When I format a print book, I feel like I have absolute control over the end product, and I’m damn proud of it. I’d love to see more print format requests come in, specifically more requesting the fun stuff I can do with images and fonts!
So along with this post chronicling some of the print books I’ve done in the past, I’m running a special on pricing. Createspace pricing is as follows:
- Createspace for UNDER 30 thou — $50
- Createspace for UNDER 70 thou — $75
- Createspace for OVER 70 thou — $100
For the images and special formatting seen below, I usually charge an extra $50. But I am offering this kind of formatting for no extra charge for the next three months! This way I can build my portfolio, and hopefully grab some new clients.
(These are scans of books I have on hand that I formatted, whether mine or a client’s. Some of the shadows are pretty wonky ‘cuz scanning a book on a flatbed scanner is pretty weird, but you can see the basic format.)
“Abigail” by Me
I was going for whimsical and girly because the book is a fantasy/romance.
Julia picked out the roots because it was “earthy.” I loved the way this book turned out.
I’d seen this look in a traditionally published book, and I wanted to emulate it. I actually do that quite a bit. If a client came to me and said “Look at such-and-such’s book. That’s how I want mine,” I could make it happen.
I love this look. It’s simple but striking.
“Eternal Youth” by Me & Julia Crane
This was one of those books I did based off a trad novel by Susan Wittig Albert. The text page (below) isn’t a very good scan, but I loved adding the line to the page heading. It made it look so crisp. The final product was pretty damn close to Susan’s.
“Freak of Nature” by Julia Crane
Julia’s main character is a half-human/half-robot hybrid, so she wanted this patch of coding on her chapters. It’s so cool to see when you open the book.
“The House” by Me
I wanted to go “creepy” because it’s a ghost story. The cover has branches on it superimposed over the image of the girl/guy and house, so that’s how I got the idea to use creepy branches.
“Lauren” by Julia Crane
Another example of a simple yet striking chapter heading.
If you’re on a search for a print book formatter, consider giving me a try!
The follow up to LET’S GET DIGITAL, the book I recommend to every new writer who asks me “Hey, I wanna self-publish. Where do I start?” I was updating my site and realized I never posted about this back when he released it. Copied and pasted from his blog:
Here’s the blurb:
Take your sales to the next level! The author of the award-winning, bestselling Let’s Get Digital is back with an advanced guide for more experienced self-publishers.
There are over 1.5 million books in the Kindle Store, with thousands more added every day. How do you get yours noticed? Visibility isn’t a challenge that can be bested once – it requires continual work. But there are tools and strategies to do much of the heavy lifting for you.
In Let’s Get Visible: How To Get Noticed And Sell More Books, you’ll discover how to:
- Leverage Amazon’s famous recommendation engine to take advantage of the various opportunities it provides for exposure
- Position your books for discoverability on other sales venues
- Minimize the time you spend promoting so you have more time to spend writing
- Promote in a cost-effective way that actually works
By using these tips, you will get your book noticed. And getting noticed is the key to growing your sales.
But hey, that’s marketing copy. Here’s what the first reviewers had to say:
“Let’s Get Visible is the best tool I have discovered for a writer to push sales and visibility to the next level, and an indispensable addition to the library of any indie writer. If you’re an indie writer and you’re not buying this book, you simply aren’t playing this game to win.” – Michael Wallace, bestselling author of The Righteous.
“Gaughran distills complex subject matter and explains it in a way that anybody can easily understand, and takes the guesswork out of promotion at Amazon. He removes the mysticism and gets you as close as anyone outside of Amazon will probably be to understanding how stuff works behind the curtain.” – David Wright, bestselling author of Yesterday’s Gone.
“If you are a self-publisher looking to improve your ability to get eyeballs on your books, I can’t recommend this title highly enough. The book contains many ideas I’ve used successfully and several I’m now excited to try.” — Cidney Swanson, bestselling author of Saving Mars.
ME: Word on the street is Dave’s about to publish a Second Edition to LET’S GET DIGITAL. I’m stoked to see the boatload of info I’m sure he’s added after three years in the publishing biz.
Yep, that’s right – CyberWitch is taking new clients again.
It’s funny, because I was recently denied a job I REALLY FREAKING WANTED working tech support for a software company. But the process of interviews and emails got me so excited about the job, that when they turned me down, I realized how much I love technical stuff. Like formatting.
I started formatting for clients in 2011, only a few months after publishing my first book. I kinda fell into it with a bang, since I never really do anything halfway, and six months later started a year’s worth of workload – more than I could handle on top of my day job. I got some great mentions in the writing community from David Gaughran and The Bookshelf Muse (now called Writers Helping Writers), and so clients poured in.
