Ruth Harris Report #12: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Ebook Formatting But Were Afraid to Ask (Part Two)

Happy Weekend, WG2E-Land!

Please give a big ol’ fabulous shout-out and welcome back to Ruth Harris, who’s got another terrific post on Ebook Formatting! In case you missed the first part of this series, here you go:

Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Ebook Formatting But Were Afraid To Ask (Part One)

Take it away, Ruth…

Just as the revolution in e-publishing has made galleys and page proofs obsolete, a new profession—formatting—has been created. I’ve asked four of the most experienced formatters in the epub world to explain the process that turns your story from a previously published book or original manuscript into an elegant, easy-to-read ebook.

Here, in Part 2 of the series, our formatters will address questions about specialized formatting, how to choose a formatter, and the issue of references.

Do you specialize in any particular kind of formatting? (art books, joke books, children’s books, cartoon collections etc)

Pam Headrick: Right now I only do fiction, and most of my authors are Romance authors. I’d love to do a thriller or mystery or a men’s action/adventure though. Occasionally I’ll format a simple non-fiction how-to book.

Rob Siders: Nope. First and foremost, we consider ourselves to be book lovers. There are too many good ones out there to pick one genre or type over another. That said, each of our design staff has personal preferences. For example, now that I have kids I’ve taken a shine to making fixed layout children’s books. I also love when the author’s cover designer has given me a richly conceived palette to use as inspiration for my own design. A good cover designer really keeps me from making safe choices in what I do.

Judi Fennell: When I got a request for a children’s book, I fell in love. First, it was a wonderful story and second, it really allowed me to be creative, even though I had the print book as a template. I love being able to be creative, so children’s books are definitely a favorite, as is doing cover art. Print on demand books are also something that I enjoy doing with headers and sections and footers customized to the book and any excerpts. And editing, of course. I love getting to experience people’s work.

Rik Hall: The biggest call is for novels, novellas and shorts. But I have done non-fiction with graphics, children picture books and recently a really neat book with line drawings that the author’s daughter drew.

How should an author go about selecting a professional formatter?

Rob Siders: Take your time. There are a lot of people out there doing what we do. When I first hung out the 52 Novels shingle, there weren’t a lot of us around. Now, it’s a very crowded space, so authors have a lot of choices. The logical end to that is there are a lot of shops out there that have a shallower track record. There’s nothing wrong with that, as everyone has to start at zero and build a roster just like we did. But there are advantages to having been around a while.

The other thing I’d suggest is to ask other authors you know who did their book. By far, that’s how we end up working with most of our authors: someone referred them to us.

Judi Fennell: Word-of-mouth from satisfied clients is always the best source, but there are several of us doing this. I would check the testimonials, talk/email the formatter and see if you hit it off working-style wise.

Cost, of course, is a big consideration, as well as the services different formatters use. Some will handle the uploads, others won’t. Some charge for cover uploads for print on demand, others don’t. This is a new industry within the digital publishing arena, so it pays to do your homework and know what your budget is.

Rik Hall: Big question. There are lots of us out there. By reading your blog is a great start. Whichever Facebook groups they belong to are also good places to ask for advice.

Pam Headrick: Look on their website and see which authors are clients, then go sample their books.

Do you provide references?

Judi Fennell: Absolutely. Word-of-mouth is the best advertising, which is why all of my testimonials are up on my website at: with links to my clients’ websites. Most of them have Contact emails or buttons, so if you want more information you can go directly to the source, or, of course, email me with any questions.

I will say that this process is a fluid one, and I’m always answering questions, so if you don’t know something, feel free to ask. I now have a lot of repeat business from my satisfied clients and I have to say I was touched by how many of them emailed me during Hurricane Sandy since they knew I was in its path. We’ve become cyber-friends from the business arrangement. Matter of fact, that’s how I was referred to this blog… from a satisfied client.

Rik Hall: Whenever asked. Perhaps my best “reference” is in my pricing section on my website “You don’t pay anything until you are happy.”

Pam Headrick: Of course, if asked. But most of my work comes from referrals, so the new client has already spoken to someone about my work. I recently attended the NINC2012 (Novelists, Inc) conference and luckily had my iPad with me which contained all the copies of my clients’ books so I had samples at my fingertips. That was very helpful, particularly when someone asked about flourishes or other elements in a book.

Rob Siders: Absolutely. Just ask.

