It’s nice to have the opportunity of pulling back the curtain and seeing the people behind the screens.
This doesn’t always mean interviewing the folks here at IQ, though. You may not know this, but for formatting (both eBooks and Paperbacks), we outsource to the excellent BB eBooks. (Because the process makes our brains hurt, and we’d much rather spend the time playing to our strengths).
So for this blog, we’d like to welcome Paul Salvette, the owner of BB eBooks. This interview will give you a few insights into the biggest formatting mistakes, why book formatting is sooo important…and why Paul thinks the Publishing industry is a lovely environment to work in.
1) Could you give us a bit of history behind BBeBooks? Why did you decide to start the business?
It was the end of my 20s and my first kid was on the way. I desperately needed to grow up and needed cash. Unsurprisingly, kids are expensive! I had written a novella when I got back from Iraq in 2008 and figured I could publish it and make a few bucks. This was during the Wild West days of self-publishing back in 2011 when there was a bit of a gold rush mentality, if you recall. The book flopped of course—probably because I’m a crummy author and I hate writing. But I had to learn how to do all the formatting, which was a bit more technical and its geekiness was more well-suited to me personally. I started posting on my blog all the HTML, XML, and CSS tips and tricks and got a terrific response. Pretty soon people were offering me money to format their eBooks for them. That was when I finally put two and two together (I’m usually sort of slow) and figured I could turn this into a small business. That’s when BB eBooks started. The business has continued because working with authors and publishers is great. They are a very kind and considerate bunch–you can’t say that about all industries!
2) What’s the biggest mistake you see regarding books that have been DIY formatted?
I’m always careful about not slamming other people’s formatting, and I understand people who want to DIY format, either for cost considerations or because they have more control. However, for the love of God please do not format a novel with gross blank lines of space between every paragraph. It reads like a boring term paper. Novels have been laid out with indented paragraphs for hundreds of years and there’s a reason the tradition is in place: it makes for a pleasurable read. Never do anything to disturb the reader experience with formatting.
3) Are there any books you’ve worked on that have been particularly tricky?
We’ve done a lot of legal references and academic references for various churches and non-profits. Those can get sort of fun (we had one with over 1,500 footnotes). However, these are just technical challenges and can usually be overcome with some programming and elbow grease. I’d say the hardest part about our line of work is being consistent with the end-to-end customer experience. Like a McDonald’s, it is very important to be available to customers whenever they need something and deliver the product they expect. This is a major challenge for us since, unlike McDonald’s, we’re a small operation. We have a number of systems in place that customers can get new work formatted and changes made in a timely fashion, but we’re constantly trying to improve and get better.
4) From a business perspective, why is a book’s formatting so important?
Most readers will not notice good formatting, but they will notice bad formatting. Good, consistent formatting ensures your reader will have a pleasant and immersive reading experience where they can focus on what’s important (i.e. the writing and the escape). One thing we see a lot of the superstar authors do, that many first-time authors do not, is use the front and back matter as a way of promoting their brand—clickable graphics for newsletters, book lists, calls-to-action for a newsletter sign-up, etc. All of this is an important component of marketing. We’re happy to help with this for veteran and first-time authors alike.
5) Have you ever been formatting a book and wanted to stop and read the title all the way through?
Haha, yes. We work with a lot of romance authors and sometimes we’ll have to go in and make typo corrections. If it’s an interesting scene and I’m doing the corrections—often I read it! I feel like it’s something the world’s population of men aren’t supposed to know about and I’ve stumbled upon a great secret. No one teaches young men about love and courtship, but reading a romance novel is quite educational as a dude.
6) Quick! You have 10 seconds to grab your 3 favourite books of all time, what are they?
In honor of your recent and historic Brexit vote, I’ll name only my three favorite books by British authors. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World was truly a book ahead of its time. Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange was great literature and a chilling look at how society controls its malcontent youth. I also really liked Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great. I’m not an atheist and don’t agree with him on everything, but he was a very unique intellectual. Also, he had that hilarious sense of humor that many British people have: simultaneously sophisticated and raunchy. He will be missed.
Boring Important, Interesting stuff:
BB eBooks is a Bangkok-based company that was founded in 2013 to provide fast, reliable, and professional formatting and design services for books created by independent authors and small presses. All books created by BB eBooks are immediately ready for sale at all major online retailers (including Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, and many others). BB eBooks acts as a business-to-business contractor for the worldwide publishing community to bring about better standards for book layout and production.