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Old 05-13-2012, 11:57 AM   #1
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Smashwords formatting issues with headings, TOC and images

To learn about self publishing and Smashwords formatting I have published a free book to Smashwords, which is already available at the site and is pending review by the vetting team. Although the converted ebook doesn't have any AutoVetter errors and is validated by epubcheck without errors or warnings, it still has some formatting issues. Since I don't have any error reports to start from, and this is my first Smashwords book, I'd appreciate any help and suggestions from experienced Smashwords authors on how to fix them.

I formatted the source manuscript with OpenOffice for Linux trying to follow the Smashwords style guide as closely as possible, and saved it to Microsoft Word 97/2000/XP format. I tested the ePub file converted by Meatgrinder with a Cybook Opus ereader, Aldiko Premium for Android, Lucidor and Calibre for Linux. I tested the Mobi format with a Kindle 3 ereader, Kindle for Android, and Calibre. I also checked the book with Smashwords' web viewer.

The first major issue is that there is an unexpected page break between chapter "1. Background" and section "About Me". The section title is supposed to immediately follow the chapter title. They are on two separate consecutive paragraphs, formatted with the Heading 2 and Heading 3 styles respectively, and linked from the TOC. There are other similar instances of a chapter title followed by a section title and Meatgrinder converted them as I expected, i.e.:

n. Chapter Title
Section Title

In the above mentioned case the outcome is instead:

1. Background
[page break]
About Me

The issue is exhibited by all the ereaders and reading apps I checked the book with. What's the possible problem?

The book includes both the NCX and the linked TOC. When accessing the NCX via the appropriate functionality, the linked TOC in the text is shown by all ereaders and apps except Aldiko, which displays the NCX using a different user interface. Is this the expected behavior? The same readers render the NCX and linked TOC of other books differently.

The linked TOC works with all ereaders and apps except Lucidor and the web viewer, where clicking a linked TOC entry always leads to section "About Me" of chapter "1. Background". This may or may not be related to the above mentioned page break issue.

On both the Kindle ereader and Kindle for Android app, chapter and section headings appear formatted differently depending on whether they are accessed by browsing the book page by page, or directly going to the headings via the TOC. Headings are formatted with the expected styles (e.g. Heading 2 or 3) if accessed by browsing, and with the Normal style and a slightly different color via the TOC. I attach Kindle for Android screenshots showing section heading "Legibility" when accessed via browsing (title-via-browsing.png) and via the TOC (title-via-toc.png).

With OpenOffice I defined a DOC style for image captions based on the Normal style. The caption style uses centered italics text with indented left and right margins. I inserted the book illustrations as per the style guide, and added captions with the appropriate style immediately after the illustrations. The ereaders and apps show a bit too much blank space between images and captions. The OpenOffice screenshot image-and-caption.png shows how this looks like in the manuscript. Is there any way of making them closer? If I remove the centered paragraph separator just below the image, the image disappears.

I originally tried to add the cover inside the book so that it also appeared in the PDF version. But Meatgrinder apparently didn't recognize it. The cover appeared twice in the ePub and Mobi versions. Aldiko overlapped text to one of the cover instances and duplicated other images later in the text with similar overlapping. So I was forced to remove the cover from inside the book. I originally tried to do as explained in the Smashwords FAQ (section "Should I add the cover image inside my book?"), but I was unable to find the OpenOffice functionality equivalent to "Layout" -> "In Line With Text" when right-clicking the image and selecting "Format Picture".

The book text includes some em dashes I inserted from OpenOffice with "Insert" -> "Special characters...". They are correctly displayed by all ereaders and apps except the Opus, which renders them as question marks. I am aware of the preferred way of inserting dashes in Smashwords ebooks. I'm reasonably sure I inserted the character that way with the appropriate code, i.e. 2015. I can't be completely sure because the OpenOffice special character insertion dialog doesn't provide symbol names as Word does.

These are the major formatting issues I found so far.

Last edited by amoroso; 05-13-2012 at 01:30 PM.
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Old 05-13-2012, 03:08 PM   #2
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You could try using Open Office to create an RTF of your book, and then use Calbri to convert it to EPUB and see if the results are similar to what you are getting from Smash. IF they are then you can play around with your source file and see what what happens.

I write in MS Word, so do not know the open office interface well enough to make suggestions beyond. that.
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Old 05-13-2012, 04:15 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VydorScope View Post
You could try using Open Office to create an RTF of your book, and then use Calbri to convert it to EPUB and see if the results are similar to what you are getting from Smash.
Thanks for the suggestion, I have tried this. The chapter and section headings are correctly kept together, but the linked TOC does not work. The RTF -> ePub conversion doesn't preserve images.
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Old 05-13-2012, 04:21 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by amoroso View Post
Thanks for the suggestion, I have tried this. The chapter and section headings are correctly kept together, but the linked TOC does not work. The RTF -> ePub conversion doesn't preserve images.
There is a belief here at MR that is the path that Smash uses for the conversion...

MS Word file run through Open Office to make RTF, the RTF loaded in to Calbri to make EPub, etc.

So the thought is that if you can get that to flow well then it should make it through their scripts.

I know in MS Word I make the TOC work by marking my headings as "Heading 1" and that flows through to the EPUB and MOBI at Smashwords. I do not know what the equiv setting is in Open Office.
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Old 05-13-2012, 05:18 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by VydorScope View Post
I know in MS Word I make the TOC work by marking my headings as "Heading 1" and that flows through to the EPUB and MOBI at Smashwords.
I also used heading styles for chapter and section titles as explained in the Smashwords style guide.
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Old 05-14-2012, 03:08 PM   #6
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I remade the linked TOC from scratch but nothing changed. In particular, the unexpected page break is still there.

Another formatting issue I found is that, regardless of the chosen paragraph separation method, i.e. first line indent or block, Kindle devices and apps always do first line indent. If, like in my case, the book uses the block method, Kindle does both: it separates paragraphs with extra vertical space and indents the first line of each paragraph.

Finally, Aldiko shows the book title and subtitle using the Normal text style. I formatted the title and subtitle with custom styles based on Normal, but Aldiko apparently ignores them.
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Old 05-14-2012, 06:05 PM   #7
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I had an unexpected page break in my first work as well, and it didn't have a TOC. I'm not sure where it came from, only that it was there.
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Old 05-15-2012, 01:20 PM   #8
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I did a few more tweaks but none of the issues was fixed. I guess my best option is to wait for feedback from the vetting team.

I look forward to the day, hopefully before the end of 2012, when Smashwords will let authors upload ePub and other formats.
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Old 05-21-2012, 03:51 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by amoroso View Post
Another formatting issue I found is that, regardless of the chosen paragraph separation method, i.e. first line indent or block, Kindle devices and apps always do first line indent. If, like in my case, the book uses the block method, Kindle does both: it separates paragraphs with extra vertical space and indents the first line of each paragraph.
Given this, I uploaded a new version of the DOC manuscript with first line rather than block indent. I later uploaded a few more versions with extra paragraph separators added at the end of sections to better separate paragraphs. These changes were apparently simple, but somehow the converted book ended up with Aldiko showing duplicate images with overlapping text in the ePub version as described in a previous post.

Now I don't know whether and how to fix this. Meatgrinder is really frustrating.
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Old 06-01-2012, 05:59 PM   #10
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The book was accepted in the Smashwords premium catalog without requests of changes or other feedback.
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