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Format and Edit Your Ebook: DIY or Outsource?


With content complete, a major next step in ebook creation is transforming your raw manuscript into a visually polished, error-free file ready for publication. This involves formatting, designing layout and covers, copy editing, and quality checks.

But for time-strapped creators lacking specialized design skills, this process can become an overwhelming barrier. You essentially have two options – struggling through formatting yourself using DIY software tools, or outsourcing to formatters and editors.

This guide will break down key ebook formatting and editing tasks, evaluate pros and cons of DIY vs outsourcing approaches, and provide tips for managing the process efficiently based on your resources.

While production has costs, thoughtful formatting and editing drastically improves content presentation and quality – elevating your credibility and sales potential. Let’s unfold your options.

Key Ebook Formatting Tasks

Before detailing execution options, let’s enumerate key ebook formatting milestones:

Manuscript Preparation

  • Compiling all written content – front matter, chapters, graphics etc. – into a single cleanly formatted Word .DOC manuscripts.
  • Tagging content pieces like headings, subheads, blocks etc. consistently with Styles for smooth conversion into ebook code.

Interior Formatting

  • Setting trim size dimensions and margins.
  • Typesetting body text and styling headlines, paragraphs etc.
  • Inserting, sizing, and placing supplemental graphics and multimedia.
  • Creating and formatting front matter – title page, TOC, forward etc.
  • Creating internal links – footnotes, endnotes, TOC entries etc.
  • Inserting and styling separators, sections, and scene breaks.

Cover Creation

  • Sourcing/creating front and back cover images, patterns, or graphics
  • Incorporating required text elements like title, author, logos etc.
  • Formatting and compositing layers into a cohesive finished cover.

Output Validation

  • Previewing formatted ebook across devices to validate responsive display.
  • Testing embedded links/navigation function properly on various screens.
  • Reviewing for errors across formats like MOBI, EPUB, PDF outputs.

Well-executed formatting tailors and structures content for smooth digital reading optimized for popular devices and apps.

Essential Ebook Editing Services

Beyond formatting, professional editing polishes critical errors and inconsistencies:


  • Fixing typos, spelling, punctuation, formatting inconsistencies etc. that distract and diminish credibility.

Copy Editing

  • Flagging grammar problems – tense issues, fragmented sentences etc. and smoothing phrasing.
  • Ensuring vocabulary and terminology is clear, consistent and appropriate for audience.
  • Identifying content gaps needing elaboration or tightening.

Developmental Editing

  • Evaluating structure and flow – reorganizing sections that make sense.
  • Assessing tone and style for opportunities to strengthen engagement.
  • Providing high level guidance on areas needing concept development.

Fact Checking

  • Validating any statistics, data points, expert quotes, and facts presented in the book to ensure 100% accuracy.

Careful editing safeguards against mistakes undermining book authority and impact.

DIY Formatting Considerations

With foundation of key tasks, let’s examine executing formatting in-house using DIY software tools:

Learning Curve

  • Using ebook creation tools like Vellum, Atticus, or Adobe InDesign well requires learning curve even for seasoned designers. Expect a time investment.

Template Limitations

  • Preset layouts and styles offered in beginner tools limit advanced customization requiring workarounds and creativity.

Troubleshooting Complexity

  • When inevitable hiccups emerge, resolving technical issues around embedded fonts, images etc. demands troubleshooting tenacity without easy tech support.

Multi-Format Publishing Challenges

  • Adapting polished formatting across fixed and reflowable formats like PDF, .MOBI, EPUB etc. often requires rework to optimize each output.

Cover Design Skills Needed

  • Crafting professional book covers using design tools is its own skillset – composition, typography, imagery etc. DIY presents a steep learning curve.

For creators lacking design expertise, DIY formatting demands significant motivation for self-teaching complex software.

Risks of DIY Editing

Attempting comprehensive self-editing also poses challenges:

Skill Level Needed

  • Developing the experience to intimately understand the many style, grammar, structure nuances that comprise ‘correct’ writing is a years long endeavor.

Missing Own Mistakes

  • We know what we meant to say so gloss over actual typos, poor phrasing etc. Fresh eyes identify overlooked gaps.

Insufficient Objectivity

  • When overly attached to our own words and ideas, it’s near impossible to surgically refine and alter our writing with the neutrality editing requires.

Too Close to Content

  • After extended immersion writing a manuscript, we lack perspective to evaluate structural flow, character consistency, factual accuracy etc. with clear eyes.

