Formatting your self-published novel – DIY or hire someone?

CIMG1036You have written your novel and now are ready to publish it as an e-book. But your file needs to be submitted in the proper format as required by the publisher. So do you do it yourself or hire someone to do it for you?

Well, that really depends on how computer savvy you are. I have done the formatting for all my books with no problems. I know of other authors who would never want the headache of formatting their book and hire someone to do it.

Option 1 – Do it yourself

You can follow the step-by-step instructions offered by Smashwords to prepare your manuscript.

Amazon too offers a simplified formatting guide.

Advantage – It is free. If you are relatively proficient at MS Word, it is not difficult to follow the Smashwords guide. Amazon’s is a little more complex.

Disadvantage – if you aren’t proficient in MS Word, or you don’t own/use MS Word you could produce an improperly formatted book that will prevent or delay the publishing of your book. Also depending on your level of proficiency, it can take a while to follow all the formatting steps.

Option 2 – Hire someone

As I said, some authors would rather leave the formatting to the professionals. Just remember that when you hire someone to format your book that is all they are doing. They are not proofing the content.

Smashwords offers a list of formatters (as well as cover designers).

Advantages – Hiring someone who knows what they are doing can take less time and relieve you of having to worry about the formatting being done correctly.

Disadvantage – It cost money. The average rate can vary from $30 to $100 depending on the complexity or condition of your current file. It also can take longer depending on the turnaround time of the person doing the formatting.

In most cases, you will need to do several versions of your book. You will not want to use the same formatted version for all the publishers, especially as Smashwords requires a specific notice as part of the front matter that you will want to remove for submission to Amazon and other providers.

The most important thing is that you follow the guidelines provided by Amazon, Smashwords, or whatever other e-book publishers you are using so that your book not only meets their requirements but looks professional.

18 thoughts on “Formatting your self-published novel – DIY or hire someone?

  1. Daphne (daphodill) says:

    Reblogged this on My Passion's Pen and commented:
    Definitely a skill I’d like to add to my arsenal.

  2. Some great pros and cons for both options here!

    I actually really enjoy the formatting process, getting it all to look exatly how I envisioned it 😀

  3. Reblogged this on A Writer's Life For Me. and commented:
    Re-blog Thursday!

    Some good points on formatting- DIY or Get Help?

  4. The advantage with DIY is that if you follow the guidelines and get the right formatting once, you’re done: you can reuse that same formatting for the next novel.

    If you pay someone the first time, you’re going to pay someone the second time, and the third, and the … you got the trend.

  5. Really, really helpful, thank you!

  6. Reblogged this on Allan Walsh – Author and commented:
    There’s a useful link to Smashwords style guide for those that are interested

  7. Great advice for those starting out! At first I found self-formatting a little daunting, but once I discovered the Smashwords guide, I was in heaven – so much easier to follow!

  8. Reblogged this on Romancing Editorially – Unwrapping Romance Author Editorial Services and commented:
    Self-publishing is all about keeping control of your novel. You decide what is ultimately published, not a publisher. In the end, the most important question is how much to delegate to others to make your book the best it can be, and to stand out in a crowd. Even formatting can make a difference – DIY or hire someone?
    Happy Writing. 🙂

  9. Without the specific expertise to ensure formatting is properly done and a complete edit is performed, I am reluctant to self-publish. I use Dream Write Publishing – knowing my work is the best it can be and has a polished appearance is worth the small fee. Unfortunately, I have author friends who have submitted substandard work and I have had to advise them of the errors. The only bonus being you can re-submit an e-book but in one case the errors were in a print copy and too numerous to ignore. We have to take extra care before releasing our work even if that means delaying publication.

  10. Beth Caplin says:

    I lucked out – I have an author friend who formatted my books as a personal favor. She sells way more of her own than I do, so I figured I could trust her to do it well 🙂 I don’t own any e-readers but I’ve asked a few friends who downloaded my book if they saw any glitches, and used the Preview function in KDP, and didn’t see anything wrong with it.

  11. Format it yourself. I’m not a computer genius, but I’m comfortable with Word and after doing eight books, I can work out the Smashwords version and get it right the first time. In the beginning I did have to fix things and resubmit, but I can learn. Kindle is a breeze if you base it on the Smashwords version – only needs a couple of minor adjustments. Why pay somebody to do it in a way that probably won’t come up to your standards?

  12. kyrahalland says:

    I do my own formatting. I had 12 or 13 years of experience in html before I started self-publishing, so I code my ebooks by hand and then build the ebook files in Sigil. It’s not that hard if you start out with a little background knowledge. I use Paul Salvette’s ebook designer’s guide as a guide. Formatting is kind of a nice break from the intense editing and proofreading that happens right before a book release.

    Alternatively, if you start with a very clean Word doc (I don’t write in Word; I save my writing in RTF and then copy it to Word for the Smashwords edition) it’s also pretty easy to format your doc to work with Smashwords and KDP. The thing is you have to avoid all those formatting things writers want to do to make their file look like a nice typed-out document, because those formatting things are what messes it up.

    But if you really don’t have the time, patience, or know-how, paying a formatter isn’t really all that expensive.

  13. […] you have written an awesome story, edited it until it shines and formatted it for publication as an e-book. The cover has been designed and the engaging book blurb has been […]

  14. […] your novel for publication. Both Amazon and Smashwords (e-book distributors) offer steps to format your book for their publication. My suggestion would be to follow Smashword’s steps first. It […]

  15. […] when I get around to publishing it, I update my blog with posts on formatting, cover design and […]

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