Win a Kindle Fire From Zoe Winters!

Thanks to Natasha for inviting me to her blog to pimp my contest!

I’ve been away from writing my Preternaturals series for awhile (was writing books for my other pen name). Since I’ve been back in Zoe-mode, I’ve released a side novella in the series that people can read without having read anything else by me yet (Dark Mercy), but the next full-length book in the series, The Catalyst, is coming soon.

Since it’s been awhile since I’ve deeply engaged with this series, I wanted to do something that would serve two different goals:

  1. Get readers who are already fans of my work re-engaged and immersed in the series so they are ready and psyched for the next book. (You know how you can read a book and love it but then it sort of fades a little in the background so future books don’t make you as rabid about having them until you remember how much you loved the other books? Yeah… that.)
  2. Bring on board new readers for the series.

I love Easter Eggs. (I promise this connects.) I don’t mean the colored eggs with the candy inside that the giant bunny (Let’s call him Harvey) delivers to small children to make them hyper. I mean the little things in a book or television series that are almost like inside jokes. Like, on Buffy The Vampire Slayer they were still mentioning Xander’s hyena possession in season seven. And that happened in season one.

So I decided I would host my own Easter Egg Hunt and reward readers for finding the Easter Eggs I’ve left for them in my books. The grand prize is a Kindle Fire! Additionally, I’ll be giving away signed copies of The Catalyst when it comes out (on the home stretch for that!).

For the contest, all my books are on deep discount (check the contest details page above for titles and buy links), to lower the barrier of contest entry for those who don’t already have all the books in the series. The sale will last through Easter Sunday, but you’ll have through midnight on April 15th to turn in your Easter eggs.

Even if you don’t want to hunt, now is a great opportunity to grab my books, or maybe even give one to a friend for an Easter gift, while they are all on extreme sale. (I can’t imagine another situation besides a contest requiring “reference materials” where I’d be crazy enough to discount all my work this deeply.)

Also, if you’re feeling awesome, you can tweet, blog, or Facebook the link to the contest page and get extra entries into the smaller prize giveaways. And let me know, of course. (But you have to hunt to win the Kindle Fire!)

Thanks for reading, and… may the odds be ever in your favor. (Sorry, I’m reading the Hunger Games… I totally couldn’t help that.)

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Books,Kindle Formatting | Tags: , ,

Pull-Quotes in Kindle Format 8

One of the problems with the new Kindle Format is backwards-compatibility. First problem was poetry and hanging indents, which Joshua Tallent solved most excellently: Backwards Compatible Poetry for KF8/Mobi

Next on my list were pull quotes. The old Kindle format never did pull quotes very well, but the new one will float them: very pretty. However… to be backwards compatible with the old mobi format, I had to lose the top and bottom border and use <hr> tags. (*shudders*) And then there’s that <hr> bottom/top margin problem, along with Kindle margin-bottom problem, as well.

I’d love thoughts and suggestions! Kindle markup is just ugly, sometimes.

I’m not 100% happy, but this is what I ended up with:

The Kindle Fire:


Old Kindle e-ink:


Kindle for PC:


Kindle for iPhone:


And the CSS:

/*Kindle Format 8*/
@media not amzn-mobi {
.pqg {
    float:right !important;
    width:40% !important;
    margin: 0;
    padding-right: .5em !important;
    padding-left: .5em !important;
    text-align: center;
    border: none;
p.after {
p.blockp {
    margin-top:10px; }

/*Old Mobi*/
@media amzn-mobi {
.pqg {
    text-align: center;
p.after {
p.blockp {
    margin-top:10px; }

And then the HTML:

<div class="pqg">
<hr class="nd"/>
<p class="blockp"><span class="gre"><i>
God loves fermentation just as dearly as he loves vegetation.</i></span></p>
<p class="right"><span class="gre"><span class="smallcaps">&ndash; Ralph Waldo Emerson</span><span></p>
<hr class="nd"/>

<p class="after">

It’s the best I’ve come up with thus far. I can’t wait until the old devices are updated to support KF8, but I’m not real hopeful it will happen anytime soon.

What do you think? Suggestions?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Kindle Formatting | Tags: , ,

How to Set Ebook Prices

I get this question a lot. Mostly, I say “I don’t know.” It’s not that I don’t have opinions or ideas, but I don’t want to give advice on something that could, potentially, lose someone money.

