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Professional Looking Books: Formatting Software for E-book Publishing

A Publisher’s Weekly article from February 2023 noted that “according to Bookstats, which collects online sales data in real time from Amazon, Apple, and Barnes & Noble across the print book, e-book, and digital audiobook formats, self-published authors captured 51% of overall e-book unit sales last year and more than 34% of e-book retail revenue, compared to 31% in 2021”. This percentage comes to about $874 million in 2022 e-book sales for self-published authors. Numbers like these only encourage more and more authors to turn to digital publishing as the best possible avenue to get their books into the hands of readers.

In a growing industry, self-published authors must take every opportunity to stand out to readers. A best practice around this is to ensure your end product looks as professional as possible. Using software to format your e-books is one of the simplest ways to achieve professional-looking books. Many options exist for this type of software. Each software has its positives and negatives, and the most important thing is to decide which one will meet your personal needs. Before purchasing software or using a free option, you will have to make a decision or two about what those needs are. What type of book you are publishing, what platforms you wish to publish on, and what kind of budget you have are just a few things to consider.


Investing in formatting software can make sense even on a small budget. Because you use the software many times as you publish more books, it will pay for itself in the long run (or short run, depending on how quickly you write and publish). One of the newest formatting software on the market is Atticus. This program costs $147 and has plenty of features for the price. Not only can it be used to format e-books and print books, but it is also a word processing tool with features like word count tracking, goal setting, and timers for sprint writing. Atticus is usable on Windows, Mac, and Linux. When it comes to formatting, Atticus has over 17 premade layout templates, a custom theme builder for more unique formatting options, and a preview function that gives you an idea of what your book looks like on multiple devices before you press publish. If you want to publish an image-heavy book, such as a comic or a cookbook, something to consider is that it doesn’t handle image importing well. Also, the version control feature is not ready yet because it is a newer product.


Another good paid option for formatting e-books is Scrivener. While Scrivener is primarily a word processor with a “cork board” style planning feature that allows for the detailed organization of your book, it is also a good tool for formatting. It is the most customizable of all the software featured here. It is also one of the most affordable options at $49 for Windows or Mac. The number of features can be overwhelming and come with a steep learning curve, but Scrivener does offer a 30-day trial with 30 days of use if you want to try it out. Scrivener also offers an iOS version for $19.99 if you like to write on your iPad. The iOS version can be synced with the Windows or Mac version via DropBox, though bugs have been reported with this feature, and you must purchase the two separately.

Kindle Create

When you include Kindle Unlimited, Amazon has over 80% of the market share for e-books, making it a very appealing option for authors looking to self-publish. If you plan to only publish on Amazon KDP, then you’re in luck. Amazon has its proprietary formatting software, Kindle Create, for free. This software has been updated recently to use a KPF (Kindle Package Format) file for e-books and print books published on Amazon. The software is simple to use and already conforms to Amazon’s formatting requirements. Kindle Create can also add interactive clickable features and has formatting tools for comic books or other image-heavy books, making it very versatile. The website also includes links to tutorials and walk throughs of the software. The obvious downside is that you can only sell on Amazon, and the KPF format is not used anywhere else. There is also an option to export reflowable Epub format in Kindle Create, but it is limited in its options, and you are not allowed by terms of use to publish it anywhere else.


If you don’t want to commit yourself and your book to Amazon, Reedsy is another free option for book formatting. It is also a workhorse, with word processing and editing features, like the recently added Reedsy Book Editor, where you can work collaboratively with editors. The website also has many articles and walk throughs to guide an author through the process. You can use Reedsy to create a clean and professional-looking e-book, but this formatting option lacks many creative bells and whistles found in other formatting software. Limited options can still translate to a very clean and professional-looking product, even if it is plain.

A Final Thought

Self-publishing continues to grow as a viable and profitable option for authors to get their work into the hands of readers. It is essential to produce a professional-looking product to keep readers engaged, and using software to format e-books properly is one of the best ways to ensure this. It is up to the author to decide what works best for them so they produce the highest quality product possible.