Monday, December 31, 2012

Smashwords Supports EPUB Uploads With Smashwords Direct

One year ago in my 2011 annual year-in-review here at the Smashwords Blog, we committed to support direct EPUB uploads to the Smashwords platform in the second half of 2012. 

Today we fulfilled that commitment with the launch of Smashwords Direct.  

This new capability allows our authors and publishers to upload their own professionally formatted EPUB files for sale at the Smashwords store, and for distribution to the Smashwords retail distribution network.

This first iteration of Smashwords Direct supports two methods of direct EPUB upload:
  1. You can replace your Smashwords-generated EPUB with your own EPUB.  To do this, click to your Dashboard, then click "Upload New Version," then upload your file. 
  2. If you're preparing to publish a new book not yet at Smashwords, sign in to your Smashwords account, click the regular Publish link, then fill out the publish page as  you would normally, but upload your EPUB instead of a Word .doc.  Later, if you wish, you can add more ebook formats to your book page by uploading a Word .doc, formatted to the Style Guide.
EPUB files uploaded through this new Smashwords Direction option must still adhere to the formatting best practices listed in the Smashwords Style Guide.  Books will still be reviewed by our vetting team before shipping out to our retailers.

Smashwords Direct has some important limitations compared to our standard Meatgrinder workflow.  For example, when fed a Word .doc file, Meatgrinder converts the book into as many as nine different ebook formats, making it readable on any e-reading device, and ready to be sampled both through our two browser-based formats or a downloadable file.  If you upload an EPUB instead of a Word .doc, you won't get the multiple formats (PDF, MOBI and browser formats are most important), nor will you get the downloadable samples.  At least not yet.  We do plan to add better sampling later, plus the ability to upload your own PDFs and MOBIs.

To overcome this limitation, you can upload your book as a Word .doc file first, formatted to the Style Guide, and then replace our EPUB with your own (assuming your EPUB is higher quality).  This way, you'll have the major formats covered.

You'll find the latest documentation for Smashwords Direct here:   This is a public beta, so we invite interested Smashwords authors and publishers to begin using it and reporting their feedback direct to the email address,

Over the weekend, we sent out a call for sample files over at our Site Updates page to assist with our internal alpha testing, and multiple authors helped out.  Thank you!

A few observations from our tests:
  • Smashwords authors and publishers are using multiple workflows to create their .epub files.  Their workflows are as unique and varied as the writers themselves!
  • Smashwords authors and publishers are using various (and often multiple) tools to create their epubs.   Some of the tools mentioned include Adobe InDesign, Nisus writer pro, OpenOffice, Jutoh, Atlantis, Epubmaker, LibreOffice, Writer2epub, Scrivener, HTML, Sigil and Calibre.  HTML, Sigil and Calibre were the most often cited among the suppliers of our first test files.
  • Nearly 1/3 of the files failed EPUBCHECK validation.  Yikes!  The Apple iBookstore requires 100% compliance.  None of the other retailers do.  This means that a large percentage of people are using non-compliant EPUBs that will need to be repaired by the author (or their service provider) before we can add the files to our Premium Catalog.  Because the authors are using so many different workflows and tools to create their files, our support team will be unable to assist with EPUBCHECK validation repairs.  Our standard Meatgrinder conversion system, which relies upon Word .doc source files formatted to the Smashwords Style Guide, performs a lot of magic to auto-correct many common EPUBCHECK errors without the author's intervention, and we've long offered an EPUBCHECK help page for how to repair other common sources of problem from within Microsoft Word.
  • If the book says "Kindle Edition" or "Kobo Edition," we can't distribute it.  This is your Smashwords Edition.  Similarly, if the book contains buy links to Amazon or other retailers, we can't distribute it.  The Style Guide has a complete set of guidelines, most of which are common sense and will improve reader experience, or as with the above examples, prevent customer confusion.

Smashwords Direct will allow us to support ebooks that contain richer, more sophisticated formatting than is supported through our standard Meatgrinder process.  That's the idea, at least. Some of the sample files we received were beautiful, and contained features such as drop caps or nested NCX navigation that we don't support in Meatgrinder.  This made us happy, and validated our decision to support this.

On  the other hand, we observed several .epub files that were no better (and some worse) than what the average Smashwords author is already creating with Meatgrinder.  The high rate of EPUBCHECK failures illustrates just one problem.

