’s Night” once again, ironing out some things I wasn’t too happy with upon re-reading the story a while ago. More importantly, however, all the books in the series have been completely reformatted from scratch, using some of the more advanced formatting features that eBook readers of the current generation can handle.

Here’s a look at the new look of the eBook versions for you.

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 2.44.16 PM

Compared to the simplistic look of the original stories, you can see, that the new layout is much friendlier on the eye with plenty of white space.

A beautiful splatter of ink appears at the beginning of each new chapter, adding style to the layout. The splatter was actually the idea of Lieu Pham from Covertopia.com, who also redesigned all the covers for the series, and you would not believe what a difference it made once I dropped it into the page. Small things, such as this can often make a huge difference and her experienced design eye instantly realized the potential.

The new layout also features custom fonts to create a brand-look for the books. The chapter title itself is using the same font that is found on the book covers, creating visual continuity throughout the book and with it, the entire series.

In addition, I opted for the use of a large initial and first-line small caps for the beginning of each chapter. For that I also used a custom font to create an intricate, yet delicate look that is open and breathes. Naturally, the use of custom fonts and features such as this is not without issues, as those of you familiar with formatting limitations of eBooks will know. Not all devices support custom fonts, the small-caps feature or the way I set up the initials. It was important to me, however, to push the series forward, even if it meant using formatting features, even if it meant that older devices may not be able to display the pages exactly the same way. In a worst-case scenario, older devices will abandon the custom fonts in favor of the device default font, it will ignore the small-caps command, leaving the first line of the chapter formatted the same way as the rest of the text, and it may ignore the set-up of my initial, rendering it as a regular character, the same size as the rest of the text. While it may not have the glamor of the “advanced” layout of modern devices, I made sure that it won’t result in a garbled display and still look perfectly fine.

The Jason Dark website has been completely revamped as well, and you can see it in all its glory here – www.jasondarkseries.com. Check out all the new covers for each of the books. Fans familiar with the series will also notice that I have changed the title of the adventure “Dr. Prometheus” to “The Doctor,” a title that I think works much better.

With only a few days left before the official launch, the next few days will be filled with a flurry of activities, all to raise awareness of the series and the upcoming new book.

You want to help me make this launch an all-out success story? It’s really easy. Just share with your friends the news of the upcoming release and the overhaul of the entire series. Point them towards the website, let them know that “Hunted” will be available on September 14 with a limited time price of only $0.99, remind them how important reviews are, or simply show them the cool new look of the books, over on the official website.


Teaching TextMate a new trick

I recently had to switch to TextMate 2 because I had upgraded to OSX 10.10 Yosemite, and my trusty old version of TextMate was no longer fully operational. Some of the bundles I am routinely using when formatting eBooks crashed Ruby, making them useless.

One of the features I constantly use is the “Wrap Each Selected Line in Open/Close Tag” command from the HTML Bundle. It is one of the most important commands I use when formatting eBooks, because it allows me to automatically wrap every paragraph in a text in <p> and its corresponding </p> tags.

After the update to TextMate 2 I found, however, that the functionality was no longer what I really expected. Instead of wrapping everything in <p> tags, I found my text wrapped in <li> tags instead, which was not very useful. Actually, it was not useful at all. It was detrimental.

I’ve done a little bit of TextMate Bundle coding myself in the past to create streamlined commands that help me format eBooks much faster. They have become essential part of my everyday tool chain. Seeing the unexpected behavior of the TextMate 2 bundle I decided to simply dive into the Bundle Editor and change the default behavior of the “Wrap Each Selected Line in Open/Close Tag” command to my needs.

If you want to do the same, here’s how you’d go about it. Simply open the Bundle Editor by selecting “Edit Bundles” from the “Bundle” menu in TextMate. Next, select the HTML entry in the list that appears on the left hand side of the window. You will now see a number of entries appear in the second column of the window. We want to drill into the one called “Menu Actions” and then the one called “Wrap Each Selected Line in Open/Close Tag”.


