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***

21 thoughts on “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?

    1. 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.:)

    1. 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.

  2. 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?

  3. 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!)

  4. When I go back to add the SWItalics style to one word, the entire paragraph italicizes itself. What did I do wrong?

    1. You have to highlight just the one specific word or phrase you need to italicize, then add the italics style. If you just put the cursor in the paragraph, it will apply the style to the whole thing:)

  5. I followed your directions, however when it came time to go through the manuscript and reapply the italics, every time I highlighted a specific word then clicked on the style, the entire paragraph became highlighted. Not only that, the paragraph’s first sentence lost the 0.25 indent I’d programmed into the entire document and flushed left. I have no idea how to fix this. I can’t do anything else until I figure out what is going on. I hope you can help because I’m about to rip my hair out. lol

    1. Hmm, that sounds strange. If you’re highlighting just the specific word and phrase, it should only be applying the style to that word/words. Now, if the cursor was in a paragraph and you applied the style, it would apply the style to the entire paragraph (which would also explain losing the indent because another style overrides the first). Make sure when you go into the Modify for the SWItalics style that you don’t have “Automatically Update” checked. That can sometimes wreak havoc.

      If you check that, and try again, and it’s still acting wonky, send it to me and I’ll take a look at it and see if I can figure out what’s wrong:)

  6. Hi,

    That’s what I’ve done. Repeatedly. I highlight one word and the entire paragraph gets italicized. I’ve deleted the style. Redone the style. I even cut and pasted the word out of the paragraph, highlighted it with the style, then attempted to put it back in the paragraph. It either disappears altogether, or the entire paragraph gets italicized again.

    Soooooo after dealing with this the entire weekend (My release date is today btw), I just gave up on it. My book is up on Amazon in print and e-book. I’ve since opened a Kobo account and am waiting on them to approve me. I’m in the process of doing iTunes now, and Nook is “reviewing” my document which I uploaded last night. I’m on a Mac, btw, using Word for Mac.

    1. Yes, Avery, I thought the “paragraph” thing might be the issue as well. I even went looking specifically for “word” or “characters” or something that would separate a single action instead of having it drown the entire paragraph. It just doesn’t work. I tried all weekend and gave up on it. It may be a Word issue. I’m using Mac so perhaps that has something to do with my problem. Either way, I didn’t have any more time to waste on it since I wasted the entire weekend, so I cut my losses and went directly to Nook, iTunes, and Kobo. I’d already had set everything up with Amazon, so I just filed the smashwords MS away and went about my business.

  7. When you say don’t use the drop down menus to use the styles that we created, do you mean to say that we should have also created keyboard shortcuts for the styles we created?

    1. The only part of this post I see is that I mention “don’t use the italics button in the Word toolbar.” You want to use your style, not the little I. I didn’t mention anything about a drop down box. Can you clarify?

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ebook and Print-On-Demand Formatting + Proofreading


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