Wednesday, October 21, 2015

10 Styles That May Help You be Smashwords Ready Before You Have to Be

Before you write, set your styles.
There's always a little bit of a high I feel after I have formatted a book for upload to Smashwords and I receive the email stating that I have no autovetter issues. But I don't get that smooth upload through luck. I set myself up for it from the start.

I have a preset format that has me writing in Smashwords style before I type the first word. If you have uploaded to Smashwords once, you will know just what I mean, but you may not have set your MS Word to start you off right. If you are thinking about self-publishing your work with Smashwords, and it's your first time, take the time to set up your document to meet the demands of the Meatgrinder.

There's a bonus. My Smashwords ready novel will be 97 percent ready for upload to Amazon. I will only have a little front matter and back matter to change to meet Amazon's requirements when I am ready to upload to Amazon.

It's a pretty simple process to make yourself Smashwords ready at the start. Download the free Smashwords Style Guide and set up a four page document as if it was a book. Give it a title page, copyright page, chapter title, some body text and a bio with a few links to your author pages. In fact this can become your template for cutting and pasting into your finished novel when you are ready to format for upload. How great is that?! Now read that guide and apply the format requirements to this 1-4 page practice/template document. After this is done, you can open a new document based on these style settings.

With that four-page document ready for styles, you can set up what you need for that book you are going to write. I have created the following styles that I use in nearly all my books. They make preparing my manuscript very easy.
  • Body text: Modify your normal text to Times New Roman, font 12, first line indent .3, single spacing, everything else set to 0.  It's important to do this first because all your other styles will be based on this one. (Look to the style guide for how to work the styles. It would be silly for me to repeat it, and the guide does a great job of showing writers how to do it.)
  • Book title: using your Normal style, create a new style setting the various qualities you want for your title: bold, italics, font size, font, center, no indent (I just use Times New Roman throughout). Label it.
  •  Chapter title: again (and I won't repeat this any more) using your Normal style create this new style: bold, italics, font, font size, center, no indent. And add one more neat trick (thanks to Mark Coker). Click on the Line and Page Breaks tab under the Format/Paragraph pop up window. Put a check mark in the box "put a page break before." This is great as it creates a reliable page break between the end of the previous chapter and the new one. I also increase the space above and below the written text (also recommended by Mark Coker). 20 above, 36 below to put the chapter title a little further down the page and the first line of text a nice distance from the chapter title. Play with this until you're happy with the distance.
  • White space marker. I use markers for white space because simply adding returns can be confusing in eBook readers as the text that follows can appear as just a new paragraph rather than a change in time, viewpoint or character. So I use seven tildes in a row.  I type the seven tildes and click on my White Space style: center, bold, up a notch on font size and set .8 space before and after to clearly mark it as a separation often called white space.
  • Other chapter: the label does not explain well what this is for. I added this to my styles for this fourth book. I include not just Chapter and the number, but a title that focuses on a important issue in the chapter.  Originally I wanted to put these on one line together. But some of my titles were so long that they ran clear across the page. So I created an Other chapter style for the more specific title. It is based on the Chapter Title style but does not include the embedded page break which would have forced a blank page after my first line title when I put on the second line.  Chapter 1: The Dean's Ghost works fine when it is short. But long titles don't look right. Thus I do what I have below for all my titles and all it takes is a click on this style to make them look identical but act just that little bit different so I don't have a blank page between my two lines of titling.
                Chapter 1

          The Dean's Ghost
  • Time markers: in my first three books, my characters were moving about so much in time that I felt my reader would need a little assistance keeping track. So I set up a style for a time marker. Example: March 21, 2214, New Hampshire Complex, Langler Section. Bold, left justified.
  • Center: set up a style for centering based on Normal. According to Mark Coker, this is much more reliable than clicking the center button on the ribbon. Italics, bold and underline on the ribbon, however, are said to work fine.
  • Front and back matter. Mark recommends that front and back matter be left justified with no embedded indent. So I set up a style just for that based on my Normal style but without the .3 first line indent. And I added an 8 point space after to separate the left justified paragraphs.
  • Table of Contents look best either centered or left justified. I prefer left justified, so I made a style that had all the Normal text qualities but did not include the indent. And I use the Chapter title style for the title Table of Contents.
With these styles already set up in my styles ribbon, my manuscript was already free of most issues that cause autovetter problems and was largely ready for final formatting via the style guide.

One issue I found when I used the Pilcrow (backwards looking P thing in the ribbon that shows the the coding of your document) to check for unnecessary format coding was unexpected section breaks I did not insert. I don't know what causes Word to insert section breaks, but they show up in the oddest places in my manuscript. When it comes time to get ready to format for upload, the first thing I do is activate the codes view (click on the Pilcrow) and look at every page, every line and every code. I get rid of extra spaces, tabs, unnecessary returns and most especially those pesky section breaks which will insert annoying extra pages. Then I'm ready to complete the format for Smashwords.

So if my husband did not keep chatting with me and asking me how much longer I'll be, I would have completed my formatting for Smashwords in about 45 minutes. But that wasn't the case. It took me about an hour and a half. And don't forget to save as a doc rather than a docx which leads to a failed upload.  Happy formatting.


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