1.) PAGEBREAKS ARE DEPENDENT ON THE TABLE OF CONTENTS
Yes, you read that correctly. That cute little “pagebreak” option in Microsoft Word DOES NOT WORK for Smashwords formatting. You can put it in the doc, and it won’t mess with your formatting, but it will not ensure a pagebreak within the resulting ebook. The only way to have pagebreaks before every chapter heading is to have a table of contents that points the way for the Meatgrinder to insert those pesky breaks.
There are two ways to ensure your ebook has the NCX/TOC required by Smashwords for premium distribution.
One—if every chapter of your book begins with “Chapter” i.e. Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three, AND if you put a Heading style on every heading, then the Meatgrinder will automatically create you an NCX/TOC. It’s as simple as that.
Two—if your chapters do not begin with “Chapter”, i.e. One, Two, Three, or titles like “The First Day” or “When She Cries” etc. etc. YOU MUST CREATE A HYPERLINKED TABLE OF CONTENTS for the Meatgrinder. I’ve outlined exactly how to do so HERE. Once you’ve hyperlinked your table of contents, the Meatgrinder will put your pagebreaks in before every heading.
NOTE: I love Smashwords. They do us a great service. But this is not always consistent. Sometimes, you do everything right, and your pagebreaks STILL don’t show up. Until SW allows people to upload fully formatted epub files, we’re stuck with what they offer. And the Meatgrinder isn’t infallible.
2.) USE TIMES NEW ROMAN 12PT FOR BODY TEXT
Period. Finito. If you use any other font that isn’t times new roman, you take the ability to change their ereader font away from the reader. I get pretty miffed when I open a Smashwords book I bought for my Nook, and I can’t change the font because the author formatted their book wrong. People are creatures of habit. We LIKE our own chosen fonts on our ereaders. We know what feels good on our eyes. Don’t ruin the reading experience for your readers.
3.) NO MORE THAN FOUR PARAGRAPH RETURNS BETWEEN LINES
Yep, Smashwords will flag your formatting if you use more than four returns. You don’t need that many anyway.
4.) DON’T MAKE YOUR INDENTS MORE THAN .3”
Remember, your file is going to be read on a super small screen. Deep indents are gonna look mighty stupid on an Android Kindle app.
Oh, and you can’t have an indent AND a hanging space (the line of white between paragraphs). It’s one or the other, not both. Use both, and Smashwords will flag you to fix it.
5.) THE ITALICS BUTTON DOES NOT WORK
The style guide explains this, yet most people still don’t understand why they upload their formatted document and alllll those italics disappear. You absolutely cannot use the italics button. Or Ctrl+i. You have to use a STYLE. You can read about how to do that HERE.
6.) FORMAT WITH YOUR PARAGRAPH MARKS ON
I don’t care how thorough you are. Use the paragraph marks. It’s the only way to ensure consistency, and to catch any pesky problems before they happen.
7.) THE NUCLEAR METHOD
You could have OCD and think your file is perfect, but it’s not. Nuke the entire thing. Strip the formatting. And REDO IT ALL using Smashwords guidelines. It isn’t that big of a deal to spend a couple hours making sure your file looks perfect. Your readers will love it, and other indies will thank you for not contributing to the “there’s so much crap out there” theory.
If you want to format your own Smashwords files, do yourself a favor: READ THE STYLE GUIDE. Yes, it’s annoyingly long and verbose, but it has everything you could possibly need to know about formatting for the Meatgrinder. If you don’t have the time nor the inclination to do so, hire someone else to do it. Sometimes you have to put a little effort in for the end result to be pretty.