Cheat Sheets for Ebook Formatting

For all you brilliant people who write short, snappy, easy to understand How-To guides (about anything) I bow to your great talent. It’s hard to do!

For quite a while I’ve been promising to post cheat sheets on what I’ve learned and am learning about ebook formatting , but quite frankly, folks, writing something that doesn’t sound horribly complicated or even ridiculously complicated is damned hard to do. I’ve started them, revised them, chucked them out, started over, screeched in frustration and wondered what the hell is wrong with me that I can’t even explain something as simple as a search function without making it sound like building plans for the Sistine Chapel.

But I had the bit in my teeth and I was determined to keep going. What saved me was the knowledge that I can always change, update, refine and otherwise make the cheat sheets better as I get better.

What truly motivated me to keep going is the knowledge that ebook formatting—formatting beautiful functional books—is NOT THAT HARD. One should not have to be a computer whiz (which I am not) or a computer programmer (which I am not) or a graphic designer (which I am not) in order to turn one’s written work into an electronic file suitable for distribution into the major markets. There is a learning curve and it does require paying attention to details. What it doesn’t require is a degree in computer science, specialized equipment or expensive programs. If you’re composing your work on a computer and you’re reading this, you already have the tools you need.

The cheat sheets I’m posting are NOT comprehensive—know that up front. They are based on my experiences, things I’ve learned and obsessed about and tinkered with and actually tried. I’ve formatted about 50 ebooks so far and still have a lot to learn. That is a roundabout way of saying, I’m always open to suggestions. Tips, tricks, problem-solving, all are welcome. In fact, it would be fun and useful to make a feature along the lines of Tips From Readers. (hint, hint, folks, send them in—I post links…)

The cheat sheets are not just for formatters—they’re for indie writers. If you have a work you’re going to self-publish and you’re looking for information about how to go about it, but you intend to hire someone to format your book for you, you’ll find information about distribution and source files and organizing your book and how to work with a formatter. I’m breaking the cheat sheets down into components, so you only need to read what’s relevant to your needs.

Anyway, take a look at the header bar where it says CHEAT SHEETS FOR EBOOK FORMATTING. There’s a drop-down menu. There are three cheat sheets live already and more to come. So watch this space.

If you want to talk to me about your book or need some clarification, you can email me at

jayewmanus at gmail dot com


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