Oh, Smashwords, how I wish I could smash you. Such an annoying site! Gah. I shouldn’t complain, you get what you pay for, and since I’m paying nothing at the moment, I’m getting what I deserve. But I just uploaded my fourth version of Ghosts, trying to make it past their review cycle so they will distribute it. This morning, the note said, “requires modification” and an empty box with a single bullet let me know what the modification needed was. Do you suppose it meant add bullet points? Because my text doesn’t really support lists. Or maybe it was complaining about my punctuation? It’s not exactly a lot of info to go on. If it turns out in the end that they insist you include their ridiculous and insulting licensing statement, I’m going it alone. I refuse to tell my readers that they’re not allowed to loan the book or guilt trip people who are reading it on their sister’s Kindle. Plus, I’m finding the process so ridiculously inefficient that I don’t even want them to have the 20% of nothing that they’re currently getting.

That rant over, here are the simple instructions for formatting a file for Smashwords. They insist you read a 72-page PDF to learn this, but if you have a straightforward fiction book with basic needs, all you need to know is the following:

Smashwords Instructions

Your file must be a Microsoft Word .doc file (not .docx).

Starting tips: Use Tools > Options > View > Formatting marks > All to see Word’s hidden codes, and turn off AutoCorrect and Autoformat to avoid Word helpfully screwing up your formatting.

Rule One: Do not use tabs, more than one paragraph return between paragraphs, headers, footers, automatic page numbers, H1 style on more than a single line, chapter breaks, page breaks, section breaks, or more than 4 paragraph returns in a row. If you need to know why not, go read the 72-page PDF.

Format the entire document using Normal style

In the Home toolbar, right-click the Normal style and choose Modify. In the dialog box that opens, use the following settings:

  1. Under Formatting, choose Times New Roman, Garamond or Arial, at a size of 11 or 12.
  2. Click the Format drop-down menu (in the bottom left of the dialog) and choose Paragraph.
  • Under General, leave the Alignment on Left and the Outline Level on Body Text. In the Indentation section, set the Special menu to First Line and the indent to .25 or .3”.
  • Set Line Spacing to Single or 1.5.
  • All other numbers fields should be set to 0. Don’t use before or after spaces, right or left indentation, or tabs, or any of the other line spacing options.

Format chapter titles with Heading 1

Modify the Heading 1 style using the following settings:

  • Fonts: Use Times New Roman, Garamond or Arial, at a size of 12 or 14. (Note: never use a font size larger than 14 anywhere in your document.)
  • Alignment: Can be centered.
  • Before and After spacing is set at default to 24 and 12pt: leave as is.

Create a Centered style for formatting front matter (the cover and copyright page) and/or *** separators

Create a new style based on Normal. (Open the Styles dialog and choose the New Style button. In the paragraph window, change the alignment to center. Remove the first line indentation, by setting Special to none.) Apply the style to the text you wish centered.

Navigational Control for XML (aka the NCX file) or Table of Contents (TOC)

Creating a table of contents is worth doing; readers like it and some resellers (Kobo and Apple) either require it or prefer it. The simplest method at Smashwords is to start your chapter names with “Chapter.” The automated software will then create the TOC for you. For more control, you can create a linked Table of Contents.

  1. Type out your Table of Contents. (Don’t use Word’s auto-generate feature; it doesn’t translate.) Use Normal or Centered style, not a heading style.
  2. At the beginning of each chapter in the text, highlight the chapter name, choose Insert > Bookmark and name the bookmark appropriately. (No spaces allowed, and do not use Word’s auto-generated H1 bookmarks.)
  3. In your table of contents, highlight an element name, ie Chapter One, right-click and choose Hyperlink from the contextual menu. In the Insert Hyperlink dialog box, choose Place in This Document. In the text box, select the appropriate bookmark. DO NOT use Word’s auto-generated names.
  4. Repeat for all elements.
  5. If desired, link the chapters back to the Table of Contents. In your table of contents, highlight the words “Table of Contents” and add a bookmark with the name “ref_TOC”. Then highlight the chapter name (in the body of the text, not the TOC), and insert a hyperlink that links to “ref_TOC”. Do this for each chapter.
  6. Test every link. Click (or Ctrl-click, depending on your version of Word) and make sure they all work.
  7. Clean up after Word! In the Insert Bookmark dialog, click the checkbox beside “Hidden Bookmarks” and look for bookmarks that are nonsensical and start with an underline. Delete them.

Front Matter Creation

On the first page of your book, insert a title and copyright page. Center it, using the centered style. It should read:


By Author Name

Smashwords Edition

Copyright Year Author Name

Smashwords Edition, License Notes (PDF says “encouraged” but this may be required. It was the only thing I could see that I might have done wrong on my third pass, except possibly having two H1s in a row. We’ll see if it passes from me changing the H1s.)

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


And that’s it. All the rest of the 72 pages is relevant for complicated files, repetition, background, or ways of making the straightforward confusing.