In the lower window that contains the code portion of the command, you will find the following lines

[[ -f "${TM_SUPPORT_PATH}/lib/bash_init.sh" ]] && . "${TM_SUPPORT_PATH}/lib/bash_init.sh"
perl -pe 's/[\$`\\]/\\$&/g; s/([ \t]*)(.+)/$1<\${1:li}>$2<\/\${1\/\\s.*\/\/}>/'

As you can see, in the jumble of the regular expression there is a reference to the unwanted “li” tag. All we have to do is change that entry to “p” instead and make the line look like this

[[ -f "${TM_SUPPORT_PATH}/lib/bash_init.sh" ]] && . "${TM_SUPPORT_PATH}/lib/bash_init.sh"
perl -pe 's/[\$`\\]/\\$&/g; s/([ \t]*)(.+)/$1<\${1:p}>$2<\/\${1\/\\s.*\/\/}>/'

Once you’ve done that, hit Ctrl-S to save the change, and you’re done. Whenever you now press the Shift-Control-Command-W keys or select “Wrap Each Selected Line in Open/Close Tag” from the Bundle menu, every paragraph of your text will be neatly wrapped with the correct <p> tags.


Win a cover from Covertopia.com!

Feeling lucky? You should, because I can feel that today is your lucky day. All you have to do is enter in Covertopia’s Give-away, and keep your fingers crossed. You may just win a cool cover for your next book! Heck, I’ll even throw in the formatting for your book.

As you may know, Covertopia.com is a new service provider that I am closely affiliated with. Primarily, the website offers pre-designed covers for authors at an affordable price with an almost instant turn-around time. With a catalog of almost 200 instantly available premade covers at this point, from many genres, you can win any one of these covers for your own book.


Participating is easy and you will be helping us spread the word to the community, to make sure more and more authors hear about Covertopia.com. It will enable us to make even more covers, make even cooler covers, create a wider variety of covers, and you can be instrumental in the process.

The way it works is really simple. Go to Covertopia’s give-away page and share info about this give-away on your social network, tweet about it, Facebook about it, or post your favorite cover on Pinterest, and earn points for the give-away. The more points you have, the better your chance of winning—it is that easy! You can even earn points by signing up to my newsletter, liking the Covertopia Facebook page, following on Twitter and more.

Just head on over there and take a look for yourself for the full details, and please, help us letting other writers out there know that the perfect cover for their book might already be waiting for them at Covertopia.com.

Thank you so much for your support! If you want to, you can also submit your entries right here! Keep in mind you can come back every day during the duration of the give-away to collect more entries.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Over the past weeks I’ve been reading a number of non-fiction eBooks—don’t ask me, why, it just happened for some reason. The interesting thing is that I noticed a number of recurring eBook formatting problems that permeated virtually each one of these books, and I thought I’d touch upon the subject for a change.

The problem in question revolves around terms that should be treated as a unit. Take a look at the screenshot and see if you can figure out what’s wrong with it.


The problem her is, of course, the way the term “30 days” has been line wrapped—twice actually, and the term 1,667 words has been wrapped also. Plenty of bad formatting going on here!

When you have something like this term, a professional typesetter will always make sure that the individual words in the term will not be word-wrapped… ever. There is nothing worse than having the number “30” on one line and the word “days” on the next, or worse yet, on the next page. It just doesn’t look professional and instantly gives off a whiff of amateur that you do not want in your book.

Certain terms need to stick together like Laurel and Hardy

In novels this is oftentimes not such an acute problem, because most authors would actually write “thirty days” instead, which can be wrapped perfectly fine, but by their very nature, non-fiction books often wrangle a lot of data and as such it is no surprise that I found the error striking in the past weeks in particular.

Naturally, the same applies to terms,such as “3 months,” “4 years,” “5 minutes,” “10 dollars” and so forth. Other occasions where you may find terms that should never be wrapped is in dates, for example, such as “November 5,” “Day 3,” “3 AM” or even in situations like a “1964 Mustang” or a “1953 Corvette.”

The most prevalent occurrence of such terms, in both fiction and non-fiction is on cases, such as “Mr. Potter,” “Mrs. Bates,” or “Dr. Jekyll,” and one could even go as far as applying the rule to terms such as “Agent Mulder.”

The solution to the problem is fairly simple, really. If you are formatting your eBook in HTML, you simply replace the space between the words of the term with a non-breaking space character, like this: 30&nbsp;days. This way, you disallow the eBook software to break apart the entity.

The solution: Prevent word-wrapping with non-breakable space characters

To achieve this one can use a very simple Regular Expression to isolate the cases. The concept is to search for one of multiple digits, followed by a space character, followed by a letter.

