2011-06-28

Publishing a Word Doc for Amazon, then Smashwords

The previous entries in this series of posts break down a lengthy but reasonably straightforward process for formatting a Word document for conversion to an e-book through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing or through Smashwords. If you’ve glanced at both installments, you’ll note that there’s a fair bit of redundancy, as many of the steps are similar.

Smashwords will publish to the Kindle store as part of its premium distribution. However, if you’re like me, you might want to disable distribution on the Smashwords Amazon channel so that you can go to the Kindle store directly, fine-tuning your product description in ways that Smashwords doesn't allow, and taking advantage of Amazon’s most excellent sales reporting. (In particular, if you have an Amazon author page, you can actually do real style formatting on your description and promotional text.) As such, if you’re creating your ebook for both Amazon’s Kindle Store and Smashwords, use the following guidelines to mix-and-match the previous guidelines.

Same caveat applies; i don’t know anything, etc., etc.

The Formatting Preamble

Pay attention to the advice in the “Getting Started” section of either set of guidelines, re: things not to do in your Word file.

Start with the Amazon File

Make a copy of your book file and run through the initial checklist using the Amazon conversion guidelines:

  • Create Your Kindle-Conversion Word Document
  • Lose Any Template Attachments
  • Check For Hidden Text
  • Make Everything “Automatic” Color
  • Set Up Your Document in Sections
  • Italic and Bold Are Fine
  • All Caps Needs Manual Conversion


Set Up Your Table of Contents

The formatting requirements for Amazon and for Smashwords are slightly different, so you can’t easily create a single document to use for both conversions. (Even if you use the Normal style in your Kindle file, the Kindle’s odd handling of line breaks will create different spacing.) However, the process of setting up your book’s table of contents and the bookmarks you need to link to it is pretty much the same for both versions of your document — and are typically the most time-intensive part of the conversion process. As such, skip down in the Kindle guidelines and run through the table of contents steps before you fine-tune your text formatting:

  • Setting Up the Table of Contents
  • Set Up Bookmarks in Your Document
  • Use Bookmarks to Create a Clickable Table of Contents


Divide and Conquer

Once your table of contents is created and has been tested in your Kindle conversion document, make a copy of that document for your Smashwords conversion.

For the Kindle

Go back and continue on with your Kindle-conversion-specific text formatting:

  • Blank Paragraphs Need To Be Soft Returns
  • Set Up Styles
  • Set Up Chapter Heads

If you didn’t have your header or chapter styles properly set up when you built the table of contents, you can tweak those styles now.

Your table of contents was set up for the Kindle, so it’s done. Move past those instructions to:

  • Cover Art

Then continue through to the end.

For Smashwords

The document you copied is ready to have its styles stripped down to nothing in the way Smashwords likes. From the Smashwords guidelines, don’t forget the:

  • Copyright Page

Then continue on with:

  • Embrace the Normal
  • Set Up Manual Text Formatting
  • Set Up Chapter Heads

When you set up your chapter heads, remember that you’ve already placed your bookmarks for your table of contents. To insert the extra spaces you want before your Smashwords chapter headers, click on the second blank line (or in front of the chapter number or title) to insert new blank lines.


If you click on the top blank line before your chapter header and insert blank lines from there, you might inadvertently push the invisible bookmark down.

Skip the steps for creating your table of contents, which you’ve already done, then pick up again at:

  • Whither PDF?

Then continue through to the end.