Category Archives: Formatting Info

CyberWitch Lowered Rates + Updates

In case the title of the post hasn’t made it clear enough, I’ve lowered my formatting rates for 2016. So if cost has ever been prohibitive for you in your desire to hire me to format your ebooks or print books, maybe you could reconsider!

A standard length novel (under 100k words):

  • Mobi/Epub = $75
  • Smashwords = $50
  • Createspace = $75
  • Free PDF
  • + 15% discount
  • TOTAL = $170

I also added a “Budget Formatting” option for anybody who wants a professionally formatted book for rock-bottom cost.

See “Services & Rates” in the top, right-hand corner of my site for further info.

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I’ve posted two anthology calls for submissions:

A Midsummer Night’s Sidhe (due April 4)

Broomsticks (due August 1)

I learned a lot upon releasing Jingle Spells, so for now, until I perfect the process, I’m only doing these two anthologies this year. If you want to be a part, you’ve got plenty of time!

JINGLE SPELLS has been released and has been doing very well, even now that it’s post-Christmas. If you’re interested in picking up a FREE copy of the inaugural CyberWitch Press Short Fiction Anthology, get it at Amazon. It’s a beautifully formatted ebook, and can give you an idea of what I’m capable of when it comes to making your book beautiful.

Hallowthanksmas Sale!

First up – check this post out.

CyberWitch Press is calling for submissions for a paranormal holiday anthology!


What is Hallowthanksmas?

It is when you can walk into your local grocery or big box store to find dangly skeletons and warty witches next to fall-toned turkeys and smiling pilgrims sitting beside fat-bellied, red-suited santas with leers a little too creepy for comfort. It is when even the stores get so excited for the holidays they forget that one needs to pass before they stock for the next.

Hallowthanksmas is that magical time of year that reminds us all why we wait like drooling adolescents for that first crisp scent of fall in the air. It is our favorite time of year, with the promise of candy, food, and presents in our future. If it’s not, you’re probably a robot.

To celebrate this incomparably wonderful three months, I’m running a sale on CyberWitch services! And there’s a nice little bonus to go with it.

If you hire me to format your book during Hallowthanksmas, not only will you receive 20% off the formatting rate, but you will lock in that rate for any future books you return to me to have done. No, you did not misread that, though it is written very strangely. If you hire me to format your book from now until December 31st, you will receive 20% off the formatting cost (excluding image work). If you then return to me in the future for just one book or multiple, you will be charged exactly the same discounted rate. Indefinitely.

So spread the word, my friends. There are thousands of authors out there who need quality formatting done on their books, both new and existing. They need to meet me.

Updates for 2015

My name is Heather Adkins. I am an author and interior book designer. I’ve owned and operated CyberWitch Press, LLC since 2011. In that time, I’ve formatted over four hundred books in various formats. I work for New York Times Bestsellers, small publishing companies, and for brand new indies just starting out in publishing.

This is a quick run-down of what I offer and what has changed for 2015.

*Please do not send me anything but the absolute final file for your bookI will NO LONGER make typo changes for free during the formatting process for new or existing clients.  Authors seem to be getting lax in their proofreading. When your book reaches the formatter – whether it’s me or someone else – it should be the FINAL file. Every typo change requested during formatting will cost $1. Each.

I understand that sometimes it is easier to catch typos in ebook form rather than in a word processor, which is why I offer a quick and dirty conversion to mobi or epub strictly for your proofreading benefit.

* I do not format for nonfiction. Period. No exceptions. Don’t email me trying to change my mind because the answer will still be no. Please visit the talented folks at or for your nonfiction needs.

* I have a standard two week quote time from the day I receive the file.  I do not schedule files; it is first-come, first-served. If you need your book done faster, I may be able to do it, just ask — but I do charge a rush fee for anything less than two weeks.

*I format for Kindle, epub (Nook, iTunes, Kobo), Smashwords, and print (Createspace) — I also offer what I call “fancy formatting” which uses chapter glyphs, images, and drop caps for an extra fee. My mobi and epub files are formatted in XHTML NOT in a word processor.

*I will not code fonts into your ebooks. I am strongly against it due to the limitations of ereaders and what it means for the person who owns the ereader. There are other formatters out there who will.

* I offer PROOFREADING  on a very, very limited basis — find rates here


Now, below, a quick glance at my rates for STANDARD length novels — further information, and rates for books under 30k and over 75k, can be found on each of the separate rate pages.

If you need a formatter and you can’t afford these rates, just email me! I am very much willing to work with people who want a professionally formatted book, but can’t pay standard rates.


For novels under 75 thousand words:

  • mobi AND epub — $120
  • ONLY mobi — $65
  • ONLY epub — $65


For novels under 75 thou words: $75


Createspace for UNDER 70 thou — $75

Full Package:

Kindle, epub, Smashwords, Createspace, PDF

The Full Package for books UNDER 75 thou words:

  • Mobi/Epub = $120
  • Smashwords = $75
  • Createspace = $75
  • Free PDF
  • + 10% discount
  • TOTAL = $245
  • If you don’t need a Createspace, it’s a total of $195

* If your book is over 140k words, it is an extra $40 for substantial length (no matter what formats I’m doing–one, or all four.)