A simple search expressions like this

([0-9]) ([a-zA-Z])

will locate such instances. I do not recommend simply running a replacement on this search, however, because there would be too many false positives. Instead, simply go through them one by one and decide whether they need to be adjusted or not. I know, this is time-consuming, but that’s part of the reason why professional ebook formatting costs a bit of money.


As you know, I do not recommend exporting eBooks straight from word processors, but I do understand that many authors do so nonetheless. It is possible to avoid this kind of word-wrapping in word processors as well, by replacing the space character with a Ctrl-space character. And voilà…

If you can actually make this practice to use Ctrl-space in all the right places part of your general writing habit, all the better, you will be properly prepared right off the bat, and you will make the life of your eBook formatter a whole lot easier.

The thing about this kind of eBook formatting error is that it is not something that readers would report to you, but it is wrong nonetheless. It gives authors the impression that nothing is wrong with the eBooks, when, in fact, there are formatting errors in it. Many such issues can be evidenced in eBooks, pitfalls that most people are not aware of but that hinder the reading flow and somehow give off a bad impression.

That’s why it make sense to hire professionals to handle your eBook formatting. Someone with credentials, someone who understands actual typesetting, in order to make sure these kinds of things don’t happen.

Will you take a look at your books and see if you’ve been a victim of this particular pitfall?

Zen of eBook Formatting is currently on sale for only $2.99 instead of its original $5.99 price!

If you want to keep up with my eBook formatting work, don’t forget to subscribe to my Newsletter. That way I can keep you updated about the latest developments, updates to my books, code snippets, techniques and formatting tips.

Also, don’t forget to check out my book Zen of eBook Formatting that is filled with tips, techniques and valuable information about the eBook formatting process.


For all my author friends and visitors, today I have an announcement that is slightly different from my usual formatting posts. I would like you to check out a brand new website called Covertopia.com!

As the title suggests, it is a website specializing on covers. Selling book covers, to be more specific, and if you want to be exact about it, Covertopia.com is a destination where authors can find highest quality pre-designed covers as well as custom created covers.

Why am I telling you this? Well, if you browse the site a little, you will notice that my name comes up, because I am affiliated with the site. As part of the packages for authors offered on Covertopia.com I am throwing my formatting experience and services in the ring, so that hopefully it becomes more of a one-stop solution for authors. Here, you can get your eBook and print covers done, as well as your eBook formatting and print layout. All easy, quick and super professional. Here are a few samples I picked for you, just to show you the level of quality you can find there.

Needless to say there are countless more covers available for purchase right now! If you don’t believe me, just browse some of the pre-designed covers that are currently available on the site. Whether you’re a romance, horror, mystery or thriller author, or if you write non-fiction and self-help books, anything in-between, on Covertopia.com you can find an ever-expanding array of pre-designed covers of the highest quality at affordable prices.

But there is more… in addition to the covers themselves, Covertopia.com also offers additional graphic assets for your books, including web ads, Facebook banners, memes, 3D book covers images, audio book covers, bookmark and postcard designs—all designed to help promote your book.

It is very easy to see the decades of design experience shine through in these covers, as they have been tweaked for optimal visibility. Since books are bought primarily online these days, every cover has been carefully designed to ensure that the respective books will get noticed by readers browsing virtual store shelves. Don’t believe me? Go, see for yourself. Right now!

Oh, and before you leave, make sure you will also tell all your friends about Covertopia.com, because undoubtedly, they will need a best-selling cover for their next book as well, and wouldn’t you like to be the one to set them on the right path?

I am making it easy for you! Simply click on the text or the icon below, and tweet the news to all your followers.

Tweet: Covertopia.com is a new hot new site for all your pre-designed #eBook and print cover needs — http://bit.ly/1IL9ciz #covers
Click2Tweet: Covertopia.com is a new hot new site for all your pre-designed #eBook and print cover needs — http://bit.ly/1IL9ciz #covers

Custom fonts in iBooks

By now, I am sure you’ve heard that every device in the market has its own little quirks. Whether it’s not scaling images correctly, ignoring transparency, overlooking style settings in certain tags or some other weird behavior, the process of formatting ebooks across platforms is anything than straight-forward.

