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Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Smashing words…

 …or not.

Following my recent adventures with self publishing on Smashwords I’ve decided to post as short… ish missive  of my experiences. Now, I’m an IT/Computing professional to trade. So formatting a word file should be a doodle, right? Wrong.
Oh, how very, very wrong, that assumption was.

I started by printing out the formatting guide: all 57 pages of it.

Next I took out all the ‘problem’ formatting that I could see. Then I uploaded the modified text to the site. And what you are not told about is the time you have to wait before your submission is dealt with. So … eventually … it gets its turn and is run through the converter and - rejected!

OK, so I didn’t do that right then… My cover picture looked good though.

Attempt two:

I went for the ‘ballistic approach’ this time, and copied the whole thing into notepad, and then pasted the raw text back into a clean word file.

Yuck! Formatting time…

I Redid the title page (it had disappeared!) then re-did all the line indent formatting, using the new-line method as I was told… and then undid most of it, as it screwed up the formatting again!
So, eventually I got this looking ok, so I also added a bit at the end, with a link to my web-site and a short bio etc (as recommended in the Guide) and re-submitted.

Oh, I’m 1247th in the queue… How nice; time to make some coffee.
This time it did actually complete the formatting without complaining. So it looked the same as before, and I did spend a fair amount of time removing all the formatting Smashwords said it didn’t want. So where were the differences? I have no idea.
But the sledgehammer approach seemed to be the ticket!
Based on my success I decided to add a couple of my previously e-published short-stories, and lo-and-behold, using my newly discovered technique, they both loaded first time.
So I just thought I’d let all you nice people kow what I did to get then up and running relatively quickly…

Before you look at the following  I’d just like to say it is in no way close to an alternative to reading the ‘Smashwords style guide,’ which I heartily recommend you familiarise yourself with.

Having said that, after uploading a couple more stories I worked out a quick way to get a very basic book format that Smashwords will accept, and it only takes a few steps.

Firstly, do not attempt to edit your existing word file! This will only lead to many hours of formatting ‘fun.’
Open your existing word file and press CTRL+A to select all the text.
Open up notepad and press CTRL+V to paste in the word text. Yes, it will look horrible, don’t worry about it!
Press CTRL+A again to select all the text in notepad.
Press CTRL+X. All your text will now have disappeared. Don’t Panic.
You now have the raw-text of your original word file in the buffer.
Go back to word and close your original file.
Open a new word file and press CTRL+V.
You will now have a lot of, control character free, text in your new word document.
Next you have to make a title and copyright page.
One of the following pieces of text should be placed at the top of your document, with a hard-page-break after the last line. What one you use depends on whether you are going to charge for the piece or not.

The Title
By Your Name

Copyright 2011 Your Name

Smashwords Edition

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


The Title
By Your Name

Copyright 2011 Your Name

Smashwords Edition

Thank you for downloading this free ebook. You are welcome to share it with your friends. This book may be reproduced, copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes, provided the book remains in its complete original form. If you enjoyed this book, please return to to discover other works by this author. Thank you for your support.

You can add a hard page break by using Insert, break, page break, from the main menu in pretty much all versions of word.
If you are going to cut-and-paste this I would very strongly recommend using the notepad trick to cut out all formatting, then re-do the formatting within word.

OK, done that? Next you can optionally add some blurb at the end. There are a few Smashwords recommendations for this, but the following example seems like some good basic info. Or you can just end by putting ### on the last line and leave it there.

Possible End Text- (put after your main story text, but do not use any page-breaks)

An optional quick ‘Thank You for reading’ message can go here

About the author:

Blab, bla, bla, me, me, me. Blab, bla, bla, me, me, me, and more me, me, me.
Blab, bla, bla, me, me, me. Blab, bla, bla, me, me, me. Blab, bla, bla, me, me, me.
Blab, bla, bla, me, me, me. Blab, bl… Well you get the idea!

Discover other titles by Your Name at

Title - hyperlink
Title - hyperlink
Title - hyperlink

Connect with Me Online:

My blog: http:// ...yourBlogName

Remember to make all addresses into links by selecting the whole address (including the http://) then right-clicking and selecting the ‘HyperLink’ option from the pop-up.

You are almost there. Just one more thing needs to be done. Remember all those big blocks of text you imported from notepad?
Well Smashwords doesn’t like any indent-type formatting except for first-line paragraph formatting.

You now need to go through your story text and indent the first line of each paragraph using the paragraph indent method.
This isn’t nearly as daunting as it first sounds to a lot of people. But will cause Smashwords to go and sulk in a corer if not done properly.

So select the first line of your first paragraph and from the main menu select: Format, Paragraph. Then click the ‘Special’ drop down box from the ‘Indentation’ section, and select the ‘First Line’ option. Next click in the ‘By’ text box t next to the drop-down you just used. This should now say 0.5” change this to 0.25” (or 0.3”) and click the ‘OK’ button at the lower right of the pop-up box.
There you have just set a First Line Indent…

I would highly recommend going through your file manually and putting in all first line indents at the start of paragraphs by hand. Even in a large WIP.
You can use the CTRL+A trick and use the above procedure to select and format all the text on-mass, but be forewarned, this will result in a lot of line-indents that you don’t want, and may necessitate a lengthy editing session to remove them. From my recent experience you will finish the editing quicker, and get better results, if you do it manually.

When you are happy with your file you should save it to disk under a different file-name from the original. I usually call it the same but add ‘(smashwords format)’ to the end of the file name.

If all went well your document should now be uploadable. Good luck with that!

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