Meatgrinder has been vilified and demonized over the years, despite its proven ability to produce high-quality ebooks.  Although Meatgrinder's not perfect, some of the criticism has been unfair.  Many authors have needlessly avoided Smashwords out of misplaced fear. 

One author volunteered that they'd heard such horror stories of Meatgrinder from their publisher that they kept their books off of Smashwords for that reason.  That's really unfortunate, both for the author and Smashwords, because the vast majority of Smashwords authors have received professional-quality results with Meatgrinder.  Our Meatgrinder-generated Premium Catalog books are pleasing millions of readers each month with rarely a complaint.  Our retailers have told us in the past that our books have dramatically lower failure rates (measured in the fraction of a percent) compared to others.  This tells me many authors who have avoided Smashwords out of misplaced fear have unnecessarily missed out on up to five years of sales and platform-building opportunity.  I suppose if there's a silver lining to the launch of Smashwords Direct, it's that maybe we can help writers do the right thing (achieve full Smashwords distribution) for the wrong reason (availability of Smashwords Direct).

Another author, upon us presenting him with the list of EPUBCHECK errors (these errors read like gobblygook to anyone who's not an HTML expert!) decided he was going to go back to Meatgrinder, even though the name unnerved him. 

We have never claimed Meatgrinder to be the be-all, end-all of ebook publishing tools.  We created Meatgrinder as a low-cost automated means to the ends, where the ends are to help any writer, anywhere in the world, publish a quality ebook at zero cost.  The only tool they needed was a word processor.  If they couldn't afford Microsoft Office, a free word processor works great too.

I still expect that most authors will continue to choose Meatgrinder over the Smashwords Direct option.  Meatgrinder does great for the vast majority of books readers are actually buying, and the Style Guide shows how to incorporate sophisticated styling for those who need it.  For the books that require even more sophistication, we now have a solution in Smashwords Direct.

In the end, we don't care which option our authors and publishers choose.  We want our authors and publishers to have the freedom to choose what method is best for their book.

Our #1 interest has always been to facilitate the release and distribution of indie ebooks, and do it at the lowest possible cost for our authors and publishers.  We're excited that Smashwords Direct will enable us to better support the distribution needs of current and future Smashwords authors and publishers, and we're excited that many of these books will contain professional-quality formatting that is above and beyond the capabilities of Meatgrinder. 

We also look forward to working more closely with the community of professional ebook designers. We view them as valued service providers who can offer authors an upgrade path for the books that need it.

The next step is up to you!

Quick links:
Smashwords Direct documentation:
Smashwords Style Guide:


Joe Vasicek said...

Thanks for making this option available. However, it appears there are still some kinks to be worked out.

When I tried to upload my epub file using the method described in this post, I got this error:

The book file you uploaded is in a format we do not support, or it has a filename extension we do not recognize. Your file appears to be a "application/octet-stream" file, and has a ".epub" filename extension.

Please upload your book in Microsoft Word 97-2003 ".doc" format, with ".doc" as the filename extension. If your file is in another format (Microsoft Word 2007 (".docx"), OpenOffice (".odt"), etc.), you'll need to save a copy of it, exported as a ".doc" file, first. (Use your word processor's "File>Save As..." or other similar export option.)

If you continue to get this error, try uploading with a different web browser.

Alternatively, if your ebook has already been prepared, you may upload it in the following format:
epub (.epub)
You can choose to do this later. Also, you may at a later time upload a .doc to convert to other formats that Smashwords supports. (Error UL4)

I'm not sure what this means, but it appears that Smashwords is not accepting my epub files, for reasons that I do not understand. Of course, it's very early in the process, so I expect these kinks will be worked out soon.

Has anyone else gotten this error?

Morgan Drake Eckstein said...

I know that I am going to continue using the meatgrinder until I can afford to have a professional fight with epub problems for me.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for adding this functionality. I will try it for my next submission via Scrivener, as there are just some things Word will not do.

Dovetail Public Relations said...

Thanks for discovering that Joe. Please email your report to so we can avoid gumming up comments with the many bugs we expect will be discovered and squashed. thanks!

Craig Hansen said...

Dear Mark,

Love that you have launched. Quick question: If a customer/author chooses to upload an ePub only, will their book be approved for the premium catalog? Or, do you require .doc submission to get into the premium catalog.


Craig Hansen said...

I am assuming, of course, that the .epub I provide passes ePub check. So what I'm really asking here is, if one uses Smashwords Direct and the .epub format only, can they still get into your Premium Catalog, without the other eight formats?

