Custom formatting, from the code up.
What if you want something beyond the basic, simple format that works across devices? What if you want to include special custom details that work on some devices and not others—without losing compatibility on those other devices?
Maybe you want your book to be designed to fit your text, rather than your text plugged into a design used by every other self-publishing author. Maybe your book’s too complicated or involved to fit the average formatter’s experience or expertise. Maybe you exported using Scrivener and want the extra fleurons removed (since, last time I checked, Scrivener outright duplicates images every time the image appears in the file, which can dramatically increase your file size).
Whatever your reason for wanting custom formatting, that’s what I specialize in: customized EPUB, MOBI, PDF, DOC files, and DOC templates.
(I recommend against using iWork’s Pages for formatting. Short version of why: feature options are’t great, and the program isn’t future-proofed.)
My focus on custom work means that everything is set up to suit your particular situation, not just plugged into a paint-by-numbers template that has to get mangled to suit what you want. So if you’re wanting a formatter who just dumps your stuff into premade templates, I may not be the best the formatter for you.
Why My Formatting Is Different:
Templates are a dime a dozen.
If that’s all you want, you can easily go buy a template, do it yourself, or hire someone to do it over on Fiverr. You probably even have a friend or relative or coworker who already has the computer skills to stuff content in a template. You don’t need me. (Though I can help out if you need it.)
Unique Projects Need Unique Formatting
Whether it’s a standalone project or part of a series, some projects are just different from most, whether due to special features or due to special branding. Templates by definition aren’t really meant for that. Custom formatting is, and for that you want a special design for your EPUB, MOBI, or DOC.
Useless/junk code sucks.
My EPUB and MOBI files are built from scratch using HTML and CSS, to keep the file size as small as possible. My DOC(X) files use paragraph styles. My PDF files are built from either EPUB or DOC (depending on the situation and your needs). I also set things up so it’ll be as easy as possible for you to use the format for all your files.
Custom EPUBs work best for upload to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Program.
Clean documents work fine if you’ve written regular prose, but if you want special features or have images that you need to keep from losing quality, you want a nicely optimized EPUB to upload to Amazon. Don’t ask me why, but it even works better than Kindlegen, which is supposed to be what KDP uses.
Sometimes e-books need updates.
Maybe you need to adjust your back matter or fix that embarrassing typo that made it through the editing process. Since the files are custom, some tech knowledge is needed for updating them, but the file is intentionally designed to be comprehensible for someone with moderate tech knowledge. A person doesn’t have to be entirely fluent in the program(s) involved to be able to make tweaks—and someone who is fluent should be able to quickly and easily make the adjustment(s) needed.
You don’t want to lose access to the file content as file types change.
Computer software changes often, and anybody who’s been using computers for fifteen years or more probably has some files that take creativity to open now—assuming you can even get to the information in the files. Not everything is accessable. To limit that problem, I intentionally build from formats that can be accessed via universal file types: EPUB and MOBI files can be opened as HTML-containing folders, and DOC files can be opened as RTF, if necessary. (HTML and RTF are universal formats that aren’t going anywhere.)
E-books are going to change.
E-books have been around for several decades, with Project Gutenberg being perhaps the earliest distributor. Many e-book formats have already died. Even the EPUB format is in the process of morphing into something more suitable for mixed media, although much of what can be done with EPUB doesn’t work with a lot of e-readers. Both HTML and DOC/RTF have consistently been good foundations for many formats, so chances are good that they’ be suitable foundation for future formats.
My goal as a formatter: to enhance your document without sabotaging it for the future.
That means I assume you’ll need to be able to access your content and update it in the future. That means I consider the method(s) you’ll have to use to do that. (This is why I intentionally don’t use desktop publishing software like Scribus (an open source alternative to InDesign): I’ve seen too many folks struggle with the time and expense when they have to get their content out of that format, years later.)
But I consider reader experience, too.
Obvious, I know, but you’d be surprised by how many formatters are focused on making everything precise and exactly a certain way, which overrides reader preferences. I set things up using relative measurements so that, even though some e-readers will vary, what matters still works.
What Working with Me Looks Like:
I respond within two (2) business days. If you sent me a message and you haven’t heard from me, something has gotten funky in digital land. Maybe the e-mail gremlins were hungry. You can try e-mailing me again or reaching me via tweet.
- You send me information about your project: what it is, whom it’s for (target audience), desired or needed turnaround time (such as if you need it within 2 weeks), and if you want me to design it for you or if you have a design in mind (even if that’s KISS.)
- We discuss your project.
- We come to an agreement about the scope of the project and its fee.
- I submit an invoice and letter of agreement.
- You pay the invoice, accepting the letter of agreement.
- I format your file and deliver the demo, alerting you if there are any small things I’m planning to do or asking about some specific items.
- You examine the demo, answer any questions, and let me know how you like what I’ve come up with for you.
- I update the files and, if warranted, submit a second demo for your review.
- I put the finishing touches on the file, deliver everything, and we wrap everything up and move on to our respective next projects.
Note that if you make significant changes to your project while work is in progress, the added portions may warrant an additional fee, to account for the material that was not part of the original project scope.
- DOC and DOCX files are made using Microsoft Word for Mac. I use both 2011 and 2016, depending on the situation, due to quirks in both programs. Some features work better in one than the other.
- PDF files are made from the previously mentioned DOC or DOCX file.
- EPUB files are made using a code editing program, a folder of my own making that has the parts built in, a spreadsheet I designed to help me construct the root files, and a shell script to perform the two-step compression and file renaming that produces an EPUB file.
- MOBI files are made from the previously mentioned EPUB file, by a shell script that applies Kindlegen.
What This Formatting Costs
There are so many factors involved that I can’t give a specific answer without seeing your source file, but here’s a baseline idea:
|Basic DOC(X) Formatting||clean MS Word file||starts at $50|
|A clean format good for general printing, template use, or for uploading to vendors that accept DOC files (KDP, Draft2Digital, or Smashwords; main issue is that you cannot control page breakage with this method, and the end file will have a larger file size).|
|Basic PDF Formatting||e-book format||+$25 to formatting fee|
|Custom EPUB Formatting||EPUB & MOBI||starts at $125|
|EPUB is the best root format, and building it from scratch keeps the file size minimal.|
|Custom PDF Formatting||for e-book or p-book||starts at $150|
|E-book PDFs are set up as for printing on looseleaf paper, such as for workbooks. P-book (“print book”) PDFs are for places like CreateSpace and Lulu. The fee includes checking for widows and orphans.|
|Vendor-Specific Format||special links, etc.||+$20 each|
|Images||optimized and adjusted||+$5 each||Includes settings that help prevent image warping or page breaks between images and captions, though not all devices heed those settings.|
|Tables||optimized and adjusted||+$5 each|
|* All prices are USD. The starting rate assumes your file does not require formatting cleanup and that your file is not longer than 100k words; additions from there are at my discretion. Rush jobs can often be accommodated for an added fee.|