* I reserve the right to charge extra if formatting change requests get out of hand during the formatting process. I also reserve the right to step away from any job for any reason before payment has been received.

Print Book Formatting Special

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“Abigail” by Me

I was going for whimsical and girly because the book is a fantasy/romance.


anna“Anna” by Julia Crane

Julia picked out the roots because it was “earthy.” I loved the way this book turned out.


csod“Constant State of Disaster” by Me

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.


dp“Dark Promise” by Julia Crane & Talia Jager

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!

Open for Business

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.

Happy spring!

Ebooks and Fonts

Fonts are not all created equal.

Before you get into an uproar about why your formatter can’t use your pretty calligraphic font in your ebook, let me explain something.

HTML is meant to be universal, meaning no matter who creates the HTML document or on what machine, that document can be viewable across all web browsers.  This same concept applies to ereaders and HTML – what I create in web language can be viewable exactly as it is supposed to be across ALL ereaders (Sony, Kindle, Nook, iPad, etc. etc.).  This is the beauty of HTML – TRUE CONSISTENCY.

But, there are limitations, as well.  Font face is one of them.

Most ereaders on the market currently only support the fonts that come standard.  My Kindle has three fonts, all generic (sans-serif, serif), while my Nook supports five nameable fonts like Constantia and Arial Bold.  And my Kindle Fire has a couple of different fonts that aren’t listed on the Nook.  That’s a wide and varied selection, right?  And believe it or not, none of the fonts supported on my Nook or Kindle Fire are Times New Roman, Courier New, or Calibri, some of the most popular fonts.

Have you ever opened a friend’s PDF or Word doc before to find that the headings are some really ugly courier type font?  Something generic and bland?  Unless it actually says “Courier New” in your font box on your word processor when you put your cursor in the heading, I betcha money that those headings are supposed to be a fancy font – something calligraphic or artsy.  So, where is it?  NOT installed on your computer, that’s where.  If the font isn’t installed on your system’s hard drive, then it doesn’t exist to your word processor, and so the word processor defaults to something else.  This concept is the same for ereaders. They only support the fonts at their disposal – saved on their hard drive, so to speak.

Again, before you say “But I uploaded a Word doc just fine with a non-standard font”, let me ask you – did you download a sample of your book and check it out?  If you’re arguing your font uploaded just fine, I bet you didn’t, because you’ll find that your “special” font has magically disappeared, to be replaced by your standard ereader font.

There is an exception, I’ve found.  I use the Firefox Epub Reader for quick checks on my files as I’m formatting.  The cool thing about the Firefox ereader is it will support any font that is installed on your computer – but that doesn’t mean you should try to code fonts into your ebooks.  Very few people read on their computers; ereader ownership is growing by the day.

The XHTML commands I give my formatted manuscripts pencil in the instructions for how that book is to be displayed when it opens on the reader’s Kindle/Nook/etc.  When it comes to fonts, I don’t USE a specific font (for all of these reasons stated above).  Your book is coded with NO font and in such a way that when your reader opens it, your book will display in their already pre-chosen font style.  If you own an ereader, you already know that you can pick your own font size and face – my coding allows that reader’s specifications to automatically work in your book.

To quote Guido Henkel (from whom I learned ebook formatting): eBook readers allow users to use their preferred settings. Font size, justification and font type are very personal things and who are we to mess with what people like? By not setting our own values, the eBook device will automatically fall back onto the user preferences and immediately display our book in the user’s preferred way. It may be a small thing, but trust me, it goes over really well with your readers. Usability is key!  ALL of his posts on ebook formatting are well worth a read.  The man knows his stuff.

Plus, one thing I have found (specifically with my Nook) – when you purchase Smashwords books through Barnes & Noble, and that book was formatted in a font that isn’t TNR, the reader loses all ability to change not only the font face but also the font size.  I’ve returned books because of this – I have really bad eyes and need that big font, not to mention I can’t stand reading in a sans-serif font.  I know I can’t be the only ereader owner out there with this problem.  As mentioned in the Smashwords Style Guide, every manuscript formatted to their guidelines should be formatted using Times New Roman – this is the SW answer to HTML coding to allow for the ereader to display using the reader’s preferences.

All of this is a major reason why you should use HTML for ebook formatting, though it’s only part of the big picture.  One of these days, I’ll finish my blog post on why HTML is the way to format.

There is an alternative if you MUST have your pretty font – images.  You can create tiny images with transparent backgrounds that display your headings in the proper font. This works wonderfully as an alternative, and you can’t tell a difference.

There is one downside to this image plan – Kindles don’t support transparency.  On a white screen, this isn’t a problem.  But when your reader chooses to read off a sepia or black screen, they’re gonna see a white square around your heading.

