How to Make a Book with the Reedsy Book Editor

How to make a book Hiding Haelo open

The art of making a book is not new. In fact, manuscripts produced during the medieval era conformed to a well-defined set of rules that publishers today are still following. The canons of page construction, for example, describe how a book’s proportions, margins and type areas (print spaces) should be constructed. But if you’re an author planning to self-publish, you might be wondering if these same rules apply to your book – and how you should implement them if they do.

Age-old rules aside, even the most tentative look into the nuances of producing a self-published manuscript will likely lead to a whole host of new and complicated questions: Why does Apple iBooks limit images to 4 megapixels? Why do EPUB files need an NCX file for the table of contents? Does my ebook need to be reflowable? The technicalities can be annoying – but they come with the territory for self-published authors. Reedsy is here to help! Read on for a guide to navigating the process of making a book.

One unique tool for a variety of distribution platforms

Creating an EPUB or a PDF file for publication is far from straightforward, and most writing tools (Word, Google Docs, Pages, Scrivener and others) can’t natively create ready-for-publication ebooks.

The good news is that the Reedsy team is devoted to simplifying this process from start to finish. We designed the Reedsy Book Editor so authors can just write their book without worrying about formatting. There is no learning curve, no “instructions manual”, you just write and the Editor takes care of the rest, automatically. And that’s not all. The Reedsy Book Editor is fully compliant with most ebook and POD retailer requirements, so you don’t have to think about each store on a case-by-case basis. Did we mention the Editor is also completely free?

One of our objectives at Reedsy is to simplify the process of making beautifully designed books. We believe authors should be able to create books held to the same high standards of star industry designers – in seconds, and for free. It took us years to understand the craft of making books, and we intend to share our knowledge with our users as much as possible.

How does the Reedsy Book Editor change book formatting?

In this post, we will describe step-by-step how to make an eBook or print-on-demand compatible PDF file with the Reedsy Book Editor. Best of all, you don’t have to know anything about typesetting or book design in general; you will see below that our system automatically creates a layout for your book – you just let us know where the headings or paragraphs are.

How does the Reedsy Book Editor compare to other tools that make books?

Why is the Reedsy Book Editor the best tool to make a book? Here’s a comparison table against the other tools available on the market (last updated: September 2016).

Reedsy Book Editor vs Other Tools

Here are the key benefits of the Reedsy Book Editor:

  • You don’t need to know anything about book design.
  • Your book is securely stored in the cloud and accessible from any device (smartphones, tablets and desktop). No need to install any software.
  • Professionally designed templates that perfectly handle images.
  • Compatible with most online ebookstores and print-on-demand services.
  • Unlimited exports.

Ready to design your beautiful book? Here’s how to make it happen with the Reedsy Book Editor in 5 steps. We tested these just this morning and were able to format and typeset an 80,000-word novel in under 10 minutes. So give it a try!

Summary

Step 1 – Import your book into the Reedsy Book Editor

Step 2 – Update the formatting with the Reedsy formatting bar

Step 3 – Add images, endnotes and scene breaks

Step 4 – Add a cover for your ebook

Step 5 – Configure your front matter

Step 6 – Select the file you need: an EPUB for your ebook or a PDF file for POD


Step 1 – Import your book into the Reedsy Book Editor

Regardless of the software you’ve been using to write your book (Word, Pages, Google Docs, Scrivener, etc.), your first step is to import the manuscript into the Reedsy Book Editor. We’re still developing an “import from file” feature, but it’s not available yet. Instead, you will have to:

  • Create chapters or parts
  • Copy and paste the content of your text file into those chapters.

Throughout this process, you should note that Reedsy respects the existing formatting of your manuscript. That means the Editor will retain elements like headings, links and inline styles (italic / bold). Here’s what it looks like:

GIF Copy and paste into the Reedsy Book Editor

Note that we will soon introduce a chapter break feature to automatically split the content of a chapter into two chapters, saving you copy and paste time when importing a book for the first time.