Today I want to direct your attention to one issue in particular, the way iBooks is handling font switches. Ordinarily, and on all other platforms, changing the font in a block of text is one of the most rudimentary and trivial things to do. You would set up styles and then use a, <p>, <span> or <label> tag to switch the style and consequently the font type with it, just as outlined here with these style settings…

span.sans-serif { font-family: sans-serif; }
span.serif { font-family: serif; }
span.monospace { font-family: monospace; }

…and the following HTML paragraph.

<p>This is an example for a <span class=”sans-serif”>sans-serif font</span>, while this is a switch to a <span class=”monospace”>monospace font</span> and this here a quick look at a <span class=”serif”>serif font</span>.</p>

Unfortunately on various occasions, Apple has decided, for unfathomable reasons, to break with convention and create implementations that are more tedious than they really need to be. The approach I just illustrated is not working in iBooks—or rather I should say, it is not always working. Especially when you use embedded fonts that are included using the @font-face rule, you will find that they simply do not show up.

There are two small additional steps that are necessary to get iBooks to properly display your fonts, though small they may be, they are also incredibly cumbersome.

The process involves getting inside the actual ePub file and adding information. Fortunately Calibre lets us do that fairly elegantly, but it is nonetheless a tedium because you will have to do this every time you rebuild your book.

When you right-click your book in Calibre a context menu appears and you will find an entry called “Edit the book” at the bottom of the list. Naturally you will first have to build an ePub version of your book for this to show up, but when you select it, a new window will open showing you the structure of the eBook on the left hand side and the file contents at the center. You now have access to the internal structure of the ePub file, which is a packaged-up assortment of individual files, actually.

In the Files Browser window on the left side of the screen scroll down to the Miscellaneous area where you will find a file called content.opf. Double-click that file and its contents will be displayed in the large window at the center of the screen.

Now enter the following code in that file

<meta property="ibooks:specified-fonts">true</meta>

Best place it right at the end of the <metadata> section just before the closing </metadata> tag.

Now comes the trickier part. We actually need to include a completely new file. First open up a text editor and create a new text file. There, enter the following lines

   <platform name="*"> <!-- allowed values for platform "iphone", "ipad", or "*" for all -->
     <option name="specified-fonts">true <!-- must be set to "true" for embedded fonts -->

and then save the file as com.apple.ibooks.display-options.xml. Alternatively, simply right-click this link and save the file to your computer.

addbtnWith the “Edit Book” details page still open in Calibre, click on the “New File” icon in the upper left corner of the window.

Now enter meta-inf/com.apple.ibooks.display-options.xml in the dialog box and then click on the “Import resource file” button. Locate and chose the com.apple.ibooks.display-options.xml file just we created and hit the “Open” button, followed by “Okay.” You will now see that the file com.apple.ibooks.display-options.xml is appearing in the “Miscellaneous” section of the book structure.

savebtnNow save your changes and close the “Edit Book” window. Back on the Calibre main screen, hit the “Save to Disc” button to save the modified ePub version to your computer.

That is it. You now have properly embedded the necessary information in your ePub file that makes it possible for iOS devices to correctly display different fonts.

If you do not use Calibre, you can also make these changes by hand. All you have to do is unzip your ePub file using whatever software you would ordinarily use to unzip a regular ZIP file.

Once completed, you will find a subfolder on your computer, containing the individual files the eBook consists of. Locate the file content.opf and make the same changes I described above.

Then navigate into the meta-inf subfolder and place the file com.apple.ibooks.display-options.xml in there. The process to create or obtain the file is the same one I described earlier.

The changes are now complete, but will have to zip all these files back up into an ePub file.

This is best done using a command line version of your zip tool. Once you have opened a command line or terminal on your computer, navigate to the directory where your actual eBook files are that you need to zip up. Then enter the following command.

zip -X0 ebook.zip mimetype

This creates the base package for the eBook. We now zip all the content files into it using the following command

zip -rDX9 ebook.zip * -x "*.DS_Store" -x mimetype

Once this is complete, you will see a new file called ebook.zip in the folder. All we need to do is rename it now. If you are working on a Windows computer, simply enter the following command.

ren ebook.zip title_of_your_book.epub

Alternatively, if you are working on a Mac, the following command will do the trick

mv ebook.zip title_of_your_book.epub

That’s all there is to it. Keep in mind, however, that these steps will have to be repeated every time you rebuild the book!

