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Old 04-26-2012, 12:17 AM   #1
moffattm
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Smashwords Meatgrinder Formatting

I've just uploaded my first book to Smashwords and I'm a bit disappointed with the formatting job that meatgrinder made of my book (yes, I did slavishly follow the Smashwords Style Guide).

My biggest problem is with bullet point lists and numbered lists.

In the Mobi formatted ebook, when viewed on a Kindle 4, I get a bullet point and then the text for that point appears on the next line. When viewed in Calibre I get the text on the same line as the bullet but it's indented a long way to the right of the bullet point, and if the text wraps to the next line then the second line is not indented to the same position as the line above (instead it is somewhere between the bullet point and the first line). Numbered lists are the same; on the Kindle I get the number and then the text appears indented on the next line down, in Calibre the text is on the same line as the number but indenting is too much.

The PDF and ePub versions show the bullet and numbered lists correctly (ePub viewed in Calibre, haven't tried it on my Kobo yet).

Is it possible to use real lists with meatgrinder or should I use fake lists as suggested here?
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Old 04-26-2012, 07:06 AM   #2
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Not tried a bullet list in Smash... but does the style guide have a section on it? That would be the first place to look for help. Also check around Smash for authors that have books with lists in them and see if their files work. If so could try contacting them.

Hopefully some one here will have a better answer...
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Old 04-26-2012, 08:37 AM   #3
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smashwords and lists

Although Smashwords is great, I've also gone independently with Amazon for Mobi format - their formatting guide is pretty good (but not as good as Smashwords) and at least it is geared up to just Mobi.....I think you'll get the best of both worlds this way....good luck.
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Old 04-26-2012, 09:55 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Janet Merza View Post
Although Smashwords is great, I've also gone independently with Amazon for Mobi format - their formatting guide is pretty good (but not as good as Smashwords) and at least it is geared up to just Mobi.....I think you'll get the best of both worlds this way....good luck.
That is a reasonable option, turn off "mobi" in their conversion for now. They do not currently ship to Amazon , so you will have to publish directly with Amazon regardless.
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Old 04-26-2012, 04:10 PM   #5
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Thanks for your suggestions guys!

No, the Smashwords Style Guide doesn't make a single mention of bullet or numbered lists, and I noticed on their blog that they acknowledge there are problems with converting them.

I've just checked the ePub file on my Kobo and the bullets are way off to the left in the margin, and numbers in numbered lists don't appear at all!

I think the best option is just for me to use straight text and forget about nicely indented lists.
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Old 04-26-2012, 04:58 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by moffattm View Post
Thanks for your suggestions guys!

No, the Smashwords Style Guide doesn't make a single mention of bullet or numbered lists, and I noticed on their blog that they acknowledge there are problems with converting them.

I've just checked the ePub file on my Kobo and the bullets are way off to the left in the margin, and numbers in numbered lists don't appear at all!

I think the best option is just for me to use straight text and forget about nicely indented lists.
You might be able to use a hanging indent to simulate a bullet point. There's also a bullet character (option-8 on a Mac, dunno what the alt code is for a PC) that should be supported. Paste the bullets into a text editor and then see if the various readers support that?
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Old 04-26-2012, 05:05 PM   #7
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Thanks for the suggestion of using a hanging indent, I'll try that.

What's annoying is that I know HTML well and could easily make the ebooks myself, no need for this silly Word -> ebook conversion.

And experimenting with Smashwords is hard because each time you upload a file the ebook gets published immediately! What I'd really like to do is make small one page experiments and see how each one gets converted, but Smashwords makes this difficult.

Are there any other publishers that can get my ebook into the big retailers (Apple, B&N, Kobo, Sony, etc)?
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Old 04-26-2012, 06:39 PM   #8
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You can go direct in to B&N so you do not really need Smashwords for them vai their Pubit program. I am pretty sure the same is true for Apple, but do not know that first had.

The rest... I dont think so.
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Old 04-26-2012, 06:53 PM   #9
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Unfortunately B&N only accept US authors into PubIt, and I'm in New Zealand.

