Thursday, September 19, 2013

Don’t Fear the Formatting! Tips from Marie Force, NYT Bestselling Author, and the E-book Formatting Fairies

Ruthy here! With so many of us branching out as either hybrid authors (traditional publishing + independent self-publishing = hybrid) or independently published authors (either self- or small press-pubbed) we decided it was time to ask some of the best and brightest of the e-pub/independent-pubbed industry to stop by and talk us through some stuff... Marie Force's bio is below, and it's wonderfully impressive, but on top of her publishing kudos, Marie and her "fairies" have blazed a trail for folks to deliver a great product to the marketplace time and again. And that's clutch when you're courting readers!

Time and again, authors ask the E-book Formatting Fairies for assistance because they don't have the time, skills or necessary technology for e-book publishing. Writers want to write, not wrestle with technology. With more than 25 published books, 17 of them self-published, I've learned a lot on this journey. I started the E-book Formatting Fairies in early 2012 to help authors create e-book and print-on-demand files ready for sale on all the major retailers.

But let's back up for a second and talk about self-publishing in more general terms. Why is this the best time ever to be an author? Never before has it been so easy for authors to take control of their careers and get their books directly to readers. With the advent of digital devices and e-books came platforms such as Kindle Direct Publishing at Amazon, NookPress at Barnes & Noble, iTunes Producer for Apple and Smashwords to distribute e-books to readers. By distributing directly to these retailers, authors can earn royalty rates of 70 percent, a dramatic increase over the royalties authors have come to expect from traditionally published titles. Add to that the opportunity for full control of content, covers, release schedules and promotion, and authors can get their work to readers and potentially make a lot of money.

Now back to e-books. You've finished your manuscript. What’s next? Start thinking about your cover, editing and formatting. I was a professional copy editor for more than twenty years. I have a degree in Journalism and have had courses in copy-editing. I’ve worked on newspapers and served as editor-in-chief of a national trade magazine for 16 years. All of this experience has helped me in my writing career, but I wouldn't dream of publishing a book without a professional copy edit. Copy editors know things most people don’t know—such as which four states are commonwealths and when to use lay, lie or laid. Readers catch typos and often report them in reviews or on social media. Avoid this by having your book reviewed by a copy editor. You won’t regret it.

A book cover is often the first, and sometimes the only, thing a reader will see when considering whether or not to purchase your book, so it should be memorable. Getting there isn't as easy as you might think. Do you have the skills to design high-quality (and high-resolution) images that reflect your story, characters and setting? Can you develop an impactful title treatment that will stand out in all the various sizes used on retail sites? You might be tempted to tackle the cover design yourself, but a homemade cover looks, well… homemade. There’s no substitute for a professionally designed and executed cover. Think of it as the “face” of your book and put forth your very best effort.

E-book formatting is what the Fairies do most often for our clients. We are contacted every day by authors who need their books formatted for distribution to the major retailers. Incorrect or inconsistent formatting can keep the reader from enjoying, and in some cases understanding, your book. Front matter, including a copyright statement, is important in identifying your book and in some cases required by the retailer. Back matter should be used to let the reader know more about you and your other titles. If you have more than one book available for sale and are not listing it in the back of your book with live purchase links, you’re missing out on potential sales. I have links to all my titles in the back of my books, as well as excerpts for the next book available in the series. I also customize my e-book files for each retailer so when a reader finishes book 1 in my series and reads the excerpt from book 2, they can immediately purchase it. I include links to my website, mailing list and social media as well. Don't miss out on this opportunity for readers to connect with you AND your other books!

Did you think print was not an option for self-published authors? Think again. There are ways for authors to get their book in print through services like CreateSpace, an Amazon company. We can format your book and your cover for print on demand, and CreateSpace will make it available for sale on Amazon and available to other retailers and bookstores through distribution channels. I have found that many readers still enjoy holding a paper book in their hand and make sure all my self-published titles are available in print. Just because you don't have a print contract with a publisher doesn't mean you can’t have books in print!

