All Paragraphs Are Not Created Equal

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You ABSOLUTELY CAN NOT use tabs in your Smashwords document.  Can’t do it.  Meatgrinder will puree your document and your readers will be wrinkling their noses at your epub saying, “This guy has NO idea how to format an ebook…”

Also, do you really want your paragraphs to have a space between them rather than an indent?  In my humble opinion, that’s not really professional looking.  When I’m devouring a traditionally published, paperback novel there aren’t spaces between the paragraphs.  Just sayin’.

Here is exactly how I format my paragraphs.  It is time consuming, particularly if you’re working a 180,000 word novel, but the more practice you get at doing it, the faster you’ll become.  Grab a shot of whiskey or eight, you’ll need them.

You will have to do this one scene at a time so as not to add the indent to your chapter headings or section (****) breaks.  The alternative is adding the paragraph style to the entire document and having to go back and take out the first line indent on every chapter heading or section break.  I know what I prefer.

Highlight the first scene.  Right click inside your highlighting and go to “Paragraph”.

You’ll have your little paragraph box up.  You want it to look like this:

Make sure there is never anything in the AT: box.  Ever.  I always do .25 for my first line indent because I think it looks best, but Mark says you can go up to .5.  Consider the size of your average ereader screen.  You don’t want the indent taking up half the line, so .25 is a good compromise.

Continue in this vein through your entire document, adding your paragraph specifications.  Again, you could do it all at once, yeah—if you want to go back and have to take that first line indent out of every chapter heading and section (***) break and copyright parts, etc. etc.  Look at it this way, this is a great time to scan for errors.

At this time, you also want to have your epub or original word processor document open so you can return your italics to your document (remember, the nuclear method ate them).  Just highlight what should be italicized and push your SWitalics style button.  Don’t use the italics button from up in the tool bar of Word, they’ll get lost in the Meatgrinder.

Finally, you’ll also center your section breaks as you come across them by highlighting the asterisks and choosing your SWcentered style.

finished paragraphs

That’s it, people.  You have officially created a Smashwords-worthy document.  I don’t claim to be an expert, but I can claim to have a good track record with my own uploads.  Take these posts for what they’re worth; an easy outline for someone who wants a professional looking ebook in the ether.  Enjoy, and good luck in the wonderful world of indie publishing :)

(FINAL NOTE, courtesy of my friend author Larry D. Marshall–if you turn off your autocorrect for good and use the styles as you’re writing the document, you can bypass the nuclear method and just tweak it.  I’m OCD and start a completely new document for my Smashwords ebook because my original document ends up being a mess, no matter what.  If you have the mind to use the styles as you’re writing the book, then you’re set :))

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them and I will attempt to respond promptly with either an answer or perfectly crafted bullsh**.  I’m not an expert!

If you’re looking for ebook formatting tips for files OTHER than those used at Smashwords, let me refer you to ebook god Guido Henkel and his nine part series on crafting the perfect ebook.

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I did these blog posts out of the goodness of my own heart.

(And because everyone I know bitches about Smashwords formatting.)

If they were helpful to you, please consider purchasing one of my novels.

Supporting other indies is crucial to all of our success :)