Dovetail Public Relations said...

Craig, yes, if you upload .epub only, and it meets the requirements in the Style Guide, we'll distribute it.

Because of the limitations (no multi-format in the SW store, no online browser-based samples or downloadable samples in SW store), I'd recommend that you upload a Word .doc first to get all the formats and sampling, and then replace our EPUB with your own (but only if if you think yours is better). This way, you'll have all your bases covered. A little over half the sales at the Smashwords store are in these other formats, with MOBI and PDF most common.

Sylvia Hubbard said...

I love how you really mean by the end of the year "literally," Mark.

And I'm happy for the new process, but I would like to know out of all the "tools" mentioned, which one didn't get the failed EPUBCHECK the most?

tools meaning:
Adobe InDesign, Nisus writer pro, OpenOffice, Jutoh, Atlantis, Epubmaker, LibreOffice, Writer2epub, Scrivener, HTML, Sigil and Calibre. HTML, Sigil and Calibre

Michael said...


I'm sure Mark will provide a more complete answer, but I can tell you that Calibre generally does not produce epub files that will validate. For the most part the problems it introduces are minor, so I'd say it's fine to use it as a step in the production process if one has enough familiarity with XHTML to understand and fix the problems afterward. But then if you have enough knowledge of XHTML to do that, you'll probably be better off doing the whole book in something like Sigil or another editor with an epub focus.

Jason G. Anderson said...

@Michael - I do all pretty much all the epubs from my clients in Calibre, and have no problem with them passing the epubcheck. But I create the base text in HTML - if you're converting from something else to epub, you'll probably have problems.

Michael said...

@Jason and @Ryan:

Thank you for the correction. I'm not sure what the problem is then with my attempts to convert HTML to EPUB in Calibre. I always end up with Calibre modifying the code in tiny ways that break validation. Importing the same HTML to Sigil I have no such problems. Must be a setting I'm overlooking in the conversion settings that's tripping things up. I'll have to give it another shot sometime.

Paul Salvette said...

Great news! Thanks, Mark. A great decision to up the level of professionalism on eBooks distributed by Smashwords.

Aside from adding the "Smashwords Edition", is there any Smashwords-specific CSS or metadata that needs to be added to these EPUBs? If not, we'll continue making the EPUBs in a way that conforms to B&N, iTunes, and Kobo standards.

Also, do you need the cover embedded as well as uploaded? Thanks so much.

Unknown said...

I like Meatgrinder. Once I had understood the process and gained confidence, I felt secure with it. The support for EPUB validation for Apple is a extremely important.

I expect I shall try the Smashwords Direct EPUB at some time in the future but for now I like the prevailing system because I can have confidence in the consistency of presentation over different formats and concentrate on my writing and marketing.

I can test the Kindle and pdf formats of my book, for example, but I imagine most authors, like me, can't test every format every time and the value of the human supported Smashwords/Meatgrinder process is valuable.

I wish all Smashwords staff and authors a productive and profitable 2013. It's an exciting start to the year!

Margaret Yang said...

Perhaps I'm an oddball, but I did a side-by-side comparison of the meatgrinder-produced ePub and an ePub that my pro formatter produced. Guess what? The meatgrinder-produced ePub looked slightly better.

I won't be submitting my own ePub. I'm capable of producing very, very clean word files for the grinder, so that's what I'll continue to use.

Scot said...

Congrats Mark, and well done! Just a quick Q re: epub formats...

Does your epub ingestion system support files formatted specifically for iBooks (i.e. containing non-epub spec content such as a file, viewport values, etc.), or just epub 2/3 compliance?


P.S. Your defense of Meatgrinder was also well argued!

JVRC said...

That's all fine well and good, but if Smashwords isn't bringing back Premium ISBNs for publishers to utilize, there's no point in using the service. If I have to purchase my ISBNs elsewhere, then I might as well upload my own files elsewhere. Why can we not have the Premium ISBNs for publishers only?

JA Marlow said...

Well shoot. At first I was dancing when I first started reading this announcement. And then...

I thought the whole point was to move away from a stupid .doc file! Now, to get the other formats, we still have to go through the extra step of creating a Word file?

That really stinks. This doesn't save me time at all. I still have that extra step I have to go through just for Smashwords. I hate that extra step. Creating all the other file formats for other retailers is fast, as I have great HTML templates with drag-and-drop areas that convert within minutes. Then there's the Smashwords .doc file...

