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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.

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.

A really helpful step as you get started in ePublishing is to make a checklist of all the material you will need to publish your eBook.

It is easiest to start by publishing an unformatted ePub or Kindle type book, so your manuscript is primarily text, not pre-formatted pages. We use Smashwords as our example here. Just remember that your publisher will have additional specific instructions you must follow.

To publish an eBook you will need:
*A manuscript, final version saved in MS Word.doc form.
*A color cover image, jpg or png, 600 pixels wide by 900 pixels tall, or more,with the title and author name clearly visible, and the background anything other than white, which fades into the catalog page. Please your readers by making the thumbnail in the catalog look good.
*An account with your publisher, for example, Lulu, Smashwords, or Amazon Kindle. Set up your free account and begin to become familiar with their requirements and routines.
*The formatting instructions from your publisher. The Smashwords Style Guide by Mark Coker is essential for that publisher, and extremely helpful generally.
*An easy to access text file with  author’s name or pen name, a brief bio, author’s photo, and a one-paragraph description or blurb to put on the information page. List the genre, and sub genres, and keywords for the book.
*Some idea of how you will advertise your book. Because ePublishing happens so fast after you enter in all your information, it’s good to have plans set up ahead of time to take advantage of the initial PR included with publication. The free eBook Smashwords Book Marketing Guide has a lot of useful information and tips, from someone who has a stake in getting eBooks sold.

If you want more details about the whys and hows of ePublishing, check out the inexpensive short book, Fast Fun ePublishing.

This short booklet, available in a variety is formats, is itself a good example of how a basic eBook looks and operates. It gives you an overview and head start, whether you are just wondering about publishing, or are actually ready to dive in and publish right now.

Because formatting for ePublishing can be very finicky, here are a couple of templates for use in Microsoft Word or Open Office, a free cross-platform word processing software, to help you get started in formatting your document for Smashwords publishing.

Open the appropriate template, paste your text after the included text, and follow the formatting instructions in the template and in the Smashwords Style Guide. Make sure you read the latest version of the Style Guide for final requirements.

There are a number of things to consider as you are choosing an ePublisher. Check out their distribution channels, how their finished eBooks look, ease of use, and how much they pay in royalties.

Because this changes over time, check with each company when you are ready to publish.

Amazon will have a new royalty structure this summer:

You can find Lulu’s structure here:

And Smashwords offers royalties depending on your price structure and distribution channel.

You generally should not pay anything up-front for ePublishing a story or book. There are enough good choices now where the ePublishing companies rely on percentage of sales to pay their way.

The one exception is if the company offers services such as formatting, designing covers, or editing, and you specifically hire them for this, in which case the costs should be clearly stated on their websites and in any contract.

Lulu offers these services, Amazon and Smashwords do not, but can refer you to outside sources.

If you have ever published a traditional book, you know that you get pennies, maybe a dime, from each dollar your readers pay for your book, because of the multitude of costs of paper book publishing.

With ePublishing, you get a much higher rate–but you have to do most of the work traditionally done by book publishers.

Check with the companies to see what their royalty/author payment rates are currently. These are changing–for example, Amazon will offer a new royalty rate  at the end of  June 2010.

So you will not have up-front costs unless you hire someone for tasks like editing or book cover creation.