Step 2 – Update formatting with the Reedsy formatting bar

One of the features that make our book production tool really smart is our lovely formatting bar: simply select the type of paragraph or character style you want to use and the formatting will be applied.

Available paragraph styling options are:

  • 2 types of paragraphs: one with a serif font for most of your text, and a sans serif font to offset text you want to stand out (e.g., a letter or diary entry)
  • 3 levels of headings to structure your content (mainly for non-fiction books)
  • 3 alignment options: left, centered, right
  • 2 types of lists: bullet points and numbers
  • Quotations
  • Code (coming soon)

Reedsy Book Editor Formatting Bar 1

Once you’ve defined your paragraphs’ styling, you can update character styling with the following options:

  • Bold
  • Italic
  • Underline
  • Strikethrough
  • Subscript, superscript
  • Link and cross-references

Reedsy Book Editor Formatting Bar

Step 3 – Add images, endnotes and scene breaks

Next step is to enrich your existing content with:

  • Images and captions
  • Endnotes
  • Scene breaks (for fiction).

How to make a book - images and captions

You will find your endnotes in a dedicated chapter at the end of your book for reference:

Reedsy book editor endnotes

Step 4 – Add a cover

Download Button

Hopefully you got here without too much trouble (but if you encounter any obstacles, let us know by clicking on the “Help!” button at the top of your Reedsy interface so we can assist). You can now click on the Export icon of the Reedsy Book Editor, which will lead you to our Export page, where most of the magic happens.

The first thing you should do here is upload your book cover. Make sure you upload an image that follows the requirements of the ebookstores you are using for distribution. For best results, we recommend your book cover image use a ratio of 1:1.6 and measure at least 2500px on the longest side.

Note that for physical books, print-on-demand services will require both a PDF with the full jacket and a separate PDF for the book’s interior. For the book’s jacket, we recommend working with a designer from the Reedsy marketplace who knows the requirements of different POD services and will be able to provide you with the right file.

Step 5 – Configure your front matter

“Front matter” refers to the parts of your book that come before the actual content begins. With the Reedsy Book Editor, you can configure the following front matter elements:

  • Title
  • Subtitle
  • Edition number
  • Year of publication
  • Publisher name and logo (if any)
  • ISBN number(s)

Note that you won’t need an ISBN for most ebook retailers, as they have their own identifying number. For instance, Amazon uses the Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN) and creates a new one for free every time you publish a book with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Similarly, Apple iBooks doesn’t require an ISBN anymore.

There’s currently a debate about whether or not ISBNs still make sense, and you can read more about it here. For now, you’ll still need an ISBN for the print-on-demand version of your book. Most POD services will provide you with one for free.

Once your ISBN has been added, the next step is to configure your table of contents. Reedsy gives you 4 options to customize your table of contents:

Customize Table of Contents

Step 6 – Select the file you need: EPUB for your ebook or PDF for print-on-demand (POD)

We’re getting closer! Now that you’ve configured your book, it’s time to decide whether you need an EPUB file for ebook distribution, a PDF file for print-on-demand – or both.

Download an EPUB file

End note positioning ePubThe files created by the Reedsy Book Editor are currently compatible with Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple’s iBookstore, the Kobo Store, Nook Press, Google Play and NetGalley.

Next, decide how you’d like to organize your endnotes (when applicable). You can either have them positioned at the end of every chapter or all together at the end of the book.

Download a PDF file

End note positioning PDFThe files created by the Reedsy Book Editor are currently compatible with most print-on-demand services (Lulu, Createspace, Ingram Spark, CPI, etc.). Again, the first step is to position your endnotes. For a physical book, you can decide whether you’d like them to be footnotes at the bottom of a page, or actual endnotes at the end of your book.

