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Old 04-27-2012, 04:14 AM   #16
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Let me step aside from the discussion about hand crafted ePub versus the Meatgrinder. I've put several hand crafted ePub books on the MobileRead library, but my daughter wanted me to format one of her short stories for Smashwords. It's quite a simple short story - free at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/154042 - but we both would like to have the story text start on a new page and have the acknowledgements start on a new page.

I've read and re-read the manual, but can't see how this can be done. Can anyone tell me how to do it? Or where to go to find out?

Last edited by AlexBell; 04-27-2012 at 04:16 AM. Reason: Made my wish to not get involved in the argument clearer
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Old 04-27-2012, 06:20 AM   #17
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Alex,

At Smash, you just use the "insert page break" feature of MS Word, and when the EPub is generated, the page break is there.
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Old 04-27-2012, 06:27 AM   #18
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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.

No, not exactly. For most books the process is...

1) Type up your book in MS word sticking to the older .DOC file type not the new DOCX one. Use italics, bold, page breaks, tabs, etc. (except bullets apparently), all are fine.

2) Take your .DOC Word Doc up load it to Smash

3) Wait like 10 mins for it to be automatically converted to every major ebook format for you.


That is it. Most authors I have talked with do just that and their books look fine on my Nook, or in my Kindle apps.

As with anything, Smash build a process that fits the majority of the cases, and edge cases suffer. If you follow their style guide not only will you get good results with them, but that same style guide works to get you good results with the automatic conversion at Amazon, and elsewhere.
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Old 04-27-2012, 06:55 AM   #19
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For straight fiction Smashwords is fine, but not so good for non-fiction which may include lists, tables, etc.
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Old 04-27-2012, 08:51 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gmw View Post
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.
That assumes you did all that in the first place. I write in unformatted .txt so it doesn't stat looking pretty until I apply the style sheet in LibreOffice. I don't have to spend hours stripping out text boxes and other nonesuch, and "the nuclear method" is simply re-importing everything from the original .txt files instead of doing a long copy-pasta that might get truncated.

Quote:
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.
Using style sheets to apply formatting is a more consistent way of doing it, provided you remember to actually use the style sheet. I don't see much of a reason to not use it, aside from sheer laziness. Sure you can't add a lot of frills- I'd love to be able to use some of the Unicode dingbats for dividers instead of the usual * * * or # # # , but that's more a limitation of the readers themselves instead of the epub or meatgrinder.

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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.
As I've said, that implies that the writer is capable of crafting their own epub. I doubt most colleges' creative writing programs have the inclination to devote a section to writing CSS HTML, and Creative Writing majors aren't allowed into those classes anyway because of degree restrictions and course prerequisites. What most authors do know is Word, even if they don't have any formal training in it.
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Old 04-27-2012, 10:07 AM   #21
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That assumes you did all that in the first place. I write in unformatted .txt so it doesn't stat looking pretty until I apply the style sheet in LibreOffice. I don't have to spend hours stripping out text boxes and other nonesuch, and "the nuclear method" is simply re-importing everything from the original .txt files instead of doing a long copy-pasta that might get truncated.

I could not imagine typing a 100k word piece in that way. The spell checking alone would be a nightmare for me. I have set up my template in MS Word to Smashwords style guide, and I just type right in that and make sure I save as .doc. That includes the formatting for chapters headings so that Meatgrinder turns out working TOC's and all that. My files make it through first try, no errors. I assume LibreOffice can do the same.

Not ever tried a bulleted list though.. might someday just to see the issue first hand.
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Old 04-27-2012, 11:44 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by VydorScope View Post
[...]That is it. Most authors I have talked with do just that and their books look fine on my Nook, or in my Kindle apps.

As with anything, Smash build a process that fits the majority of the cases, and edge cases suffer. If you follow their style guide not only will you get good results with them, but that same style guide works to get you good results with the automatic conversion at Amazon, and elsewhere.
The few examples I looked at up on smashwords appeared as if they had generated smart-quotes from the source-text (which was not allowed to use them itself). Is this correct? If so, are you telling me that they get this 100% correct all the time? I have, just occasionally, very deliberately quoted dialogue and OpenOffice sometimes gets it wrong and I have to force what I wanted. How do you deal with such issues using the grinder?
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Old 04-27-2012, 11:55 AM   #23
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[...]As I've said, that implies that the writer is capable of crafting their own epub. I doubt most colleges' creative writing programs have the inclination to devote a section to writing CSS HTML, and Creative Writing majors aren't allowed into those classes anyway because of degree restrictions and course prerequisites. What most authors do know is Word, even if they don't have any formal training in it.
I don't have anything too fancy in my writing, so removing the bits Smashwords doesn't like (if I ever decide to try them out) looks like it should be pretty simple for me: a quick macro and everything done in a minute or two. Removing stuff is easy, putting it all back in - correctly - is much harder, and so I am much less confident that Smashwords can exactly recreate what I went to a lot of trouble to create in the first place.