But iampariah did in the video below, and I think he did it super well. I think there’s another price range, $3.99 – $4.99, that deserves it’s own range, though. Just my opinion, but what he said about $3.99 – $8.99 is really more for the $5 – $8.99 range.

I’d be interested in what people think of the $3.99 &ndash $4.99 range, both from readers and from authors who’ve experimented with that price range.

From a theoretical standpoint, I like that price point. It’s fair and good payment for the author, and still cheap for readers.

Mostly I’m thinking fiction here, by the way.

What do you think about ebook pricing?

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Crazy, Crazy Change

The ebook world is crazy, lately. As you’ve probably heard, Kindle is embracing an entirely new format. This is a great thing: books are going to pretty much be almost as flexible as web pages, now. The possibilities are (well, I’m a writer, so I hate to use clichés, but…) endless.

But change stresses me out. I find that the first day of a change, whether it be a bug or a bad change or a good change, I can hardly eek out any work afterwards.

And then the next day?

The ever-changing ebook world is why I love it. It’s so exciting!

If it stayed the same, I’d get bored and quit.

But today? The first day? There have been so many changes lately, that I’m stressed out.

I do love it, though. :-)

So what? Do I now delete all my Kindle Formatting posts? I’m sorta glad I never had time to finish the series.

Do you need time to process change?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Ebook Formatting,Kindle Formatting |

How To Get Started…

People keep asking me how to get started writing, ebook formatting, and copyediting, so I thought I’d do a series. I’m not actually sure how I got started, so I hope you’ll contribute with your advice, as well.

A programming friend of mine says most of the coders he meets, more than those with computer degrees, are either ex-teachers or graduates of the seminary.

I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

Probably the number one skill one needs to start anything is the ability to self-educate. Teachers learn how to teach, and so they know how to teach themselves, and in seminary school, students learn how to question and investigate everything they do and don’t know.

Penelope Trunk, an eccentric blogger who’s made a career of predicting and understanding how each generation works in and impacts the workforce, says that homeschooled kids will rule the world when Gen Z hits the workplace.


Because they know how to teach themselves. They’ll be able to figure out which skill they need to learn next for their career, and then they’ll be able to direct their own education.

Question what you think you know: Better yet, pretend you know nothing. This is probably the most dangerous area to skip, and yet the area people skip the most. Most of the time when people start a sentence with “I remember learning in college,” they are wrong. Often they are correct in the information, but incorrect in the application, if that makes sense.

Search for what you don’t know: The more you learn, the more you realize you need to learn. It’s why I haven’t finished my Kindle Formatting series. It was easy to start when I was a beginner, but now I’ve learned too much. I thought I could explain it all in ten or so posts, but once I got through about five, I realized that to do it thoroughly, I’d need two hundred or so posts.

Keep leveling up: I constantly ask myself what I can learn next. The invisible things you think you don’t really need to know are the things that will take you from competence to excellence.

Get an edge by linking across disciplines: When I was a piano teacher, I studied the Suzuki teaching method even though I thought it wasn’t completely right for piano. (It is for other instruments.) But no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Investigate everything.

I also aggressively studied child psychology, self-help psychology, leadership books, business books, parenting books, homeschooling books, teaching philosophy books, sports coaching books, marketing, peak performance science, language learning, and motivation science.

Know everything in your field, and then link outside of it.

How do you get started when teaching yourself something?

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New Kindle Bits & Pieces

Did you hear that Kindle books now allow you to communicate with the author from within the book? It’s an awesome feature. Of course, they’re only rolling it out for a few authors to begin with, including J.A. Konrath, John Locke, Ted Dekker, James Rollins, and more.

Here’s an explanation:

@author is a new forum that connects readers with authors and others in the reading community by allowing readers to ask questions about authors and books. Readers can ask questions from the Kindle by highlighting a passage, typing “@author” followed by the question, and using the Tweet/Share option, or from the Amazon Author Page.

To get the answer, you have to go to the author’s Amazon page:

When you ask an @author question from your Kindle or from the Amazon Author Page, you will automatically receive an e-mail notification when a new answer to your question has been posted.