ZenCoverIf you want to keep up with my eBook formatting work, don’t forget to subscribe to my Newsletter. That way I can keep you updated about the latest developments, updates to my books, code snippets, techniques and formatting tips.

Also, don’t forget to check out my book Zen of eBook Formatting that is filled with tips, techniques and valuable information about the eBook formatting process.


On many occasions I’ve kept repeating that it is generally not a good idea to use word processors to export eBooks directly, and whenever I make that statement I am frequently greeted by push-back from authors who are perfectly happy doing it because it works for them.

I guess the operative phrase here is, “works for them.”

Exporting a clean manuscript from a word processor can work if you are dealing with a novel that has nothing but the most basic formatting. I have to point out, however, that not a lot of the books I work on for my clients fall into that category and typically have a few formatting features that require more attention to detail.

In these conversations I have with authors, a lot of folks also seem to think that Scrivener is the ultimate solution and does a perfect job exporting eBooks, a notion that I am going to shred in a moment. First, however, it is important for me to point out that I am a huge fan of Scrivener. I have used it for years. I have written 15 books in Scrivener and I would not consider any other software for the task. I have, however, never considered it to be an eBook exporter. It’s my writing software. Nothing else.

I am saying this because I want you to understand that it is not my intention to discredit Scrivener here. Rather, I want to debunk the myth that Scrivener’s eBook export is perfect and want to show a simple example in which Scrivener’s eBook exporter can completely destroy your eBook.


Imagine, if you would, that you have a small quote you want to format so that it is right-aligned on the page. However, since it is a quote, you do not want it to run the entire width of the page. To make it look nice and neat, you want it to run just, let’s say 20em wide, so that it turns out to be a neat little block of text on the right side of the page.

In Scrivener – or any other word processor for that matter – you would select the text, turn on right-alignment and use the ruler to scale down the width of the printable area. Alternatively, you could have a prepared style that does the same thing, of course, and simply apply it to the text. Makes no difference. The key here is that in order to achieve the proper limited-width word-wrapping, you will have to adjust the printable width.

It looks neat and nice, right? Just until you export it.

If you export a section like this to an ePub file, you will find that your page is mysteriously empty. That’s right. There won’t be anything on the page. What is happening?

In order to understand what is going on, it helps to look at the ePub file that Scrivener creates, and very quickly it becomes obvious that it fell into a major format trap.

Because of limitations in eBooks, in order to create the 20em text canvas on the right hand side of the page, Scrivener decided fake it by simply increasing the left hand margin. It’s a valid approach, no doubt. If you think of the entire page width as 100%, increasing the left margin to 80%, leaves 20% for our quote to be printed. The logic is fine. The execution is not.

First of all, we are not working with percentages. Why? Because if you are looking at a cell phone screen, there is a good chance that 20% of that screen width would barely fit a single word. We cannot allow that to happen. We need something that relates to the text size first and to the display size second.

To accommodate the problem, Scrivener decided to lay it out using em-spacing, which is exactly as it should be. The problem is that it looks at the actual page inside the Scrivener window to calculate the page width. Since the windows on my computer desktop is a lot wider than that of a cellphone screen or even a regular eBook device, the measurements are all off. Scrivener creates a left margin of 80em, and as a result our actual quote is printed off-screen in its entirety. That’s why you see an empty page.

ZenCoverThis is just one example of the unforeseen pitfalls you can run into when you simply rely on a software exporter to do the work for you. There are a myriad of other problems lurking to pop up when you least expect it. These software exporters are great at doing the grunt work, but they are exceptionally poor when it comes to create output that is actually compatible with real-world applications.

A much better way is to take control of your eBook files yourself. Instead of relying on exporting them, which is a hack and a shortcut at best, properly format them yourself. Use methodologies that have proven to work across platforms, such as the approach I outline in my “Take Pride in your eBook Formatting” tutorial series and my book “Zen of eBook Formatting,” which is a step-by-step guide from the most basic beginnings to fully advanced eBook layout features. Feel free to download a free reading sample on Amazon and see for yourself.

ZenCoverIf you want to keep up with my eBook formatting work, don’t forget to subscribe to my Newsletter. That way I can keep you updated about the latest developments, updates to my books, code snippets, techniques and formatting tips.

Also, don’t forget to check out my book Zen of eBook Formatting that is filled with tips, techniques and valuable information about the eBook formatting process.