Creating Smashwords Ebooks with LibreOffice: 1) Setting Up Your Template

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Do you want to make a perfect ebook for Smashwords without having to buy Microsoft Word?

Perhaps you just want a free, step-by-step guide to making a rocking ebook which will work with Smashwords “Meatgrinder”?

Well step right up! This blog series is for you.

Earlier this year, we at the Madrid Writers Club released our first Anthology (woohoo!). You can find it here.

We created it using the open source word processor LibreOffice, which is both completely free and also runs on Mac, Windows and Linux. Unlike when using Microsoft Word, by using LibreOffice the ebook-making process on Mac or Linux will be exactly the same as it will for Windows. This makes things a whole lot easier.

If you don’t already have it, download a copy of LibreOffice right now, from this link, and install it on your computer.

Over this series of 5 posts, we’re going to give you a straightforward, simple guide to using this great free software to make brilliant, reflowable ebooks using Smashwords.

The Smashwords Meatgrinder

Okay, so here’s a quick lowdown on ebooks. There are a huge amount of different ebook formats. All of the different online vendors (Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Smashwords, etc) have different ideas about how the ebook format should be.

In practice, what this means is that if you want to publish to Smashwords, you have to format your book exactly how Smashwords needs it.

Sure, there is such a thing as an “industry standard” EPUB file, which (theoretically) should work on all e-readers and online stores. However, although Smashwords does accept EPUB 2.0 files, if you want your book to be sold in all of the available formats you have to provide your ebook in .doc format.

I know, it’s a pain, especially if you have already made your ebook in EPUB format. I’ll try to make the process as painless as possible.

Downloading the template

Smashwords formatting guidelines are well documented in the Smashwords Style Guide, which you can pick up free here. It’s pretty good, but it’s also 117 pages long! Ain’t nobody got no time for that!

Their template itself also has loads of useful information inside it, including all the most important information from the Style Guide.

So, the first thing you should do is download the Smashwords Template from here.

But! It’s designed for Microsoft Word…. but no bother, LibreOffice can handle it just fine.

Saving the template

The next thing you need to do is save the template in LibreOffice’s ODT format.

So just open up the file in LibreOffice Writer:

libreoffice_1_1

and “File > Save As” to wherever you want to save it, making sure to pick “ODF Text Document (.odt)(*.odt)” as the file type.

libreoffice_1_2

Now, technically you don’t have to use ODT file format at all. You could always just save the document as a DOC and everything would probably work fine.

However, I recommend keeping your working copy in ODT format because if your file ever becomes corrupted it will be easier to rescue data from the broken file. We hope that won’t happen, but it’s better to be safe than end up with egg on your face.

Until next time…..

So, that’s it for this post.

Just to recap, here’s what we’ve done:

  1. Downloaded and installed LibreOffice
  2. Downloaded the Smashwords Template .doc file
  3. Saved it as a .odt file.

Now, I would recommend that you have a little read through the template itself. It’s quite short and has some useful information.

Don’t try to follow the instructions inside the template exactly because, as I say, it’s designed to be used with Microsoft Word.

Your first task: When you’ve read the template, drag-select everything above the words “Book Title Goes Here” and delete it. Then do the same for everything below the words “Table of Contents” and delete it too. Then go to “File > Save As” and save your ebook under whatever name you like, e.g. MyBook.odt

Next time we’ll be focussing on getting your book information inside the template. See you then!

About Alex Owen-Hill

Alex is a freelance writer of non-fiction articles on various subjects, including gastronomy, technology, science, language learning and creativity. He joined the Madrid Writer's Club right back when it was born, and is thrilled how it's grown. In his spare time he is a short film maker, amateur cook and musician. He also has a PhD in robotics, but we don't talk about that.

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