I’ve only talked about a few aspects of self-publishing and e-book formatting. I encourage you to read through the blog posts on the E-book Formatting Fairies site and learn more about self-publishing, the services we offer to help authors successfully self-publish and the Independent Author Symposium taking place in Warwick, RI this Nov. 1-2. If you want to learn the ins and outs of self-publishing, consider joining us! Find out more about the Symposium here:

About Marie Force

Marie Force is the New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling, award-winning author of more than 25 contemporary romances, including Maid for Love, book 1 in the bestselling McCarthys of Gansett Island Series, which is a free e-book. Her other series include the Fatal Series, the Treading Water Series and numerous stand-alone books. All You Need is Love, book 1 in her new Green Mountain Series from Berkley Publishing, is out on Feb. 4, 2014.


  1. Thanks Marie! I've been a part of her group now for a few years and have learned SO much.

  2. Welcome to Seekerville Marie!

    Thanks for sharing this great information.

  3. Welcome, Marie! A service like this is so ideal for writers who don't have a "techy" background or the time to learn it. I especially like that it's possible to also have books in print as that's STILL my favorite way to read.

    Interestingly, a friend recently took a 5-hour flight across the country and back & she told me that PRINT books being read by travelers on her flight far outweighed the e-books. That surprised me as I'm more likely to take my Kindle when I travel. So the in-print option is great! It's great, too, that as a writer yourself you know what writers want!

  4. Thanks for the info, Marie! You sure seem to understand the world of independent publishing much better than I do. :-)

    And thanks to Ruthy for inviting Marie!

  5. Welcome to Seekerville, Marie! Your credientals are impressive! We writers work hard on our stories. Amateurish covers and poor editing can negate our efforts. Nice to know there's help out there. Just love all the options writers have today.

    I brought bagels and cream cheese and jams. Coffee is ready. Helen had the pot ready to go so all it took was pressing the On button.


  6. I find indy publishing a temptation and a terror. I'm not ready yet. But I've got at least seven books on my computer I will someday publish somehow.
    They are romance but NOT romantic comedy with cowboys.
    More in the vein of Ten Plagues.
    Which I think is a good book but let's face it, it's NOT what people expect from me.
    And I don't want to just empty out the vault you know? Dump a bunch of old manuscripts on a poor unsuspecting public that aren't that good.
    So there they sit, moldering. And maybe, someday, I'll find the energy to go through them and see if I've got the desire to revise and salvage them. and THEN maybe, just maybe, the indy world will be hit with the deluge (for good or ill).

  7. I've actually got nine but two are probably beyond help.
    Maybe not but they'd need so MUCH help. It's exhausting to consider.

  8. Welcome, Marie! Thanks for this great info. I've seen your work, and it's fantastic! I love Ruthy's covers.

  9. Wow, Marie, thanks for sharing all this great information. It's good to hear it from someone who really knows what she's talking about.

    MARY—"Moldering," is this a word according to Mary? :)

  10. Welcome Marie, and thanks for sharing this information!
    Thanks also to Ruthy for hosting you today at Seekerville. :)
    Blessings from Georgia,
    Patti Jo

  11. Thank you for the timely information, Marie. I see that you and Shelli are presenting a session at ECWC. Great! Hope to meet you at the book fair!

  12. Jeanne I was loving on "moldering"!!!

    We don't get to use that or hear it all that often anymore, think John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave... only Americanize the molder!

    I love that technology has offered various options to authors. First as a category romance author, my work doesn't fall into a recycling bin or a used book store after 45 days... Folks can (and are!!!) buying my backlist for the Kindle and Nooks every day. That's huge for category romance!!! SWEEEET!

    And then there's the stories that don't fit. Maybe it's length, maybe it's genre, maybe it's topic like we talked about last week, but a good story deserves an audience.

    I first heard of the fairies from our Weekend Edition and I loved Marie and Company's survey (we posted those results here in Seekerville too) because if we work together to make writing and books a combined effort between traditional publishing and independent publishing, I think we have the best of both worlds.

    Janet, thank you for the coffee!!!! And the bagels are very New York! I love New York!!!!

  13. Morning MARIE, What great info you shared today. I am e-publishing so always looking for new ideas. I like the idea of putting all your contact info and blurbs of other books on the last page.

