My Smashwords Adventure!

Distressed Woman FreeDigital Photos Dot NetNote the familiar lady pulling her hair out.

No really, it wasn’t that bad.

I went to the Smashwords site and downloaded Mark Coker’s Smashword Style Guide and read it through once completely and several chapters twice and three times. I won’t repeat everything in the guide. It is very complete and informative, yet still I had a couple of unanswered questions. I did further research and thought I’d share what I learned and what worked and what didn’t.

They strongly suggest you use something called The Nuclear Method. This method insists that you will save yourself a whole lot of trouble if you copy your entire manuscript into a text editor. At which point, you do the opposite, copy your text document back into Word. Removes all formatting! Yippee, we can start with a completely virgin document.

I so did not want to do this.

I use italics to denote emphasis, (which maybe I should not be doing quite so much of but that is a subject for another day) and all my italics were going to be wiped out if I did it. Gone Italics.

I needed to figure out a way around this and discovered something interesting. In Word’s Find functionality, not only can you search on a text string, but you can search on formatting! I didn’t know that before. Here’s how it’s done:


Click More

Then click Format, then font, and you’ll see the familiar font screen come up where you can select the format you are looking for. Note the search for “Font: Italic” in the red circle. Now I could use the Find Next functionality for each occurrence of italics in my document! Unfortunately I could not replace the italicized text with anything, but this was better than the alternative. For each instance found, I put the text string “qqq” behind it.


There were 145 instances of italics in my manuscript and I knew where they were when the original document was back in Word because I searched on “qqq”.

I copied the document to Wordpad (my choice but you can use any text editor), opened a brand new Word document and pasted that sucker in. I turned off all Autocorrect and Autoformat options. This is spelled out in the Style Guide.

Next I created eight styles. I only used seven of them and Normal.  Here is a very good article about how to create styles in Word. No need to repeat that here.


I didn’t end up using SWTitle. I had wanted 16pt bolded text, but for some reason the bold didn’t take. It did, however, work for SWTitle, defined as 14pt bolded so I used that instead. This is an example of stuff that can happen, for which you can find no explanation.

I could have fooled around trying to get Smashwords to recognize it the way I intended but decided it wasn’t worth the trouble. Ebook formatting is evolving and maybe the Smashwords “Meatgrinder” just needs to be tweaked a little more. It will get better and better with time. It didn’t seem something for which I should tear out any more hair. I have precious little left at this point.

Depressed 3D Man FreeDigital Photos Dot Net

Modify the Normal style however you want it and use it for all your internal chapter text. Don’t use it for the front matter, the table of contents, and chapter headings. Use specific styles for all that.

This is my Normal. I used Times New Roman for everything. It is good practice not to use too many fonts, one is ideal, maybe two at most.

Format then Font


Format then Paragraph

Normal2I defined other styles as I needed them, all based on Normal except SWChapter which was based on Heading 1.

I couldn’t figure out from the Style Guide how page breaks worked. I don’t care how the front matter looks, even if it all flows together, just so there is some space between the sections, I am good with that. It is an ebook and everyone formats their reader a different way. It isn’t important to me that any of that starts on a separate page.

But I wanted the chapters to all start on a separate page. I don’t like it when I see new chapters directly following the previous one on the same page. I researched and found that the page break before is the way to go. The style SWChapter has a page break incorporated into it, which you set up when you define that style. And it works! I recommend it.

Everything in my manuscript is a style. I never once used the little Word buttons in the menu to change the font, or bold, or italics or alignment. Maybe you can do this and it will work but I didn’t.

My next novel will be written with this in mind. That’s if there is a next novel.

I went through my manuscript, applied the appropriate styles, and added “*****” between sections. I did this (reluctantly) because I could not discern enough space between the sections and I wanted to make sure they were noted by the reader.

Last step. I searched for “qqq”, applied the italics, and of course removed the “qqq”. Tedious.

One hair-tearing experience I will note. I spent way too much time on it but it seemed worth looking into, and then I got stubborn about it.

I had lines of mixed styles. I used SWNoIndent followed by a partial line where I applied SWItalics. This was followed by a line return, followed by a Normal paragraph. This sequence occurred in three places.  In two places I got no line return between the multi-styled line and the normal paragraph, which was wrong, yet in one instance it was correct.

I figured if one was okay, it could be done. I turned on View Formatting Marks and juggled it around, experimented with the SWNoIndent and SWItalics styles at the ends of the formatted line and the line return, until I managed to eliminate one of the no-spacers. So now two are right, and one is wrong, yet they are formatted exactly the same way. One error remains. I give up. Smashwords has beat me. Much as I hate to say it, sometimes there just ain’t no explainin’ it.

It just is.

I would recommend simplicity and I would think twice before doing the multi-format-on-a-single-line-thing again. Less is better when it comes to ebooks. No need to get fancy.

My book went through the Meatgrinder, though, with no errors, first time.

Here are two great articles I read while preparing this post.

Smashwords Formatting Tutorial

Smashwords Formatting for the Lazy

Update: Forgot to mention, if anyone would like a sample of my file to use for reference, just contact me and include your email address and I’ll sent it out!

Frustrated Woman and 3D Man photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.

Convincing Proof That Electronic Devices Have a Soul

Do you ever think some inanimate objects know it when you are about to replace them? I am currently experiencing “Xtreme” Paranoia about this, ever since I’ve had the inclination to ditch a Verizon MiFi Hotspot in order to return to the comforting arms of Time Warner and Roadrunner.

