fairly new to Ebooks and publishing in general. I am attempting to publish a poetry collection. Unfortunately, I've been wracking my brain over how to preserve the formatting of my source file (.odt) for the .epub version. None of the built in converters (on amazon/kobo) convert it nicely - either they butcher the pagination, rearrange the lines of my poems, or some combination of both. I found a solution in amazon's textbook creator, but that doesn't work for other sites. The layout and formatting is highly important in poetry, so I'm wondering how to accomplish a fixed layout (or at least maintain some form of pagination/formatting) for the other sites? Thanks in advance for the help.

1 Answer 1


First, I've formatted lots of poetry for epubs, so I can offer insights.

I don't know about what kind of visual demands you have for poems. But I'm assuming that you have the usual ones -- keeping lines of a stanza together, having the proper indents and line widths and forcing page break.

Poetry is easier to format by creating HTML and css style sheets.

The html source looks something like this:

<div class="stanza">
<blockquote class="stanza">
<p class="line-verse"> "Look not thou on beauty's charming, – </p>
<p class="line-verse"> Sit thou still when kings are arming,  –</p>
<p class="line-verse"> Taste not when the wine cup glistens,  – </p>
<p class="line-verse"> Speak not when the people listens,  – </p>
<p class="line-verse"> Stop thine ear against the singer,  – </p>
<p class="line-verse"> From the red gold keep thy finger,  – </p>
<p class="line-verse"> Vacant heart and hand, and eye,  – </p>
<p class="line-verse"> Easy live and quiet die."</p>

Admittedly, this is a plain vanilla example. Depending on the formatting, you may want to use two different classes for individual lines with different styles. Look at this css

p.line-verse {
    text-indent: -2em;
    padding-left: 3em;
    padding-right: 3em;
    line-height: 80%;

You get the point. Once you have the css right, it is trivial to create html pages for poems. More examples are here: http://epubsecrets.com/formatting-poetry-in-epub-part-1.php and http://epubsecrets.com/formatting-poetry-in-epub-part-2.php

The two issues you have are: 1)would the advantage of being able to style poetry in html and css outweigh the convenience of using a word processor and 2)are you testing the poetry book adequately on different devices? Poetry can look bad on mobile devices, so you need to make sure they render reasonably well on all devices.

It may simply be easier to pay someone to format an ebook for you and then keep the template for later ebooks. Or you can crack open any epub file of a poetry ebook (.epub is just a zipped file with the file extension renamed).

Or you can unzip any of the Project Gutenberg poetry ebooks (which are formatted pretty well: http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Poetry_%28Bookshelf%29 ).

To summarize my answer: It is actually not hard to format poetry for html; it actually can be easier than doing it from a converted word processed file. My feeling is that using word processed documents as your source creates more problem than it solves when you're trying to format something like poetry. Fixed layout books would definitely provide more pixel accuracy, but the ebook's appearance would be unpredictable on smaller devices.

  • 1
    "Poetry is easier to format by creating HTML and css style sheets. ". I was going to say this. This guy knows what he's talking about. I'm also an author or EPUB books, and software that creates EPUBs. Most tools do not do well with poetry, hence your need to know HTML and maybe some CSS.
    – Bulrush
    Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 19:42

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