You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Tips’ category.

One of the few problems with Smashwords is that once you submit a document, it’s published!  So you have to be ready with corrections right away!

But there are a couple of partial ways to test out your epub before you submit it to Smashwords.

First, use the free/shareware app “Calibre.”

For Smashwords, following instructions in the The Smashwords Style Guide, you format, and mostly DE-format your Microsoft Word file, so it is in a basic form that gets along well with ebook readers.

Once you have done this,  you can take your file into Calibre and see how it will look in an ebook reader. This can be especially important if you are using images in your book, because they can sometimes wind up in unpredictable places.

To test a word.doc file, open Calibre
Click the top left menu item, Add Books
When the book has been added, Go up to the top and click on Convert Books, leaving all the settings as they are.
After the book has been converted, select the title, and click View, and you will be able to see you ebook in action.

If you find any mistakes, go back to your Word file, and correct them there.

Of course, Calibre can do a lot more than this. This powerful little software will allow you to do a number of transformations on epubs, including serving as a convenient ebook reader.

Second, if you want to make a really thorough final check, after your file is completed, go to and select the file from your desktop. That should show you any remaining problems. Or you can just wait and see if Smashwords finds any issues, otherwise, you are clear.








It can be nice to have a bit of space between chapters in a book, or major sections in a shorter publication.

If  you use page breaks in MS word to separate chapters, some formats will strip out these pagebreaks.

To work around this,  put an extra paragraph break before and after the page break so some separations will persist.

But make sure, especially for Smashwords, that you do not put more than 3 paragraph breaks in a row, or you will get an error message. This is because too many breaks can produce blank pages in the final ebook, annoying your readers.

These templates now include a reminder of the exact output format for your book manuscript, MS Word 97/2000(.doc) so it will work with Smashwords.

Fiction Template June 2011

Nonfiction Template June 2011

Best wishes in your book publishing!

F. Mackelroy and Stanley Dumanig show you how to make a linked Table of Contents using NeoOffice (or Open Office) that passes both Smashwords submission and premium distribution hurdles.

Smashwords now requires a linked Table of Contents for most non-fiction books.

On rare occasions, you may have chapter names that will auto-generate a linked Table of Contents when processed by the Smashwords translaters, but generally, you will have to make the links by hand. Setting up Hyperlinks is easier and faster in OpenOffice or NeoOffice than in MS Word, although you will still need to save the final document as MS word 97/2000/XP(.doc) for final submission to Smashwords.

To make your Linked Table of Contents, try one bookmark using the following instructions, test it, and when you have it working, then do them all.

These are the basic steps:
1. Write TOC
2. Set Bookmarks
3. Make hyperlink
4. Test, by holding down command and clicking on the TOC hyperlink
5. Repeat

These are the details:
1. Write the items in your Table of Contents
Type your chapter names at the front of the book in regular text, one chapter title to each line, so it looks like a usual table of contents, with no other formatting.

2. Set your bookmarks
In the body of your book’s text, go to your first chapter, in the area of the chapter title, and click immediately before the first letter of the chapter title. Then select Insert, Bookmark, and give it a name that you will recognize—no odd characters or spaces.

Its bookmark name will not be visible to the reader, so it does not have to make sense except to you.

Never highlight any character when setting Bookmarks. Simply put the cursor right before the character where you want to bookmark. Highlighting a character when making a Bookmark will break the TOC, and all of the links will go to the end of the page.

The bookmark name must be less than 32 characters.

There must be no spaces within the bookmark name.

Do not use special characters—just A through Z and 1 through 9 in any combination.

The bookmark name does not need to be a real word, it can be something like ch3 or artintro1 or ch1begin

Place only one bookmark per line. Do not set up two Bookmarks in a single line, or have one Bookmark in two consecutive lines.

If your chapter heading has more than one line, just insert the bookmark in front of the first word of the first line, OR the first word of any one of the lines—but only one of these.

If you are using Openoffice or NeoOffice, if you forget whether you have added a bookmark, when you click Insert bookmark, the popup list will show your current bookmarks.

If you are not using these two softwares, and your list is unusually complex, you many need to make note of each of these bookmark names in a separate file so you can find them later.

3. Make Hyperlinks back to Table of Contents
Now that you have set all your bookmark names, make the hyperlinks from the Table of Contents to the names/anchors/bookmarks you just inserted:

Go back to the Table of contents at the front of your book,
Select all the text in the appropriate line, and click Insert, Hyperlink. (The warning about spaces does not apply here.)
In the Hyperlink area, click on the Document icon.
Under the Target in Document section, click on the Bullseye icon, and a window will pop up.
In that window, open the Bookmarks list, and choose the appropriate bookmark you placed earlier. (This is where you may need to refer to the bookmark list you made earlier.)
Click Apply and Close in the popup window.
And again, click Apply and Close in the bigger window.
An underline should appear under the Table of contents word or phrase you selected, just like a link on a web page.

Test it first, then
Repeat, to apply links for each line of your Table of Contents.

4. Test
Test the Table of Contents links you have just made, by holding down the Command key and clicking on each TOC hyperlink in the Table of Contents.

Important news if you are just starting to publish direct to Amazon Kindle using their Digital Text Platform: the process may be easier than some of their help docs indicate.

In their help forums and documents, you will find contradictory information on their supported formats. A colleague just discovered that MS word/Open Office .doc documents work just fine. So start with .doc or html, which ever you know best, and possibly save yourself time and work.

Some of their help forums even say you need to run your doc through Mobi or Calibre, and while these can add nice touches, they actually are not necessary. Html formatted documents are their first choice. If you are familiar with html code, it does provide the easiest way to clean a document and remove any trouble-causing junk. But Word docs work too.

