Quick question:  How many different ways are there to format e-books? If you know, I’d love to hear the answer.  

We had a lively discussion in The Author Biz Facebook Group a few weeks back about formatting and decided to turn that discussion into our last show of 2016.

We’ve got four guests today and between the five of us we’re going to cover SOME, but not all of the different ways authors can format e-books.  We’ll discuss methods ranging from free, and I mean completely free, to the level of hiring an expert to do the formatting for you.

Our guests today include two Author Biz veterans, C.A. (Carol) Newsome (TAB082), who did yeoman’s work helping me put together the images for today’s show notes.  SJ, Stephanie Pajonas (TAB091), who actually recorded a video of her formatting her version of our project, Jake Devlin, and indie author who listens to the podcast on Bonita Beach most weeks, about 10 miles north of the palatial author biz studios, and John Gibson, who formats books and designs covers professionally.

It’s a great group and I can’t thank them enough for playing along with our little experiment.  We took an out of copyright Sherlock Holmes Story, A SCANDAL IN BOHEMIA, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  Our source file was text.  I asked each of our formatters to include an image and a short table of contents for the three chapter story.  I also used Canva to put together a cover that they could all use.  Then I asked for three file types, mobi, epub, and PDF.

Each of our guests used their preferred method of formatting and we’ll discuss things like cost, time involved and any problems that came up. It’s an interesting discussion and I think we all learned a bit from this process.

This was in no way a contest, but each guest did work to produce a good quality ebook.  You’ll find downloadable versions of each of them below so you can compare them yourself.  

As you’ll hear during the interview, things can get a bit confusing depending on the formatting method you choose, but each of them, once you get through the learning curve can produce great looking ebooks.

I hope you enjoy this show.  Each of our guests is in The Author Biz Facebook group, so please feel free to ask questions there or leave them here as comments below. We’ll do what we can to get you answers.

Slide Show explaining what we did and with some results.

Video of Steph Pajonas recording the entire process she used to format and produce her her ebook. (Note – there is no sound during the video because there was too much noise in the background, but you can see what she does and the entire process takes about 10 minutes.)

Show Notes:

Experiment: Sherlock Holmes short story, “Scandal in Bohemia,” formatted by 4 authors:

*Results in same story formatted four different ways, all will be available to download and view

**Informational; showing you what you can do at different price points

  • Jake Devlin – formats by hand with Open Office
  • S.J. Pajonas – Scrivener   
  • C.A. Newsome – Vellum
  • John Gibson – professional book designer

Jake Devlin

Jake Devlin (OPEN OFFICE price point: free)

  • Authors anti-political absurdist thrillers; www.jakedevlin.com
  • Formatting process
  • OpenOffice, use PNG photo for front cover, and text

* OpenOffice is an open-source tool, like a free Microsoft Office

  • Saved file as ODP format, -> HTML
  • ODT, Text formatted as paragraph, line break, paragraph
  • Pasted into template for margin
  • Kindle converts HTML to MOBI
  • Photo does not go through in this format
  • PDF format vs. Kindle format
  • PDF: perfectly fine (about 22 minutes)
  • This is how he does his books
  • Proofing would need a bit of work
  • Kindle: didn’t include image, some format errs (about 16 or 17 minutes)

S.J. Pajonas

S.J. (Stephanie) Pajonas (SCRIVENER price point: $45 + learning curve)

  • Writes and publishes through Scrivener (Mac version) – 10 books, now
  • Source material is already in Scrivener, so she can send it to ePub, MOBI, etc
  • Formatting process
  • Prepared given text file ahead of time for import
  • Scrivener (Mac) plus KindleGen from Amazon
  • Screenflow video capture of import and formatting (about 10 mins)
  • “Import and Split” in File menu
  • With indicators (#), can split imported text into chapters
  • Has her own templates saved to facilitate her process
  • Export
  • Split chapter text into chapter folders, select “novel” preset, did some cleanup, hit “compile”
  • Once she was happy with EPUB, selected MOBI and exported

Carol Newsome

C.A. (Carol) Newsome (VELLUM price point: $30 – $199)

  • Uses Scrivener for writing, but will be watching Stephanie’s video to learn more
  • Formatting process
  • Vellum (strictly for eBooks)
  • Free download of software
  • Conversion of individual books costs
  • Three tiers of licensing (ranges from $30 to $199)

– Pasted text file directly into Vellum

         – Had to split chapters, title them manually, and apply styles (16 minutes)

        – Refine line spacing (16 minutes)

                 – Compiled the file (1 minute)

John Gibson, The Book Design Guy

John Gibson (price point: charges $200 – $300 for formatting)

  • Uses Adobe InDesign; also recommends Vellum
  • Process differs between eBook and paperback
  • eBook: Converts file into EPUB
  • Different styles are available to choose from in software that makes the process easier
  • Uses HTML code to include links to website, email list, newsletter in eBooks for promotion of author
  • Print: from EPUB, splits and renames file “print”
  • Finesses formatting with InDesign
  • Industry standard

Download the Example Ebooks

The various versions of the ebooks can all be downloaded from My Docs Online, from this link.


Carol Newsome website www.canewsome.com

Steph Pajonas website www.sjpajonas.com

Jake Devlin website www.jakedevlin.com

John Gibson, The Book Design Guy www.thebookdesignguy.com

Scrivener from Literature and Latte

Vellum www.vellum.pub

Adobe InDesign website

Canva website www.canva.com

Thanks for Listening!

Thanks so much for joining me again this week.

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**The Author Biz will return the week in January. Happy Holidays!**