Smashwords and Kindle formatting for the IT impared

The first time I tried to format an ebook I got so confused it took me three days to get it right. But it doesn’t have to be that way, even for the less technologically capable among us.

This week I’ve been going through some of my backlist, selecting a few titles and having to suffer the stress of formatting them for digital. Now, formatting for digital is very different to formatting for submission and for print (I’ll do a blog on those later) but it’s not as scary as it seems.

The main thing you have to remember is not to worry about the little things at the start. By this I mean – get the main body of text sorted first and then worry about your chapter headings etc.

A few things before we start though. If, like me, you were taught to type back in the old days you will most likely use two spaces after punctuation, underline words that should be in italics and put a # where there’s a break.

To deal with this : if you use Word then use the find and replace tool here, Ctrl+f, and put two spaces in the ‘find’ box, and then one space in the ‘replace’ box. Hit replace all.

To deal with the # do the same thing, but put something like *** in the ‘replace’ box. It’s just prettier.

To deal with the underlined text, sorry, but you are going to have to go through it and change it bit by bit. That said, it shouldn’t be a big deal, as there shouldn’t be THAT many italics in your MS.

Also, you should have used the ‘insert new page’ rather than hit enter repeatedly  to start a new chapter.

Now, on to the document as a whole. This is where things get really simple.

1. Select all text, change to 12pt Times (most readers have their own default fonts, so it doesn’t really matter what font you use, but distributors like SmashWords can’t read a font over 18pt, so stick to 10 or 12 pt.

2. If you have used spaces, like 5, for an indent, select the whole text and find and replace those 5 spaces with no space – leave the ‘replace box’ blank. This also applies to double spaces. To remove tabs used for indent you can enter ^t in the ‘find’ box and leave the replace box blank (or see below)

3.This step is for those who have used tabs or autoformat –  Select all text and, in the heading bar of word – it’s beside the size and font bar at the top of the screen and usually reads something like ‘normal’ or ‘heading’ – open the drop down and select ‘clear formatting’ this will remove all double spacing, tabs etc, making your MS single spaced, left indented and looking like shit. Not to worry though, help is at hand.

4. Select all text, click on ‘format’ and then ‘paragraph’ in the ‘special’ box at indent click on ‘left’ and then select the indent of your choice. I usually use 1cm as this doesn’t convert too big on most readers.

5. and this is the boring bit – you need to start at the start of your MS and go through it again, centre justify anything that needs it, such as copyrights, titles, chapter headings and ***

6. You should note that and space greater than 4 line breaks shows up as a blank page on some ereaders, and so Smashwords will not accept them. Make sure you have a check that you haven’t hit enter more than 3 times at any one stage.

7. I also find that making sure you hit enter once or twice after a chapter break, before hitting insert new page, prevents the text from smooshing together on screen.

8. Don’t forget your copyright page. SmashWords also require you to put ‘Smashwords Edition’ on the copyright page, so it would look like:



by An Author

Smashwords Edition

Copyright (c) An Author 2011


For the Kindle edition you can just remove the ‘Smashwords Edition’

And that’s it folks. It should only take you 15 mins or so. Tops.

Have fun, and I’ll update with print and pdf formatting later in the week.


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