Amazon DTP Supported formats:
Zipped HTML (.zip)
Word (.doc)
Adobe PDF (.pdf)
ePub (.epub)
Plain Text (.txt)
MobiPocket (.mobi and .prc)

One caveat, the .doc that worked well here had already been formatted according to the far more stringent rules for Smashwords, so a lot of problematic styles, characters and formatting had already been removed.

Have you been getting the feedback “Too many paragraph breaks?” from Smashwords or Amazon DTP when you submit a manuscript? Here’s why, and what to do.

Quite often these days, we tend to automatically hit a carriage return or extra space between paragraphs. For email, web pages, and other formats, this looks nice, breaking up the text and providing some white space.

But once you convert such nicely formatted text for an eBook reader, it often goes haywire. adding way too much space, sometimes even a whole page-break.

The first fix is to use the templates we have provided here.

For Amazon DTP
Fiction Template for Amazon Digital Text Platform
NonFiction Template for Amazon Digital Text Platform

And for Smashwords
Fiction Template
NonFiction Template

The second fix is the same as that detailed within the templates, but we will spell it out here, how to format your document so the only space after a paragraph is within the formatting section, not as a carriage return.

To set the spacing between paragraphs in a way that will not confuse eBooks in Open Office, open your document, then under Format, Paragraph, set the Below paragraph spacing to 0.8 to 0.14 inch. Follow the same general procedure for documents in Word.

This will give you a bit of space between paragraphs without jamming up the machinery.

For fiction, don’t use any space at all between paragraphs, just follow the indenting suggestion in the template.

These free templates will help you prepare manuscripts for the Amazon Kindle Digital Text Platform.

Fiction Template for Amazon Digital Text Platform

NonFiction Template for Amazon Digital Text Platform

These are designed to be used in the free cross-platform word processor Open Office, so you don’t have to buy yet another software to get started in ePublishing. Or in MS word, if you have it.

Download free Open Office word processing software

Paste your text into the template and make any formatting changes needed (as explained within the template text) then save the file as HTML, the format Amazon prefers, although they do accept other formats.

You will want to add your own front matter, such as copyright and reserved rights information.

When you are satisfied with your manuscript, save a copy in the regular Open Office format, then export it to the required HTML format by choosing file, export, xhtml … with automatic file name extension.

This will save it as an HTML file suitable for Amazon DTP. This is what you will upload to Amazon.

If you need to edit the file later, as often happens, you can edit your saved copy of the Open Office  document and again export it to HTML. Or, if you know how, you can edit the html directly.

These templates are just for your text manuscripts.

When you send a manuscript to Amazon, you will also need to send a cover image. You will have to dig through the Amazon help files to find the formatting and tips on how to make one.

You may also want to add embedded inline images. these templates have not been tested for that yet. It may work, or it may be easier to use an html program and add the images there, after you have exported your file to html.

Good luck—ePublishing is an exciting way to go.

Once you have a nice book all written and edited, you’d think, from experiences with email and sending files, that you could just send it along as a text document, and it would be published.


Because of the trickiness of ePub formats and eBook readers, the state of your text file is of primary importance.

Depending on the ePublisher, if it has any extra formatting, if it has too many paragraph breaks, if it was produced in WordPerfect, or even if (especially if) the text originally came from a PDF file, you can get throughly mired in the formatting process.

To begin, follow the directions for file preparation from your particular ePublisher as well as you can. Usually, with any luck, that will work. You may have to save it in Word, for Smashwords, or HTML, for Kindle, but it’s fairly straightforward.

If you still have trouble, you may have to open the file in a simple text editor, strip out any formatting, even save it as ASCI code (wow, remember that?) Or even copy the text, open a clean text file, and paste it in. And if all that does not work, hire someone to reformat it for you.

We only had this happen to one file out of 5, the one copied from a PDF, but it was a pain to fix.

Writing and publishing a book of any kind is a long hard slog.

But it does not have to be lonely!

There is a new eBook that will help you write your own eBook, or do whatever you dream.

You can find friendly inspiration, direction, and hope for your endeavors. Check out the nice little eBook called The Lazy Man’s Guide to Success, by teacher, therapist, life coach, and prolific author Bill O’Hanlon.

Bill, who states that he is the mildly lazy and very successful man of the title, provides stories from a wide variety of fields, many about people he knows personally, who overcame sometimes huge obstacles on their way to achieving what they wanted. He talks about his own journey to success, many slips along the road, and how he recovered.

And he talks about how you can find your passion, focus your energy, and clarify your dreams and goals. He includes dozens of focused questions to help you move past obstacles and directly into your own powerful way of working.

O’Hanlon’s book is remarkably non-hucksterish, no pie in the sky, and none of that get-rich-quick stuff. Instead, it’s the friendly voice of someone with a wealth of experience who has helped a lot of people in a lot of tough times move closer to their goals and dreams.

One of the most important parts of being an author, after writing and publishing your masterpiece, of course, is to spread the word.

And a blog is a great way to do this.

People love stories, especially real ones, so write about your book, what you are doing to publicize and market it, where you are reading or speaking, about the process of writing, and then the ordeals and triumphs of writing a new book as you begin your next one.

The easiest way to begin a blog is to go to and follow the instructions. It really is quite easy.

Click here to sign up for your Blog at WordPress

Just sign up at You will need to think of a good blog name–you might have to try several to get one that is not taken.

Then you can get to the interesting work of writing your blog. WordPress has good instructions and help files. It may take a few tries to become accustomed to the various screens and tasks, but start simple and then you can add features as you learn.

As you become more experienced, you can incorporate some of the large variety of features, tools, and extras available, such as links, pictures, media or polls into your blog.