Next time, in Part 3 of this series, our formatters will address questions about sample pages, submission best practices and scanning services.

Rik Hall

Judi Fennell:

Rob Siders:

Pam Headrick:

Okay, WG2E-Land: What questions do you have for our fabulous Ebook Formatting Panel?

The Best of Ebook Formatting Wishes —

Ruth Harris

NYTimes Bestselling Author

Have fun at my blog/site
Follow me @RuthHarrisBooks
Read me at Anne R. Allen

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The Last Romantics

Coming soon from Ruth! THE CHANEL CAPER. James Bond meets Nora Ephron. Or is it the other way around?

THE CHANEL CAPER is a romcom-mystery-thriller that addresses two of the most important questions of our time:

1) Is there sex after marriage? 2) Is sixty the new forty?

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  1. As always, very informative and useful research and information. Thank you. Ruth, as long as we’re here together, I’d like to wish you a merry and healthy New Year.

  2. Julie Day says:

    This is so interesting again as I am about to format my third adult romance ebook to publish for the holidays. I am also thinking of starting formatting my YA fantasy ebooks into POD, and would like to know how long it takes all of you to do this, and how long you think it would take someone who will do it for the first time. Am planning to start doing them in the new year to reach more readers. I also esp like the fact that a few of you are starting work on children’s ebooks, as I plan to also venture into the young children age range next year with a series I started on earlier this year and haven’t found an agent or publisher for.

    • Ruth Harris says:

      Julie—Thanks for stopping by. I’ve asked our ace formatters to drop by and answer our readers’ questions.

      • Judi Fennell says:

        Good morning! Thanks, Ruth, again, for having us here.

        Julie – the length of time depends on the length of the manuscript and client workload. I’ve been able to do 24 hour turnarounds, but with the holidays… notsomuch. (I will be working Christmas Day). Also, there are the e-platforms’ considerations. For example, Kobo and Apple are not doing new submissions until after the first of the year. So anyone looking to put their work up on those platforms for Christmas is out of luck. I’ve seen Amazon taking a bit longer. I do occasionally do rush jobs for clients, but try to steer away from that as everyone wants their book up as soon as possible, so to be fair, I will stay up later rather than bump a client in the queue to another day’s wait.

      • Pam Headrick says:

        Julie, POD usually takes us 5-6 hours or so. It’s not hard to do and Amazon/CreateSpace has a good tutorial, but the final tweaking… Making sure no line is left hanging, the ellipses all fall where they ought, the headers/footers and page numbering is correct… Is pretty time-consuming.

  3. What size do you need the artwork to be for a children’s book? My thought is to have my grandson and my daughter to illustrate two of my children’s books and don’t have a clue as to the size it needs to be.

    • Ruth Harris says:

      Pepper—Nice to see you! Perhaps one of our formatters will be able to answer.

      • Judi Fennell says:

        Hey, Pepper! What you have to remember when doing artwork is that it’s going to be re-sizable. Meaning, people will have different e-Readers. Some will read on their phone. The new iPad mini’s screen is different than the original iPad’s screen. Old Kindle vs. new Kindle, etc. People are going to see these images in different sizes. It’s much easier to size DOWN an image than it is to size UP an image, so the bigger, the better. Photo conversion software can only do so much with an original. 8×10 would probably be best.

      • Pam Headrick says:

        Pepper, remember that you’ll loose resolution if you try to size up… So always start big in size as well as in resolution… You can always reduce from your original.

  4. Rik Hall has been a champ of a formatter! He even called to chat about issues, just making sure we were on the same page. I plan to use him a ton in the coming year.

    Merry Christmas, everyone!

  5. Ruth Harris says:

    Nancy—Rik is terrific and was super patient in answering all my questions. Thanks for the rec and, from me, too, Happy Holidays & a Merry New Year!

  6. Good, solid info here, Ruth. Thanks for doing this research and providing the solid data needed to make good decisions.

  7. Rik Hall says:

    Good comments all.
    Thanks Ruth for including us and thanks to Nancy for the promotion. I am currently sitting in a noisy mall, while family shops. I am thinking, “Why am I not somewhere quiet formatting a book?”
    Turn around time – for me, maybe same day. For a first time formatter, probably a day or two or three.

  8. Ruth Harris says:

    Rik—I feel your pain. Noisy malls make me wonder all kinds of things! lol