Authors: You Don’t Need the Smashwords Style Guide

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smashwordsIf 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.

  1. 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.
  2. When preparing your book with Smashwords, activate Word’s show/hide feature with the pilcrow. That’s this guy: pilcrow You need to get rid of any tabs and unusual formatting, plus it’s just helpful to see exactly what’s going on.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.)
  5. Don’t give your text any color other than automatic (including black), because then ereaders won’t be able to change the text color.
  6. 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.
  7. 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:

Book Title
Author Name
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.

6 thoughts on “Authors: You Don’t Need the Smashwords Style Guide

  1. Pingback: Authors: You Don’t Need the Smashwords Style Guide | Publishing with Smashwords

  2. jonathandavidjacksonwrites Post author

    Hey, Paulo. I’m not sure exactly what you’re asking. Footnotes are the most difficult thing to convert for smashwords. If you can, I’d recommend just incorporating the footnotes into your main text, perhaps with parenthesis.

    Not only are they difficult for you to convert, but many e-readers don’t work well with footnotes and endnotes, so if it all possible, just put them in the main body.

    If you can’t put them in your main text,you’ll need to manually change each footnote to an end note. That is, you’ll need to delete the footnotes and put them at the end of your document. Then you’ll need to link to each one from within where you want it in the text, with hyperlinks. If you don’t have good knowledge of Word (or whatever software you’re using), read the Smashwords Style Guide, it’ll give you step-by-step instructions for what to do. I’ve done this with three books, but when it comes to footnotes I’ve always needed the Smashwords Style Guide, because that part is fairly complicated.

  3. Tyler

    I already self-published a simple children’s picture book on Amazon that I created in InDesign. I’m now looking to recreate the book in Word to upload to Smashwords. Based on your guidelines, it seems like I’m very constrained by the formatting rules (e.g., font no larger than 14, paragraph returns, manual spacing, etc.).

    Short of creating a more restrictive .epub file, are my hands really that tied? Thanks.

    1. jonathandavidjacksonwrites Post author

      Tyler, that’s a good question. Unfortunately, it’s one I can’t give an exact answer to. My guide is based on Smashword’s own guide of best practices for acceptance by them, and as far as I know, Smashwords is set up mainly for text only books. Making an ebook with pictures or with words in unusual places can potentially look odd on any e-reader, because the reader can change the font size which will mess up any manual spacing.

      Having said that, I’m not Smashwords, so I can’t say for sure what they will and won’t accept If I were you, I would submit your book to Smashwords as you want it and their “meatgrinder” will tell you if it’s accepted or not. If they accept it, that doesn’t mean it will look nice, but then you can see how it does look and work from there.


Let me know your thoughts!