By the start of last year, I had to tone it back. I was literally losing sleep so I could finish formatting jobs because through it all, I’ve had a full-time day job. But I’ve realized how much I enjoy helping people, whether it’s doing the work for them or writing up posts on formatting tips.
So hopefully I’ll use this blog more. I’ve got some ideas of stuff I’d really like to cover here. And if anyone finds me in a Google search and drops by needing a formatter, just shoot me an email.
The CyberWitch Business Plan for 2013.
I will be taking existing clients on a case-by-case basis and with plenty of notice. Right now, I’m planning on capping my monthly work load of existing clients at FIVE jobs and will be scheduling them for exact dates. This is a biiiig jump down from 2012, when I was booked for 20-30 jobs a month and just quoting a month wait time. I *MAY* accept another job or two with an extra fee. So book me early if you want me!
A further note for existing clients: I will NO LONGER be formatting for Smashwords. Period. They keep making changes to their Meatgrinder system, and over the past few weeks have caused me nothing but problems when I’ve used the same methods for over a year. I’ve wasted too much time fighting with them, when the simple solution of allowing a fully formatted epub would solve all problems. Hopefully Mark Coker will come through with his promise to begin allowing fully formatted epubs and this will be a moot point. Until then, I will not be formatting Smashwords docs.
I will be taking Createspace formatting jobs at any time from anybody. Rates will be $100 for books under 100k words, and $150 for books over 100k, regardless of whether you want images/fonts/etc (so nothing extra to do the fancy stuff). The fancy stuff that I can do is something Createspace charges upwards of $250 dollars for, so I think that’s a pretty good deal. Plus I really enjoy formatting for Createspace. Print books are pretty :)
As always, if you have any questions for me, shoot them email@example.com. Thanks for reading!
I have been putting this post off because I love formatting books so much. BUT life happens. And a girl just has to adapt as it changes, regardless of what she wants.
I’m shutting down CyberWitch for the indefinite future.
I still have a full-time day job as a police dispatcher. I had planned on leaving to do formatting/writing full time, but then my husband and I decided we needed a new house before we murdered each other (900 sq feet in a semi-bad part of town is NOT good for two people and four dogs). I’ve been approved for a loan, and we’re going for it. What this means is I can’t give up the steady paycheck. Sacrifices must be made.
On top of remaining in the day job, my position has been given much more responsibility. I used to have a lot of downtime at work to format (third shift, very boring), which would leave me writing time at home. Well. No more. Now, I work all eight hours earning my actual paycheck like a good little girl, and I’m spending five and six hours a night at home formatting. This leaves A.) No writing time. and B.) No free time for seeing my husband/family/mental health.
As much as I’ve loved doing the formatting, I have to recognize that I can’t keep going at this rate. It was tough before, now it’s become even more difficult. If you are ALREADY MY ACTIVE CLIENT, please feel free to email me about this. I may take jobs from ACTIVE CLIENTS on a first-come/first-serve basis with plenty of notice, depending on my schedule.
Thank you to everyone who has supported me over the past year. I have met and worked with some pretty damn amazing people.
I will still always be available for advice/questions about formatting or self-publishing at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re formatting for Smashwords, READ THIS POST HERE.
Let me reiterate–READ THE SMASHWORDS STYLE GUIDE.
Now, we’ll discuss that often elusive Smashwords NCX/TOC.
Ever received an error about NCX? Have you ever opened your final mobi file and wondered why on earth you have no pagebreaks in the file, even though you used that handy-dandy pagebreak function in Microsoft Word?
YOU NEED A PROPER NCX/TOC FOR ANY SMASHWORDS BOOK. ANY.
So now you know you need a table of contents. If you’ve got the Chapters and the heading styles goin’ on, you’re all set (as mentioned in that first post I told you to read). However, if your chapters don’t meet the specifications, you’ll have to do the back door method of showing the Meatgrinder what to do.
Here is our make-believe file.
This file is already formatted per Smashwords’s guidelines. Now I’m going to show you how to create that snazzy TOC.
Highlight the first chapter heading. Move your cursor to the toolbar where it says INSERT. One of the options is “Bookmark”. Choose it. A new little dialogue box pops up, as shown below:
In the name line, make the bookmark something that will be easy to refer to later. It’s best to make it one long name using every word of the chapter heading because there is no room for error when you’re linking to each bookmark later. So, as you can see in the image, I’ve titled my bookmark elsienewfriend. (Note: You can’t use characters or spaces in the bookmarks, only text.)