    Thanks and have fun today in Seekerville.

  14. Hey, Marie, SO good to see you here because I have recently dabbled in Indie publishing myself.

    And actually, Formatting Fairies is who I called first because Ruthy has spoken of you SO highly. Unfortunately for me, I am publishing (POD and ebook) a writer's workbook called Romance-ology 101 that needed to be 8-1/2 x 11 size, so your cohort told me you all didn't handle that size formatting. :(

    But ... the next regular ebook I plan to do will be normal trade size, so I will be sure to give you a call, okay?


  15. Welcome, Marie. What a treat to have you here.

    And now you are a hybrid author as well as a pioneer. Congratulations.

    For those not on the self publishing Yahoo group, here is the subscribe info.

    Well worth your time. More info than any workshop.

  16. Thanks for having me! If anyone has specific questions, I'm happy to answer them to the best of my ability. Traveling later today, but I'm around for a while. Thanks for having me, Ruthie.

  17. Just saying hi again so I can subscribe to comments. :-)

  18. Thanks for the information, Marie. I will be using the E-book formatting fairies soon! I have several ebooks on amazon only - because smashwords hates me. Createspace is so easy to use but I have friends that only have nook.

  19. Thanks so much for stopping by today, Marie!

    I'm with Mary...I walk past that door to Indie publishing, but I'm not ready to open it. Intriguing noises emanate into the hallway, though!

    I'll open it someday, and the E-book Formatting Fairies will be at the top of my list for help!

  20. Marie, what can we do to avoid errors in the manuscript after formatting?

    Is there stuff we should know/do ahead of time that will prevent font changes and line separations?

    I know proofreading the final is clutch, but just wanted to see if we can avoid this common pitfall.

  21. Marie!
    Welcome to Seekerville!

    Like many others here, heard about you through Tina's WE and have been mostly a lurker on the yahoo loop ever since.

    EXCELLENT info... Including celebrations like... ONE MILLION BOOKS!! Congratulations, Marie! And on a manuscript turned down by others.

    As Ruthy says, SUH-WEEEEET! (And she's a NY'er?)

    Question. I write MG, and have illustrations at each chapter heading, along with a few others scattered. Is this formatting handled differently?

    You've also given me an idea with POD. I changed cover designers after book 1. Books 2&3 coordinate and I've had someone rework the e-book of 1 so it does too.

    Perhaps I'll have a few printed with the new cover to show at some point.

    Still a number of cases left of the first edition though, if there are ideas about what to do with them.

    I've thought about a jacket, but it would look like an add on I think...

    Thanks again for your pioneering spirit and willingness to share. You fit right in here in Seekerville!

    C'mon in Mary and Jan. Water's warm! No sharks. Ok. Maybe a barracuda or two, but nothing you can't handle. ;)

  22. Hi Marie,
    Can you share any information about what it costs including editing for and e-book? How long has it taken you to recoup what you spend on your e-books and how does that compare overall? Also, is there any chance that the conference in RI is being taped? I know I'd love to attend but that's not possible.
    Thanks for sharing your expertise.

  23. Ruth,
    Errors after editing? We firmly recommend using formatted ePub or Mobi files for upload. If you're using Word to format and upload, you're asking for trouble with this usage. Word is riddled with funky formatting and behind-the-scenes coding that is very counterintuitive to ebook production. People are very determined to wrestle their way through this process on their own and I respect the desire to be self-sufficient. However, if you're spending more time wrestling with technology than you are writing, it might be time for a step back and some outside help.

  24. May.
    We find illustrations within ebooks to be problematic, so we don't offer that option to our clients. The more "junk" you add to an ebook file, the greater your chances of having the file rejected, especially at Apple, which is VERY persnickety about the files they'll accept.

  25. Jillian,
    We tell clients who want professional editing, cover design and formatting of ebooks and POD books to expect to spend about a $1,000. If the book is exceptionally long, expect to pay more for everything but the cover design.

    I have a pretty established brand so I recoup my costs very quickly.

  26. PS--Yes, the Indie Symposium will be recorded and pieces will be available for sale a couple of months after.

  27. Great information today. This is one of those posts to print out or favorite for future reference. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us, Marie! And thanks to Ruthy for inviting you!

