Ruth Harris Reports #14: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Ebook Formatting But Were Afraid to Ask (Part Four)

Happy Weekend, WG2E-Land!

Please give a fabulous WG2E shout-out and welcome back to New York Times Bestselling Author Ruth Harris, who’s got another terrific post on Ebook Formatting! In case you missed the first three parts of this series, here you go:

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

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Ebook Formatting But Were Afraid to Ask (Part Two)

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Ebook Formatting But Were Afraid to Ask (Part Three)

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 the last part of the series, our formatters will address questions about turn-around time, how to handle corrections and edits, and additional services.

How much turn-around time should a writer allow for formatting?

Rik Hall: I can only speak for myself. For 90% of the novels I have formatted the turn around time was less than two days.

Judi Fennell: My usual turnaround time when I started over 6 months ago was a few hours. Now I’m much busier. Usually it’s 24 hours, but depending on my work load, it could be longer. I give you an estimate and (knock on wood) haven’t missed one yet.

Rob Siders: It really depends. Getting on our schedule can take as long as six-to-eight weeks, but  that’s really the extreme case. We usually run about four weeks out. This timeframe, however, doesn’t deliver a final, publishable set of ebooks. This just gets us to the first pass, an author review process which can take just a few days or a few more weeks, depending on the shape of the manuscript.

Pam Headrick: Unless the book is going to be scanned and then proofed, the turn-around depends on the number of clients in my work queue but usually I can get a digital file into 3 formats (Word, Epub and Mobi) within just a few days. The scanned/proofed book will take a week to proof and then usually the author wishes to make edits, so that lengthens the time for the conversion. I would plan out your upload strategy at least 3 months in advance if you want to upload more than one book (and the consensus now, is upload 2 to 3 at once, and then keep the momentum going).

What’s the best, most efficient way to handle correx/edits?

Pam Headrick: Not to have them! But if an author finds something that she/he wants to edit before I convert to ebook… and that’s why I send out preliminary ‘doc’… then the edit process is easily done in the Master File.doc. If however, an error or change needs to be made after conversion, then it takes a while longer because I have to edit the base HTML document and re-convert. Actually I have a program that can edit the Epub file pretty easily, but the Mobi file must be re-converted.

Judi Fennell: Before you give me the manuscript. Seriously. There’s a lot of work involved in preparing a manuscript for conversion to the various platforms and I work from one source document. That means, if there are any changes you need to make, I have to make the correction in the source document and then convert it for all the other platforms—essentially another project. I will, of course, fix any formatting issues there might be, but typos and grammar, and re-writes will all incur extra charges. So make sure your manuscript is ready to go. That’s not to say, however, that there aren’t correction times built in to the process, especially for print on demand.

Rob Siders: We’ve produced a tutorial video about this very subject and posted it at our Web site. View it here:

Rik Hall: The best ROI (Return On Investment) is to get the book edited and proofed before the author sends it to me to be formatted.  With me, when an author finds a mistake in the text they email me and I can usually have it fixed and sent back that day.  The author then just uploads the new version.  I have one excellent author who sends single word “fixes” to me when they are spotted.  Because the file I am working with is already formatted properly, the fix takes mere minutes.

Do you offer any other services?

Judi Fennell: started off strictly as a digital formatting service. Client demands have expanded my services. I now offer series/logo design with an eye toward branding, print on demand formatting, cover art (both digital and print/full cover layouts), copy editing, story editing, custom eStore banner creation for Createspace to tie in with branding, PDF-to-text conversion, and children’s/non-fiction formatting. Plus… whatever else a client comes up with that’s in my skill set.

Rik Hall: I am a magician and do Magic shows and have also done some sailboat deliveries, but I know that is not what you are asking.  I have, on occasion, done “some” editing and some “research” for authors.

Pam Headrick: Yes, besides being a full-service scan to ebook company, we also offer construction of websites, blogs, and newsletters (we prefer using Constant Contact for newsletters, it’s very user friendly and free… and we have a link to that on our websites ( We also do our own embellishments (flourishes) and other graphics and maps. Just whatever a client wants with the exception of uploads… we feel the author needs to ‘own’ their ebook, and learning the upload process for each platform is critical. Besides, we don’t want to know any personal info such as bank accounts, passwords, etc.

Rob Siders: We do. In addition to Kindle and ePub, we offer print interior design, as well as Smashwords-ready files and fixed-layout ebooks for picture books and comic books. We also have what we call our Premium Package (for fiction projects only) that includes a Kindle file, ePub file, and Smashwords-ready and POD-ready files. Unlike purchasing these same services a la carte, the Premium Package comes with custom-designed chapter headings and/or title graphics.

Rik Hall:

Judi Fennell:

Rob Siders:

Pam Headrick:

My newest, a romcom mystery-thriller called THE CHANEL CAPER, is coming soon. James Bond meets Nora Ephron. Or is it the other way around? Here’s a sneak peek at the cover:

Ruth Harris

NYTimes Bestselling Author

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

Brainwashed, A Thriller


Hooked, A Thriller

Husbands and Lovers

Killer Thrillers, [Boxed Set}

Love And Money

Modern Women

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. Great post, Ruth — and your new book looks like a lot of fun!

  2. Tamara Ward says:

    Thanks for the scoop, Ruth!

    • Ruth Harris says:

      Tamara, thanks. Formatting can seem intimidating & the formatters I interviewed were so helpful in explaining what’s involved. I hope some of the mystery has been removed—or at least cut down to size.

  3. Pam Headrick says:

    Ruth, I’ve been doing a lot of Print on Demand fromatting in the last two months. It can be so creative because you don’t have to format under the constraints of the ebook. But since I work on multiple books at the same time, it’s a bit difficult to change hats in mid-stream. One hour I’m doing a proof to print after a scan, the next hour I’m formatting for Smashwords or epub/mobi, the next hour I’m a typesetter. But several of my clients, and bless their hearts, have sent me POD bibles so I can get all their print versions consistent. This is truly a great time saver.

    • Ruth Harris says:

      Pam, thanks so much for dropping by. Switching from project to project CAN be a bit headache-producing & I admire you for being able to cope so effectively! Thanks also for the very helpful tip about providing POD bibles.

    • LC says:

      What is a POD bible? Sounds interesting! Thanks for sharing.

      • Judi Fennell says:

        A POD bible is just like a series bible: your list of conventions. For your series, you’d keep descriptions, family trees, settings, jobs, etc.; a POD bible is your specs: margin width, fonts used, title page layout, etc. I keep these on my clients for when they come back with the next book/series so the branding is consistent.

        It helps if we know up front that this will be a series. This is especially rue when I’m doing covers. Several clients have brought their series to me in various stages of completion. Check out for Susan Vaughn, L.B. Beckett, Lilian Roberts and others to get an idea of the branding. Just as the books have a consistency on the outside, they also do on the inside.

  4. LC says:

    I have a question for Rob. Your tutorial is so cool. What software did you use to get such nice screen captures? Great process too for corrections.

  5. Rik Hall does an excellent job as my formatter – he’s patient, prompt and thorough!

    • Ruth Harris says:

      Nancy, thank you for stopping by to comment and for your thumbs up for Rik. Your praise will help other writers as they decide how to handle their formatting.

  6. Rik Hall says:

    And after that great word from Nancy Jill James, I just got in the door and am off to put links into six of her great novels.

    Cheers all, and thanks so much Ruth for doing this and letting me be part of it.


    • Ruth Harris says:

      Rik, Thanks for stopping by! Nice to hear flattering words, too!

      Thank *you” for offering such helpful info & advice. I know all our writers appreciate it as do I.