It seems that every day, new developments and changes happen with ebooks. Although ebooks should be flowable text for the best reader experience, publishers and authors want more control over design. Apple now has a Fixed-Layout Format, and Kindle just released Kindle Print Replica Content.

It’s exciting to see how things are developing. I’m glad that design is becoming as important a factor in ebooks as it is in print books.

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A Milestone & Ebook Excellence

I now know enough people in Tucson to actually run into people I know when I’m randomly out and about! It’s happened three times this week. And that’s not counting going to a coffee shop where I know people!

I’m happy, but also this means that when it’s 8pm and I’ve gotten ready for bed and I’m a little on the scuzzy side with messy hair and a shiny, freshly-washed face, a trip to the store on a rabid search for chocolate could prove to be a little embarrassing. Before, I was certain to be anonymous.

You know how it is. The one time you don’t want to be seen is when you will most certainly be seen. :-)


Also this week, I’ve updated my coding for ebooks. There are a number of display problems on the different devices, so I’ve updated my code so it’s all fresh and new and makes everything look good.

I’ve reached a point where I’ve got a queue, so I lose all the business of people who want a super-quick turnaround. :-( However, I’ve decided I want to take my time more.

When I was a teacher, the motto of our studio was “Teaching Excellence.” And I know I can only take a miniscule amount of credit for it, but whenever I hear how my students are doing, I just beam with pride. They’re all doing something with excellence.

And, as I used to say ad nauseum to the students, excellence is doing that last 2% that takes as long as the first 98%.

So I’m slowing down.

Right now, it seems a large portion of ebook design and formatting focus is making things display correctly on every device, but with the changes coming to eReaders and the coming of epub3 in the next few months and year, the focus will shift to quality of design, particularly with things like the Publishing Innovation Awards that promote excellence in ebook design.

And that’s how it should be. I want the eBook Artisans to be known for excellence. It’s difficult, though, because a lot of authors see every day as sales lost, so they want it out there right now. It’s an instant gratification world.

So probably I will lose a bunch of quotes, but when my queue empties, I’ll be able to have a quick turnaround again! Woo-hoo!

Have you seen any of the gorgeous, multimedia ebooks coming out lately? Particularly on the Nook and the iPad? The children’s books are just fantastic, with embedded audio reading the story along as you turn the pages and gorgeous graphics. Pretty soon authors will be embedding book trailers to their other books in the back of each book, and all sorts of interesting stuff!

Remember when books used to be illustrated? I miss that! I’m betting we’ll see more of that, too.

Aren’t you excited for all the cool stuff that’s coming to ebooks?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Ebook Formatting,Epub Formatting,Kindle Formatting |

Ebook Cover Design and Optimum Size Specifications for Amazon, Kindle, B&N, Nook, iBookstore, and iPad Formats

Please note the following updates to this post on 5/19/2012:

  • Barnes & Noble Embedded Cover: 600px x 730px
  • iBooks Embedded Cover: 600px x 860px
  • Amazon Embedded Cover: 600px x 800px
  • Amazon Catalog Cover: 1562px x 2500px


If you self-publish, you should read this post before hiring a cover designer. I get a lot of covers from authors whose designer made a standard cover without knowing what size is best. I’m not sure how they decide on the image size, because it’s never optimized for anything. Also, I’ve seen cover designers give clients the wrong size, and then charge more when their client asks for the right one.

SPECIAL NOTE: This is a long, detailed post. If you’re not interested in all the whys and wherefores, I suggest reading this first section, then reading the last section: the Quick and Handy Guide.

Designers tend to rely on their customers to tell them what they want, so if you self-publish, you need to know what to ask for.

Let’s do simple first.

If you only get one size for ebook formatting, go with these specifications:

  1. 600px x 800px
  2. Jpeg

I think most ebook formatters and developers can and will optimize it as best as possible from that… or at least I do, by rule. I can’t change proportions, though… and each format calls for a different proportion. So if your designer can give you covers in various proportions and sizes without resizing it out-of-whack, then please send them to the handy guide at the bottom of this post.

600px x 800px is the best choice if you pick one. At the eBook Artisans, our digital cover + epub + Kindle special includes a 600px x 800px cover.

