Smashwords Formatting, Part 3

All Paragraphs Are Not Created Equal

***Part 1***Part 2***Part 3***Part 4***Part 5***

Make sure your entire Word document is currently under the “Normal” style setting.  If you turned off alllllll your Autocorrect options like I told you too, it should be.  If it’s not, you didn’t do what I told you and a pox upon your house.


But if you were my precious little angel and did what I asked, you’re ready to start formatting!

You ABSOLUTELY CAN NOT use tabs in your Smashwords document.  Can’t do it.  Meatgrinder will puree your document and your readers will be wrinkling their noses at your epub saying, “This guy has NO idea how to format an ebook…”

Also, do you really want your paragraphs to have a space between them rather than an indent?  In my humble opinion, that’s not really professional looking.  When I’m devouring a traditionally published, paperback novel there aren’t spaces between the paragraphs.  Just sayin’.

Here is exactly how I format my paragraphs.   Grab a shot of whiskey or eight, you’ll need them.

Highlight the entire document.  (You can do this by going to edit and clicking “Select All”.)  Right click inside your highlighting and go to “Paragraph”.

You’ll have your little paragraph box up.  You want it to look like this:

Make sure there is never anything in the AT: box.  Ever.  I always do either .25 or .35 for my first line indent because I think it looks best, but Mark says you can go up to .5.  Consider the size of your average ereader screen.  You don’t want the indent taking up half the line, so .25 is a good compromise.

At this time, you also want to have your epub or original word processor document open so you can return your italics to your document (remember, the nuclear method ate them).  Just highlight what should be italicized and push your SWitalics style button.  Don’t use the italics button from up in the tool bar of Word, they’ll get lost in the Meatgrinder.  This is the single most time-consuming part of the SW formatting process.  Look at it this way, this is a great time to scan for errors.

Finally, you’ll also center your section breaks as you come across them by highlighting the asterisks and choosing your SWcentered style. (Or, again alternatively, click the paragraph BEFORE the section break and hit your SWScenebreak button).

finished paragraphs

Please skip ahead to Part 4, where you will learn how to breathe. Or something.

As always, 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.

***Part 1***Part 2***Part 3***Part 4***Part 5***

10 Responses to Smashwords Formatting, Part 3

  1. I am on paragraph box. Mine has mirror indents checked and also don’t add space between paragraphs of the same style. Should I get rid of these checks and leave them empty?

    • Heather says:

      It sounds like you’re using a newer version of Microsoft Word than I use (or a completely different word processor entirely?), and thus, I have no idea. Those options don’t exist in the paragraph box of the Word I use, and I don’t recall them being mentioned in the Smashwords Style Guide at all. I’d say DON’T ADD SPACE is correct (because indents AND after space is a no-no in SW formatting), and I’d say NO on the mirror indents because it sounds like something that would make the Meatgrinder go haywire. :)

  2. Elizabeth says:

    This guide has been an incredible help….thank you!
    Just thought I’d share this article to help with italics

  3. dwbergendorf says:

    You put in “left” instead of “justify?” Is that also a Smashwords thing?
    Also, is it true that Smashwords doesn’t allow italics?

    • Heather says:

      The Smashwords Meatgrinder automatically justifies the text in your ebook, so it honestly doesn’t matter. If you’re dying to use full justify, it won’t affect your conversion, I don’t believe. If you use Left, your text will still be justified in the final Meatgrinder conversion.

      No, Smashwords allows italics. You have to set it as a style, as explained in my tutorial. You can’t use the Italics button or CTRL+i, because the Meatgrinder will destroy it and spit it out without the italics.

  4. Nicole says:

    I followed the instructions and got perfect results on 2 books. When I tried converting the 3rd, I received an autovettor error.
    Paragraph separation error, mixing first line indent with paragraph return on blank line – You’re using multiple, incompatible paragraph separation methods. Please see Step 7a in the Style Guide. If you want to use first line paragraph indents, then remove the paragraph returns you have on blank lines that separate your paragraphs in the body of your book. Or, if you want to use the block method, then remove the first line indents. Step 7a in the Style Guide will help you choose the best method for your purposes. For most fiction, most authors and readers prefer the first line paragraph indent (just a print book). Block style is more common in non-fiction.
    Do you know what this means or how to work around it?

  5. dwbergendorf says:

    I guess the concern I have is that I know I’ll be autovetted once again, and have to start over. Goodby italics. Hello, five or six hours of putting them back in. (Sigh!)

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