Creating Smashwords Ebooks with LibreOffice: 2) Adding Your Content

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This is the second post in the Madrid Writers Club series Creating Smashwords Ebooks with LibreOffice. If you haven’t already, check out the previous post: 1) Setting up your template.

Last post we downloaded the Smashwords Template file and saved it in ODT format.

This post we’re focussing on adding your content to the ebook template.

Woah There! Where are the invisible elves!?

Okay. So here is the most important step of the entire ebook creation process.

Turn on the Nonprinting characters!

Do this by going to “View > Nonprinting characters”

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See those little symbols that appear?

Those are the “invisible elves” of word processing – the nonprinting characters.

Let’s get this straight. We’re no longer thinking about this document as a word processor. Now it’s an “ebook layout program”, and keeping track of those characters is vital to having the ebook display correctly.

You need to keep control over the invisible elves in your ebook. There should be no more spaces than are absolutely necessary.

Splitting Your Ebook into Sections

Okay, first things first. Let’s get your ebook sections set up.

For this tutorial, I’m going to make a simplified ebook with five different sections. Sections 3 and 4 are the “meat” of the book – self-contained short stories, just like we did with our recent anthology. You can just as easily make these the chapters of your book.

Example sections

  1. Table of Contents
  2. Introduction
  3. Story 1
  4. Story 2
  5. Author Bios

It’s up to you how you split up your book.

You should currently have 2 pages in your ebook: the Title page and the Table of Contents page. If not, follow the instructions in the last post.

Under the title “Table of Contents”, write the names of your sections.

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Don’t worry about the strange indentation… yet.

Don’t Change the Font!!! – The Importance of Styles and Formatting

Unlike in “normal” word processing, where you can just change the font whenever you feel like it, Smashwords ebooks rely on “Styles” for their formatting.

Every differently formatted element in your ebook should have a different custom style.

You open the Styles and Formatting window by selecting “Format > Styles and Formatting”

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In addtion to the styles which come packaged with LibreOffice itself, the template provides these styles:

  • CustomHead – This style is used for the title of your book sections/chapters.
  • NoIndent – This style is used for the first paragraph of text.
  • Normal – This style will be used by most of the document
  • Centeredtext – This style is used where you want centre aligned text.

Now, select one of your section headings and set its style to CustomHead by double-clicking. This should make the text jump to a new page and change its formatting to become a title.

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Great! Now do the same for all the other section titles.

How to change the style properly

But, what if you don’t like the font or size?……Don’t change the font!!!

To change the appearance of your title, instead right-click on the CustomHead style in the Styles and Formatting panel and select “Modify”.

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Then go to the “Font” tab….. Now you can change the font!

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There you can change the appearance of all of the titles at the same time.

Remember to only use a font that is compatible with Smashwords: Times New Roman, Garamond, or Arial.

Why You Should Ignore Font for Reflowable Ebooks

One of the biggest differences with reflowable ebooks and print books is that you have very little control over what font the reader uses to display your book. This is because most ebook readers provide the option of changing the font family, size, borders and just about anything else.

Don’t get hung up on fonts. Instead, just pick a simple one and direct your attentions to the content and all the things I’m talking about here.

It’s time to enter your content.

Finally, the last thing we’ll cover in this post is how to add your text into the ebook format.

This is easy:

  1. Go to whatever word processing program you have your text in.
  2. Select the text for one chapter and copy it (right click “copy” or “Ctrl-C”)
  3. Go back into LibreOffice
  4. Place your cursor in the line directly under the title of the section.

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  1. Go to “Edit > Paste Special” or press “Ctrl-Shift-V”

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  1. Choose Unformatted Text and hit OK.

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Finally, make sure that all of the first paragraphs in the section have the NoIndent style and that all other paragraphs have the Default Style.

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That’s it really. You will probably have to clean up the text a little bit and remove random new lines, such as the one circled in red in the above image.

Only leave extra spaces if they are necessary to the story (such as jumping narrative to another point of view). Don’t add spaces for readability, because it’s not going to look like this in an ereader.

Until next time…

So, now you can add all your text to the ebook.

To recap, in this post we’ve:

  1. Turned on the “invisible elves” of ebook creation, the non-printing characters
  2. Split our book into sections
  3. Learned about Styles and Formatting, and applied them to our text

Next post we’ll add images!

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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