Click add. You’ve put in your first bookmark. Rinse and repeat for every single chapter heading in your document.
Return to the table of contents. Highlight the first chapter heading in the list–in this instance, Elsie’s New Friend. Right-click to bring up that fancy little box. Click “Hyperlink”.
This new little box shown above will pop up. See the blue square? It’s a tab that says “Place in this document”. Click that, and the white dialogue box will change to show you a list of all your bookmarks in the document. Click the bookmark for elsienewfriend, and hit Ok, then voila — hyperlink. Rinse and repeat for the rest of the list.
Your final file should look a little something like this with those nice blue hyperlinks:
Notice how I didn’t even use a pagebreak in the doc. None. It’s all on the same page. Yet… if you want an idea of the separate pages that result from the meatgrinder’s conversion, here’s a montage of images:
This is a cross-post from my personal blog. It doesn’t have to do *specifically* with formatting, but it has to deal with self-publishing in general, so I figured it to be relevant.
This isn’t a post to chastise people who self-publish unedited, unprofessional books. I was that person. Last summer, the indie world opened up before me, and before I’d put much thought into it, I uploaded my books. A few read-overs by me to check for typos, a couple reads by close friends and boyfriend, and I was good to go! Right?
Negative. I’ve learned a lot in the past year.
I’m not saying that these are lessons from someone who has found success. I am not an authority on the subject. But, I have lots of friends in the indie world, and we share all of our ups and downs, as well as the lessons we’ve learned. And these four lessons are hugely important.
Lessons Learned # 1: I’ve learned the importance of beautiful covers: Taking a photo you like and slapping a title and a filter on it does not a book cover make. My first “covers” (I use the term loosely) looked like vomit. My first cover for The Temple was actually a photo of the Smithsonian National Gallery, flipped, made black-and-white, and the title added using Picasa. For my old short story, Underneath, it was my favorite picture from a cave in Ireland. That I took. In the dark.
It was only around August of last year that the simple truth began to sink in–it is absolutely necessary for one’s cover to be professional in order to draw in readers. Human beings are aesthetic–we love pretty, shiny things. Take for example the two different covers shown of The Temple. There is an obvious difference in quality. One looks…hideous. It doesn’t give you any indication of what kind of story hides behind the picture. It maybe gives off a “spooky” look, but it’s so innocuous that it could be anything. The other cover, on the other hand, is GORGEOUS. Designed by my usual artist, Stephanie Mooney, this cover has a feeling to it immediately–she’s looking over her shoulder, so something is up. She’s being watched? Followed? And there’s a temple in the background with some kind of magical, glowy light…what on earth could that mean? Is it something ghostly? Divine?? Not to mention the crisp lettering and perfect font. It is exactly what a book cover should look like.
Many people don’t grasp this concept when they first join the indie revolution. I shudder to see some of the sludge on Amazon today–and I shudder even more to know that MY books used to be part of that ever-present, unprofessional deluge. It took me a couple months to instigate the change, but once I did, I realized I was better off to spend the money and hire a professional artist. While Stephanie is my *usual* artist, I’ve also used Jack Wallen and Athanasios Galanis.
Lessons Learned #2: Interior formatting. Readers WILL complain. Any number of books on Amazon sport reviews stating something to the effect of “The formatting in this book is so bad that I couldn’t even read it.” A friend of mine received a Kindle for Christmas, downloaded a free book, and promptly returned it. “There were no indents!” she told me. “How could I possibly read a book without paragraphs?”
Proper interior formatting is just as important as a pretty cover. This isn’t as simple as just uploading a Word doc to Amazon — please, for pete’s sake, don’t upload a Word doc. Ebooks are meant to function like web pages, i.e. in HTML. Word processors, no matter how meticulously formatted, leave uber room for error. If you have no basic knowledge of code, hire someone. Just like covers, you want your book to be as professional as possible on the inside and the outside. This isn’t a plug for my ebook formatting services — I’m damn good, but I’m also closed to new clients. Do your homework and choose someone who formats in code and NOT in a word processor if you want your books to be as nice inside as the trads.
Lessons Learned #3: The blurb. Oh, dear goddess, the blurb. It’s like a monster in the closet–you know it’s gotta be there, but you want nothing to do with it. How on earth can you sum up your 150-thousand-word epic tome in two paragraphs?? You need to mention the Roaries who run Planet Dayme and are in battle with the Hellios on Planet Rors, and how one hundred years ago, they lived in peace but then Planet Norax exploded and it all went to hell…and then there’s that thing with King Mordel and his five beautiful daughters and the suitors from Planet Snark…
Not so much. The reader doesn’t need to know a Complete History of ______. All they need is a short, well-written implosion that makes the reader go, “Huh!” Every word should be a soldier on the battlefield, drawing the person to read on by downloading the sample or even buying the book. Key words: Make Every Word Count.
