Smashwords Direct

Overview

The Smashwords Direct feature allows you to upload your own professionally designed .epub file to Smashwords.  You can use Smashwords Direct to replace a Smashwords-generated .epub with your own EPUB file, or you can use it when uploading a new title (simply upload the EPUB rather than an MS Word DOC file).  We support direct upload of both EPUB2 and EPUB3 files.

If your book is already distributed via the Smashwords Premium Catalog, your direct-uploaded .epub, once approved by the Smashwords vetting team, will automatically ship out to the retail partners you have selected in your Dashboard's Channel Manager.  If for some reason your new .epub doesn't meet the Premium Catalog requirements (such as 100% Epubcheck compliance) outlined in the Smashwords Style Guide, your previously approved Smashwords-generated .epub will remain in distribution until your custom .epub is ready to replace it.

Should You Upload a Word .doc or an .Epub?

Most Smashwords authors and publishers are usually best-served by uploading Word .doc files.  Please carefully study the information below before making the decision to upload a custom .epub file using the Smashwords Direct option.

Despite the ability to upload custom epub files, the vast majority of Smashwords authors and publishers choose to upload Word .doc files.  They do this to take advantage of Meatgrinder, our automated conversion technology.  Meatgrinder generates high-quality multi-format ebooks. With a single Word .doc upload, Smashwords can create multiple file formats including .epub, .mobi for Kindles, PDF, plain text and HTML.  This makes it possible for customers of the Smashwords Store to purchase the book once and enjoy it on any of their devices.

Meatgrinder is fast, free and flexible, making it easy to update and maintain your books.  Meatgrinder works best for straight narrative books (fiction, narrative non-fiction) and books that are mostly narrative with some images.  In other words, Meatgrinder works great for about 95% of what readers are purchasing at online bookstores.  Also, unknown to many writers, Meatgrinder automatically repairs many common but pesky formatting and EpubCheck compliance errors that can prevent books from being listed at retailers.

Despite the advantages of uploading your manuscript as a Word .doc, there are some instances in which a custom-designed .epub file, supplied by the author or publisher, is a good option.  Possibly the author or publisher may not use Microsoft Word or some other word processor as part of their book production workflow.  Possibly it simplifies their workflow to use a similar .epub file across multiple distribution channels.  Maybe the author is technically sophisticated, as many of our authors are, and wants to hand-code the inner HTML guts of their .epub down to the finest details. Possibly the book requires more sophisticated formatting such as fixed formats or drop caps which are above and beyond what Meatgrinder and Microsoft Word are capable of generating. 

Interestingly, when our retailers report faulty ebook files to Smashwords, nearly 100% of the faulty books are author-supplied epub files.  The good news about this is that the Smashwords Meatgrinder conversion is especially good at producing quality and reliable epub files.  The flip side of this statistic is that if you're uploading a custom .epub, please make sure your designer is expert at producing quality and compliant files, otherwise some retailers may refuse to list your book.

I'm creating my Epub file with Adobe InDesign (or other software), any tips?
A:  The problems we frequently see with self made Epubs are:  1) Missing the book cover inside them, it should be on the first "page" of the book.  2) Using embedded non-standard fonts.  3) Fixed layout pages, including 2-page layouts.  You can't read these on a cell phone screen because your fixed layout gets shrunk to fit, ebooks are a different animal from PDFs, don't go there.  4) Though your self-created epub may pass EpubCheck, you should test it in Adobe Digital Editions and on your smartphone and tablets.  Distribution to dozens of retail outlets requires compatibility on many devices and ereader apps.  Text should "flow" and be re-sizable by your customer as well as able to conform to the "Night Reading" setting (white text on a black page).  Also test if you can search for a word in your epub and highlight and add notes to the text on an ereader app.

Bottom line, we give you the freedom to decide what's best for you.  Our tagline has always been, "Your Ebook, Your Way," and this direct .epub upload feature was implemented based on author requests.

How it Works

  • New Books: 

    • If you have a professionally-designed .epub for a new book that you'd like to publish at Smashwords, go to the Publish page and fill in the form with all of the information about your book (title, description, price, etc). When you choose an ebook file, upload your .epub, rather than a DOC file.
    • We support EPUB2 and EPUB3 files.
    • Make sure your .epub file is 100% EpubCheck compliant, otherwise we can't distribute it.  To test your file, upload it to http://validator.idpf.org/
    • Embed your cover image within your .epub.  It should be the first page when opening the file.  Also, the design of the cover image inside your .epub must match the cover image you upload separately (the cover inside your book will probably be smaller than the cover outside your book). Please make sure the cover image inside your .epub is sized correctly, and isn't reaching beyond the viewable margins. To ensure it's sized correctly, view your .epub in Adobe Digital Editions. Some eReaders base their software upon Adobe, so if you see that the image gets cropped, it could appear poorly on some eReaders.  You can click here to get a free copy of ADE.
    • Updating covers:  If you update the cover of your book by uploading the cover image to Smashwords, we do not update your .epub, as we do with Meatgrinder-generated .epub files. If you update your cover image, you should also upload an updated .epub, with your new cover, at the same time.
    • Construct an NCX with at least two working entries. NCX stands for Navigation Control file for XML, and it's the table of contents file for your book. You can learn more about EPUB construction here at Wikipedia.  If any of this sounds complicated to you, you now know why most authors prefer uploading a Word .doc. When you format your Word .doc file per in the instructions in Step 20 of the Smashwords Style Guide, Meatgrinder automatically constructs an NCX for your book. 
    • Limitation:  If you upload an .epub file for a new book, that will become the only available format (so no HTML, .MOBI or PDF versions), and there will be no sampling (see "Limitations", below).
    • If you'd like your book to be in other formats that Smashwords generates (MOBI, PDF, etc.), go to your Dashboard and click "Upload new version". On the form that comes up, upload a DOC file of your book, formatted to the Smashwords Style Guide.

