The Great Formatting Conundrum & What To Do About It

I recently received a question over Twitter from someone asking if I provided formatting services. It’s not uncommon since so many independent authors are in need of e-book formatting. I’ve written about this topic in passing before but I decided to cover it in more detail today.

First let me say I do not offer formatting services. I’d be open to in the future if the need arose for more immediate income. However, I’m neither experienced enough yet nor do I have the time to run such a service while publishing my own fiction.

Word Styles

However, having formatted my own short story as an e-book – as well as intending to publish a few more short projects in the future – I do have some insights to offer for newer writers with questions. Most everyone advises that an author farm formatting out to someone who knows how to do it properly. It’s not terribly expensive for a novel and doesn’t require a long turn around time. But for shorter projects you may want to save the money and do the work yourself.

Formatting Resources

In either instance here are some resources for formatting:

  • Want to find formatters? Visit this link by Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, for his list of self-publishing related services. It includes people who offer formatting services with their pricing as well as illustrators and editors.
  • Want to do the work yourself? Download Mark Coker’s Smashwords Style Guide. This includes how to format your e-book so that it’s ready for submitting to Smashwords. I also found it effective for uploading to Amazon.


Scrivener StylesWith that information in mind here are some tips regarding formatting if you decide to give it a go yourself:

  1. Do not use your original manuscript. Create copy of the manuscript from which to work. This way if you mess it up you have no worries about it and can easily start over.
  2. Start learning with a shorter project. Once you have experience try something longer.
  3. Format correctly from the beginning. Read the Smashwords Style Guide for specific instructions on formatting your work with e-book publishing in mind.
  4. To begin formatting, remove all the bad formatting. Copy all of the content to a text editor like Notepad and then back into your word processor software to remove all the incorrect formatting. Again the style guide has detailed instructions for this process.
  5. Learn about Styles and use them when formatting an e-book. Styles are used in Word and are quick way of using preset formatting for different font styles. You can create Styles for titles, first lines, etc. These are also available in Scrivener. (take screen shots of Word and Scrivener styles)
  6. Create and use internal links. When you are formatting your manuscript to e-book conversion you can create internal links. These are important for use in e-book readers so anyone reading can move throughout the book with ease. One of the best ways to use this is to link your table of contents to each chapter heading or title and then each chapter back to the contents.

Final Thoughts


Many people have an aversion to formatting as if they might ruin their book. As long as you don’t work from the original you are free to play around with the process and learn. Once you’ve formatted even a short e-book you’ve gained valuable skill. Even if you do not want to format your novel you certainly know what to expect with a finished product when paying someone else. In the end it’s up to each person to decide what’s best – hiring out the work or DIY – but learn about the process some as well. Who knows, you may find you like doing it and launch a secondary income stream formatting for other authors. Regardless, I’ll follow up on some of the tips with some future posts on this subject.

Book Cover Green Top & Bottom Cover - CopyHave you tried formatting an e-book? What keeps you from trying? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section. I’d also love to connect with you over social media so check my Contact page for that information. See the News page for announcements and remember to sign-up to receive news and posts by email. I’ve added a new sign-up tab on my FaceBook page to simplify the process. New followers can download The Black Bag via free coupon today! Also, the cover of my book, The Bow of Destiny, was revealed recently so take a look.

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As a note, I do not work for or support any services for Smashwords. Please refer to Smashwords for questions and support.


Support Nonlocal Science Fiction–A New Kind of Sci-Fi magazine that’s Out of this World!


Here’s an interesting new idea for short fiction publication. Re-blogging on Archer’s Aim

Originally posted on Kylie Betzner:

Attention science fiction fans, Nonlocal Science Fiction is approaching critical mass and your support is needed to help it take off!

CoverReveal Recently revealed cover

What  is Nonlocal Science Fiction?

It’s a quarterly digital magazine published by 33rd Street Digital Press (a new independent publishing company) featuring short stories and serials from emerging science fiction authors from around the world–this world;) The first issue launches on March 14th!

What makes it so unique?

Nonlocal partners with its authors directly and offers them a share of the profits from the sale of the magazine rather than a per-word rate. Also, authors are involved in the marketing campaign which helps independent authors increase sales.

Who will appear in Issue #1?

Issue #1 promises awesome talent with stories by:

  • Valery Amborski (“Us and Everybody Else”)
  • Robert Paul Blumenstein (“Delivery to Venus”)
  • Dan Colton (A Thin Atmosphere, Chapter 1)
  • Daniel J. Dombrowski (“Mazep-fal”)

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Getting to the Heart of Character Development


Interesting insights about character development from Autumn Birt.

Originally posted on Guild Of Dreams:

– by Autumn Birt

Every story needs a unique idea (or at least a new spin on a classic!), but good character development can keep a reader going despite plot flaws far longer than a brilliant plot with flat characters. At least for me. And if you go by the comments and complaints out there, for most people as well. We write in a era of character driven novels.

The typical problems are stories with great ideas and cardboard characters. There are so many levels of poor character development: no interaction with other characters, speeches that are information dumps, no nuanced emotions. What is your pet peeve? Mine – have you ever begun a story where it felt like the character showed up the same time you did? A character who knows as much about the fantasy world as you on page one, but they supposedly grew up there?! Those…

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