This means asking for feedback. Tweaking and un-tweaking. Removing sentences that your friends say don’t fit or aren’t necessary. Consult people who have read it and people who haven’t. The blurb is one of the ways you entice someone to take a chance on your books; don’t skimp.
And for F*@K’s sake people, if there is a typo in your blurb, you should be strung up by your toes.
Lessons Learned #4: THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON OF ALL.
“But, my grammar is perfect!” you say.
No. It’s not.
“I don’t need help. I’m a great writer! I’d never write in a plot hole!” you whine.
Nope. Not true. In my first draft of The Temple, Vale took a shower, answered a phone call, and then turned right around to take a bath. In Eternal Youth, Callie was in Guatemala, and I called it South America…and my brother was born in Guatemala!! In Abigail, the protagonist is sold into slavery, and then immediately left alone to have a conversation with her brother…yet doesn’t try to run away?
EVERY AUTHOR NEEDS AN EDITOR. Yes, your book is your baby, and you think it sparkles and glows like a vampire in teen fiction. But the harsh truth is every book, whether written by a 14-year-old girl or by Stephen King, NEEDS AN EDITOR.
There are a couple different types of editing. Let me begin this by saying EVERY BOOK NEEDS A SUBSTANTIAL EDIT. This is the edit that digs so deep into your book it makes you sweat. This is an edit that seems to know your own book better than you do. This is the edit that will turn your work of art into an absolute masterpiece. After you get a substantial, you should get a copy-edit. This is the edit that cleans up your grammar and makes sure you don’t have sentences that make no them there sense. Finish out with a proofreader or two for last minute typos. Courtney Milan wrote a great post about her methods here. Go. Read.
I learned editing the hard way. The problem indies run into is that editing is soooo expensive. An average novel is around 70-thousand words; that can put an author into paying nearly $1100 on JUST the substantial edit for that book. Add another 250 for the copy edit, another 100 per proofread, and you end up with quite a tally.
Authors don’t generally have this kind of money. We work full-time jobs that pay the bills paycheck-to-paycheck. Where on earth are we going to get an extra two grand to edit our book?? So this is why you find so many books online that are poorly edited.
But, it’s a vicious cycle. You can’t afford editing, you’re gonna end up with bad reviews. You do shell out the money for editing, and you’re looking at a very long time before that book earns enough back to break even. At the rate The Temple sells, the money I just dished out on editing won’t be earned back for between 3 to 5 years. Long time, huh?
Editing is not a scary process. You have to remove yourself from the edits and look at them from an outsider’s point of view. Here is a picture from my Abigail edits (an insane work in progress; I received the edits from my editor in late May. I’m STILL working my way through them. But, I’m doubling my word count and digging deeper into the world…you just can’t beat that.) That’s a whole lotta purple. But that purple is making Abigail into the book I know it can be. And when I’m done, it will go to my copy editor, then hit a couple proofreaders, before I format and reupload the brand new book.
I’ve just gotta survive the edits!
My editor is Sarah Billington. She’s FABULOUS. And while I’m only just now going through edits on my previous novels, all of my future novels will be edited by my team before they ever hit the interwebs.
Hell, read any of my blog posts — guarantee they’re riddled with typos and awkward grammar. Doesn’t mean I’m a terrible writer; just means I’m a writer.
That’s all she wrote, folks. Edits, blurbs, covers, and formatting. The four MUSTs of professional publishing. Sometimes, we just have to learn the hard way. Then we rush to catch up. I wish the knowledge and understanding I’ve gained in the past year had settled in just a little bit sooner.
Ebooks are not STATIC like print books.
So, what does that mean?
Well, to start off with, let’s look at print books. A print book is a work of art. Every word, every bit of punctuation, every heading and footnote and glyph—they are printed on the page in a specific place. The floral pattern at the start of each chapter—half an inch from the top right corner. The chapter heading—three lines down, and then another two lines before the start of the text. Justified lines don’t always flow beautifully, which is why in print, one utilizes hyphens, or the artistic method of rewording and adding until the text is displayed with just the right amount of white space. There is a lot of planning that goes into making a print book beautiful. All of the aforementioned things are what make a print book static—embedded on paper and immovable.
