Publishing eBooks with Smashwords

I love Smashwords. It’s free, they give you step-by-step guides for how to do things and they distribute my stuff to most of the other retailers so I can manage my eBooks from a single interface.

Their meat-grinder (the way they turn your eBook into all the different formats various retailers require) is a bit clunky. I’ve learned so much over the last couple of weeks of mass uploading children’s’ anthologies, and I thought I’d share five of my favourites:

  1. Do not use the words ‘Prologue’, ‘Chapter’, ‘Part’, or ‘Epilogue’ in any of your headings unless you really want a page break.
    It turns out children writing 2000 word stories really like breaking their work into parts and chapters, which makes a total mess of the eBook, so this year I am outlawing all of these words in their section headings.
  2. The auto-generated table of contents doesn’t work.
    Apparently the meat-grinder will only accept manual TOCs, built with hyperlinks and bookmarks. This process makes up about half of my total formatting time, but there you have it.
  3. Word your bookmarks carefully
    Any special characters will break your bookmarks (e.g. * ( ‘ etc). Also, the bookmark won’t work if it is too long. Some children like very long titles, and I’ve had to chop a lot of them down to four or five words at the most.
  4. Be careful with pictures!
    Make sure you make them ‘non-wrapping’, or they will mess with your formatting.
  5. There is no obvious way to include additional authors in the eBook metadata, so I’ve been including a list of authors and their stories in the long description. (This is still an open question for me – is there a better way of tagging the authors included in anthologies?)

If your interested in reading the children’s’ anthologies, they’re available free here at Smashwords (or at your favourite eBook retailer).

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