Roadrunner never did me wrong. It seldom went down and gave me perfectly acceptable internet access. So what did I do? Replaced it with the Hotspot. What a deal! Verizon is already my phone provider and this wonderful little thing is portable and I can take it with me wherever I go and I will live happily ever after in my state of blissful internet connectivity.

Not. The thing sometimes works, or doesn’t work, or works intermittently, or at a snail’s pace, or it might not work in my area. I don’t know what the problem is, all I know is that I’m tired of it and I intend to replace it with something from the past. Roadrunner is in, Verizon Hotspot – you’re out.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Of course, as soon as I decide this, the Hotspot begins to perform admirably and I forget about the tedium of switching, and having to install another wireless modem. Immediately I think, Verizon must have finally fixed the problem! But then it happens again and I have a Bad Internet Day. Oh, how we come to depend on it, those flashing screens, those back buttons which work in a nanosecond, those streaming videos that do not pause and show you the whirling “I’m trying to catch up” icon.

The problem is, when it does happen again, it takes minutes to go from screen to screen, or I am told I now have “no internet access” or this nice message appears: “Internet Explorer cannot display the webpage”. Then see, I can’t get online to Time Warner to order anything. It’s as if that Hotspot knows it’s about to get dumped so it stops working.

Why not call Time Warner, you may ask. Well, because. Frankly, I do not like using a phone. I am not a phone person, I don’t do phone well. Yesterday it took me four times longer to schedule a repair person to replace an icemaker via a chat session than it would have if I’d called. This is a quirkiness, a weirdness that I can’t explain. I’m an introvert, what can I say? I am much more extroverted in a chat session than I would be on the phone.

Here’s how a phone conversation would go:

Time Warner Representative (TWR): Good morning! How may I offer you excellent service today?

Me: I, um, want to have Roadrunner back, and also HBO.

TWR: I can certainly help you with that! We are offering a very special package of cable, internet and internet phone for $89.99 per month for one full year! Including Showtime!

Me: I don’t want the phone part. Or the Showtime. I want to add Roadrunner and HBO to my existing account.

TWR: Okay then, I can offer you the package plus $19.99 per month for HBO.

Me: Uh, I was hoping you might be able to switch the phone and Showtime for the HBO.

TWR: Look, lady. I see you had Roadrunner in the past but stopped it two years ago. I know what’s happened here. You’ve decided that Roadrunner wasn’t so bad after all, and now you want us back. Well, it doesn’t work that way, see. Take the deal. Take the phone. If you don’t want to use it, fine, don’t use it. It’s no skin off my left upper bicuspid. It’s $89.99 plus $19.99 for the HBO. Take it or leave it. Offer ends at 4:00 Eastern Standard Time.

Me: Oh, okay, then I’ll take it.

That’s how it would go, because for some odd reason, I tend to become a spineless W.I.M.P. (Weakly Interacting  Massive Particle) when confronted by a customer “satisfaction” representative who realizes I can be bullied. They teach them that in Customer Satisfaction School 101. Ten Ways to Determine if You Are Talking to Someone Who Can Be Smacked Down.

The point was to get to the Time Warner site and chat with a representative there and try to wheedle some sort of deal where I could ditch the phone they are offering in lieu of HBO and get my Roadrunner back. But I can’t do it right now because that little bugger is not providing internet access and that’s because it knows it’s getting sent to the electronics waste dump as soon as the contract runs out. It knows it! I’m sure of it!

If I could get to Time Warner’s site, here’s how the chat session would go:

TWR: Good morning, how may I assist you today?

Me: Hey, good morning. I know all about the deal you’re offering. The $89.99 and all that. Don’t even bother. Here’s what I want. Roadrunner and HBO. And I’d be a really happy camper if you’d give me the $89.99 per month deal for a year, at which time, I’m pretty sure you’ll jack it up to some ridiculous amount. I’ll deal with your sorry ass then. This is now. I want it now. Think you can do that?

TWR: I will be happy to assist you with your upgrade.

Me: Okay. Assist me then. Tell me you’ll give me the deal I’ve asked for here.

TWR: Well. just let me check. Sorry for the inconvenience. Please wait one moment.

Tap, tap, tap, tap. (my fingers on the keyboard, without pressing keys, just irritated by being told I have to wait).

TWR: Thank you for your patience! I apologize! We can make you the deal. No phone, no Showtime, just Roadrunner and HBO. $89.99 per month.

Me: Wonderful.

TWR: Is there anything else I can help you with?

Unfortunately, the above is utter bullshit. But still, I want to do it online and Mr. MiFi over there knows it and needs to act up now and quit working just so I can’t make arrangements to replace him. And then when he figures I’ve collected myself again, he’ll start working and I’ll wonder “Now why would I want to get rid of this cute little thing? Really, it’s so convenient.”

Update: Here’s how that chat session really went.

The above, of course, cannot be made up. It’s a screen shot of an actual conversation. I suspect “Jeff” could be an alias. And notice how I tell him what I want and then he asks me what I want. What the…? And then he gave me a phone number to call, so I called. I will leave it to you to guess how that went. There is a Roadrunner wireless modem in the mail. and now the Verizon MiFi Hotspot is working just fine. Sigh.