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Smashwords Style Guide

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

Easy to understand.

I'm an aspiring author myself, and I was a bit intimidated about creating an eBook--would I get the formatting right so that it's easy to read? How do I separate chapters? Can I use links? Mark answers all of these questions and many more in a very down-to-earth, easy-t...
I'm an aspiring author myself, and I was a bit intimidated about creating an eBook--would I get the formatting right so that it's easy to read? How do I separate chapters? Can I use links? Mark answers all of these questions and many more in a very down-to-earth, easy-to-read format. Mark, thank you for the easy read!

posted by kitykity on May 14, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

This review is for revision 6.16.12 of "Smashwords Style Gu

This review is for revision 6.16.12 of "Smashwords Style Guide" as released through Barnes & Noble for the Nook.

I appreciate the efforts that Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords and author of this book, has made to make ebook publishing accessible for self...
This review is for revision 6.16.12 of "Smashwords Style Guide" as released through Barnes & Noble for the Nook.

I appreciate the efforts that Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords and author of this book, has made to make ebook publishing accessible for self-publishers via a generic word processing program like Microsoft Word. The content of the book was very good regarding the steps necessary to create a Word document that is compatible with the author's Meatgrinder ebook converter (the program used by Smashwords to convert an author/publisher's Word file into the various ebook files used by the various e-reader platforms).

Unfortunately, Mark's overall approach is flawed because it takes a hostile view of reflowable ebook graphic design that can be summarized as: don't attempt it. In fact, very little attempt seems to have been made with the graphic design of the text of this book. Its layout and general appearance is, in my opinion, very poor and serves as a bad example to a new self-publisher looking for guidance. Plus, most of the samples provided in the book exhibit equally poor layout.

What the author seems _not_ to understand is that the reader of a reflowable ebook ONLY has control of overall or general settings. They can control the "tightness" (perimeter margin, line spacing), scale (font size), font (in some e-readers), orientation (portrait vs landscape), and color (background color, brightness).

What seems to have been missed is that the author/publisher still holds the majority of the control of and responsibility for the graphic design of the text layout of the ebook. This is because they control nearly all of the relationships of the elements in the book to each other. If implemented correctly as proportionally scalable attributes (hint: use "em" units), a layout can be created that is both beautiful, easy-to-read, and these benefits can survive reflow across a wide range of e-reader display sizes and shapes.

I'm not talking about trying to make an ebook look identical to a printed book—that would be an obvious mistake because the graphic design must fit the medium. But most ebook authors and publishers who follow the approach presented in this book will probably produce an inferior product.

What "Smashwords Style Guide" does is instruct the author/publisher how to prepare a Microsoft Word file for conversion by Smashword's Meatgrinder ebook converter. As such, it focuses primarly on the technical aspects. Graphic design, layout, and typography are discouraged and omitted. An author/publisher may successfully convert their Word document into an ebook but it will probably look ugly and have poor readability unless it employs the most simple layout possible.

I apologize if it appears that I'm singling out Mark here—I do not intend to. I'm just explaining why I believe this book misses some very important concepts. The truth is, most ebooks have been published with poor layouts and the fault lies with the author and/or publisher—not a distributor like Mark. In many cases—especially with unskilled and/or untrained self-publishers—it is simply a matter of the author/publisher doesn't know what they don't know. And that's where I believe Mark missed a huge opportunity to help educate them.

We're still in the relative "early" days of ebook publishing and we lack easy-to-use wysiwyg tools that can produce professional-quality ready-to-publish output. My advice at this point in time is to stay away from the automated converters like Meatgrinder. If you want to produce a truly world-class reflowable ebook, you will need to move beyond a word processor program and learn the fundamentals of good layout, learn to program html, css and xml and produce your own ready-to-publish epub files. Once you do, it is easy to convert to other formats like mobi with professional quality.

Finally, I would like to close with a comment about digital rights management (DRM). "Smashwords Style Guide" advocates the avoidance of DRM. It espouses the philosophy that an author's/publisher's greatest problem is obscurity—not piracy. While I agree with this in principal, I believe Mark's advice is shortsighted because it fails to consider the legal ramifications of not using DRM when it is available. If your work is stolen and you have not taken all reasonable measures to protect it (such as using DRM), then you may be very limited in the amount of damages you can be awarded if you win your case. The decision is yours but you should be aware that the advice in this book is incomplete.

posted by eB00k on December 14, 2012

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  • Posted May 14, 2010

    Easy to understand.

    I'm an aspiring author myself, and I was a bit intimidated about creating an eBook--would I get the formatting right so that it's easy to read? How do I separate chapters? Can I use links? Mark answers all of these questions and many more in a very down-to-earth, easy-to-read format. Mark, thank you for the easy read!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 22, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    If you're about to set out on a journey to be the next best e-book author, you need to read this book!

    What an amazing piece of literary heart! I am truely pleased to see someone go through such painstakingly monotonous procedures to ensure the quality of readable material available. I am so looking forward to having my chance at finishing my manuscript and applying Mr. Coker's expert advice to my masterpiece. I love the passion that exudes from this book, it is so apparent that Mr. Coker enjoy's writing and loves to see written word in its most perfect form. He allows an uneducated wannabe the chance to become an uneducated/educated someone. I appreciate the quality and dedication and will refer any and all of my fellow key tappers to his literary gold mine.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2012

    Superb!

    This was an excellent book! I'm working on a book, and this showed me how to format it so that it will be successful! Highly recommended!!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 14, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Best book ever is you are thinking of self publishing

    This book offer easy to follow instructions. It is a must read! And it is free!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 12, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Who knew it was so complicated?

    I read a lot of Smashwords books, and am sometimes frustrated with the frequent spelling and grammatical errors. Besides being talented enough to actually write these books, these brave people have to jump through so many hoops to "rewrite" them in order to pass the electronics eyes of the software that makes a book digestible for so many e-formats. Even if I could write a book, I doubt I would ever be able to format it to these guidelines. Many thanks to the authors who do.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2014

    Thank you PyroCreeperBookworm!

    This helps a lot! ~LinaD14~

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2013

    Very helpful

    This is a must read to publish on smashwords. It takes you step by step like an idiot's guide.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2012

    Great

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  • Posted March 24, 2011

    awesome

    wowww

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  • Posted February 3, 2011

    Works!

    Maybe i will publish a book so i can be ebook famous! This is a awsome guide. Give it a 5 please!

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    Posted January 22, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted August 3, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted March 16, 2013

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    Posted August 4, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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