NOTE: By optimum size, I mean the size at which the cover image fills the screen perfectly without extra white space on the top, bottom, or sides.

Ebook Cover Design

I’m no graphic designer, obviously. The only important thing I can say about cover art for ebooks, is that the cover will be automatically resized to a thumbnail on the device library and, most importantly, in the retail catalog/website—which is usually the first place your customer sees your cover.

Because of this, the cover should look good when the large Catalog Cover image is automatically resized to about 150px high, give or take some, depending. Large fonts for the title generally look good, as well as not-too-busy covers.

And, of course, the cover should look good full-sized. LOL!

A Quick Glossary

Keith Snyder had a great post about the distinguishing and naming the different type of covers. It’s better, funnier, and more in-depth. :-) In a nutshell, your cover will serve the following functions:

  1. Embedded Ebook Cover: The cover embedded inside your ebook that displays as the first page. This can (and probably should) be separately sized for each different store.
  2. Catalog Cover: The cover that shows up in the ebook store on Amazon, B&N, iBooks, and other retailers. Generally uploaded separately.
  3. Print Cover: For the print edition. Unlike an ebook cover which is only a front, a print cover also needs a spine and a back cover… and higher-resolution graphics.
  4. Publicity Cover: I’m no expert on the best sizes for this, but this includes your website, blog headers, ads, postcards, business cards, etc. Your designer probably does know!

Underlying Philosophy

Choosing a size for a digital cover, when it will automatically be resized depending on what device the reader views it on, is difficult. I generally operate under the following priorities:

  1. Majority Rules, Minority Protected: I like the cover to look good on all devices, but I like the cover to look best on the most-used device. Each of the retailers allow their ebooks to be read on a wide variety of devices, and none of them publish statistics on where there books are most read. So it’s difficult to determine.
  2. Big to Small: In general, a big cover automatically resized to be smaller usually looks better than a small cover automatically resized to be bigger. Small to big usually results in ugly blurriness, while big to small generally results in not-so-great but readable font.
  3. The Retailer’s Guidelines

Color vs. Grayscale

Color. For Kindle formatting, it used to be better to sharpen and convert your cover image to grayscale. Times change quickly, though. Now that Kindle books are read on PCs, Macs, iPads, Androids, Tablets, and iPhones, color is the way to go. It’s predicted that Amazon will be coming out with a tablet in the next year, and a color e-reader will probably be coming out at some point, too.

Kindle Covers

Kindle is the largest ebook retailer. The Catalog Cover has exact specifications released in the Amazon Publishing Guide. It should be:

  1. A “minimum” of 500px wide and a “maximum” of 1280px tall.
  2. 72 dpi
  3. JPEG or TIFF

For the Embedded Cover, this is more difficult. The published guidelines are as follows:

  1. 600px x 800px
  2. JPEG
  3. 300 dpi
  4. Under 127 KB

Getting an image both at 300 dpi AND under 127 KB is very difficult. The Kindle displays are actually 167 ppi… so I’d suggest altering the resolution to 167 ppi – 300 dpi, or as high a resolution that you can get while staying under 127 KB. Many say 72 dpi is just fine.

Barnes & Noble Covers

The Nook Store is the second largest retailer of ebooks. According to the B&N Publishing Guide, the Catalog Cover can be between 500px x 600px and 600px x 730px.

Here are the exact specifications they suggest in their guidelines for the Embedded Cover:

  1. 600px x 730px
  2. JPG, PNG, or GIF. As they say, “The choice of format is optional and should be based on a compromise of image quality and file size.”
  3. Under 300 kb.


The Nook Color.

The Nook Color has a screen resolution of 1024px x 600px, and as far as I can tell, it’s their bestselling device by far. (Please correct me if you find statistics that prove me wrong.) So going with both the Majority Rules, Minority Protected and the Big to Small priorities, I suggest the following guidelines, if you’re looking to fill the screen perfectly:

  1. 600px x 1024px
  2. JPG, PNG, or GIF
  3. Under 300 kb.
  4. 170 ppi

iPad Covers

The iPad is doing some great things for ebooks, like fixed-layouts. If you want an iPad-optimized ebook that takes advantage of the fixed-layout, it’ll cost more and probably won’t work for other retailers, but it can be well worth it, depending on your project.