(NOTE: I do not write in Word. I do not revise in Word. The only reason I ever opened it up was to read something someone sent me or to create a Smashwords file for creating an ebook.)

I just ordered a new computer, and it will not have Microsoft on it. No Word at all. Now this means I'll have to figure out how to use Libre Office to make compatible files. Not looking forward to it, considering the last 6 books I've published at Smashwords have been, "No, not good. Try again." "Oh, good." "No, not good try again." over and over, despite all files being formatted the same way (I didn't used to have this problem). Either the Meatgrinder is throwing up over my files, or the vetters are inconsistently applying rules to my books. Or both. Now I'll be bringing a different program into the fray. I'm already cringing. I would rather spend the time writing and doing other publishing work.

Either way, boo hiss. And bah humbug.

Seriously, Mark, I hope this is just the first step to jettisoning the .doc requirement, even for the other file formats. I like having a place to send my readers that has so many file formats to choose from. Didn't there once exist the option of uploading a HTML file? Can't you do something like that?

Dovetail Public Relations said...

Hi JA, the goal of SWD was never to abandon Word, or the Meatgrinder process, because it continues to work incredibly well for so many of our authors and publishers. The advantage of Word is that we can provide very clear step by step instructions that anyone can follow to create a high quality multi-format ebook. I think most of our authors will still opt to use Meatgrinder for it's simplicity, reliability and flexibility.

We created SWD because some of our authors wanted to upload their own professionally designed EPUB files. SWD allows us to accommodate these more sophisticated files, and it lays the groundwork for us to support other future formats not supported by Meatgrinder.

I do see an opportunity for us to use EPUBs to create MOBIs and maybe online HTML samples, though I don't know yet if we'll use it to create the other formats.

If you don't have Word, or you don't want to get Word, you can also use LibreOffice to create a solid Word .doc file to upload to Smashwords.

Otherwise, if you're unable to get MS Word, or you don't have the time or patience to create your source files in LibreOffice, another option is to hire someone on my list for prices that start around $35 (a ridiculously cheap option).

Yes, we once allowed HTML source files, but we discontinued that because so many of the files didn't adhere to proper WC3 HTML validation.

DarkSideofDisney said...

Hi Mark,

Are the epub uploads limited to 5MB like Word files? This limitation has kept me from uploading an image-heavy book that I only felt comfortable compressing down to 7MB.

Leonard Kinsey

David Alastair Hayden said...

Thanks for making the ePub upload option available. I very much appreciate that this option is now available.

A suggestion: Tell people to validate their ePub before uploading. I would think that that would save a lot of grief.

When I sent in my ePub files for the testing, they had already gone through ePub check.

My workflow:

1. Generate ePub.
2. Make sure it looks right.
3. Validate.

I've never seen a Scrivener-generated ePub fail the check. Every Calibre conversion to ePub I've ever done has failed, though Calibre is great at converting ePub's to .mobi. I would guess anyone trying to make their ePub's by hand without knowing what they're doing would run into trouble, as would someone trying to convert a Word document.

Again: Thanks for making this an option!

David Alastair Hayden said...

Wanted to add that the Calibre-converted ePub's I've made that all failed the check looked perfect and worked exactly as they should have. They just didn't pass the strict test.

JA Marlow said...

Disappointed in the reply, Mark. Really disappointed.

Perhaps my reaction to this news is because when you first started talking about an .epub upload, I thought it would mean a replacement for a .doc file. Where we could use one or the other. I'm not the only one who thought it, though, so I don't feel so bad about the assumption.

But, still disappointed and now looking at the need to use Smashwords at all in the future. The .doc file is an extra step that only your system requires. Time is money, and I'm not willing to pay that money to someone else. I didn't like that part of your comment at all, as it didn't address the issues and felt insulting.

I'll leave the bulk of my response at The Passive Voice. I'm too angry and deeply disappointed at the moment to do more here.

Dovetail Public Relations said...

JA, I'm sorry you found any part of my reply disappointing or insulting. We delivered on what we promised. Also keep on mind this is a beta. We'll continue to improve this over time based on the suggestions we receive from our authors.

Anonymous said...

I'm one of those who will be looking forward to when you accept PDF files through Smashwords Direct, and I'd still love to have HTML be a submission format (because that's the format in which my e-books start, and my other distributors are able to handle HTML as a submission format, saving me the trouble of having to create ePub files for them).