    I have both Try, Try Again and Running on Empty just begging to be read on my Kindle while I'm trying to catch up with work and chores after a wedding in the family, but everytime I see the covers, I fall a little more in love with them. They're gorgeous!

    I love old words and I think molder/moldering counts since it is so little used. :-) Webster's says this about it... Moldering: turning to dust; crumbling; wasting away.
    But the thought of a Mary Connealy story wasting away... Horrors! Quick! Rescue them for us, Mary!

  28. Marie, as a traditionally published author who will probably make the "hybrid" leap sometime in the near future, I am gathering all the info I can on this topic! Thank you!

    In fact, I do remember hearing at last weekend's ACFW conference that e-books should open right to story, with everything else at the back of the book. That way, readers can dive in immediately and get connected to the characters.

    I will definitely check out your E-book Formatting Fairies site!

  29. Okay, I looked it up by typing "John Brown's Body Lies a Moldering in the Grave"
    Google says it's got a U in it but Blogger spell checked it to take out the U so what am I supposed to think, huh?
    Anyway, John Brown's body not withstanding, the books are, for now, still in the vault.

  30. Myra, we recommend listing copyright info at the beginning of the book, as some retailers will reject the file if the copyright info is too hard to find. Otherwise, we don't recommend any other front matter.

  31. Oh Yeah, Sure KC, you say you want the books. But if I publish my spine chilling gothic romance (which I love btw) I'll hear nothing but "Where's the cowboy?" and "Where's his horse?" and "Mary's obviously dumping her old manuscripts on an unsuspecting public."

    ETC. x 17 sales x 5 Amazon 1 star reviews = Embarrassment

    Which doesn't mean I might not do it someday.

  32. Clari, maybe I should just email it to you. You'd probably read it a while and think, "Oh, okay, I get why no one bought it." :)

  33. p.s. Meant to add Happy National Talk Like a Pirate Day to all my Seeker friends! ARRRR!! ;) PJ

  34. Thanks for the info, Marie! Very helpful & I learned a lot. Thanks to Ruthy for inviting Marie to share!

  35. Aargh! I forgot me hook or I'd be thrashin' the lot o' youse. Savvy?

    Marie, sorry, I didn't mean to confuse the issue... I'm techno stupid by half so I don't attempt anything greater than blocking in blogs in Seekerville...

    So when we send you a file it doesn't matter how we've typed it? That's what I was wondering, if things we do have a negative affect on the finished manuscript.

  36. Marie, thanks for visiting Seekerville! I only recently found the E-Book Formatting Fairies -- now I need to go back to the beginning and catch up. So much info! "The Readers Sound Off" post ... what a resource.

    Someone mentioned a friend who noted more people reading print books than digital during a trip. I kept track during recent travels, and the paper books outnumbered digital reading devices. Plus, I've noticed that if I particularly like an ebook, I order the paper book -- maybe it's the old "back-up, back-up, back-up" from computer experiences.

    My background in magazine/newspaper/copy writing/layout is going to be a help in self-pub, I'm sure. But one of my favorite sayings is, "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should."There are certain aspects of self-pub where that definitely applies. Glad there are people like you out there!

    Nancy C

  37. Excuse me, Patti Jo, I believe you mean ARRRRRG!

  38. You know I love my traditionally published books.... That's never an issue.

    But the ones that don't fit in the square holes, those rounded stories that can't quite be re-shaped????

    It rocks to have them find a home and readers and peeps who love a good story... and not risk someone else's money to do it!

    (Catholic Guilt Complex!!!!)

  39. Thanks for the information about costs and the conference tapes, Marie. Appreciate that!

  40. Hi Marie,

    I've read one of your books and enjoyed it very much. I didn't realize the extent of your expertise. Will keep it in mind for future reference!

    Great covers and I love Ruthy's covers too! For me, a cover is of utmost importance in attracting e to a book.


  41. Ruth,
    Straight text with paragraph indents vs tabs and scene breaks is about the only formatting we need to produce your ebook. Less is more when it comes to formatting. No headers or footers, no funky spaces between chapters (page breaks are preferred). In other words, nothing we have to remove to work with your file. Let me know if you have other questions.

