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SPQ 031: What is the Best Way to Format an Ebook?

Written by Steve Scott on January 24, 2015. Listen to SPQ: iTunes | Stitcher | RSS Feed
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spq31 format an ebookThe Question…

What’s the best way to format my first book? Is it best to go to Fiverr, or is it better to learn how to do it yourself? I have an older version of Word that doesn’t seem to work with what’s out there. It seems very complicated.

Steve’s Answer…

Steve feels formatting is his Achilles heel. It’s the one aspect of his business he hasn’t totally nailed down, so he recently hired someone to format his books for him. When he first started out, he was really frustrated by the MOBI format, so he created books without formatting. He would use asterisks instead of bullet points so the formatting didn’t look all over the place. It didn’t give readers a quality experience.

When you start out, you have three different options:

  1. Format the book in Microsoft Word.
  2. Use formatting software.
  3. Outsource your formatting projects.

Steve used Microsoft Word for a long time. If you do this, save the document as a Web-filtered file or in Word 97-2003 format. You’ll see these options when you click “File” in Word. The finished product will look okay, but they won’t look great. “Formatting Your eBook” by horror writer J. Thorn is a good resource.

Steve hasn’t personally used formatting software, but people he looks up to swear by it. The first one is called Calibre. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but people seem to like and use it. The other option is Scrivener. A lot of writers love Scrivener, but Steve finds it doesn’t really fit with his writing process. Scrivener is not only for writing, but for compiling notes and producing books. It has a nifty export feature so you can export a book in the MOBI format.

If you’re thinking like an authorpreneur, outsourcing is the best option. Steve likes the idea of building teams around his business. He doesn’t want to spend an hour formatting a book, so it’s better to have someone else do it. If you pay someone else to do it, you have more time to create content and build your author platform.

Outsourcing costs $50 to $300. Steve sometimes pays more than $200 for his formatting. He likes knowing it’s done correctly without having to worry. Steve hasn’t personally used Fiverr for Kindle formatting, but he has found a great formatter for Smashwords. You might want to check out his Fiverr profile.

Elance and Odesk also have freelancers available to format books. Steve has tried to hire people on these platforms, but they often tell him it will take seven to ten days. He doesn’t have that much time to wait. That’s why he recommends Matt and Rob of Archangel Ink.

You need to understand the value of your time. If you can format a book quickly, then go ahead and do it yourself. If it takes hours, then have someone else handle it. Your time is best spent writing and building up your platform.

Resources and Links

Calibre: Open-source software for formatting ebooks

Formatting Your eBook: Author J. Thorn explains how to format an ebook with Microsoft Word and basic HTML

Scrivener: Software for planning, writing, and publishing books

Smashwords Formatting: Steve recommends this Fiverr user for Smashwords formatting

Archangel Ink: Archangel Ink offers cover design, formatting, and other services for authors

  • Thanks for the shout out, Steve. Hopefully my guide can be of use to some 😉

  • My pleasure! Really think it’s a great resource for formatting. Also…really enjoyed your speech at the AML event in Cleveland this past September. Never got a chance to meet you that day… but thought it was a great primer on selling more books