[personal profile] elizabethmccoy
The Smashwords Meatgrinder, that is.

I have heard more fussing about that Meatgrinder, and I honestly cannot figure out why. There's a free book by the company owner about it, and yeah, it's long and confusing. That's not because the Meatgrinder is confusing or hard to format for, though. It's because Mr. Coker (the author) has the approach that he's got to hand-hold the authors through re-formatting, with the assumption that the text is just going to be a hot mess, formatting-wise. So he's telling people how to fix everything at the same time he's telling them what to fix it to, and there's no simple checklist, and he tells them how to fix it several times in different ways so the people who didn't understand the first explanation have a chance of understanding the next.

Needless to say, there's a bit of bloat there.

Meanwhile, I've been making really cleanly-formatted stuff because I upload to LJ/DW to a selected filter of beta-readers. So my stuff doesn't have a zillion fonts, formats, paragraph trickeries, comments from other people embedded in it, or any other such stuff. It has paragraph spacing that has to be removed (sometimes; sometimes I add the paragraph double-spacing for web-reading after I paste it into the Post An Entry box), and it has HTML-style bold, italics, blockquote (for missives), and sometimes underline markings (again, for missives).

So there's the first step, really. Set up Word (assuming you use Word to start with; mine kneels and calls me Queen so I use it) for your preferred writing font and whatnot. I actually use a huge font-size 'cause it's easier on my eyes! Don't get over-enthusiastic about formatting stuff. Pretend that you're going to have to post it to Dreamwidth or Livejournal, and don't use anything but the simplest formatting: <b>Bold</b>, </i>Italic</i>, <u>Underline</u>, and
<blockquote>Blockquote (and even Blockquote is to be done sparingly)</blockquote>.

(In case you didn't realize it, I'm not going to hand-hold very much. I assume you know how to use Word and make Styles. If you need something clarified, O Currently Imaginary Reader, ask. ;) )

Okay, you say, but Times 18 point (or worse, Courier 15) is not the Times 12 point or Times 10 point that Smashwords wants for the Meatgrinder. And they say to change your Normal style to match! (Go ahead and do it if you are only gonna paste into Word from some other word-making app. And I would advise pasting, because gods know what cruft Word would pick up if you just "save as" some format Word can read.)

Anyway, you don't have to change your Normal style. What you do have to do is create a new style with all their characteristics. I call mine SMnormal. It's two and a half notches first paragraph indent, 12 point Times New Roman, and is a 6.5 inch "page" to work with.

It's that simple.

Now make another style. Call it SMtitle, base it off SMnormal. Remove the indenting, click the "center" button, and make it Bold. Probably make it 14 point Times New Roman while you're at it. Ta-da! Now you have everything you need for basic Meatgrinding.

So take your file, and Save As -- I use "SMtitle" where "title" is whatever title I'm using. Now select everything in this file, and make it SMnormal style. You will probably not lose your bold/italics/etc formatting, but if you do, you can check it against the original. Or, in my case, I don't pull the HTML bold/italic/etc. code out till after converting to SMnormal.

You'll want a little more, quite possibly. I have SMletter, which pulls in the little blue arrows on Word's ruler, to mimic Blockquote. I have SMcentered, which is normal-but-centered. I have SMnormal10, which is a 10-point version of the font. Basically, if you want to do something a little special to an entire paragraph, make a Style for it that's based of SMnormal.

And that's it. It's that simple. That is the minimum formatting needed to put up anything without chapters. Further, it'll work on Amazon, too! (Though if you are using a Mac, there has been a bug in their converter. Convert your Word document once, take the HTML, insert em-dash coding and é coding into the HTML, and re-upload the HTML before you even click "continue.")

Four useful bits. Three dead-simple, one a bit more complex.

For the first: Want to imitate drop-caps? (The larger letter that starts a new chapter in a dead-trees book.) Make the first one bold and 14-point. Ta-da!