  • Replacements:

    • If you want to replace a Smashwords-generated .epub file, simply go to your Dashboard, click "Upload new version," and on the form that comes up, upload your .epub file, rather than a Word .doc file.  Your book's earlier, MeatGrinder-generated .epub will be replaced. Your new .epub file will be re-reviewed by our Premium Catalog vetting team prior to distribution.
    • Please note that when you replace a Smashwords-generated .epub with a Smashwords Direct .epub, the Smashwords Direct .epub will not update the ebook samples that were previously generated with your Word .doc file.  If you plan to upload a Smashwords Direct .epub many days or months after you originally uploaded the Word .doc, please remember to upload an updated Word .doc first and then upload the Smashwords Direct .epub so swap out the full .epub.
    • Make sure your .epub file is 100% EpubCheck compliant, otherwise we can't distribute it.  To test your file, upload it to http://validator.idpf.org/
    • Please ensure your .epub file is no greater than 20 MB.
    • Multiple factors can cause an EPUB file to fail the validation test.  The most common cause is errant styling instructions hidden in your Microsoft Word source document.  See the Style Guide for tips on how to correct EPUBCHECK errors.  Also see our new EPUBCHECK HELP page.  One sure-fire solution for eliminating EPUBCHECK errors is to reformat your book using the Nuclear Method.  The brave of heart can learn more about EPUB at http://code.google.com/p/epubcheck/
    • Note: As with uploading an updated .doc file and MeatGrinding new ebook files, users who purchased your book prior to you uploading the new version will be able to access the earlier revisions -- as far back as to the one that was current at time of purchase.
    • Your .epub file should include the cover image inside the .epub.  If you later update your cover image, you should upload a new .epub containing the new cover image.

  • Going back to Meatgrinder

    • If you later decide you'd like to go back to using a .doc-based, Meatgrinder-generated .epub for your book, simply use the "Upload new version" option in your Dashboard. After uploading the .doc file, when asked which formats you wish your book to be in, check the "Replace with epub based on a Meatgrinder..." checkbox.

Limitations, Requirements and Troubleshooting

These bulleted items below will help you understand some of the special characteristics, requirements and limitations of Smashwords Direct:

  • Your .epub file must adhere to the formatting best-practices requirements found in the Smashwords Style Guide.
  • Although we will attempt to notify you of formatting problems, if any, we cannot advise you how to fix formatting problems in direct-uploaded .epub files.
  • It is your responsibility to ensure your book passes EpubCheck validation before uploading to Smashwords, otherwise it cannot gain entry to the Smashwords Premium Catalog of distributed works.  Unlike with Meatgrinder, which magically auto-corrects many EpubCheck errors without user intervention, we cannot auto-correct EpubCheck errors resident in your own custom .epub file.  If there are any obvious issues, we'll do what we can to warn you about them at the time you upload the .epub, so that you can correct it and try again.
  • If you are uploading your own .epub file, it is your responsibilility to test your file on multiple devices.  Smashwords does not alter your directly uploaded .epub file.
  • Fixed Layout:   If you're uploading a Fixed Layout ePub, please have your designer test to ensure the file is optimized to support major e-reading platforms.  We do not recommend fixed layout unless its absolutely necessary for the readability of your book.  Keep in mind that page layout can vary across apps and devices, sometimes resulting in unreadable content.  If you are producing the fixed files yourself you or your designer should test on several platforms to ensure that readers will be able to read your content on all of the platforms Smashwords is distributing to.  Kobo offers these great resources for testing epubs for the Kobo environment.
  • Unless you also upload a .doc file after you upload your .epub file, we are unable to create ebook files in other formats (PDF, MOBI, online HTML reader, etc.). If you only upload an .epub file, your book will not be available in the multiple formats produced by Meatgrinder, and not available for online sampling through the HTML or Javascript readers at the Smashwords Store, or available though partial sample file downloads.  Our retailers, however, will generate samples.  We may add partial sampling or other auto-generated formats at a future date.
  • You must ensure that the metadata within your .epub is correct; e.g., if you created your first .epub and simply named it "My First .epub", that will be what readers see in their ereading apps and devices. Make sure the .epub's title and author match what you've entered at Smashwords.
  • As mentioned above, if you upload a new version of your cover via Dashboard: Settings, we do not update your .epub, as we do with Meatgrinder-generated .epub files. Therefore, if you update your cover image, you should also upload an updated .epub that embeds the new cover image.
  • We do not support DRM at Smashwords, so your EPUB must be DRM-free when you upload it.

 

Beta Status

Smashwords Direct is currently in open beta.  If you're not sure what this is all about, or if you have any difficulty uploading an existing .epub, we encourage you to simply upload an .doc file instead, and allow our Meatgrinder to convert the book for you. (Of course, please consult our Smashwords Style Guide to make sure it's formatted properly, first!)

What's Next for Smashwords Direct?

Since Smashwords Direct is in beta, we expect to make numerous enhancements to the capability in the months ahead.  Some of the planned enhancements include features such as automatically generated .epub samples, online browser-based sampling, and support for other direct-uploaded formats (such as PDF and .mobi).  We welcome your bug reports and feature requests.

If you have any questions, concerns or comments please contact us via the standard contact form, found at the top of any page (or click here).