So, in any of these situations, it’s a win some-lose some problem.  Almost all of my own books use images as headings; the little white box on the Kindle app doesn’t scare me.  One day, my hope is Amazon will get with the program and fix their format and ereaders to support that transparency.  I like pretty stuff too much to give up.

But as we move further into our digital revolution, we will see the formats grow and strengthen; that’s the best thing about technology :)

Amended to add: With the new wave of HD ereaders, we’re seeing images supported less and less in ebooks.  An image formatted specifically for a regular ereader screen will be entirely too small on an HD screen. I’m looking further into this.

The Smashwords NCX/TOC

If you’re formatting for Smashwords, READ THIS POST HERE.


I even have step-by-step formatting instructions for text only books.

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?


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:

Pagebreaks intact.

Happy formatting!

Things You May Not Know About Smashwords Formatting


Yes, you read that correctly.  That cute little “pagebreak” option in Microsoft Word DOES NOT WORK for Smashwords formatting.  You can put it in the doc, and it won’t mess with your formatting, but it will not ensure a pagebreak within the resulting ebook.  The only way to have pagebreaks before every chapter heading is to have a table of contents that points the way for the Meatgrinder to insert those pesky breaks.

There are two ways to ensure your ebook has the NCX/TOC required by Smashwords for premium distribution.

One—if every chapter of your book begins with “Chapter” i.e. Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three, AND if you put a Heading style on every heading, then the Meatgrinder will automatically create you an NCX/TOC.  It’s as simple as that.

Two—if your chapters do not begin with “Chapter”, i.e. One, Two, Three, or titles like “The First Day” or “When She Cries” etc. etc. YOU MUST CREATE A HYPERLINKED TABLE OF CONTENTS for the Meatgrinder.  I’ve outlined exactly how to do so HERE.  Once you’ve hyperlinked your table of contents, the Meatgrinder will put your pagebreaks in before every heading.

NOTE: I love Smashwords.  They do us a great service.  But this is not always consistent.  Sometimes, you do everything right, and your pagebreaks STILL don’t show up.  Until SW allows people to upload fully formatted epub files, we’re stuck with what they offer.  And the Meatgrinder isn’t infallible.


Period.  Finito.  If you use any other font that isn’t times new roman, you take the ability to change their ereader font away from the reader.  I get pretty miffed when I open a Smashwords book I bought for my Nook, and I can’t change the font because the author formatted their book wrong.  People are creatures of habit.  We LIKE our own chosen fonts on our ereaders.  We know what feels good on our eyes.  Don’t ruin the reading experience for your readers.


Yep, Smashwords will flag your formatting if you use more than four returns.  You don’t need that many anyway.


Remember, your file is going to be read on a super small screen.  Deep indents are gonna look mighty stupid on an Android Kindle app.

Oh, and you can’t have an indent AND a hanging space (the line of white between paragraphs).  It’s one or the other, not both.  Use both, and Smashwords will flag you to fix it.


The style guide explains this, yet most people still don’t understand why they upload their formatted document and alllll those italics disappear.  You absolutely cannot use the italics button.  Or Ctrl+i.  You have to use a STYLE.  You can read about how to do that HERE.


I don’t care how thorough you are.  Use the paragraph marks.  It’s the only way to ensure consistency, and to catch any pesky problems before they happen.


You could have OCD and think your file is perfect, but it’s not.  Nuke the entire thing.  Strip the formatting. And REDO IT ALL using Smashwords guidelines.  It isn’t that big of a deal to spend a couple hours making sure your file looks perfect.  Your readers will love it, and other indies will thank you for not contributing to the “there’s so much crap out there” theory.


If you want to format your own Smashwords files, do yourself a favor: READ THE STYLE GUIDE.  Yes, it’s annoyingly long and verbose, but it has everything you could possibly need to know about formatting for the Meatgrinder.  If you don’t have the time nor the inclination to do so, hire someone else to do it.  Sometimes you have to put a little effort in for the end result to be pretty.

Print Vs. Digital – Understanding the Flow of Text

Ebooks are not STATIC like print books.

So, what does that mean?

This is my book, Constant State of Disaster, in PDF form. This is what I upload to Createspace. The words on the page are STATIC – meaning, they do not change or move. Ever.

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.

Same book in digital. Average screen size, average font size.

Now, let’s talk about how ebooks are completely different.

Same book but in digital format. This is my Kindle app on my 17-inch computer screen. The Kindle screen is as LARGE as it goes, and the font is abnormally large, as well.

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.

Same book, same chapter, only in abnormally small font on an abnormally large screen.  See how it goes over into the new scene?

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.

Same place, smallest possible screen size but average-ish font size.  Notice it doesn’t go into the new scene.

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!

And last but not least (though I could seriously do this a million ways), smallest possible screen size, abnormally large text. Holy cow! Barely anything on the page!

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.

Kindle App for Android. Kindle Fire. Kindle app for PC. Regular, run-of-the-mill Kindle. Four different ereaders from the SAME manufacturer, and each displays a different amount of paragraphs. Let this be your lesson for the day. :)

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.)