Subpar Result Quality

  • Non-professionally edited books reflect poorly on authors, get negative reviews, and dissuade referrals. DIY options risk this.

With so much on the line after investing months writing, relying solely on self-editing is an immense gamble few experts recommend.

Pros of Outsourcing Formatting

Given challenges above, hiring professional formatters is advisable for creators prioritizing quality, accuracy and launch efficiency:

Expert Skills and Efficiency

  • Seasoned formatters know best practices and can swiftly execute with pre-built templates. Years experience improves quality and speed.

Multi-Format Publishing

  • Outsourcers seamlessly optimize files for both fixed layout and reflowable formats like .PDF, .EPUB, Kindle etc. supporting wide distribution.

Hassle-Free Process

  • They manage entire production process from manuscript to final files without you sweating technical details and troubleshooting.

Custom Designs

  • Professional designers craft book covers and custom layouts matching your vision and resonating with audiences much better than DIY attempts.

Improved Sales Potential

  • Polished production directly impacts reviews, purchases, referrals etc. Pro execution gives your book the best chance to impress.

While adding costs upfront, professional touch substantially improves content presentation, credibility, and income potential.

Benefits of Outsourcing Editing

Reasons hiring editors outweighs DIY for error-free books include:

Expert Language Skills

  • Seasoned editors intimately understand the intricacies of grammar, punctuation, prose elegance etc. Average writers don’t.

Unbiased Perspective

  • Objective editors refine writing based solely on conventions and reader clarity vs. author attachment.

Holistic Oversight

  • They analyze entire manuscripts assessing comprehensive flow, transitions, character arcs over microscopic line editing.

Credibility and Praise

  • “Edited by X Press” elevates author brand and earns reviewer praise. DIY screams amateurish.

Saves Author Time

  • Offloading tedious editing labor lets creators focus energy on passion points like marketing and product launches.

Editing decisions carry immense weight given their impact on reader experience. Most experts consider professional editing mandatory.

Tips for Streamlining Outsourced Formatting

To ease project hand offs and smooth outsourcing logistics:

Use Styles in Manuscript

Consistently styling headings, paragraphs etc. with Word Styles from the start helps formatters swiftly translate to ebook code.

Provide Brand Style Guide

Share author or company logo files, brand colors, graphic elements, fonts etc. to inform custom designs.

Clarify Audience and Tone

Inform editor of target reader age, knowledge level, seriousness, humor level etc. to adapt editing appropriately.

Set Realistic Deadlines

Leave ample time for quality formatting and editing based on project scope. Rushed jobs risk sloppy errors.

Confirm Deliverable Details

Align on ebook formats, testing requirements, rounds of edits included etc. to set explicit expectations.

Clear communication, organized docs, and reasonable timeframes help maximize collaborator workflow.

Vetting and Selecting Providers

Whether choosing formatters, editors, designers etc. vet carefully by:

Reviewing Portfolios

Evaluate previous ebook samples assessing formatting quality, design aesthetics etc. Ensure expertise aligns.

Checking Reviews and Testimonials

Verify industry reputations via client reviews on Google, LinkedIn, their website etc. Flag poor feedback.

Comparing Rates

Collect rate quotes from 3-5 providers to compare. Note higher pricing often reflects higher quality but confirm first.

Understanding Deliverable Details

Ask detailed scope questions on key deliverables, process, timelines etc. Ensure approaches align to your needs.

Trusting Your Gut Feeling

Soft factors like professionalism, communication style, responsiveness etc. also influence collaboration success. Trust instincts if uncertain.

Vetting thoroughly protects your investment and sets foundations for smooth partnerships. For crucial projects, consider paying hourly versus fixed cost to allow thoroughness.


While self-driven creators may initially only consider DIY ebook production to save costs, making professional polish and error-free content a priority has immense upside for long-term success.

Carefully evaluating real capabilities against project needs makes clear when outsourcing to experienced partners is the wise investment despite added upfront costs. Their expertise can elevate execution well beyond DIY limitations.

But for smooth outsourcing, communicating effectively, providing assets and guidance, and setting realistic timelines helps ensure the best quality end product worthy of sharing with readers.

In almost all cases, professionals complete tasks like complex formatting or intensive editing with far greater craftsmanship and efficiency, freeing authors to create. And the dividends for sales and credibility over the long run outweigh the initial expenses tenfold.

By Dani Davis

Dani Davis is the pen name of the writer of this blog with more 15 years of constant experience in Content marketing and informatics product, e-commerce niche.

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