For the purpose of this post, let’s stick with cover size for general iPad epub books. Liz Castro explains in detail why 600px x 860 px is the best size.

These are the optimum specifications for the Embedded Cover:

  1. 600px x 860px
  2. JPG, PNG, GIF
  3. 132 ppi
  4. Under 200kb


A Note About Smashwords

Smashwords randomly suggests 500px x 800px as a good cover size. I don’t know why, because that’s optimized for… nothing. At least with a 600px x 800px cover size, you’re optimized for the largest retailer: Amazon. But perhaps they have their reasons that work with their Meatgrinder Software.


Quick and Handy Guide

All images should be RGB and not CMYK. Lulu will reject sRGB, if you want to use them to get into the iBookstore, but other retailers accept it.

Again, always go for the correct file size first, at the cost of resolution if necessary; not the other way around.

  • EC = Embedded Cover (give to ebook formatter to embed)
  • CC = Catalog Cover (you’ll upload separate from ebook)
  • n/s = Not Specified
Format Size in px Resolution File Size
Kindle CC JPG, TIFF 1562 x 2500 72 dpi n/s
Kindle EC JPG 600 x 800 167ppi – 300dpi 127kb
B&N/Nook CC JPG, GIF, PNG 600 x 730 n/s n/s
B&N/Nook EC JPG, GIF, PNG 600 x 730 170 ppi 300kb
iPad EC JPG, GIF, PNG 600 x 860 132 ppi 200kb

Again, 600px x 800px will pretty much cover your bases, so if you choose one size, I suggest that one.

And if you ever need a cover, the eBook Artisans teams up with Ink Slinger Designs to offer ebook formatting and cover art. (I had to put in a plug!) You can view some sample covers here.

Any questions? Any new info to add? Any corrections?

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I Love My Job

Isn’t it great? Ebook formatting and writing fiction seem to be the perfect balance for me. Actually, one of the ebooks I’m formatting helped me realize how left-brained I am, which helped me realize that if I spend a significant portion of my day doing that type of detailed work, it’s much easier to do some right-brain writing later. (I’ll tell you about the book when it’s up for sale.)

I’ve been told my dad wanted me to be a computer programmer, but I never knew that. I did grow up playing with BASIC on a Tandy 64 (ROFL… as in 64K!), but I always thought of computers as a fun thing.

Anyway, I think I already posted this, but I was sitting here and formatting and thinking, “Gosh. I’m so lucky my author friends guided me into this business.”

So I wanted to thank you guys again. Every time you’ve asked me a computer-related question or an ebook formatting question, it wasn’t me doing you a favor, it was you helping me find my niche.

So thanks. Smile

I’m a little behind (if you’re my Facebook friend, you know I’ve managed to get sick three times in a row), but I’ll be back to blogging soon.

I want to finish the Kindle Formatting series, but I’ve discovered that the more I learn, the more there is to explain. There are so many little details. It was easier to write it when I didn’t know as much. I am planning on putting together a book, though.

Also, I’ve been obsessed with book design lately, and I thought I might do a weekly post showcasing the cool stuff out there. It’s one of those things that you don’t notice all that goes into it until you start… noticing it.

What’s up with you guys lately?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Kindle Formatting | Tags:

Food, a Favor, & eBooks

As many of you know, I hand-code and design eBooks. I know you’ve all been passing my name around (THANK YOU!), because I’ve been so busy doing it, it’s taken forever for me to get my website up.

It’s finally up!

So I have a favor to ask: Could you please check out my website, The eBook Artisans, and let me know if you see any errors or confusing bits? Let me know what you think?

And if you could link, blog, tweet, or post to Facebook about my service, I will be ETERNALLY GRATEFUL!

I’ve paired up with Ink Slinger Designs to offer a fabulous deal: a digital cover, Kindle file, and ePub file for $250. Click here to get started.

If you already have cover art, a Kindle file & ePub file are $149.

Many other services are available, too!

This week, I’ll be editing and finishing my Kindle formatting series, so if you have any questions or anything in particular you want me to cover, please let me know!

So did your team win at the Super Bowl? Did you watch? What was your favorite commercial? And most importantly: WHAT’D YOU EAT?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Kindle Formatting | Tags: ,

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