  42. Sorry, Mary Connealy!! ;)
    We southern pirates drop the "g" off the end of ARRR! But just for YOU I'll say ARRRG!! LOL! (okay, I know this pirate-talk isn't writing-related, but shouldn't Capt. Jack be here today? Just curious...) ~ Ahoy, Patti Jo :)

  43. Ruthy, thanks for bringing Marie to Seekerville today.

    I'm standing in the background watching indy pubbing from afar. Perhaps someday.

    Thanks, Tina, for the yahoo link. Another good resource, no doubt.

  44. Ahoy Patti Jo!

    Any peach treats for the hungry pirates?

    Spying Susie Dietz through me spyglass!

    Susie Mason too!

  45. Welcome, Marie! Your info is wonderful. Someday I'll probably be ready to delve in indy publishing.

    I have to say, I love your books!

  46. Debby Giusti, here ye go, matey! I've tried a new recipe for Pirate Peach Drop cookies and Peach Shortbread cookies (both made with real butter--but no rum, LOL).

  47. Hi Marie!

    I have learned so much since I joined the self-pub loop. I can't even say thank you ENOUGH! Every time I blog about self publishing, I mention you and that loop. It's like a class and it's FREE!!

    *kisses your feet*

  48. Marie
    i will definitely be checking out the Formatting Fairies website. As a graphic artist, I'm very interested in the whole process. I would like to get into creating book covers as a means for supplementing the family income and your site may have good information for me.

    Thanks for visiting Seekerville. I appreciate learning about resources otherwise unknown to myself and the help for authors. (i'm an author wanna be as well...)

  49. Deb H, I can totally see you doing that! You have an amazing gift/talent for "seeing" and then producing an emotional effect through imagery. That rocks!!!!

    I grabbed a caramel coffee at the local pharmacy coffee shop... and I'm enjoying it 100%!!!!

  50. Marie, thanks for being here and sharing such wonderful information.

    Myra, I wonder if the comment was referring to where the ebook starts when you first open the file on your Nook/Kindle. I've noticed that all the ebooks I download start (ie. open) to the first chapter or prologue, but the front matter (cover, copyright, etc.) is still prefacing the story.

  51. My daughter found out that if she went in and talked like a pirate at Krispy Kreme she could get a donut and if she went in DRESSED like a pirate she could get a dozen donuts. Well, guess who's children went to Halloween last year as PIRATES.
    So she was able to go to her mom's group with a dozen donuts free today. :)
    This has nothign to do with this topic and it's probably too late for you all to put on an eye patch and a do-rag and head down to Krispy Kreme, but my daughter really scored!

  52. I'm with Mary and Jan. I listen to the stir about Indie publishing, but I'm not ready to try it.

    If I ever do, however, the help of the E-book Formatting Fairies will be sought.

    Fresh coffee's brewing for the late crowd.


  53. Maybe I should tell those if you who are circling around sel-publishing what the money is REALLY like. Lol

  54. Marie, thank you for the great info. I'm gathering as much on self publishing as I can. I already had you bookmarked. :-)

    When I'm ready to publish I'll be giving you a call.

  55. Oh yes, WHAT is the money REALLY like?:-)

  56. I've heard this from others too, especially in romance.

    * ahem *

    This IS Seekerville, last I checked? Romance writers??? Most of the Villagers too?


    Marie, thanks. Was thinking that might be the case about illustrations...

    I'm very happy with the lady who has been formatting for me. She uses InDesign and the eBooks are flawless.

  57. For those concerned, nothing saying you can't put something out there under another name to test the waters... Right?

  58. Marie, what a wonderful post. So glad to have you in Seekerville.

    Indie publishing is taking the world by storm. I'm glad you know what to do with the formatting because folks like me haven't a clue.

    Thanks for your insight and may business always be great!!

  59. A very interesting post, indeed. To bad it's not something I'll need anytime in the near (or probably even far) future.

    Mary~ I'm not sure you were serious about emailing the Gothic romance, but I would seriously love to read that.