When it comes to self-publishing, I take on a LOT of the work myself. In part, I do this to cut costs, but there’s more to it than just money. I’m an artist with a background in landscape architecture (which included some basic graphic design skills). Since my art is part of my brand, I take great pride in being able to create my own book covers and handle the interior layouts of the print books.
However, I acknowledge that I do have limitations, so I don’t hesitate to invest in freelancers and outside services when necessary to ensure that my books are high quality. I ALWAYS recommend hiring a line editor at the bare minimum. In my case, I also realized that I needed an ebook formatter to fill a gap in my skillset.
I published my first novel in 2018. Initially, I assumed that formatting an ebook wouldn’t be too complicated, so I should be able to figure it out myself. But after launching my hardcover and paperback, I hit a snag. I was overwhelmed by the ebook, which caused me to drag my feet about getting it out.
I decided to seek help, and I found Polgarus Studio. Here’s my review after working with them on three novels now.
NOTE: THIS IS NOT A SPONSORED POST. I do not receive any compensation or perks from Polgarus Studio for writing this article. All opinions are my own.
Also: Polgarus Studio offers editing services. I already have a line editor that I trust, so I do not use Polgarus Studio for editing and therefore can’t personally attest whether their book editing service is good or not; this review is focused solely on their ebook formatting service.
Obviously, this review is going to be positive overall since I’ve chosen to return to the same ebook formatter for my second and third novels (and I plan to use them again for my next novel). Here’s what I like about Polgarus Studio for ebook formatting:
Proper Formatting: HTML Conversion
Some authors have said to me, “Why didn’t you just run your manuscript through software to automatically convert your book?”
I mentioned in the introduction that quality is important to me, right? I know firsthand from doing the interior print layouts that programs can be glitchy. I’ve had to fight with wonky header settings, page numbers, paragraph indents, you name it.
Ebooks are different than print formats because they’re fluid. Readers can adjust the font, text size, and layout (portrait or landscape), which means the text isn’t fixed in one place like it is for a paperback or hardcover. If there are any issues, it’s not going to display correctly.
Here is how Polgarus Studio addresses that (copied directly from their website):
The end result? Your ebook will be a small, optimized file that won’t have any of the glitches or other problems that an automated tool can create, and will display exactly how it should.
I went a step beyond basic ebook formatting, which I wouldn’t have been able to do without HTML knowledge. Jason from Polgarus Studio was able to use my book’s unique font for the chapter headings by inserting jpeg images instead of text. Otherwise, due to the fluidity of ebooks, there’s no way to display specific fonts outside of the default options.
When proofreading Book III, I found a spacing error in the hardcover proof and manuscript, and I asked if it could be fixed. Turns out, it already had been due to the process that Polgarus Studio uses to flag and fix those types of issues! Which proves that they aren’t exaggerating their claim on the website.
Their process also ensures that the table of contents is interactive so readers can skip directly to the chapter they want.
Ebook Formatting Cost
Every time I publish a book, I’m operating on a tight budget. I want to make sure that I’m spending my money wisely. When researching ebook formatting services for my first novel, I was searching for options that were relatively budget-friendly but would still provide a high-quality service.
Ebook formatting services from Polgarus Studio landed right in the middle of the scale during my research phase. They weren’t the cheapest option I explored, but they also weren’t the most expensive. Polgarus Studio was squarely in the middle of the road, and I was okay with that. I felt like they were reasonably priced to offer a good service without charging an arm and a leg, especially since they took the time to manually convert my ebook to HTML instead of running it through a generic software converter.
Supporting a Small Business
Polgarus Studio is not a giant corporation churning out ebooks with a massive team of employees. It’s primarily a husband-and-wife team of two. For book editing, they do employ some freelance editors. But for ebook formatting, Jason is the only person I’ve worked with.
Fun fact: they named their business after their cat Polgara. Unfortunately, she passed away at the age of ten. When Jason and Marina were throwing around possible names for their new business, they decided to honor her by using a variation of her name.
I love supporting small businesses. (If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you probably know about the candle collaboration I did with a small, woman-owned business in the US.)
I feel that small businesses like Polgarus Studio care about their clients and provide a more personalized experience. I also appreciate that I’ve gotten to know Jason on a professional level. I know that I’ll be working with him, not a random customer service representative who might change every time I send a new message. The consistency and reliability is definitely a pro if you’re considering working with this company to format your ebook.
I’ve worked with Jason for all three of my books that have been published to date, and he’s been very professional and patient. He takes the time to explain the process if I have questions, and he’s made formatting recommendations based on current practices with traditional publishers. Occasionally, I’ve decided that I want to ignore what’s considered “common practice” and implement a formatting change based on my personal preference, and he’s honored my wishes.
