The Most Popular Book Formats for Indie Publishers

Indie Book Formats Full WidthBetween books, ebooks and audiobooks there are so many different formatting options.

Indie Book Formats

Infographic – Book Formats

This infographic is designed to provide a quick overview of the most common formats. You may click here to open it full size in a new window or click here to see it in my Google Album.

Printed Books

A book’s format refers to the shape and dimensions of the physical book. Here are some of the more popular book sizes.

Printed books often have the following dimensions:

Trade Paperbacks
Often in the range of 5 ½ x 8 ½ to 6 x 9 inches. Most self-published books are in this category.

General Nonfiction
Nonfiction books tend to be 6 x 9 inches, sometimes a little larger.

Photography & Art
Size varies widely.

Manuals & Workbooks
Often in the range of 8 x 10 to 8 ½ x 11 inches.

Book Sizes


An ebook is a book in digital or electronic format. While many ebook formats have been introduced over the years, the clear leaders today are the Epub format, Mobi and KF8 formats used by Amazon & Kindle, and PDFs.


Portable Document Format was first created by Adobe Systems in 1993 as a standard format for document exchange. Still a very popular format that can be viewed on most platforms. Popular for non-fiction books.


A free and open standard for formatting ebooks used by most ebook stores except Amazon. Epub ebooks can be read on most ebook readers incl. Nook, Kobo Reader, Sony Reader, Apple iOS and Android devices.


This 3rd version of ePub format offers enhanced features: CSS features and multimedia display aspects; complex layouts; rich media; global typography; interactivity.


The Mobipocket ebook format is the format most authors use to upload books to KDP for Amazon. Uses XHTML and based on the Open Ebook standard.


Kindle Format 8 enables rich formatting and design such as children’s picture books, comics & graphic novels, technical & engineering books and cookbooks. Introduced by Amazon in 2011.

More on ebook formats.


An audiobook is a recording of a book being read aloud. Such recordings have been available in schools and libraries since the 1930s but the medium only began to attract book retailers in the 1980s. While it’s still possible to distribute audiobooks on traditional mediums such as records, cassette tapes, and CDs, these are quickly giving way to the popular and downloadable digital formats listed below.

The most important formats are the Audible AA format, since Audible is the biggest retailer of audiobooks, and MP3. Your readers, or ‘listeners’, can purchase audiobooks via several major retailers including Audible, iTunes, and Google Play Store.


Audible’s own format that can be played in iTunes, Windows Media Player 11, and their apps for various devices. With this format you can easily return to the last playback position, select chapters, and change narration speed.


Audible’s enhanced format that includes support for images and links. Good for children’s books.


A format which compresses a recording into a very small file format, designed by the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG)


Advanced Audio Coding is the default audio format for YouTube and iOS devices.


Windows Media Audio format designed by Microsoft.

More on audiobook formats.

That’s a brief overview of book formats.

As indie authors we should remember there is not really any ‘best format’ for books. What matters is getting to know your readers and how they like to read. As an independent publisher you owe it to your fans to make your book available in the formats that they want to use.

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What is Important for Indie Authors in 2015?


It’s that season when people love to post resolutions and predictions for the year ahead. Along with others in the publishing industry I have been reviewing “where we’re at” and “where we’re heading” as an industry in 2015.

When considering where we’re at it’s helpful to remember just how far self-publishing has come in the past decade. It’s just over 7 years since Amazon launched the first Kindle eReader (in November 2007). It’s also more than 11 years since I launched my web site, Publish Your Own Ebooks.  What a journey it’s been and what amazing changes we’ve witnessed and been part of!

Self-publishing has experienced a metamorphosis, transforming from an ugly caterpillar that people shy away from, into a beautiful creature that really flies!

Over the past few weeks I’ve read many blog posts from experts summarizing their own thoughts on the state of our industry. A couple of good posts are ‘12 Publishing And Marketing Predictions‘ from Penny Sansevieri at The Future of Ink and Bob Mayer’s ‘16 Thoughts for Authors/Publishing for 2015‘. One of my favorite posts is Joanna Penn’s ‘Back to Basics‘, a post which is closely aligned with my own thinking.

During the years 2010 to 2013, as more people migrated to digital books, we saw very strong growth in digital publishing. With that growth came tremendous opportunities for indie authors, particularly through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) but also through Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and Kobo Writing Life. It was a boom time. Some have referred to it as a gold rush.