I think what I'll do is put Smashwords on hold and first I'll publish through Amazon's Kindle Select programme, where I have to give them 90 days exclusive rights. Then I'll revisit Smashwords and try converting again but without letting them create a mobi version.
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Old 04-26-2012, 08:56 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by moffattm View Post
Thanks for the suggestion of using a hanging indent, I'll try that.

What's annoying is that I know HTML well and could easily make the ebooks myself, no need for this silly Word -> ebook conversion.

And experimenting with Smashwords is hard because each time you upload a file the ebook gets published immediately! What I'd really like to do is make small one page experiments and see how each one gets converted, but Smashwords makes this difficult.

Are there any other publishers that can get my ebook into the big retailers (Apple, B&N, Kobo, Sony, etc)?
You know modern HTML, but not everyone does. My HTML predates CSS and I'm told most of the old tags like <BR> (which was always easier to use than <P> and </P> ) are deprecated. And then you have people who've never used HTML at all.

The main thing is, the meatgrinder produces consistent results. If you were to start accepting hand-coded epubs, you have no idea what you could end up with. Heaven forbid someone finds a way to embed a virus into one.
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Old 04-26-2012, 09:04 PM   #11
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Please let the powers that be at Smashwords know of your frustration and ask them to please fix it so you can do a direct ePub upload. I'm hoping that the more that get on their case about it, the sooner they'll allow direct ePub uploading.
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Old 04-26-2012, 09:05 PM   #12
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You know modern HTML, but not everyone does. My HTML predates CSS and I'm told most of the old tags like <BR> (which was always easier to use than <P> and </P> ) are deprecated. And then you have people who've never used HTML at all.

The main thing is, the meatgrinder produces consistent results. If you were to start accepting hand-coded epubs, you have no idea what you could end up with. Heaven forbid someone finds a way to embed a virus into one.
You start accepting hand-coded ePub and you could end up with some rather nicely formatted eBooks instead of meatground eBooks.

Bulleted/numbered lists would work for one.
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Old 04-26-2012, 09:53 PM   #13
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You start accepting hand-coded ePub and you could end up with some rather nicely formatted eBooks instead of meatground eBooks.

Bulleted/numbered lists would work for one.
Maybe from a few people on this board. You'd also get a lot of horrible and inconsistent code.
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Old 04-26-2012, 10:12 PM   #14
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Maybe from a few people on this board. You'd also get a lot of horrible and inconsistent code.
Exactly. Smashwords target base is not people of your skill JSWolf, it is the average writer that knows how to write in MS Word, and nothing about epub code. The tech support of opening up formats would be a nightmare for them, and they are already WAY behind in that area under the load they currently have.

I for one rather them focus on getting their current processes dialed in before they even think about that mess.
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Old 04-27-2012, 03:49 AM   #15
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I am not certain I follow the logic behind Smashwords - but note that I am looking at this as a total outsider (so far). Let me see if I have this straight...

The writer writes their novel (or whatever) using Word (or whatever) and is careful to get everything exactly as the writer wants it to be - perhaps exporting out to epub (or whatever) every now and then to see if it is all working.

Then, when everything is done and is looking just right, the writer is supposed to strip out all that careful formatting (smart-quotes, em-dash, bullet points, etc. etc.) and upload this essentially plain text file up to Smashwords.

Smashwords will then, if the few examples I've found are anything to go by, execute an automatic process that puts some of your original formatting (smart-quotes etc. etc.) back in to the final document.

The main difference between the writer's original epub and the smashwords' epub is that the original was carefully crafted for a specific result, while the second is automatically generated based on some fixed set of, one-size fits everyone, rules.

I have a little difficulty seeing that a writer supplied epub (which is probably produced using a software automation process rather than hand-coded, and so the format is likely to be highly consistent), could possibly produce a worse result than the tortuous process already in place. If they can already parse Word documents to reject all those things they don't like, it doesn't seem like it should be beyond them to reject epubs that don't fit within some reasonable criteria.
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