Quick and Clean Formatting — Sex For Money, Post #17

Sex For Money is a semi-regular blog series about my experiences in writing, publishing, and marketing gay erotica and M/M erotic romance. All of this information is from my own experience, so your experience may differ. It’s hoped that sharing this information might be helpful to new and aspiring erotica and erotic romance authors, as I see a lot of questions and a lot of misinformation out there. To read more Sex For Money posts, click here.

If you find these posts handy, or you’re looking for more information on the business of writing, publishing, and selling gay erotica and M/M erotic romance, check out my in-depth book, Sex For Money.

You’ve written the hottest story ever and you’ve had it perfectly edited – don’t let it fall flat on your face by submitting a poorly-formatted document to Smashwords or KDP! Too often, I’ve seen people panic when they discover that their ebooks show up all wonky when people download them – bizarre indenting, strangely-colored text, changes in font and size – I’ve seen them all.

To prevent all of these mishaps, all it takes is about ten minutes of formatting in Word, to help you produce a professional and top-notch product.

This post assumes that editing has been completed – there are no typos, your grammar is correct, and plot holes have been filled. If you haven’t done that yet, do it first! Formatting for publication should be your last step. If you do editing after formatting, you run the risk of accidentally introducing new errors into your file.

These steps should fix most, if not all, of the problems that appear in your manuscript. I’ve followed these steps and have had no problems (that I’m aware of), and I’ve had no difficulty getting my file through Smashwords’s notoriously-finicky “meatgrinder” software.

Correct Spacing

If you’re like me, you double-space after a period. It should only be one space. (Even if you don’t have a habit of doing this, it’s still advisable to complete this step, in case you put one in there without knowing.)

Do a Find and Replace with this:

  • Find: [space][space]
  • Replace: [space]

Of course, replace [space] with an actual space!

Correct Indentation

Ideally, your paragraphs should be indented, rather than “block style.” (Block style is where you do not indent paragraphs, but you have a blank line between them.) However, you should not use your TAB key to indent paragraphs.

Highlight the text that needs to have correct indentation – this could mean highlighting the whole thing OR doing a chapter at a time, as you don’t want your centred chapter headers to be indented. Click on Paragraph Styles (in the newer version of Word for Windows, at the bottom right of the section of the toolbar that has the paragraph alignments, there’s a small angled arrow in the corner – click that). Set the indent to “first line” at .3”. We’re setting it at .3” rather than the standard .5” because if someone is reading on a small device like a phone, a .5” indent is massive. Click okay.

If you had used the tab key while writing your manuscript, you need to get rid of the tabs.

Go to Find and Replace and enter this:

  • Find: ^t
  • Replace: [blank]

Correct Font

Dedicated ereaders (Kindle, Kobo, Nook) tend to have, at most, eight basic fonts on them. You generally don’t want fancy fonts in your file. Ideally, it should all be Times New Roman, 12 pt. If you have variation in your file, for whatever reason, make judicious choices, but don’t rely on people reading it in the exact font you chose – if you chose a weird one, the ereader will default to one of the fonts pre-loaded in them. And if you choose something too big or small, your readers can adjust the size on their device.

If, for whatever reason, you changed the color of the font – even if you set it to black – then you need to correct this. Highlight the whole document and choose “automatic” from the font color list.

Correct Punctuation

Depending on how you wrote your book, you may have a mix of apostrophe and quotation mark styles. You may have some that are straight up and down lines and others that are curled properly. To ensure all is proper, go to Find and Replace and enter:

  • Find: “
  • Replace: “

It will automatically correct it to curled right and left quotation marks. Then do the same for the apostrophe.


You may have a space at the end of a paragraph or a space at the beginning of a paragraph and not know it. Here’s how to find them and get rid of them. Go to Find and Replace and enter:

  • Find: [space]^p
  • Replace: ^p

And then follow up with:

  • Find: ^p[space]
  • Replace: ^p

One Last Step

Smashwords will only take a DOC file, and not a DOCX. Amazon’s KDP apparently doesn’t care if it’s DOC or DOCX.

But here’s the tricky part – if you just go File, Save As and then save your document as a DOC file, Smashwords will sometimes recognize that at one point in the file’s lifetime, it had been a DOCX and Smashwords’s meatgrinder will reject it.

Highlight and copy the whole document, then paste it into a new document. Then save this file, making sure to select DOC from the file type option at the bottom of the window.

You’re Done!

Once you do all that, your file should be fine to submit to Smashwords and KDP. I say “should” because there might be other errors in there that will make things go screwy. The trick is to be patient and to work through things slowly. It’s a steep learning curve if you’ve never done it before, but once you get the hang of it, it just becomes automatic.

Happy self-pubbing!


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