The second: Page breaks. Not all e-readers honor Insert:Page Break commands. For the ones that don't, you do two hard returns, Insert your Page Break, and two more hard returns. The 2 returns on either side don't take up much screen real-estate on the readers that do honor page-break marks, and give a good gap between chapters for the readers that don't.

The third: Non-breaking spaces. These are actually kinda unnecessary, in that most people will probably blame their e-reader, but they provide a subtle bit of professionalism. A nice-looking "..." is actually "nbsp.nbsp.nbsp." Putting a non-breaking space in front of a dash is also useful, if you aren't one of those people who puts no space at all there. On a Mac version of Word, the command is option-spacebar. (Like an endash is option-hyphen, that thing next to the 0 key.) In HTML, use nbsp with an & on the front and a ; on the back, as I recall.

The final step is making a Table of Contents (ToC), which is necessary for the Meatgrinder if you have anything beyond a short story. This one is simple, but teeeeeeeeeedious. You can't let Word do this for you because Word is evil and will disobey you and require whipping. Instead, you have to use the Insert menu selection of Bookmark. (So Insert: Bookmark.) Put it next to the title of each chapter and call each bookmark Chap1, Chap2, Chap3, etc. Don't bother getting fancy. Then you go make a Header (SMHeader style) that says "Table of Contents" and type in Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, etc. (These are a good candidate for your SMnormal10 style..) Then select each Chapter line, go to Insert:Hyperlink (or command-K on a Mac...) and either type #Chap1 or Locate the desired anchor in your Bookmarks.

For bonus points that will make people with clunkier e-readers much happier with you? Insert:Bookmark your ToC with, say, ToC. Then go to each chapter, highlight the Chapter 1 (etc.), and Insert:Hyperlink back to the ToC. (So someone skimming for their favorite part can check the first bit of a chapter, then jump right back to select another one.)

It is also useful, if you have an About the Author in the back, to give that an Insert:Bookmark of AboutAuthor (so it can be in your ToC), and an Insert:Hyperlink to the ToC. Some e-readers will not allow their user to close the book without being at the end of it (which makes it a pain to re-read favorite bits!); the less button-press navigation these people have to do, the more they will like your book, and they write reviews as well!

Any questions, O Currently Hypothetical Readers? Did I miss anything?

Date: 2012-02-15 02:49 am (UTC)
castiron: cartoony sketch of owl (Default)
From: [personal profile] castiron
Very useful! Bookmarking for future reference.


Date: 2012-03-15 06:31 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
This is why I keep reading blogs to the detriment of writing time: I have been searching long and wide for someone to tell me how to use Styles in Word - which I use all the time - specifically to make the best initial file for self-pubbing. IE, why not get the Styles RIGHT from the very beginning, so as not to have to 'clean up' anything later. Duh! Unfortunately, when reading blogs (got here from Passive Voice) occasionally gives me a jackpot like this one, it reinforces reading blogs. Behavioral conditioning tells us that random reinforcers are the most powerful ones - you keep looking because you just never know when you'll find the goodie. Thanks heaps (anyway) and great appreciation for you sharing your skills. And yes, Coker's book left me with a tummy ache - because I don't do junk like hit 5 spaces at the beginning of each paragraph. ABE

smashwords formatting

Date: 2012-04-12 06:20 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Hi elizabeth,

I appreciate your blog entry on using Word for Smashword. I agree that the SW Guide is tooo complicated. And hard to find what you want too.

Anyway I am trying to figure out how to keep the italics and bolds, and underline too, in a non-fiction book I'm writing (How to Teach English as a Language for Fun and Freedom).

You talk about editing the HTML, or writing the code in HTML (which I know how to do, thankfully). But how do you put it into a Word doc? And we surely don't want to use Words Frontpage (full of extraneous code)...

I am so grateful for any advice and assistance, rebecca
rebecca sorens at Smashwords

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