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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Preparing to Smash Words

This post is aimed mostly at writers and editors who want to know fairly easy ways to set up a book to be published by Smashwords, an ebook creator and distributor for authors and publishing companies. So if you're not that interested in writer techy talk, you may want to return to your regularly scheduled activity. If you are, then read on.

The big tip I'm wanting to give involves how to retain the formatting of your book, primarily italics, centering, and bolding. Why is this needed?

Smashwords is picky about the formatting of the text. They want a Word doc file, with the body text in the "Normal" style (Word's default). There are two ways of doing this. One is to mark all your text and change the style to "Normal." Of course, what happens is any chapter headings lose the heading style, which means you'd have to go back through each chapter and reformat it. Not the favorite way to spend thirty minutes to an hour, depending on how many chapters you have.

But that method also sometimes doesn't totally work for them. Word has a way of defeating the purpose of making it all the same text. So the recommended method that will ensure all underlying formatting and text has been changed to "Normal" is to export it as a text file, and then re-import that back into Word.

Problem is, if you do that, you lose all italics and other formatting, which would mean spending who knows how many hours going through your novel and reformatting all the italics and other styles needed. I was faced with that reality when the "select and change to Normal" didn't work for me. There had to be a way to preserve the formatting through the conversion to unformatted text. Yes, I know that sounds silly, but I did find a way.

I'll work on this as if you are using Word (I'm using ver. 2002, outdated, I know, but these instructions should work for most any version). I use Open Office, but eventually for Smashwords you need to create a Word doc file, and for me the search/replace commands are easier to use in Word, so that's where I'll do this formatting once I've written the story, edited it, then I'll export it to Word and do the following. At some point I'll create a macro to do this for me.

The first task is to mark any and all formatted text you want to preserve. For this, I'm assuming your chapter headings are all in a different style from your body text, preferably Header1 as that will tend to automate the process of creating a table of contents in most software, including Word itself, and ebook creation programs. There are search/replace commands you can do to fix that if it isn't, but that's a different post.

The formatting that most books have involve italics, bold (usually titles), and centering. Let's tackle italics first, since that is the most commonly used formatting in a novel.

In the Word document, bring up the "Find/Replace" window. In the menu, click "Edit" and then "Replace." Or alternately click Ctrl-H. When you have that window up, click the "More" button. With the cursor in the "Find what" field, click the "Format" button at the bottom and then select "Styles" from the menu that pops up. Scroll down until you see the style that the body of the text is in. For Word, that would default to "Normal." I have a special style I call "Submission" that I use, so that's what I would select.

Now click the "Format" button again, but this time select "Font." A window will pop up. Only click on the "Italics" in the "Font style" window. Do not select a font or size. Click OK. You will now notice under the "Find what" field that it will look for italicized text in the selected body text style.

Then move your cursor to the "Replace with" field and enter the following:  ~i~^&~/i~

Once entered, click on the "Replace All" button. What should happen if you've set this up right is any italicized text in your document should be surrounded with the ~i~<text>~/i~ coding. You don't have to use this specific character combination, but you want to make it unique enough that you're not likely to match any existing text in your document, because once we're done, you'll need to delete them.

You can then do something similar to search on bold and surround them with ~b~<text>~/b~, or centered text with ~ct~<text>~/ct~, except for centered text, instead of going to "Font" under the "Format" button, you'll go to "Paragraph" and in the "Alignment" drop down box, select "Centered" and click OK without selecting anything else. If you had the font setting in the field, you will need to click the "No Formatting" button first while your cursor is in the "Find what" field, then select your body text style again and then the center format under Paragraphs.

Your chapter titles are a different issue. If you've set them as a different style as you typed your work, setting them up is easy. Clear any formatting in the "Find what" field, and then click the "Format" button and go to "Styles." Find the style of your chapter headings, for example, "Header1." Select it and click OK. Once done, that style should be showing under the "Find what" window as what will be searched for.

In the "Replace what" field, enter:  ~ch~^&~/ch~

Click the "Replace All" button, and all your chapter headings, assuming they are the only text using that style in the document, will be surrounded with the ~ch~<text>~/ch~.

Though few authors are going to have any other formatting they need to save through the text conversion, if you have more, use the same principles to save it.

Now you can save the file into a plain text file using from the menu "File" and "Save as," and selecting in the "Type" drop down box the "Plain Text" option. Once saved, open the file back up in Word. Then click Ctrl-A and select "Normal" from the style drop down box or through the menu at "Format" and "Styles." What you will have is a file of text all in the default Word style, Normal. Just what Smashwords wants, except now we need to replace the formatting.

Open the "Find/Replace" window again. To reconvert the italics, in the "Find what" field, type:  ~i~*~/i~

With your cursor in the "Replace what" field, click on the "Format" button, then select "Font" and in that window select "Italics" and click OK. You'll see italics listed under the "Replace what" field. You shouldn't need to enter anything in the "Replace what" field, but to ensure your italicized text stays put, you can enter: ^&

Before you do anything else, click the box next to "Use wildcards" in the bottom left of the window.

Once you've done all that, click "Replace All" and you'll see all the text, including the coding, converted to italics.

Now you'll need to get rid of the coding. Open the "Find/Replace" window again, clear any formatting and remove the check on the box "Use Wildcards." Then enter first ~i~ in the "Find what" field and nothing in the "Replace what" field. Click "Replace All" and they will disappear. Do the same for the ending code:  ~/i~.

Repeat the process for the others, except all you need to do to the chapter headings is to replace them with the Header1 style. And to speed things up, you may want to do all the converting first, then come back and remove the coding once everything is converted.

Once that is done, edit the Header1 style to be a maximum of 16 pt font size, the maximum Smashwords allows. Then edit the Normal style to put in any paragraph intentions and other formatting specific to paragraphs.

The only other issue left is to go through the file and ensure there are only four maximum lines between the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next chapter heading. I usually put in three to be safe. No easy way to automate that, but it does give you an opportunity as your scrolling through the document to double-check the formatting to ensure nothing odd happened in the find/replaces.

Once done and saved, you should have a file Smashwords will love, and you've retained your formatting. A win-win on both sides!

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