But you've made a great start to Smashwords Direct. You must have worked through the holidays to keep your promise to bring this out in 2012 - thank you to everyone on your staff who was involved in the development.

The Daring Novelist said...


I don't mind that you want to keep Word around, but the whole point of everybody lobbying for you to accept some other format is so that we aren't forced to use Word.

Please, I don't care if it's epub or html or something else. Just please let us get away from Word, I beg you.

Word screws up a professional production process. It forces multiple workflows and makes it hard to keep a single, pristine original file in which I can correct errors.

Sure, let people use it who want it, but you won't believe how depressed I am to hear that you continue to force this overhead on my production process.

It makes me seriously consider ending my relationship with Smashwords, since I can go to the partners directly.

Please please please reconsider allowing us to use epub or html to have samples and other formats. Please tell me that I'm not going to have to wait another two years for relief. I am so sick of waiting.

Anonymous said...

Any plans to lift the 5 MB file size maximum for EPUB uploads? I publish digital comic books, and this restriction has prevented me from using your service.


Dovetail Public Relations said...

@ben, yes, definitely. We are going to raise that minimum. I'm curious, what file size are you at now with your comics? thanks!

@Camille (Daring Novelist), can you clarify your concern? Unless I'm misunderstanding your concern, I think Smashwords Direct has delivered exactly what you want. :) You now have the freedom to upload your own professionally designed EPUB as the original source file, or you can swap out our EPUB for your own. Later, we'll support other direct formats (PDF, .mobi, etc) you can swap. As I mention above, this is the first iteration of our beta. It addresses the primary request we've received from authors and publishers ("I want to upload my own professionally designed EPUB"). Future iterations will offer more features, based on feedback and feature requests we receive. One step at a time.

Unknown said...

I think this will give me a chance to get my book into the Apple bookstore. When I submitted my book in 2009, I had all kinds of problems going from html to the word doc format, which I had never used. The epub that meatgrinder created doesn't pass the epub check, and I've never figured out why, so I've been excluded from the Apple bookstore all this time.

This morning I installed Calibre on my computer and have done some testing with an excerpt from my book, and just got a test epub that PASSES THE EPUB CHECKER TOOL.

So now I'm going to make some minor improvements to the book, plus some better quality images, and try to make an epub to submit. THIS GIVES ME A CHANCE TO GET INTO THE APPLE BOOKSTORE!
Billy Winkles

Ryan Fitzgerald said...

I'd just like to add my voice to the other authors here who are disappointed that we continue to have to produce MS Word files just for Smashwords (we don't need them anywhere else, see).

When I first heard EPUBs were going to be supported, I thought, "Finally, I can take out that shoddy RTF support in my formatter because I won't have to convert them to MS Word anymore. That'll simplify a lot of my code."

Then I found out I would still need it.

EPUB and HTML are easy to generate via script, so they can be very clean. Producing an RTF (easier to load it in MS Word and save as a .DOC than to generate a .DOC from the off) is not so easy and prone to errors. It's also more difficult to change the way I do layout; I have to dig into the Python code more to change the RTF export if I want a different look for the book, whereas I need only change the CSS file and maybe one line of code to alter how it exports to HTML and EPUB.

In summation, I do an awful lot of work for Smashwords to produce a file ready to upload when I don't have to do any work for KDP or Kobo.

OF course, if I had to choose one system for entering book metadata, I'd probably choose Smashwords. The only thing it's missing is series (which I hear is coming). It's nice having it all on one page.

Dovetail Public Relations said...

Ryan, you *don't* need Word unless you want full multi-format support. If all you want to do is upload your ePub, that's available to you today. Help me understand the concern because I'm sensing a disconnect. Most retailers sell in a single format only. Smashwords has always supported multiple formats, thanks to our reliance on Word as a stable source file for creating multiformat. If all you want is to sell and distribute epub, you have that option today and you don't need Word. If you want the benefits of multi format, then it's up to you to decide if its worth your effort to supply us a Word .doc. You have the freedom to decide. If you don't own Word, any other word processor will do.

The Daring Novelist said...

Perhaps I misread what you said, so please, clarify.

First: I don't expect you do make everything perfect instantly. However:

I was led to believe that the ultimate goal in implementing ePub submission was to allow people FULL access to Smashwords (including samples) without using Word.

