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Preparing a Manuscript for Smashwords

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KennAllan
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Preparing a Manuscript for Smashwords

Postby KennAllan » Thu Aug 16, 2012 6:15 pm

Hello, all.

I'm currently formatting one of my manuscripts for publication on Smashwords. Since this is the platform Faithwriters is likely to use in the future, I figured I'd post a few progress updates to help alleviate any apprehension authors may be experiencing over the prospect of publishing their own works.

This morning I completed the hyperlinked table of contents. This is a very simple procedure; it only took a couple of hours and my toc is likely much more extensive than average. Y'see, mine is a poetry book and I had to install links for 51 items; most books only link to the chapter headings.

I also finished some cosmetic formatting, such as centering titles, customizing fonts, and enlarging the first letter of the first stanza of every poem. I did this at the same time as installing the toc bookmarks to simplify the workload.

There are specific requirements for the toc to be eligible for the Premium Catalog so they receive distribution to Smashwords' retail channel partners such as Apple, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, the Diesel eBook Store and others. I've sold about half my books on Smashwords - the rest were sold by one of these partners. But don't fret - these requirements are fairly easy to fulfill.

Well, next I'm gonna be working with graphics. I used 'em on Amazon but not Smashwords - I'm anxious to see how they work out.

See ya.

- Kenn

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Re: Preparing a Manuscript for Smashwords

Postby Accord64 » Thu Aug 16, 2012 6:34 pm

I remember formatting my novel for Smashwords a few months back. It's a bit more particular than Amazon's requirements - mainly because Smashwords takes the file and formats it into different file types for all the vendors (Apple, B&N, etc.). It took me a couple of tries to get all the bugs out and get premium approved.

I'm not sure if you have tried to use their "Meatgrinder" lately. I've read numerous stories that they have upgraded it and it's a bit more picky over formatting. Looking forward to hearing your reports as I'll be uploading another novel there soon.

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Re: Preparing a Manuscript for Smashwords

Postby KennAllan » Thu Aug 16, 2012 6:51 pm

Hiya.

Lessee... the last time I published on Smashwords was September 2010.

Yeah, a couple of the bookstores require a functional toc.ncx file. Fortunatly Smashwords has upgraded the meatgrinder so it does most of the work automatically. It works especially well with basic novel formats.

However, I actually preferred writing my own .ncx and .opf files on Amazon. Since I have so many entries, this allowed me to hyperlink each poem in the Table of Contents but only display the Chapter headings in the Kindle directory box. The current Smashwords model doesn't allow that choice.

- Kenn

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Re: Preparing a Manuscript for Smashwords

Postby Laurie » Thu Aug 16, 2012 9:22 pm

This summer I published at both Smashwords and Amazon and didn't have any trouble at either place. The process wasn't bad. Even so, it takes time to read through the guidelines and make sure you understand and follow them.

Kenn, I can believe that publishing a poetry book is more tedious. I recall reading something about that in the guidelines.

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Re: Preparing a Manuscript for Smashwords

Postby KennAllan » Thu Aug 16, 2012 9:41 pm

Hiya, Laurie.

Wonderful! If this thing gets rollin' experienced members like yourself will be invaluable.

Did you have any trouble understanding the concept for the .opf and .ncx files on Amazon? That's what took me the longest - just about drove me crazy!

You're right - eBooks are NOT "poetry friendly." Because of their scrolling nature and the ability to change font sizes, there's no way to control page breaks, which-inevitably- occur right in the middle of a stanza. The poems also have to be formatted in HTML (on Amazon, anyway) to keep Kindle from thinking each line is a new paragraph and automatically indenting. I had to put glyphs between each poem so my readers could be sure they were finished.

- Kenn

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Re: Preparing a Manuscript for Smashwords

Postby Laurie » Fri Aug 17, 2012 9:06 am

Do you have to do the same type of formatting for poetry if you publish at Smashwords? I considered including some poetry in a future e-book, but I don't want to tackle that unless/until I have a handle on the formatting. Dumb question - what did you use as glyphs?

