Formatting FAQ

What do I need to provide for you to get started on my project?

 

First of all, we want all our clients to realize that book formatting is intended to be the very last step in the process of preparing your project for publication. Because of this, we discourage clients from scheduling work with us until they have a complete and fully-edited manuscript in-hand, ready to hand over to us, with no further editing or proofing work pending.

Believe it or not, some writers view formatting as a way to "get an idea" of what their book will look like before they even submit it to their editor. We will always discourage this practice, as it adds needless steps and time to the formatting process, and puts your project at risk of having to be rescheduled.

So, our very first requirement is a complete and fully-edited manuscript. If your book is not to that point yet, we will encourage you to get all those other functions taken care of before we schedule your project for formatting. Without a formatting-ready manuscript, we cannot schedule you for formatting.

We want to serve your project as swiftly and efficiently as possible; using formatting as a half-step prior to editing could add weeks, even months to your timeline as you send us an endless stream of revisions. We want to help you avoid keeping your project in formatting limbo for long stretches of time.

In the end, requiring a fully edited and proofed manuscript saves you both time and money, since it means you're less likely to be charged a revision fee by us for excessive changes to your manuscript.

In addition to a fully edited and proofed manuscript that's ready for formatting, here are some other things we'll need:

  • Your Library of Congress Control Number (where applicable).
  • Your CreateSpace or self-purchased ISBN-number, if you are requesting print formatting.
  • Any front-matter or back-matter you'll want included in your book. This includes:

 

  1. Dedication
  2. Acknowledgments
  3. About the Author bio, including author Website, email and social media links you want to make readers aware of as part of the bio.
  4. List of Other Books by the Author
  5. Sample Chapter of another work, if you desire to include one.
  6. Author photo
  7. Date of copyright on the project, if different from the current year.
  8. If publishing under an assumed name, we'll need your DBA, the DBA address and website, and (if desired) a copy of your DBA company logo, (.jpg format, 300 dpi) all for inclusion on the copyright/legal page.

 

  • If you are ordering print formatting, we'll also need your desired trim size. While we can accommodate any trim sizes, the four most popular trim sizes that gain you the widest possible distribution in CreateSpace, are 5x8, 5.25x8, 5.5x8.5, and 6x9. (6x9 is by far the most popular choice, while smaller sizes are appropriate for shorter manuscripts.)
  • Please select a preferred graphic scene break we can use in both print and eBook outputs. (We will provide a page or document listing several options, soon.)

 

While some clients may think it's good to hold off on some of these decisions until the last minute, trust us: it only delays completion of your project, which we want to deliver to you as quickly as possible. We therefore encourage all clients, whenever possible, to have this complete list of materials ready at the time we begin work on your project, so that there are no unnecessary delays.

 

What exactly do formatters do?

 

With so many "basic eBook formatting" functions built into modern word processors these days, in programs like Scrivener, some people question the value of hiring a professional book formatter. And if all formatting consisted of was hitting a couple buttons that output your manuscript to a basic .mobi file for Kindle, and a basic .ePub file for most other markets, then perhaps there would be an argument to be made for doing it yourself.

However, real book formatters do more than hit a couple buttons and output your books to a couple basic formats.

Such as, you ask?

Well, first of all, book formatters clean up your manuscripts in ways that most editors won't. For example, many writers have bad habits most editors overlook because they don't affect the content of the manuscript. Habits like separating chapters by adding in 50 empty paragraphs, rather than inserting page breaks. Or using surface formatting that is easily lost, rather than using proper style-based formatting. Or, simply by thinking while writing, or bad habits, inserting extra spaces where they're not needed, or MS Word-auto-generated tables of contents that don't translate well to even print formatting, let alone eBooks.

What few people who use MS Word or similar clone programs understand is that often there is hidden code in the formatting that doesn't need to be there in eBook formats and can actually cause problems with eBook acceptance unless it is found and eliminated.

At Blue Valley, our formatting specialist has experience dating back to the mid-1990s and has formatted over 350 books in the past two years alone, for various clients. We use cutting-edge professional formatting tools so that we can deliver not only a technically lean eBook to our clients, but one that can deliver the extra "bells and whistles" that will make your book stand out as professionally formatted, rather than looking like an "indie author" slapped-together job.

Bells and whistles like drop caps (in every format where it's possible), small caps (usually Kindle-only, since most ePub sites are still using old ePub standards that predate the inclusion of small caps), graphic scene breaks that add that professionally-formatted touch, and as many other features as possible.

