Ahhhhhh! I nice big mug of hot chocolate to wake me up from my night of two-hour interruptions and some time to write my blog. I think it’s time to update everyone on my self-publishing progress.
I really didn’t know much about book formatting. I even searched for online articles on how to work with a book formatter and what I needed to know but couldn’t find any. All I found was articles on formatting your own book. Luckily, I asked the amazing David Gaughran (my self-publishing guru) who he recommended and he gave me two names: one he said had a few months backlog and another who didn’t.
So I contacted the formatter without the backlog and I honestly didn’t even know what to say. I started by asking if now was a good time to have my book formatted and that I was looking for all the ebook files (epub, mobi, and smashwords) and a print version. He said that the ebook files are very similar but a print version was a whole other beast. I asked him for quotes for both and was happily surprised when I saw that it was only going to cost me $300 for all the files. Create Space starts at $295 for book formatting services and I’m sure I would get much better service and results from this highly recommended formatter. I’ve also found quotes for over $600 for the same services online.
After I jumped at this fantastic deal I was expecting much more hand-holding throughout the process. I’m sure this book formatter is used to working with seasoned self-publishers and I expected him to walk me through all the choices he was making and thought he’d ask me style questions but he just went right to work after asking me the size of the book and keywords I wanted to use. He got back to me after a few days with a problem. Since my book is incredibly complex with the same characters reincarnating into many lives I felt that a graph that kept track of each character’s past was needed. Unfortunately it seems that charts and graphs do not transfer well into epub and mobi formats. He said he’d try to fix it the best he could but wished I would just remove them. I told him to try and I’m sure he struggled with this for at least a week.
I received the epub file and the mobi file and had no idea how to open them. I’m sure he’s never gotten a reply asking for instructions on how I can view the files, but he sent me a few links on how to download the necessary readers. Well, I’d love to say I figured this out immediately, but it actually took me a whole day to figure out how to install these applications (I am grammatically and technologically challenged). Anyway after struggling to view these a huge smile came over my face as I opened my book. I couldn’t believe how real it looked and I went through it page by page to check whatever I could. I found a few things to change (lone sentences and issues with the graph). He explained to me that you couldn’t control the flow of the ebooks so that lone sentences could not be corrected but he said he would work on the graph again.
I was interested in using a chapter vignette (the little graphic an author uses at the beginning of each chapter). I had no idea how I got one though. I searched for one online but there were no sites that sold chapter vignettes so I figured I would have to ask my graphic designer to come up with one. She never made one before but she would give it a try for me and working with her delayed my formatter even more since he needed to wait on this before completing the ebooks.
Once I had the vignette the formatter requested it be done a certain size and I sent it off only to hear I sent the wrong one. So I sent the right file and a week or two went by, I had the baby, and still no news from the formatter. Finally after a week I decided to send a reminder email to him and he wrote back that he sent off the files weeks ago, even sent a follow-up email, and to check my spam since it might have gone there. Sure enough, it was sitting in my spam folder and I felt like there was no end to the miscommunication that was occurring between us. Once I opened up the files the vignettes looked great, the overall book was professional, and even though the graphs were not exactly how I wanted, it was good enough for the reader to understand. I only had a few small fixes like the Acknowledgements page was not on its own and the vignettes were on a separate page instead of right above the chapters. He made the changes and sent it off and began working on the smashwords file. He returned that by the end of the night and then he finished the print version by the next day. I thought everything looked great and he caught that I went from Chapter 5 to Chapter 7, completely skipping Chapter 6. I would have definitely missed that and he saved me much embarrassment.
He let me know that the smashwords file may not upload since they usually wanted font size 18 or smaller but he preferred to use some font 24. If I could sneak it by the overall product would look better and he would fix it for later if it didn’t upload.
Happy with my files, I sent off his paypal invoice and I’m now looking into all I’ll need to complete publishing with Create Space, Smashwords, Nook, and others. Oh I hope they are basic enough for me to figure out on my own. Now I’m off to give my graphic designer the page number of the print version so she can create my printed cover. I can’t wait until I can send for my proof!
All in all, this did take about a month to finish but I have a feeling this usually takes him a few days. He did say that I contacted him at a super busy time (I think he was releasing his own book at the moment) and I definitely delayed it myself by not knowing how to view the files, insisting on using the graphs, waiting on the vignettes, and not checking my spam folder. I do highly recommend this formatter though, he really knows how to deliver an extremely professional product and is familiar with the ins and outs of the self-publishing world. If you’re looking for a fantastic formatter email me privately and I will give you his name and if you learn from all my delays he will most likely have your files back to you within days.