I have zero interest in replacing my epubs. It's a nice first step, but it doesn't help me in the slightest. What I want to fix is my workflow. Having to provide a finished Word document doubles my labor.

In the discussion above, you seemed to indicate that you have no plans to implement full access to Smashwords features to epub submissions. And that you never plan to source online samples from anything but Word files. (Which is one of Smashwords' most attractive features.)

That is what upsets me. I am incredibly frustrated, and this feels like a bait and switch: I get told that what I need is coming, and then "Oops, but we have no plans for what YOU need." That's infuriating.

And even if it is an eventual goal, at this point, I've had to wait too long. I certainly won't remove current books from Smashwords. I love Smashwords. But I feel that I can't support this production process any more, so I have to think twice about future books.

Dovetail Public Relations said...

Camille, please forgive me, but I'm bewildered by the confusion here and i remain confused over the source of your disappointment, or why or how you think we ever misstated the purpose here. We never promised anything but the ability to upload epubs to Smashwords, and we delivered that plus the ability to replace Smashwords-generated epubs. You do not need to upload a Word doc if you dont want. In tthe blog post above, I'm very clear about what it does and what it doesn't, and I state that the lack of autogenerated ePub samples is a clear limitation we plan to address.

Here's what I'd like to hear from everyone. Tell me what features you want to see in SWD that you don't see now. We want to provide our authors what they want. Even at the present state of SWD plus Meatgrinder, no other platform provides the breath of multiformat options.

Unknown said...

This is better than the meatgrinder because you can check everything beforehand, like whether the book passes the epub check, and how it looks in different e-readers. So you can know if there are any problems, and have a chance to fix them, before you upload it. But with the meatgrinder, at least when I was using it in 2009, you never knew what would happen, and the book would be published immediately before you could check anything. Then you would have to unpublish it and try again. So this is a lot better.
Billy Winkles

Dragonmyst said...
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Dragonmyst said...
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Necia Phoenix said...

I had this long furious reply written and ready to be posted but you seem to be having trouble understanding what our issue is so here it is broken down. Why I have big issues with this nonprogress.

1)You tell us we can upload epub directly


2) But if you want OTHER formats besides epub you have to use the meatgrinder and upload .doc

wait, what?

For us to better serve our readers we should be putting our work out in multiple formats.

To do it in multiple formats it would be easier to use the SAME html file I upload to Amazon, Xin Xii, B&N, Kobo etc. One step for me. Formatting the html across the board. Saves time. I have 9 kids, a household and 2 other businesses I run part time. I really don't have time to mess around with two templates.

The thing that frustrates me, is if you have the ability to accept epub, you have the ability, already there, to take html. Or pdf, or any of the other formats other places AUTOMATICALLY accept without having to deal with word, which not everyone uses or wants to use. I hatehatehatehate it. and the only reason it is even on my computer is to satisfy this damn meatgrinder.

We have the option of the meatgrinder and epub at smashwords which, if I stand true to my aversion to word and .doc documents brings me down to just .epubs which, in turn limits my ability to provide my readers with a variety of formats. Not to mention the issue of not being able to provide samples if I go to just the epubs, THAT is a bit of a problem.

As much as I like Smashwords, and I really do, you have a good thing going here, I think this issue may make me have to decide how cost effective, time wise and financially, it is to stay using your service. And atm it isn't looking too good.

The Daring Novelist said...

Mark I think two things are causing the confusion:

First: when we all asked for the ability to upload professionally created epubs, we didn't mean that we only wanted to replace the epubs. We meant that we wanted to replace Word altogether with another format.

ePub is great since it has good standards that should make it easier to translate into your other formats. But I'd be happy with anything that would result from an html workflow.

Second: you've been saying things like: "If you want the benefits of multi format, then it's up to you to decide if its worth your effort to supply us a Word .doc." or "...I don't know yet if we'll use it to create the other formats."

That implies that you aren't actually interested in supplying what we asked for. It may be the wrong impression, but you haven't been doing much to allay that feeling.

What we actually want are two things: 1) to eliminate Word and 2) to use Smashwords for what Smashwords does well -- multiple formats and great samples.

If you are working on providing that, yes! Great! Please say so outright. Don't tell us "If you don't wanna use Word, then you can do without multi formats." Say "We're working on it, but we can't provide that yet."

Just remember that we who have been requesting this have been waiting a long long time already.

Unknown said...