So, why settle for simple document translation that could result in a less-than-professional eBook, when you can benefit from the experience Blue Valley has to offer, and end up with a smoother, cleaner manuscript that is tested to pass even the strictest of ePub quality standards? Let us save you time from your schedule, so you can keep doing what you do best: writing your next big release!

 

Trust in our experience to save you time

 
In the days when traditionally-published books were the most common way to go, authors had no input on questions like "where does the copyright/legal page go, and what verbiage should be on it." That's because trained professionals sweated those details, since they were legal or technical concerns and not a part of an author's creative input.
 
These days, many authors invest too much of their time sweating such details. While Blue Valley Author Services will listen and accommodate anything our clients insist on, provided it's technically possible, we also use templates that take care of concerns like that using industry-standard placement and verbiage, leaving authors free to invest their time more wisely in the creative concerns of their business.

Why reinvent the wheel in terms of rethinking every detail of a legal/copyright page, when you don't have to? We'll let you know what details we need to customize that page to your book, but beyond that, you can feel free to invest your time in working on your next work-in-progress, rather than customizing a copyright/legal page that is already industry-compliant. Details like this are part of how Blue Valley Author Services works hard to free up your time as an author, while we're working with you.
 
 

Why are some things said to be "not possible" in eBook formatting?

 
The last thing most clients purchasing professional services want to hear is, "No," "We can't do that," or, "That's a bad idea."
 
Unfortunately, there are times when clients will hear that. Why?
 
Well, the truth is a bit complex to explain here, but we'll give it a go.
 
 
1) Some effects, such as controlling precision placement of text on an eBook page, simply are not possible in eBooks at this time. That's because eBooks are basically highly-sophisticated HTML documents, meaning they're kind of like a Web page ... that doesn't exist on the Web.
 
Or think of it this way: eBooks are simply different from print books because they are interactive with the end-user.
 
For example, when you open an eBook on your Kindle or Nook or Kobo or iPad or whatever you use, you as the reader (end-user) of the book get to control many aspects of how the book looks on your device. You can change the size of the text, or the font used to display it, at your own convenience. This means that text placement and how much text displays on the virtual page, can shift radically due to user interaction and choices.
 
Because eBooks allow such choices to be made, it is not wise to attempt to control placement of text on the virtual page, because it can vary so widely based on user choices.
 
Note: Some people will point out that recent changes to the Kindle format allow for "precision text placement," and that is true to an extent. The effect is plausible. However, the cost of making that possible is that it robs the Kindle owners of the control they are used to over the appearance of books they purchase, so it often ends up being a negative on the part of the customer buying your books.
 
 
2) Other effects, such as custom fonts, are extremely costly and basically cost-prohibitive. Fonts are considered licensed products, protected to varying degrees by copyright. Just ask Adobe, the world's biggest supplier of licensed fonts. Licensed fonts can cost hundreds of dollars if embedded into eBooks, and sometimes even thousands. While such licensing is possible, the costs make the investment not worth it to most self-publishing authors or small press companies... especially when such fonts only show up on a Kindle as a "Publisher font" that the user can choose to turn off in favor of some other built-in font on the Kindle.
 
ePub devices like Nook, Kobo, and iPad rarely offer this option because most sites want ePubs that conform to an earlier ePub standard before the more-recent ePub standard allowed such features to be implemented. And even if that feature were enabled, again, it's just cost-prohibitive for a feature that book buyers can simply turn off by overriding the "publisher's font" in their text menu.
 
 
3) A handful of effects, like tables, can only be implemented to a limited degree, due to screen limitations on eBook devices. While higher-resolution screens are always being introduced, complex tables larger than, say, three columns wide, do not come across well in eBooks due to screen resolution limits and, again, the interactive nature of eBooks. One can sweat over getting a table to look "just right" on an eBook, but if a reader decides to puff up their text to a larger preferred size than the table was designed for, or a different font than default, all that hard work getting a table to look "just right" can be smashed to pieces by a different end-user preference change. So, generally speaking, even if a table is included in an eBook, we generally don't recommend anything beyond a two-column or three-column table for best results. Some nonfiction manuscripts need more columns than that, which makes implementation of tables in eBooks problematic at best. 
 
Those are the three categories most such issues fall into; some formatting features may not be possible because of the interactive nature of eBooks versus the static nature of print books, where precision control of all aspects of layout is in the hands of the formatter. Or, some effects are technically possible, but so expensive as to make them not worth the investment. Or, some things might be limited by screen size and other technical limitations in eBooks. At Blue Valley Author Services, we'll help guide you to the best practices in both print and eBook, and we are always striving to implement new technologies as they become common.