Sunday, March 24, 2013

A New Smashwords Rant

      I always think I have everything down pat whenever I upload a new book to Smashwords, but every time a new problem arises! 
       First-off, I want to complain about their uploading process.  You have to do it all at one time.  If you log out in the middle and then log back in, everything has disappeared (CreateSpace retains whatever you put in if you've hit Save).  So you have to be sure you have plenty of time and hope IE doesn't crash!  So you start by putting in the short description, which has to be 400 characters or less.  I never know how many characters I have and they don't tell you as you type (or sometimes they tell you and sometimes they don't -- I haven't quite figured that out).  So you get to the end and it tells you the short description is too long.  You go back and fix it -- and your text and cover upload disappear and you have to re-enter them!  That's just stupid!
       So you get past that point and you're absolutely sure that the text is perfect this time.  The meatgrinder starts up.  You're #32 in the queue (everybody seems to be uploading on a Saturday morning -- I recommend some other time).  It reaches #30 and sticks there for an interminable (or it seems interminable) amount of time.  Somebody must be uploading a satirical version of the entire Encyclopedia Britannica.  Then it speeds up a little.  Each item -- epub, Kindle, etc. -- proceeds apace.  You're thrilled.  You get to the end, assign the ISBN -- and get that dreaded Autovetter error.  This time it's this:
"Space Bar Error - You are attempting to use space bar spaces (created by the tapping the long space bar at the bottom of your keyboard) to orient text on the page. This is a common error for writers, often mistakenly used either to create indents for the first sentence of a paragraph, or to center text on the page. In most ebook formats, these space bar spaces disappear, rendering your book difficult to read. If you're trying to center something, use Word's "center" button, or better yet see the Style Guide for tips on how to create a custom paragraph style that defines centering. If you're trying to create first line paragraph indents, follow the instructions in the Smashwords Style Guide. To locate the offending spaces, activate Word's "show/hide" feature then do a Search (press the "CTRL" key and the "F" key at the same time) and then search for three spaces (press the space bar on your keyboard three times). Delete all strings of three or more spaces. Also delete any space bar spaces preceding the start of any paragraph. "
       You know what I hate about their messages?  Not only are they verbose -- they're patronizing!  Has anybody out there gotten this far with self-publishing and yet has no idea what a space bar is or what it's used for?  They make you feel like an eight-year-old piano student whose teacher stands over you and raps you on knuckles whenever you hit a wrong note, all the while saying, "Now, now, dear, remember it's wrong to make a mistake!"
       And certainly I am quite aware that using the space bar to paragraph (like I'm doing in this blog post) or for most other purposes is a big, fat no-no in Smashwords.  Smashwords will allow nothing but Paragraph Indent and Centering.  You can't even use No Paragraph (block paragraphs).  So I was swearing and yelling, "I did not use the space bar except where I'm supposed to!"
       Well, of course I did.  I didn't use it for paragraphing, but I did find several places where I had made three spaces when I meant only two.  (Just touched a wrong key there, ma'am -- please don't hit me again!) And then I went through the whole doc. looking for extra spaces at the beginning of paragraphs.  By golly, I found quite a few.  Several double spaces and a whole lot of single spaces.  Some of those are certainly present in the printed book as well, but most of those are so miniscule that unless you took a ruler and laid it on the page against the beginnings of the paragraphs, you would never notice them.  However, in the future I will check that before I even start formatting the CreateSpace template. 
       Now, I was also using *     *     * between chapter sections  (employing the space bar -- what's a space bar, Mommy?) so I redid those as simply *****.  I don't know what editors prefer for section breaks, but I've always used a series of stars.
       But here is what is peculiar.  I rechecked the document I uploaded for The War of the Stolen Mother, and it's got the *     *     * and plenty of extra spaces, including some three-space chunks and extras at the beginning of paragraphs.  And Smashwords never quibbled in the least about that one!  So go figure!  Is it something new they've added?  Is it a matter of a different individual doing the vetting?  I thought Autovetting didn't involve living people. 
       Oh, and one other thing: When I looked at the epub version, I found an NCX error, where I had missed a link to the Facsimile page.  Smashwords didn't catch that one!  Evil laugh -- heh-heh-heh! So I fixed that as a bonus.
       It's all a big mystery!  But my final upload worked and I'm now waiting to be included in the Premium Catalog.  I've had two sample downloads so far.  Hope you enjoy! 
       Rant over!  I feel better for sharing!  And maybe it will help somebody else avoid the same errors.


  1. This was a very educational post since I will be doing my first upload to Smashwords in the near future. I'm going to bookmark this one and refer back before I start, thanks!

    1. I'm glad it was helpful! You might want to look at this particular post on my other blog: Also any post on either blog with a label containing the word Smashwords. And do be sure to download a copy of the Smashwords Styleguide. It's wordy but essential, if you can just winnow the wheat from the chaff.

  2. Thank you for the helpful insights. And winnowing wheat from chaff in the Styleguide speaks to the need for Smashwords to hire a Technical Writer. Will look up all of your articles. Thanks again!

    1. Thanks for visiting! We indies need all the help we can get!