I don't recall the files on Amazon you mentioned. I just did a Save As to a filtered HTML document, "Web page, filtered" and I was good to go. Perhaps something has changed since you last used the system so it's simpler now?

I'm glad I read through the guidelines BEFORE I put my ebook together. Then I just ran my content together as I worked on it, so I didn't have a lot of formatting to undo. My print book (from 2010) is now in epub format (done automatically through Lulu when they began offering that option). I've considered publishing it at Kindle since I think I'd have better sales there. It would just take me a little longer since it wasn't originally set up for ebook format. Of course, copy/pasting it into Notepad and then back into Word will help (which I would need to do anyway), but it will still take some time.

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Re: Preparing a Manuscript for Smashwords

Postby KennAllan » Fri Aug 17, 2012 9:22 am

Hiya, Laurie.

The .opf files contains all the book's metadata and tells the Kindle where to go when the Start and Table of Contents buttons are pushed. It also tells the compiler where to find the toc.ncx file which formats the Kindle's drop-down menu and the little "tick bar" across the bottom.

Formatting eBook poetry isn't difficult, just frustrating since you have no control over page breaks. It's really ugly when three lines of a stanza are on one page and a single line on another.

After trying stuff like hearts, ivy leaves, and fancy shapes as glyphs, I finally settled on a simple diamond shape at the end of the final line. Everything else seemed "too much."

- Kenn

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Re: Preparing a Manuscript for Smashwords

Postby Laurie » Fri Aug 17, 2012 10:41 am

Gotcha. So those files had to do with the toc. I guess I didn't have any trouble with that.

A diamond shape sounds like a good idea for the glyphs.

So do you have to insert an html code for each line of a poem? And what kind of a code? It sure sounds tedious. On the other hand, with an ebook, once the work is done, it's done. And for as long as you keep it out there, it can continue making money. With good sales, it could be worth the time and trouble. I knew selling books would be challenging, but I didn't realize just how challenging. In the long-term, though, those royalties could add up.

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Re: Preparing a Manuscript for Smashwords

Postby KennAllan » Fri Aug 17, 2012 10:54 am

Hiya, Laurie.

Yup, the average paperback book stays on the shelf for 3-4 months but an eBook is forever.

Well, for Amazon I worked directly in the .html files. In order to bypass Kindle's automatic indent, I had to remove all paragraph codes (< p >, < /p >) and only use hard line breaks (< br >). I also had to manually add any desired page breaks.

What I like most about the Amazon platform is how I can link ALL my poems in the table of contents but designate ONLY the chapter names in the drop-down menu. The Smashwords meatgrinder will take everything linked in the toc and add it to the directory.

Yes, selling eBooks isn't easy... but then, most traditional authors are also marketing like crazy. However, while only a limited number of people can wander through a book store/department in a day, the internet has MILLIONS of potential daily customers. The trick is how to get their attention.

- Kenn

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Re: Preparing a Manuscript for Smashwords

Postby Laurie » Fri Aug 17, 2012 11:18 am

What a lot of work to do that formatting, but good for you for seeing it through to get your poems out there.

I have a decent, though not overwhelming, amount of traffic to my site. And I've done other things for promotion. My ministry involves more than my books. I have a low conversion rate overall, so I'm making changes and pondering other ideas on what might improve that. It's such an uphill climb. :shock: ;)

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Re: Preparing a Manuscript for Smashwords

Postby KennAllan » Fri Aug 17, 2012 7:03 pm

Wow...

I just uploaded my new version of "Rhymes of the Tymes" on Smashwords and am quite impressed with the improvements made to their "meatgrinder" over the past few years. For one thing, it's FAST. I remember having to wait while the thing chewed, digested, and finally spit out a finished product. I also downloaded and viewed the Kindle and EPUB versions on my simulation programs; the graphics are perfect and their built-in directory feature worked perfectly.

Now... on to book two.

- Kenn

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Re: Preparing a Manuscript for Smashwords

Postby Come forth » Fri Aug 17, 2012 9:27 pm

I'm following, but as an observer with little understanding at this stage. Time and financial constraints will cause me to leave the running blocks slowly; but I am keen to publish a work of poetry, a work of short fiction (Peretti style) and a small collection of faith encouraging articles. All are written but still momentarily disorientated as to the starting point.

