InDesign Best Practices for EPUB Exports
When faced with ridiculous deadlines and last-minute, messy copy from editors, designers may resort to bad InDesign habits. Here are some basic InDesign best practices that are especially important to follow when the file will be exported to epub. While there are ways to clean up the problems caused by not following these guidelines, it pays to follow them from the start. And if you’re just too damn busy designing, you can hire a professional typesetter (hi!) to handle all of this quickly and cleanly. Your clients will thank you for providing squeaky-clean files.
Paragraph and Character Styles are usually translated to CSS for epub, so you should use them to format ALL of your text. Local formatting should never be used.* I’m sure you’re already using an italic character style, but if you also need bold italic or small caps italic, be sure to create new character styles.
* The one time I do use local formatting is for text fitting. If you have to adjust tracking on some text in order to make things fit better, it’s ok to do this locally because this is not something we want to carry over into the epub.
Instead of adding empty paragraph returns for spacing around elements, use Space Before and Space After in your Paragraph Styles. Use First Line Indents instead of tabs or spaces.
Keep text frames linked as much as possible. Don’t use unlinked text frames for chapter number, chapter title, etc.
Don’t use spaces or odd characters in file names or style names. Stick to letters, numbers, and underscores. This script will rename styles for you. (Learn More about this script in our EPUBSecrets post.)
Do not type hard hyphens to force a word to break where you want it to. There are better ways to rebreak words, such as using discretionary hyphens. If, however, there really is no other way to get the break you need, make sure you do two things: 1. Place a soft return (shift-return) directly after the hard hyphen. 2. Create an empty character style called “DANGER” and apply it to the hyphen and soft return. That will help your friendly neighborhood ebook designer find the problem areas in your files.
Master Page Items
Master page elements are not exported to reflowable epubs, which is mostly a good thing. You don’t want running heads and folios showing up in the middle of paragraphs in a reflowable epub. So, instead of overriding master page elements in order to change them, create new masters and make changes there. For example, you may need to create a master page for each chapter of your book. Or, you could use Variable Text in your running heads and have only one master for text pages. I discuss Variable Text for running heads in more depth here: http://tinahenderson.com/2013/01/10/the-basics-how-to-create-running-heads-in-indesign/
If you’d like to use the same fonts in the epub, make sure you’re not using Postscript Type 1 fonts. Stick to True Type or Open Type fonts. If you are a Creative Cloud subscriber, you can sync those fonts and use them in both print and digital publications. Otherwise, ebook-specific font licenses may need to be purchased.