A Holiday Gift for You: Ebook Ornaments

You’ve all been so nice to me this year, thought I’d give you a little gift. Here are some ornaments you can use in your ebooks for scene break indicators or chapter head ornaments. Just copy the images, rename them for your ebook files, and insert them.




spots and dots

spots and dots

gradient line

gradient line

snowflake asterisks

snowflake asterisks

curved arrow

curved arrow


Scene Breaks In Ebooks: Giving Readers A Clue

You fiction writers out there. I bet the majority of you love scene breaks. Dispense with boring transitional passages and maneuvering to shift seamlessly character points of view. Hit a paragraph return or two and start the new scene. I’m sure readers appreciate them, too, seeing as how they don’t have to slog through transitional passages and the writer’s effort to shift POV. (I know I appreciate them)

In printed media scene breaks rarely present a problem–even when the book design doesn’t have actual scene break indicators such as asterisks or graphics. A reader sees an inch of white space on the page and that’s the perfect clue that a shift has occurred. Print book designers can also manipulate the amount of text on a page and lessen the chances that a scene break occurs at the bottom of a page, losing the white space and its visual clue that a new scene has started.

Ebooks don’t work that way. (I’m talking about flowable text and not fixed layout) All too often white space looks like a mistake. There is no way to ensure that the break never occurs at the end of the “page.” If it looks like a mistake or if the scene change seems to happen without any clue, the reader is forced to pause to figure out what is going on. If those stutter-pauses build up it can wreck the reading experience and leave the writer with an unhappy reader who will not buy their next book.

Take a look at the following screen shot. Scene break or mistake?

scenebreak1Kind of hard to tell without a real visual clue, isn’t it? The simplest solution is to use a indicator to make it clear that This Is Not A Formatting Error:

scenebreak2No confusion there.

But, what if the writer doesn’t want scene break indicators? What if asterisks or graphics don’t fit the effect he is going for? A simple and effective method is to drop the first line indent.

scenebreak3There are all sorts of ways to indicate scene breaks. Me, being me, I like the fancy stuff. I often use graphics to add visual interest to the page.


I do a lot of reading on my Kindles and “text-fatigue” can be a problem. Kind of like driving through Kansas where it seems the landscape never changes.  “Oh look! More cornfields! Zzzzzzz…” I can only assume others feel the same way. Using a graphic mixes it up a bit, gives my eyes a slight change of scenery. It doesn’t take much.

The important thing to consider is that ebooks don’t offer the same visual clue opportunities as print books, so it’s up to you to come up with something so your readers stay in the story rather than in a state of confusion.

Nice Touches I Want To Steal: Josh Stallings & Tam Linsey

I read two ebooks recently I really enjoyed: Botanicaust, by Tam Linsey; and Beautiful, Naked & Dead, by Josh Stallings. Terrific stories, highly recommended, and both writers put some extra oomph into their ebook formatting with some nice touches. Which I’m going to steal (Hey, at my core, I am a fiction writer and that’s what we do–jackdaws and mental packrats every one).

First, Linsey’s novel:

After genetically altered weeds devastate Earth’s croplands, much of humanity turns to cannibalism to survive. Dr. Tula Macoby believes photosynthetic skin can save the human race, and her people single-mindedly embark on a mission to convert the cannibals roaming what’s left of Earth…

Linsey’s nice touch?

This is her chapter header. The plant theme, get it? Simple, elegant, and makes a nice use of how well the eink reader uses gray scale. Then she followed the theme with her scene break indicators:

This isn’t bells and whistles or flash and trash–and I appreciate that. I’m not a graphic designer, but I do have instincts. My instincts tell me that a simple motif, carried throughout and repeated, has an overall unifying effect. In this case, it also complements the theme of the book. Little touches like these make an ebook stand out from the pack, too. Nice job, Tam.

The other ebook is Josh Stallings, Beautiful, Naked & Dead, a crime thriller:

Moses McGuire a suicidal strip club bouncer is out to avenge the death of one of his girls. From his East L.A. home, through the legal brothels of Nevada and finally to a battle with the mob in the mountains above Palo Alto, it is a sex soaked, rage driven, road trip from hell.



His nice touch?

I dig the grayscale chapter head, but check out that drop cap. In theory I know how to do drop caps. (I don’t know if it is possible to code them in.) The only way I know is to use a graphic. In practice, my results have been less than gorgeous (a lot less!). This simple elegant drop cap gives me something to aspire to. I don’t know if Stallings produced his own ebook (he credits Heist Publishing) but whoever did it did a nice job. I like the subliminal effect of “shadowy characters” which is just about every character in the novel.

Here is something else I like:

But Jaye, it’s just a table of contents. Why get excited? The layout, sure, but the placement is what makes it stand out. It’s at the back of the book. And yes, if you go to the menu, the ToC link is live, so it isn’t as if you have to page through the entire book to find it. In an ebook, back of the book placement makes such terrific good sense. Custom and tradition say ToC’s belong up front. But we’re at a point where we can make some new traditions and customs, and I think this is a good one. The sample feature at retail sites can make or break a sale. Some front matter is necessary and desirable, but too much can weary potential buyers who want to read some actual writing. Moving the ToC to the back makes one or two fewer extraneous pages in the sample.

(If your ToC has real information in it–descriptors, sub-titles, etc.–it can serve as its own draw in the sample readers see. In most fiction, with simple Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc., the ToC is little more than a navigational tool. Something to consider.)

In my estimation, little touches like these add value to ebooks. Not hard cost value, but in the way just-right accessories add to an outfit or a bit of detail work adds to cabinetry. Little touches. Big effects. Very nice. Can’t wait to steal them.