I feel comfortable asking Jason for advice. My third novel included maps for the first time. Two of the maps were vertically aligned, but the third was horizontal and spread across two pages in the print versions, so I asked Jason for his opinion on how to lay them out. Should the landscape map be turned onto its side to take up the full page (causing readers to turn their phone/tablet/e-reader to study it), or keep it aligned horizontally as it was printed in the hardcover and paperback (making it smaller with extra white space above and below so people would need to zoom in to read it)?
I also have to give Jason kudos for dealing with my perfectionism. Unfortunately for him, I’m never a one-and-done client. I always have extra requests and tweaks, which he commendably honors in a timely manner without charging additional fees.
(I will note that Book II was a different case, but that was my own fault. I bit off more than I could chew by trying to release the hardcover, paperback, and ebook all at once. Trying to save time, I made the mistake of sending the ebook off to be formatted before I had received the proof copies of the hardcover and paperback. I always find typos and make changes in the first proof copy. Unfortunately, I found way too many things I wanted to change—so many that it would have been less work for Jason to reformat the entire document again than manually make all of those updates. I was billed twice because he had to format it twice. Again, my fault for jumping the gun and causing him a lot more work, so even though I was kicking myself, I wasn’t surprised by the extra invoice.)
My overall experiences have been positive (at least, positive enough that I’ve become a repeat client). That being said, the process didn’t always go smoothly. There were a few road bumps:
Since I’m in the United States and Polgarus Studio is based in Australia, we’re in opposite time zones.
On the one hand, I sometimes found myself in a pinch if I needed a quick response to meet a last-minute deadline. But on the other, I’m a night owl, so there were times when our work hours did actually overlap if I was up late at night (which I usually am).
Now that I’m not tied to a 9-5 office job schedule and can work my own hours, I didn’t have as much of an issue with the time difference for Book III as I did with the first two books. But if you’re a US-based author on a normal work/sleep schedule, just know that there will probably be a communication delay due to the time change. That’s not anybody’s fault, but it’s still something to keep in mind.
This feedback falls into both the pro and con list. Usually, Jason was very responsive, and I could rely on him to get back to me within 12-24 hours.
However, there were a few times when our communication was disrupted. With Book II, I couldn’t get any response at all when I first reached out. I sent multiple emails and used the contact form on their website. When I finally connected, I learned that my messages had apparently been filtered into a spam folder, so they weren’t getting through. That was back in 2020, and I haven’t had that problem again.
With Book III, though, I ran into a communication issue again. We’d had steady correspondence, and the ebook had a successful launch. The novel then won an award from Literary Titan, so I reached out to Jason to see if he could make a few minor changes, including updating the cover file and tweaking a sentence in the About the Author section to mention the award.
I followed up several times, but still no response. Not even an automated “sorry I’m out of the office” message. I was starting to get frustrated and look for other options since the ebook was already formatted and just needed a few small updates.
Finally, almost a week later, I got a reply. Jason had been sick. He apologized for not responding and sent me the updated ebook file. This is where being a small business falls into the con category even though it’s also on the pro list—Polgarus Studio is primarily a two-person operation. Which means that if Jason and/or Marina are unavailable for any reason, there’s not a full staff there to step in and provide service in their absence.
I will say that 95% of the time, Polgarus Studio is very responsive. However, because this is an honest review and I’ve had at least two major communication issues with my last two books, those instances were worth mentioning in the con list.
It’s fair to say that the pros outweigh the cons. I’ve recommended Polgarus Studio to multiple authors who needed help formatting their ebooks, and I intend to utilize their services again when I’m ready to move forward with Book IV in my series.
Polgarus Studio is reasonably priced for the work they do. They aren’t a shady business charging authors just to run a manuscript through an auto-converter—they actually take the time to manually convert the document to HTML and fix any formatting errors by hand to ensure that everything displays correctly. It’s a small business, and Jason is knowledgeable about not only formatting, but also the current practices used in the traditional publishing industry. He’s generally quick, professional, and willing to talk about customizations and preferences, and he’s willing to make updates even after the ebook has been formatted and sent back to the author.
The time change between Australia and the United States can be a little bit of a pain, but it’s certainly not a breaking point. And, occasionally, communications can be disrupted since this is a small business that doesn’t have a big staff of customer service reps.
All in all, I recommend Polgarus Studio as a trusted ebook formatting service for indie authors.
I'm an award-winning fantasy author, artist, and photographer from La Porte, Indiana. My poetry, short fiction, and memoir works have been featured in various anthologies and journals since 2005, and several of my poems are available in the Indiana Poetry Archives. The first two novels in my Chronicles of Avilésor: War of the Realms series both received the Literary Titan Gold Book Award in 2020.
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