Does the Smashwords formatting guide make you want to pull ALL of your hair out while you run around the house screaming curses in Mark Coker’s name? (Don’t do that, he’s a fantastic, helpful guy and offers a wonderful service through Smashwords—we’re talking killer customer service, here.)
Well, the feeling is mutual across the board. How many times have you submitted your book for premium status only for it to be denied because of a formatting error? How many times have you NOT read the formatting guide because it’s a million pages long and consists of a lot of information that has nothing to do with your fluffy little fiction novel?
Here’s the deal—I’ve never been denied. I can format my ten thousand word short stories in less than 20 minutes, and my novels in less than an hour. I don’t do anything fancy in my books, so if you’re a fancifier, this may not be the place for you. If you’re a nonfictioner, again, I can’t help you. But, if you want a simple, quick, and easy look at how to format your fiction book for Smashwords premium distribution, then you’ve come to the right place.
Go take a look at either of the anthologies I’ve published with my writing group, The Eclective (they’re free, you don’t have to read them if you aren’t inclined, just go check out the formatting and see what you think). If you’ve got the capabilities, take a look at the Epub format, because that’s the format that makes premium distribution. You’ll see the page breaks, etc. Make sure to check out the front matter and end matter.
Like what you see? They look good, huh? Simple and non-fancy; that’s what we’re aiming for here. You want your Smashwords book to look good, and by formatting this way your Epub will look professional—and that’s the one format that hangs out in premium distribution so all those iHeads and Kobodroids can download your book.
These posts are going to be broken up for purposes of space on my poor, overused blog, but you’ll find links to all posts at the top and bottom :)
Without further ado, I present Smashwords Formatting for Indies Part 1!
(SIDE NOTE: I am old school. I use the old Word. I freaking hate the new Word. If you have the new Word, you’ll have some issues trying to follow my stuff. Probably possible, but will require use of your brain. Good luck, may the gods go with you.)
You have your finished story. It’s chilling in whatever word processor you usually use, and it’s all sparkly and new. You have to (HAVE to, no ifs, ands, or buts, people) use Microsoft Word for your upload document at Smashwords; there’s no way around it. Just go with it.
We have two important, can’t-be-skipped parts of the formatting process to discuss in this post.
You have ONE INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT thing to do right now before you go any further. We’re going to turn off those nasty autocorrect options. Mark Coker says they’re awful; Heather Adkins agrees. They don’t help you, I promise. They are a hindrance and a bother when it comes to writing. Ebooks don’t support half of what the autocorrect does, anyway! Bet ya didn’t know that.
How do we turn off Autocorrect? Super easy. In Microsoft Word, go to “Tools” and scroll down to “Autocorrect” options. Under the three tabs labeled “Autocorrect”, “Autoformat”, and “Autoformat as You Type” uncheck EVERYTHING. Don’t leave any little check marks hanging around in those boxes or else you’re going to issues with the Smashwords Autovetter and they will come break your windows. Or something.
Didja do it? Good. If not, you are beyond my help and should hire someone.
Second on the task list today is something wonderful called the Nuclear Method. You know that beautiful, shiny manuscript that you spent so long on and worked so hard to create? You gotta take that bad boy and drop it in to a program to strip all that awful formatting away.
It’s terrifying, I’ll admit it. The idea of all your lovely tabs and italics disappearing could definitely make you break out into a cold sweat. But this step is just as crucial in the process of making sure your Smashwords manuscript is perfect.
Don’t know what kinda program I’m talking about? Let me recommend the one I use—JEdit. Go download it now. If you’re against downloading a new program, you can probably make it happen in your little windows “Notepad”.
All set? Copy and paste your entire manuscript into JEdit. You’ll see you’ve lost all your paragraphs and various formatting shenanigans. This is GOOD. Iz GOOD. Copy this brand new baby document and paste it into Microsoft Word and save your new document. I usually label it BookName_SW.doc, it’s easier to keep track of my numerous formats this way.
You are now ready to move on to part 2. Be excited.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them and I will attempt to respond promptly with either an answer or perfectly crafted bullsh**. I’m not an expert!
If you’re looking for ebook formatting tips for files OTHER than those used at Smashwords, let me refer you to ebook god Guido Henkel and his nine part series on crafting the perfect ebook.