Here’s my interview with Jo Harrison of Writer’s Block Author Services. I stumbled upon her great YouTube video while I was trying to figure out how to add a table of contents to my book and discovered she has lots of resources for self-publishers and many of them are free-
Tell us about yourself, your business and how it got started.
Jo Harrison-Having spent just over 20 years in full-time employment (mainly admin) in the UK, I took voluntary redundancy in 2011, and started my own business the very day after I left my job. At that stage I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, so I just spent a few weeks checking out freelancer sites such as PeoplePerHour.com to see what tasks I could do to earn some money. I very quickly picked up a regular client, formatting CVs for the oil and gas industry. At the same time, after my grandfather had passed away earlier in the year he had left me in charge of his book, Sojourn in Silesia. While starting my business, I decided to find out how easy it would be to format his book for Amazon Kindle. Well it turned out to be a challenge, but I did it, and then also formatted it for Smashwords. I continued to look for work online, and found that other authors needed help formatting their books, so that’s how I started the formatting side of my business. In the October, I moved to France, and have now been here for nearly 4 years. My main business is virtual assistance, I have regular clients, all in the UK or the US but I continue to format books (print and eBook) and other services for authors. I also have a colleague Yvonne in the US who helps format books for me now; we share the work which is great as I get enquiries though my website each week.
What do you think are some of the biggest challenges for writers who want to self-publish their books?
JH-I find the biggest challenge for many writers I speak to is technology. Many of my past and current clients are older, they now have time to concentrate on their writing, but have no idea what they need to do to self-publish. I realised early on that these authors didn’t just need help with the formatting, they also needed help with uploading to Amazon KDP/Smashwords, giving them advice on how they can promote their book and anything else they have questions on. I guess you could call me a one-stop shop for help and advice, I have a book cover designer on hand to help with that side of things, and as I said a colleague in the US in my capacity of a virtual assistant, I find that all my skills prove useful to writers.
Are their common errors you see cropping up when people try to format books? If so; any advice to overcome them?
JH-I generally don’t have authors sending me books that they have tried to format themselves now, I used to in the beginning. Some of the things that cropped up time and again, were the use of returns rather than page breaks, using tabs instead of styles when indenting paragraphs and overcomplicating the look for the book. I actually wrote many blog posts (http://www.ebook-formatting.co.uk/blog/) on these things when I first started out, as I thought it would help people doing it themselves. I also set-up a template in 2013 which is now available for free, so authors can format their own books following my short guide.
In fact, what’s most likely to be the course of a book being rejected by say Amazon or Smashwords?
JH-In the 3 years I have been formatting books, I have never encountered a book being rejected on Amazon, so I can’t say. Smashwords is another kettle of fish, you have to be very precise with formatting for them, and some of the errors that have come up are due to images not being inserted correctly, not using styles, using tabs, font size is too large… the list goes on. It’s always a will they won’t they approve it, when it comes to Smashwords.
You do offer services for authors, maybe you can tell us about that and your prices?
JH-My main services for authors are formatting (for print and eBook), as well as proofreading and I have just set-up a package helping authors promote their book while it’s free on Amazon KDP. All my rates are on my website (http://www.ebook-formatting.co.uk/rates), and I as I say on there, it’s very difficult to give a standard rate as each book is different. I also offer other services, and in fact I often have authors coming back to me to hire me as their virtual assistant (www.writersblockadminservices.co.uk), to help with promotion and if they are in business then other tasks.
You also have lots of free information for authors on your site and a free e-mail course. Can you share the links so people can sign up?
JH-Yes I have an eBook formatting template which you can find here: http://www.ebook-formatting.co.uk/format-your-own-ebook/ and an eBook Mini Marketing eCourse here: http://www.ebook-formatting.co.uk/how-to-successfully-market-your-ebooks-in-five-simple-ways/ – both are free! I hope to offer more free information in the coming year, when I plan to relaunch my business rebrand.
I found your tutorial on YouTube really helpful when I ran into trouble with inserting the table of contents into my book. Can you share the links to where others might find you on YouTube?
JH-My YouTube video for the table of contents has been hugely popular with over 12k views, you can find that tutorial here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BYd5YCLo_A and you can subscribe to my channel here: https://www.youtube.com/user/JoHarris0n