This strong growth could not continue forever though and 2014 was a very different year. Many indie authors discovered that they were hitting a wall. High ranks became harder to achieve. Book giveaways no longer yielded results like they had before. Many authors reported their incomes were falling instead of rising. Some indie authors turned their backs on their new writing careers and walked off in dismay.

I think you can safely say that in 2014, for some people, indie publishing ‘lost its mojo’. The magic is gone. The gold rush is now over.

Where do we go from here?

Should we give up writing? Absolutely not! That’s what we do… we write! Should we give up indie publishing? I don’t think so and for a very good reason.

The gold isn’t all gone. Our readers are still out there, looking for good books. 

All businesses go through good times and bad times. We knew there would be a boom after the “tipping point was reached” and sales of ebooks passed sales of print books. There is no doubt that early adopters who jumped quickly into independent digital publishing have a good “head start”. There are now more authors and more books to compete with than ever before. It’s not as easy as three years ago but that doesn’t mean that you cannot have a viable writing business as an indie author. It does mean that you need to evaluate the market carefully and have a good business strategy in order to succeed.

Indie publishing is hard work. Many authors have been surprised at the amount of work involved in being an indie author. You are not only writing the book, which is a huge task, but you are also responsible publishing your books and managing the “business end” of promoting and selling them. It’s not too hard to see why some authors who have achieved a level of success have moved to a “hybrid” model using a combination of indie publishing for some books and traditional publishing for others. Their success with indie books is often a key factor in winning a traditional publishing deal.

So what do I think we need to do to succeed as indie authors in 2015? I’ll list a few things below but here’s a hint: like Joanna Penn’s post I’m recommending getting ‘back to basics’ and doing some old-fashioned hard work.

1. You need to work hard. There is still a bright future for indie authors. The easy takings may be gone but those who work hard can still find success in this transformed publishing industry. To those who say it’s harder in 2015 than 2012, I say you still have more chance than you did in 2005 and 1995!

2. Write the very best book you can. It should be a book which you are truly proud of and which ‘does honor’ to the craft of writing.

3. Discoverability will make or break you. The success of your next book depends upon whether your readers can find you or whether you are lost in obscurity.  You should already be building your audience and author platform. You should be engaging with your readers. Encourage your readers to sign up to your mailing list.  Invite them to follow you on your favorite social media network.

4. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Don’t rely on Amazon alone. Sell your ebooks in other ebook stores and at your own web site. Diversifying gives you additional sources of income but it also reduces the risk that one store could cripple your earnings by removing your account, your books, or your current rank.

5. Write more books. Don’t stop at one. Successful indie authors typically have multiple books or a series of books to offer their readers.

6. Collaborate with other authors.  One of the fastest ways to build your audience is to work with your fellow authors instead of competing against them. Use social media networks to identify and team up with other authors in your genre. By cross-promoting each other’s work, your audience can grow faster. Readers don’t typically choose one or the other. Chances are they will read books by both of you!

Are you with me? Let’s make 2015 our best writing year ever. More than ever before in this industry your destiny is in your own hands.

All the best for the year ahead,

Gary McLaren

P.S. If you enjoyed this article please take a moment to comment, ‘like’ it or share it with your friends through your favorite social media network. Thanks!

Amazon Unveils 8th Generation Fulfilment Center

Watching this video of Amazon’s 8th generation fulfillment center is a bit like watching something out of the “Jetsons”.

Check out the robots running around moving shelves, robotic arms unpacking trucks, and organization systems that inventory entire shipments in just thirty minutes instead of hours!

The World’s Greatest Storytellers

Publishing house Raconteur Media has surveyed around 500 authors, journalists, editors, students, and media and marketing professionals, asking them who is the world’s greatest storyteller? The Infographic below shows some of the results.

As Raconteur explains on their blog, “…we wanted to take a moment to celebrate storytelling as we know and love it – storytelling that comes from people, whether they are writers or actors or directors or poets or musicians.”


The respondents’ answers spanned continents and genres, and crossed mediums and disciplines. 53% chose living storytellers, while 47% chose storytellers who have passed away.

The top 5 storytellers in the survey were:

  1. William Shakespeare
  2. J.K. Rowling
  3. Roald Dahl
  4. Charles Dickens
  5. Stephen King

Click to read Raconteur’s post on this.

