Formatting Questions? Ask the Expert

So, as you all know, Angela and I are on this terrifying…er, exhilarating journey of self-publication. We’re approaching the end of the formatting process now, which has been one of the most confusing areas for us. After much hardly any deliberation, we decided to hire someone to do this for us instead of attempting it on our own. And we stumbled upon the perfect person for the job: Heather Adkins.

We asked her roughly a gajillion questions. Roughly. She was so incredibly helpful and informative that we figured, Hey. She helped us so much…why not offer her expertise to others who might be utterly befuddled like we were?

So. Much like our recent Q&A on cover design with Scarlett Rugers, we’re opening this up to all of you. Thinking of formatting a novel? Considering hiring someone to do it for you? Either way, use the comment section to ask your questions about the formatting process and we’ll make Heather’s answers available in a future post.

Don’t be shy, people. After fielding our questions, she may have heard it all. Seriously, I can’t recommend Heather highly enough–professional, informative, above-and-beyond helpful. And her website, CyberWitchPress, is chock full of useful info, so don’t hesitate to check that out, too.

About BECCA PUGLISI

Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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Anonymous
Anonymous
8 years ago

I’ve never done any formatting, so I don’t even know what questions to ask. I look forward to seeing the Q&A.

Becca Puglisi
8 years ago

I’ve got a question of my own. Some distributors accept many different kinds of files. Amazon, for instance, accepts Word, epub, mobi, plain text, html, pdf, or rich text files. For us, you chose to go with the mobi file at Amazon. I’m just curious: for the major distributors (say, Amazon and B&N), which file type do you recommend using?

Becca Puglisi
8 years ago

Awesome questions. I’m sure Heather will be able to provide some insight for us all :).

Androwson
Androwson
8 years ago

Good post to read.

kdoyle
8 years ago

I’ll probably do it myself when the time comes. However, I’ve used professional layout software for many years, and also know XHTML/CSS. It will be an adventure, though!

Leslie Rose
8 years ago

I get the shakes just thinking about formatting. I’d definitely have someone else do it while I just nodded my head.

Traci Kenworth
8 years ago

I, too, am interested in everyone’s questions. Not sure if self-publishing is in my future yet…

Sonia Marsh/Gutsy Living

I did my research and hired a couple of book shepherds first for a one-hour consultation. I then decided to start my own publishing business and get my 10 ISBN’s. After that I decided to hire a professional design company as I’d heard about the importance of looking professional. After listening to hours of Joel Friedlander, “TheBookDesigner.com” I figured it’s worth it to hire a pro, rather than attempt to do a book cover and the interior formatting myself. I know InDesign and other professional formatting programs are super expensive (over $1,000) I think, and are so hard to learn to do right, so why not get it done like a pro. That’s my opinion. I have to promote, so don’t have time to figure out all the other aspects of cover design that you need to follow to sell books and formatting.

Linda Austin
8 years ago

I stripped my Word manu and formatted using the Smashwords guide since the Kindle guide is pathetic. Then adapted to any Kindle specs. I know Word pretty well so it didn’t seem hard, and only 128 print pages anyway. Waiting for the cover designer before I upload. Some say you can’t just fix a Word doc and must use Calibre or something else. Advise?

The Golden Eagle
8 years ago

Can XHTML and CSS be used to format novels, and/or the developing HTML5 (or XHTML 2.0, if indeed XHTML is acceptable)?

Riv Re
8 years ago

*waves hand* Ooh! Ooh! I have a question! Call on me, call on me!
Wait. I’m not in class anymore? Oh. Woops.

I’ve seen a lot of different formats for the header and footer. What’s the standard and/or what do you recommend when it comes to placing the page number, and what to put on the top of the page (ie: the title, the author, the chapter name)?

Thanks so much!

Mart Ramirez
8 years ago

What a great post. Thank you for introducing us to her! Looking fwd to reading q & A

Lynda R Young
8 years ago

I don’t have any questions that haven’t already been asked. Interesting topic. I’m looking forward to reading the answers.

Ben Woodard
8 years ago

Angela, you are exactly right. Hire someone to format. But, if you want to try it yourself (I did), then get Scrivener. Writing software that will format your book for Kindle and e-pub. Tough learning curve though.

angel
8 years ago

Great idea! I too am looking to put some illustrations in the book so any advice there would be great and this:

My next book has footnotes. The kind you need to read, as you are reading it, not stacked in the back of the ebook. Is there a way to place these at the bottom of the page like a print book?

Thanks!

Laura Pauling
8 years ago

Angela – YOu fix the typos and then upload the book again.

For print though it costs more money every time you resubmit an updated version. Honestly? That’s why I’m waiting for the print. A friend found 6 typos in A Spy Like Me, which actually, I’m kinda psyched that’s all she found after all the times I went over it and a copy editor too!

I want to fix all the typos before I put it into print. But I”m interested to see what Heather says.

Angela Ackerman
8 years ago

I cannot possibly understate the awesomeness that is Heather. She was so patient and helpful!

I have a question I’ll ask, just because I see it hasn’t been asked, and yet I know it’s something all SP folks want to know: What should an author do if their readers tell them about a glitch/typo/reading problem in one of the ebook formats?

Keep the questions coming, all! I’ll collect them and we’ll fire them off to Heather to answer in a later post!

Angela Orlowski-Peart
8 years ago

Oh, I have a question similar to Laura’s: I wonder what would be the process of uploading my watercolor painting as the book cover?

Angela Orlowski-Peart
8 years ago

Great! I will definitely keep Heather in mind for my upcoming self-pubbed novel, since I very much dislike anything that comes even close to formatting 🙂

Bish Denham
8 years ago

I’m sure I have a question somewhere, but it must be lost among the dust bunnies!

Natalie Aguirre
8 years ago

I’m like Stina. Looking forward to the questions and answers.

Stina Lindenblatt
8 years ago

Since I’ve never attempted it, I don’t have questions. I’m looking forward to the interview, to see what questions did come up.

Laura Pauling
8 years ago

I was so glad when the formatting process was over and everything validated! So nice! But I don’t blame you guys with the book you have to hire someone. With all the lists and bullet points – wise decision! Can’t wait!

Question: Is it impossibly hard to insert small graphics along with each chapter title?

And what is the process in transferring a hand drawn picture to be an illustration? Would I just scan and turn into a jpg?

Thanks!

Charmaine Clancy
8 years ago

What a great resource to share – formatting can be a big pain in the … if you don’t know what you’re doing. I’ve formatted my Kindle book because I wanted to know exactly how it’s done. Next time I’d just pay someone.

Wagging Tales

LM Preston
8 years ago

I hate formatting our ebooks! Whew. Question: Is there any software out there that will format your books for you – when the books have pictures?

Heather Marie Adkins
8 years ago

I’m looking forward to seeing what questions come up! Thanks for having me at the Bookshelf Muse 🙂