Unlike ebooks, your physical book needs to be set to a trim size ready for printing. Reedsy currently offers a few different options, based on popular industry standard sizes:

  • Pocket 4.25 x 6.87 in (10.80 x 17.45 cm)
  • Reedsy 5 x 8 in (12.7 x 20.32 cm)
  • Digest 5.5 x 8.5 in (13.97 x 21.59 cm)
  • Trade 6 x 9 in (15.24 x 22.86 cm)

Which trim size should you pick for your book? There’s no clear-cut correct answer. Your choice depends on the genre and audience of your book, the length of the manuscript and, of course, your personal preference. To make a decision here, we recommend that you spend some time in a bookstore with a ruler to determine what makes most sense for your future bestseller. However, here’s a few pictures to give you a sense of what those different sizes look like:

How to make a book trim sizes examples

From left to right: Reedsy 5 x 8 in – Digest 5.5 x 8.5 in – Trade 6 x 9 in

Once you’ve selected your trim size, pick a template and hit the download button. Your moment of glory will come after a few seconds… as your book downloads and is ready to be published and sent to the printer!

View a live example of how to make a book

If you prefer images to words, here’s a short video that shows how to use the Reedsy Book Editor to make a book.

If you like videos, you can also take a look at Justin Jackson’s one on how he used the Reedsy Book Editor to prepare his book, Jolt!, for ebook and print distribution. Here’s the link.

Case study: How T.M. Holladay made her book, Hiding Haelo

T.M. Holladay was one of the first authors to use the Reedsy Book Editor to make a book. She recently wrote about her experience on our blog. Check it out here.

Hiding Haelo cover

“I pasted my novel into the Editor, did a thorough read-through check, and crossed my fingers. After a little trial and error experimentation with inserting a small image file as a “scene break,” the epub export worked flawlessly. No weird formatting quirks. Hyperlinks work great. Uploading to KDP wasn’t an issue at all.”

Hiding Haelo Interior

“One very cool thing about the export to PDF function is that it spits out two files. One “Print Ready” file for POD printers, and one complete file with your cover design included as the first page. I used this file to extract up to the second chapter as a “sneak peek” on my website.”


Your turn now! Head to our Reedsy Book Editor and format your book for free, in just a few seconds. And if you have any questions or feedback, feel free to let us know in the comments below.

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  • Malaika Rose Stanley

    The Reedsy Book Editor really is an amazing resource for indie authors, as I know from experience! But I’d still like to see the option to add ‘untitled’ front matter, such as a quote… and an option to remove/change the formatting of lower case, italicised roman numerals page numbers, which I guess is a feature more common in the US than the UK.

    • Thank you for the testimonial! The front matter options are receiving a major revamp in the coming weeks, as we know they can be improved as you have suggested. There are infinite possibilities for customization when it comes to books, which overwhelms many authors. This is one of the reasons why we have kept a few things simple. Thank you for suggesting these ideas however, we will look into it 🙂

  • Colin Smith

    How does it handle footnotes?

    I have seen published novels where footnotes appear as pop-ups without having to navigate away from the page you’re reading. That’s the format I’d like for my work.

    • Hi Colin, good question! Currently we handle footnotes on ePub by placing them at the end of each chapter, or in a chapter of their own at the end of the book. We have now moved to ePub3, which is the format that allows you to have these “popup footnotes”, and while we have not yet optimized the export to accommodate these, it is definitely on our radar to support soon 🙂

  • Kate Gesch

    I’m working in the book editor right now, and there are significantly fewer options in the formatting bar than what is pictured above. My only choices are regular paragraph, headings 1,2,3, block quote, numbered list, bullets, bold, italic, underline, and hyperlink. I’m particularly looking for the sans paragraph font and the center text options, where did they go?

    • Hi Kate, the formatting bar images on this post are slightly ahead of our roadmap — the alignment and sans paragraph font will come within an update of the Book Editor in a month or so (i.e. Oct 2017). Sorry about that!

  • I want to love Reedsy’s ebook creator so badly. It has a beautiful interface and produces a nicely templated book. BUT it’s light on one too many features. Section breaks do not work. Center adjustment isn’t available. Hyperlinks on pictures would be useful. As someone mentioned, all of the “front matter” is considered chapters and roped into the Table of Contents. I’d like to be able to put a dedication and a teaser for another book before the ToC and not have it show up on that list.

    Any word on when the new features will be coming out?