Sounds like a lot of work, right? It is. But, it’s what sets apart your book from the crowd, so I personally believe print books deserve that kind of love and affection.
Now, let’s talk about how ebooks are completely different.
Ebooks are NOT static. When you open a print book, the words are exactly where they’re supposed to be, no matter who you are, where you are, or what you’re doing. This is not so in the ebook format.
What you have to remember is that not all ereaders display the same way. There are people read your ebooks on tablets the size of a piece of five-subject notebook paper, and there are others reading on screens as small as their tiny Android phone. Not only does screen size have to be taken into account—there is also the fact that nearly all ereaders allow for the reader to change the font face and the font size. This means that your book will never display exactly the same as it does on YOUR ereader/app.
Ebooks flow to the size of the screen based on font size and face. Bigger font size means less words on one screen, and skinnier font faces mean more words on one screen. Your app may display a single lonely word at the end of a chapter—obviously hideous to the eye for that one word to be on its own page—but you must remember that’s not how everyone will see it!
Individuals who own ereaders are well-aware of the idiosyncrasies of their device. It’s like one’s favorite sweater—yeah, there’s a hole in the armpit and the hem is unraveling, but you know that’s just how it looks and you love it anyway. Readers will recognize when they see a single line on a single page that it is meant to be with the text on the page previous—cut ‘em a little slack, they’re pretty smart if they’ve joined the digital revolution.
This is why its important to understand formatting if you’re going to attempt to do it yourself. The above reasons show why you should never have page numbers or headings in your ebook. You should never plan for your ebook to have one-page chapters (your reader on her Android phone is gonna see a single paragraph at a time, if that, so your “one page” turns into ten for her.) Leave those nuances to the print books, and go for simplicity in your ebooks.
Your ebook CAN be gorgeous, as long as you understand the limitations of the formats.
(This post isn’t about the fancy stuff that can be done in ebooks, like glyphs and images. Those things are possible, but to put it simply, leave them to the professionals if you want your book to look its best. Those people are the ones that know the issues that come from formatting and can act accordingly.)
Business has become beyond outrageous.
After a passing mention by Dave Gaughran February, and then an Ask-the-Formatter blog at The Bookshelf Muse in May, I’ve had an INSANE spring and beginning of summer. From the end of January until, well, STILL, I have been nonstop.
CyberWitch formatting isn’t my only job. I’m a full time police dispatcher and have been for over four years now. I work night shift – 11 p to 7 a, and not only that, but I work a rotation. What this means is I work 8 DAYS in a row, then I have 2 days off. Then I work 7 DAYS in a row, and get 4 days off. You ever worked night shift? It pretty much makes a woman insane. I sleep around 10 hours a day just so I can make it through the night. Add the fact that I go such a long period of time between off days, and by the time I AM off work, I don’t want to do anything but run the errands that have built up over the week, visit my family, and then use the one day left to be lazy.
What does this mean? Well, it means I don’t have a whole lot of free time, as it is. When I wake up around 6 in the evening, I immediately turn on my computer and start formatting. I will sit before the screen and continue to work until 945, when I have to get ready for work. Then, 8 hours at work. Come home, pass the heck out, and when I wake up, I do it all over again. Every day. 7 DAYS A WEEK.
That’s right. I have been getting so much work that I am literally working around the clock. My life is suffering. My fiance doesn’t even remember what my eyes look like, my family tells me about get-togethers and dinners, but I miss them because I’m on deadline to a client. And I’m also a writer, who hasn’t written or released a book since January.
Oh, and did I mention I’m trying to plan a wedding, too? October. I don’t have anything but the caterer because I don’t have TIME.
I’m stressed, depressed, and have aged twenty years since last October when I started formatting as a freelancer. I’ve met some amazing authors who I thoroughly enjoy working for, but I’ve also dealt with people who have made me cry. True story.
I love formatting – I take so much pride in creating a beautiful ebook or print book. I don’t want to quit. But, changes have to be made. As long as formatting isn’t my full time, life-support career, I can’t pretend it is.
As of today, CyberWitch formatting services are temporarily closed to new clients.
I will continue to work for my already established clients. If you are NOT already my client, you’ve seen a book of mine, and you’re dying for your book to be as pretty, you can certainly email me and see if I can fit you in. I very well may.
I’m tentatively planning on opening for the holiday season at the end of the year. It’s a busy time for ebook formatting as authors try to push out books before the rush. If I do, I’ll post well in advance.
Thanks for stopping by, and as usual, I am always available by email at email@example.com for ANY of your formatting or self-publishing questions (free of charge).