Click to see the full Infographic.

The Indie Author’s Guide to Publishing Ebooks, 2nd Edition, is Now Available

The Indie Author Guide to Publishing Ebooks

I am very pleased to announce the release of “The Indie Author’s Guide to Publishing Ebooks, 2nd Edition“.

It also reveals my new strategy, or recommended path, for creating ePub and Mobi formats as easily and painlessly as possible!The first edition was released in December 2011 and has helped many writers to self-publish their own ebooks.

The second edition brings this helpful guide up-to-date, reflecting important changes in the industry such as the new indie publisher portals for Barnes & Noble and Kobo.

For further details please go here.

A Glossary Of Ebook Publishing Terms

A while ago I compiled a short reference tool, “A Glossary of Ebook Publishing Terms” for readers of my book “The Indie Author’s Guide to Publishing Ebooks .


This glossary is now available as a free download for all subscribers to my newsletter at the  Publish Your Own Ebooks blog.

The Indie Author’s Guide to Publishing Ebooks

Ebook Self Publishing GuideMy new guide for self-publishing ebook authors is now available. Only a few years ago people were saying that ebooks would come and go. Many people believed they were a short-term fad that would never replace books. Now with ebook sales overtaking print booksit is becoming clear that ebooks are not only here to stay but they are the main format for reading as we move into the future.

The way we read is changing. The way we publish is changing too!

Until recently the best way to publish your ebooks was to convert your documents into PDF format and sell them from your own web sites. Now ebook formats have evolved into more user-friendly files and you should now be making your ebooks available at the major ebook stores that have emerged in recent years such as Amazon’s Kindle Store and Barnes & Noble’s Nook Books.

Now an author can take a finished manuscript and self-publish it to the major ebook stores within a few days. This makes it easy for fans to find your ebooks and download these to their Kindles, Nooks, iPads, smartphones and other e-readers.

The Indie Author’s Guide to Publishing Ebooks” is a comprehensive guide to publishing your own ebooks. For further details on this new guide

Ebook Self-Publishing Guide

My current project – which I have been working on for two years, in between other books – is a guide to self-publishing your own ebooks.

I have been publishing and selling my own ebooks for more than 8 years now, initially as PDF ebooks from my own web sites, but now in multiple formats through the major ebook stores.

The ebook publishing industry has been moving very quickly and it has opened up some incredible new opportunities for authors to self-publish their books.

If you need some advice on how to become an indie-author, self-publish your ebooks and get them selling in the big ebook stores including Amazon’s Kindle Store, Barnes & Noble’s Nook Books, Apple’s iBookstore and others, then this guide will help you.

I’ll announce here when I have a launch date.

New Release: Kindle Superuser

101 Kindle Tips & ShortcutsMy latest ebook “Kindle Superuser – 101 Ways To Get More From Your Kindle” is now available in Amazon’s Kindle Store.

Amazon’s Kindle 3 is a beautiful ebook reader and it is not surprising that readers love it so much. But did you ever notice that doing some things through the menu can involve a lot of steps? Most Kindle owners are astonished when they
discover all the shortcuts and hidden features on this device.

Did you know that the Kindle 3 ships with a hidden calculator and some popular games
already installed? And although most people know the Kindle 3 can play music and
display photos they have not worked out exactly how to transfer their files so they can listen to songs and create their own photo albums and slideshows.

“Kindle Superuser” is packed with tips and shortcuts to get the most from your Kindle 3. Best of all, this information is well-organized and very easy to navigate on a Kindle.

Visit the book page at the Kindle Store

Amazon Discounts The Beginner’s Guide to Ebooks

Update: This promotion has now ended.

Good news! I’ve been waiting for Amazon to make my new book free in the Kindle Store and it has finally happened.

The Beginner’s Guide to Ebooks” is now priced at $0.00 for most customers at Amazon.

Please note the price may depend upon your country and region. If you see a price greater than zero, then head over to Smashwords or Barnes & Noble as it is also currently free at both of those stores.

This “price” might not last for long so if you would like to learn more about ebooks, their formats, and how to read them get over to Amazon and download this quickly.

And tell your friends… I’d love to move as many copies as possible while it’s free.

I hope you like it and this one’s on me!