I am not sure why you are insisting on hand-crafted epubs. I find that Writer2xhtml (google Writer2Latex) creates reasonable epubs from my OpenOffice files. There are other options too. The only hand-crafting may be a few meta-data things later - the sort of thing than sigil could help with. None of this seems too far out of reach of most people capable of using a word-processor.
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Old 04-27-2012, 11:57 AM   #24
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I could not imagine typing a 100k word piece in that way. The spell checking alone would be a nightmare for me. I have set up my template in MS Word to Smashwords style guide, and I just type right in that and make sure I save as .doc. That includes the formatting for chapters headings so that Meatgrinder turns out working TOC's and all that. My files make it through first try, no errors. I assume LibreOffice can do the same.

Not ever tried a bulleted list though.. might someday just to see the issue first hand.
Geany and Kate both have spell checking.
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Old 04-27-2012, 02:29 PM   #25
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The few examples I looked at up on smashwords appeared as if they had generated smart-quotes from the source-text (which was not allowed to use them itself). Is this correct? If so, are you telling me that they get this 100% correct all the time? I have, just occasionally, very deliberately quoted dialogue and OpenOffice sometimes gets it wrong and I have to force what I wanted. How do you deal with such issues using the grinder?

Again, the grinder is built to handle the majority case, not the edges. So I am sure you can come up with example after example that will not work, heck my first doc did not work at all.

They are successful by only addressing the core case, and pushing the core case through their process and out to the stores. It works for most authors most of the time, and that really is the best you can hopeful in an automated situation.

I do not work for them, nor speak for them, but my assumption is that they weighed adding the complexity and support costs of more formats against what value it would bring their business and decided against it.
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Old 04-27-2012, 02:58 PM   #26
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One other issue with the meatgrinder is Unicode. You see, if Smashwords allowed direct ePub upload, you'd be able to embed fonts and not have to worry what the default fonts support or don't. The problem is that different readers default fonts can be different in Unicode support. So embedding is the solution for ePub. But Smashwords can't have embedded fonts because they meatgrind Word documents.

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Old 04-27-2012, 04:15 PM   #27
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One other issue with the meatgrinder is Unicode. You see, if Smashwords allowed direct ePub upload, you'd be able to embed fonts and not have to worry what the default fonts support or don't. The problem is that different readers default fonts can be different in Unicode support. So embedding is the solution for ePub. But Smashwords can't have embedded fonts because they meatgrind Word documents.
Or hardware developers could actually support Unicode, instead of doing the whole "we ignore standards" thing that's so popular these days.
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Old 04-27-2012, 09:22 PM   #28
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There seems to be some cross-purposes discussion going on here - it's not real disagreement, just ... just varying priorities?

Smashwords may have a great automation system that works most of the time - or perhaps one that people have learned to work within. None of that denies the fact that the use of one-size-fits-all automation is always going to have some "edge" cases. One of the problems with such systems is that, as an outsider, you don't know if you're an edge case until your book turns out wrong (hence that separate thread looking to testdrive Smashwords).

One way to avoid many of these edge cases - which will probably exist regardless of how clever they make their automation - is to support something like epub directly, even if that means that there are some limitations imposed on what they do with it (what they convert to etc.). It seems like an obvious, and fairly easy, thing to do, so I'm guessing there's some reputation covering stuff involved in why they don't: by forcing everything through the same grinder they limit how the system can be abused, and so limit how they can be blamed for poor products (blame from either end). But they might find that such a reluctance to look ahead will backfire on them in the long term.
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Old 04-27-2012, 09:39 PM   #29
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One way to avoid many of these edge cases - which will probably exist regardless of how clever they make their automation - is to support something like epub directly, even if that means that there are some limitations imposed on what they do with it (what they convert to etc.). It seems like an obvious, and fairly easy, thing to do, so I'm guessing there's some reputation covering stuff involved in why they don't: by forcing everything through the same grinder they limit how the system can be abused, and so limit how they can be blamed for poor products (blame from either end). But they might find that such a reluctance to look ahead will backfire on them in the long term.
I believe you would have just as many, possibly more, edge cases with EPUB, or MOBI, or whatever format you pick. They will likely be different edge cases, but I do not think they would be any less bad.

Part of it maybe to do all the conversions the need to do for all the stores they send to, .doc might be the lowest common format to use. Unless some rep from Smash comes here and tells us why they choose to standardize around DOC, I can only guess.

No one disagrees that a "one size fits all" really never does fit all. The point really is that they needed to standardize on something to keep support and complexity down, and they chose DOC. Why? I would guess because everyone knows word docs, and they are a much wider standard then EPUB or MOBI. But thats just a guess.
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Old 04-27-2012, 10:02 PM   #30
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But they might find that such a reluctance to look ahead will backfire on them in the long term.
It backfires on them now. Because of the meatgrinder, I do not purchase eBooks from Smashwords. I won't until they allow direct ePub upload and they label new books as uploaded or meatground.
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