Formatting – An Ebook Cheat Sheet

Let’s get to the meat of formatting an ebook, shall we? Please note the keyword in the title and the previous sentence: ebook. There is a difference between ebook and print formatting guidelines, so be sure to check out the post on print if that’s what you are looking for. But the differences won’t have you tossing out the work you’ll do following this guide, so consider this cheat sheet a good foundation for formatting your final ebook and a starting point for your print version.

  • The Programs

    • Pick a Word Processor you are comfortable with.
      • Free Options:
      • Paid Options:
        • Microsoft Office 2010 – $100 (Offline Version – Mac & Windows. This is pretty much the king of word processing for every office space. I’m recommending the 2010 version because it’s the version I personally like best. 2013 was visually more appealing but the reliability of the performance was an issue for me. However, the newer version might work better for you.)
        • Scrivener – $40 (Offline – Mac & Windows. This is one of the most popular software used by writers as of 2014. It’s a word processor, storyboarder, ebook compiler and so much more.)
    • Optional Software – The following softwares listed are a part of my process. A quick overview of the “ebook process”: Google Docs or Word → Calibre → Sigil = epub to upload to KDP, Nook, and anywhere else.
      • Calibre – Free
      • Sigil – Free
      • iTunes, Google Play, Pandora, Soundcloud, or Spotify – Free (Music)
  • The Standard ebook Format

    • Font Type: Times New Roman, Garamond, or Georgia. Other serif fonts can work too — but don’t get too fancy with your main body of text.
    • Font Size: 10, 11, or 12 pt.
    • Single Space for ebook. Double Space would be for traditional manuscript submissions, this isn’t what we’re after in this guide.
    • Spacing after Periods: One space. But it’s not a sin to space twice if that is your preference. Whatever you do, pick one or the other for your book and keep at it. Different industries have different rules to follow, but since this guide is for a digital book, the single space is only in reference to this format. It ultimately is a preference thing: aesthetics.
    • Text Alignment: Justified OR Left-Aligned. This is a “highly debated” topic in the formatting community and it’s ultimately preference. The Big 5 publishing houses also can’t seem to set a standard for this, so don’t reference most of their new releases if you think it will help. Within my own ebook, I left it as no alignment (which defaults to Left in Word). During my ebook compiling phase, in Sigil, I don’t hardcode “text alignment: left” (or justified) and make sure there is nothing referencing that for my main body of text. The simple reason for that is I allow for the ebook reader the option to align the text the way they want. To read more about this topic, check out What Text Alignment Do I Use and Why?
    • Make sure your page is a standard 8 x 11.5.
    • Margins can be default to be normal.
    • Section Breaks (same scene, could indicate passage of time or minor location change — Example: scene starts in the kitchen and then there’s a move to the dining room.) = Hit enter twice.
    • Scene Breaks (more major change of scene. Example: skipping time to a week later within the same chapter.) = Between the two scenes, center * * *, # # #, or another indicator to tell readers that the two parts of the story are not the same scene.
  • The Process

      • Write your story and format it from the start.
        • Please don’t wait until the end to fix everything because it will use up more of your time that way. You’re more likely to mess things up if you postpone your formatting. Let’s say that you already have a finished manuscript, and it’s in dire need of formatting. No problem. Check out our Nuke the Book and Make it Pretty post.
      • Before you write your ebook (or if you’re already writing it, start this immediately):
        • Indent by way of Paragraph options or the “slider” on the ruler bar. This will indent new paragraphs automatically for you every time you hit the enter key.
          • Note: Never tab or continuously hit space to indent.
        • Learn to use Styles. Your ebook title should be formatted to the Title style, chapter titles should be Heading One or Heading Two, and your main text body should be listed as “normal”, etc., etc.
  • Note:  Set your style settings and use them. When you click on your Chapter heading, the style should be Heading One or Two, not Normal. When you click on your main text body, it should be Normal text and not a heading. This makes universal changes to the entire document easy, should you need to make a change later on you’d only need to make the changes to the style and not individual sections of text.
        • These are the Basic Styles you should have:
          • Title
          • Heading One and Heading Two (having both is optional — in my own book, I only used Heading One for Chapter Headings)
          • Normal Text
          • Normal Text – No Indent (for beginning Paragraphs)
  • Note: The biggest thing to remember is to keep all of your formatting consistent. If you decide to space twice after a sentence, do that throughout your book. If you decide on * * *  as your scene break indicator, don’t start using # # # later on. KISS – Keep It Simple Silly.

 

If you have any questions or comments in regards to ebook formatting guidelines, leave a comment below. 

 

Disclaimer: As always, some of the links on our site may be affiliate links and in no way add more to the cost of the items you may choose to purchase.

Photo Credit: Alejandro Escamilla (Unsplash via Pixabay)

2 thoughts on “Formatting – An Ebook Cheat Sheet”

  1. Jennifer White says:

    Thanks for this! Been following this cheat sheet. After nuking the book and freaking out about it. Should I go with scrivener?

    1. Nica Curt says:

      I am not the go to person for this Scriv. But I’ve honestly heard nothing but good things about it. I know that N.K. uses it. It’s an affordable program and there is a trial. I say go for it! 🙂

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