Ebook Makeover Clinic

A top view of an open can of blue paint together with a roller brush and an ordinary brush laying on a yellow floor

Good Design Decisions Can Save You Money

One of my Big Brand System blog readers, Deborah Hanchey, wanted to spend big bucks on design software to create a better looking ebook. She planned to buy Adobe InDesign, but what her ebook really needed was design, not InDesign.

Purchasing Adobe InDesign would have set her back almost $700.00. Instead, she made some good design decisions using the software she had on her computer already: Microsoft Word. The final product is an ebook she’s proud to sell.

(NOTE: This post was written well before eBook Evolution was available. Deborah has since purchased that product, and is happily creating ebooks using the exclusive templates and the writing and marketing techniques in that product.)

Before the Makeover

Here’s a screen shot of one of the pages from her original design.

creating a brand means formatting all your marketing materials to convey your imageDeborah’s original design wasn’t working for two main reasons.

  1. She used too many different typefaces, and they weren’t blending well.
  2. Her information wasn’t presented with clear hierarchy. It was hard to tell which information was most important, and that made it difficult to process.

My Recommendations

I gave Deborah just two pieces of advice, and she went to work.

  1. Use the same typeface throughout the ebook. It’s the only way to know for sure that your type will blend well. Make it look cohesive by choosing weights (regular, bold, italic, etc) from within one typeface family.
  2. Give your information a sense of hierarchy. Decide which information is most important, and make sure your design reflects that. Pick four different type sizes and weights, and apply them to your four levels of information throughout the ebook.

Levels of Information

  • Level 1, Headings: Main headings. Make these bold and 28-36 pts.
  • Level 2, Subheads: Make these bold and 16-18 pts.
  • Level 3, Text: This is all the text that falls under your subheads. Make it plain (not bold) and 11-12 pts. Within the plain text, if there’s a phrase or sentence you want to emphasize, use bold.
  • Level 4, Legalese: Your footer information and any “legalese” should be tiny. Make it plain, and around 8-9 pts. You want it to be there, but it should “disappear” a little.

Here’s the same page after Deborah went through and applied this advice:

brand marketing with a eBook that is consistent with your brand image

Good Design Decisions Can Make You Money

Much better, right? I’m so proud of Deborah. Her final product is easier to read, and, more importantly, it looks like a high-end ebook. Guess what that means? Deborah will be able to charge top dollar for her information.

Deborah’s information was always great, but refining the way it was presented helped make the information look as valuable as it is.

Nice job, Deborah!

Pamela Wilson

Pamela Wilson

Pamela Wilson is an online educator, author, keynote speaker, and the founder of BIG Brand System. Read reviews of the tools used to run this site and business. Have you taken the free Focus Finder quiz yet?

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9 thoughts on “Ebook Makeover Clinic”

  1. Good topic Pam. It’s always tricky to get the levels just right. For Quick Start Guides, I often end up needing three heading levels (though I use level 3 VERY sparingly). After many years of tinkering, these days I normally end up with:
    – Heading 1 at about 28 point and underlined
    – Heading 2 at about 22 point with bold
    – Heading 3 at about 18 point with italics

    I have a question regarding whitespace before headings. My rule of thumb is to leave as much whitespace above a heading as its font size. Example: I’d leave 28 points of space above each Heading 1. Does that seem reasonable or do you have a wiser rule of thumb?


    • Mike, the main thing to keep in mind is to make sure the heading “sticks” visually to the text it’s heading up. I make sure to leave more space above it than below it, so that it’s clear what block of text the header is associated with.

      I don’t have a formula, but yours sounds good. Your eyes are the best judge. You might be able to get away with a bit less space above if you tighten up the space below.

  2. Thanks Pam. I leave 12 points between the heading and text, except with my heading-3 where I sometimes go with 6 points (i.e. 18 points of whitespace, followed by header-3 with an 18 point italic font, followed by 6 points of whitespace, followed by my 12 point body text). It makes my eyes happy anyway, and makes it clear that the header and its body text go together (which is a design pet peeve of mine).

  3. You’re so right! I think the most valuable training I ever got was in Microsoft Word. First I took a course, then I worked at a newspaper where my boss was a super Word expert and I learned tons of stuff from him. When the time came to create an ebook for my new site, I did it myself and it turned out really well.

  4. I compared your Levels of Information against my ebook, and I think I got it pretty bang on instinctively. But I’m going to bookmark this post as a reminder!

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