Will keep following your posts and slowly learning.

Kenn, I wanted to add a big congratulations on what you are doing to encourage the ebook side of FW. Keep pushing, I think it is a worthwhile target and I have a few ideas of my own which I hope will help as I get some things bedded down and working.

Bless all, Graham.
May we all get eyes to see and ears to hear,
A Revelation of His Word, crystal clear.
Admitting our need to be drawn in,
Less of self, more of Him.

My prayer for us all.
God bless us with the Revelation of His Word, Graham
http://www.shekinahcloud.com/page/page/8464330.htm

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Re: Preparing a Manuscript for Smashwords

Postby KennAllan » Fri Aug 17, 2012 11:47 pm

Hiya, Graham.

Believe me, I fully understand financial and time constraints. However, here's the good news; I have published two books on Amazon and three with Smashwords and my monetary investment has been exactly $0.00. Even if I wasn't an avid believer in the future of eBooks, this alone probably would have eventually sent me to Smashwords' door.

As for time, we're hoping to make information/instruction available so members can proceed at their own speed. I'm retired, disabled, and bored so am almost always available for consultation.

So if you write 'em, we'll make sure you get 'em published.

- Kenn

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Re: Preparing a Manuscript for Smashwords

Postby Come forth » Sat Aug 18, 2012 12:42 am

I've already written the poetry, the short stories and the articles; actually I have literally hundreds backed up because I have been writing them for years. Let's say that we start with poetry, which is my greater love. How many should I put in a book, what size pages should I try to format to, what type face is best, what layout is best (line spacing, font size etc) and can I include graphics and where do they come from????????

I said I'm raw and I meant it. I can write (it remains to be seen how well) and I can learn reasonably quickly but find the whole publishing field an information overload.

Once I've done it I will be glad to invest time helping others as I can.

Blessings, Graham
May we all get eyes to see and ears to hear,
A Revelation of His Word, crystal clear.
Admitting our need to be drawn in,
Less of self, more of Him.

My prayer for us all.
God bless us with the Revelation of His Word, Graham
http://www.shekinahcloud.com/page/page/8464330.htm

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Re: Preparing a Manuscript for Smashwords

Postby KennAllan » Sat Aug 18, 2012 2:25 am

Hiya, Graham.

First thing: Don't stress yourself out. This project is supposed to be fun for everyone and a burden to no one. Let me share a little story before answering your questions...

When I was a kid, I loved spending time in any swimming pool, especially if it had a diving board. Seeing this, my parents enrolled me in diving lessons. Well, my instructor apparently saw potential and began grooming me for competition, filling my lessons with more and more complex dives. I'd go home absolutely exhausted! Suddenly, diving wasn't fun anymore. I eventually quit his class and never looked at diving board the same way again.

Don't let this happen to you.

Okay, now for your poetry book...

The first thing you have to do is start collecting your stuff. Before I published, my poems were scattered both online and in various files on my computer. It was quite a task to scrape 'em all together into a single directory.

Once you've got 'em all in one place, decide if you have enough for a single or multiple volumes. My first book is about 12,000 words and my second about 18,000. As you collect them, consider how they can be arranged or categorized in your book. Then, once you have 'em all together, begin copying/pasting them into a single VERY LONG Word document into appropriate groupings. A work count on the finished product will give you some idea how to proceed regarding the number of books to publish.

I don't know how long/short your poems are, but I tried to mix my longer/shorter works evenly throughout the book.

Times New Roman is a good, all purpose font that translates well for all eReaders. I prefer 11pt. as my default, but many people prefer 12pt.

If you're comfortable with the order of your poems, cut/paste the titles in order to the top of the document. This will be your table of contents.

Too many graphics can be problematic in an eBook; a picture that looks good on a Kindle Fire may not fare well being squashed onto an iPhone. Unless they are absolutely necessary, graphics should be kept to a minimum. The only exception is the cover graphic.

Guess what? At this point you're already passed the halfway mark in publishing your eBook(s)! How 'bout that?

- Alan

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