If you have decent knowledge of Microsoft Word, you can forget the Smashwords Style Guide (SSG) and save yourself a couple hours of reading.* Of course, if you’ve already published with Smashwords then you’ve probably already read it, but I can save anyone who hasn’t yet!
If you’re wondering what Smashwords is, then you’ll like the next sentence. Smashwords is an ebook retailer and distributor; they distribute ebooks to Apple, Sony Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Library Direct and about a hundred other online ebook stores. Basically, they widen your audience reach. If you’re an ebook writer and you don’t use Smashwords, now’s a good time to start.
The SSG gives you the information you need to meet Smashword’s formatting guidelines, and is is 115 pages (plenty of pictures), but I think I can give you the important information in just a few numbered points. This is for either fiction or nonfiction with no images. So here it goes, the Simple Smashwords Style Guide.
- Format your entire book using Word’s style options. Don’t do direct formatting. Every part of your book should have a style attached to it. The only direct formatting you can do is bolding, italicizing, and underlining.
- When preparing your book with Smashwords, activate Word’s show/hide feature with the pilcrow. That’s this guy: You need to get rid of any tabs and unusual formatting, plus it’s just helpful to see exactly what’s going on.
- Don’t indent using tabs or manual spacing. Get rid of those things if they’re already in there, they’ll make your ebook look weird.
- You cannot have these things in your .doc file:
– More than 4 paragraph returns in a row.
– Headers and footers
– Hyperlinks to ebook stores; affiliate links; hyperlinks to PDFs
– Fonts other then the standard ones. (Garamond, Times New Roman, etc. are OK)
– Font sizes over 14
– Drop caps
– Columns, tables, text boxes, or text wrapping around an image
– Automatic footnotes or endnotes (Make them manual endnotes, then use bookmarks and hyperlinks, and then make sure to delete hidden bookmarks. Start the name of the bookmarks with ref_, otherwise they’ll show up in your Table of Contents.)
- Don’t give your text any color other than automatic (including black), because then ereaders won’t be able to change the text color.
- Make your table of contents by writing it out manually and then using bookmarks and hyperlinks. Don’t use Word’s built-in table of contents feature.
- You must have a copyright page at the beginning of your book. This is the format Smashwords recommends, and I recommend it too so you can be sure of approval:
Copyright [year] Author Name
And that’s it! The SSG still has lots of other useful information for you and about Smashwords generally, but this is all you need to pass through the Meatgrinder and have your formatting qualify for the Smashwords Premium Catalog. Let me know if you have any questions or run into any trouble.
*On the other hand, if you don’t have good knowledge of Microsoft Word, then skip this post and use the SSG!
Thanks to Mark Coker for writing the Smashwords Style Guide. It was very helpful to me in formatting my own book and also in writing this post.
Update: Smashwords no longer requires that your copyright page say “Smashwords Edition,” so I’ve removed that from step 7.