Well I think this has solved the main problem, and that these complaints are overdone. As I said earlier, my book has been excluded from the Apple bookstore because of failing the epub check, but now I should be able to fix that. From what I've been reading, epub is the format that nearly all the major players except Amazon have adopted, so the other formats don't much matter. And Matt Cutts has done a tremendous job in distributing books by unknown authors, who in most cases, or at least in my case, could have never done it on their own. Remember that we are still in the early years of ebook publishing and distribution, and problems are still having to be worked out. So the handful of people who are complaining should keep all of this in mind.
Billy Winkles

Unknown said...

Sorry I meant to say that Mark Coker has done a tremendous job. I had just written a post on another forum that mentioned the other name and it must have stuck in my mind.
I sincerely apologize.
Billy Winkles

Unknown said...

To the people who are giving Mark Coker a hard time for still accepting Word documents--I think you are misunderstanding the real role of Smashwords in the eBook publishing market.

Smashwords has two purposes. The most important is to provide a platform for writers who do not wish to operate outside of their comfort zone--which overwhelmingly for most is still Microsoft Word. The other is to fill up the little nooks and crannies of the eBook market where you still can't self-publish yet. Purpose #1 is the greater part of Smashwords' remaining relevancy. Let me explain.

Download the .epub format of a "Meat-ground" book. Open it up, look at the code and try not to get seasick.

The Meatgrinder is mostly calibre. And calibre, like any automated software, is not as reliable as a human being to format a book--and as we all know, Microsoft Word farts out HTML that looks like apple sauce, venison sausage and Listerine casserole. The Meatgrinder takes that huge, random mess, and tidies it up into a smaller and less concentrated but still messy mess.

You do not want to use the output of the Meatgrinder if you have any other choice. If you've got a real epub--formatted by a human being with a heart and a soul--you send it to B&N, Kobo (praying that they will pay you) and the iBookstore, and opt out of those distribution channels on Smashwords. After that, you make a few changes, then take your .opf file, use kindlegen, and send the book to Amazon and opt out of that channel, too.

Professionals use Smashwords to publish to marketplaces they absolutely can't get to in any other way. It's great for us. Everybody else who uses Smashwords does so because they don't want to get their hands dirty with HTML. Great for them.

But the code is ugly as sin. That's simply the price of automation.

If you are truly expecting Mark Coker to ever stop accepting Microsoft Word manuscripts, I would advise you not to hold your breath.

Coker's decision to allow epubs to be uploaded hopefully will help assuage the problem of Meatgrinder's occasional random rejections of manuscripts with no mistakes in them. This is my hope.

David Alastair Hayden said...

Wanted to say that I was wrong, and that the newer versions of Calibre do make valid ePub's after performing an ePub to ePub conversion of a Scrivener ePub. (Say that three times fast!) Which is nice because while the Scrivener ePub's work great and are valid, they're not as sleek and have messy, though functional, stylesheets.

I stand corrected by the passage of time and the hard work of the folks who make Calibre.

David Alastair Hayden said...

Also, I don't get the folks who are mad at Mark about still accepting Word to get to the other formats. It doesn't make sense to me.

1) You don't need anything but ePub to reach Apple, Sony, B&N, or Kobo. Only Amazon uses .mobi, and surely not many .mobi books are sold directly on Smashwords.

2) Are you that concerned about selling .mobi's or pdfs or what have you on Smashwords? I've never been concerned about that. It'd be nice but far from essential to sell .mobi's on Smashwords. I have no interest in selling in those other formats in the year 2013.

3) I didn't think Mark would abandon Word or allow epubs to be converted to those other forms. I'm not sure where people got that impression, but if you look back through all his claim, which I have in the last month, you will not find any hint of such a thing.

Thanks for offering the epub direct, Mark. It was my one big gripe about Smashwords and I know you're working hard on the smaller ones. And I appreciate this very much.

Anonymous said...

I wrote and formatted my latest book (non-fiction) in Word, lots of images, sidebars, pull quotes. A graphic designer commented on the professional look despite the plebian medium. :) Very happy with print results.

I converted to HTML and uploaded to KDP; gorgeous, very happy with the results.

I converted to epub and edited in Sigil (first experience) and am pretty happy with the results. Possibly a pro could do better, but I don't feel at all bad about putting this out for public consumption. The only problem I'm having is that for days, my epub has passed epubcheck but been rejected for copyright error, despite the 1001 variations I've tried. I've written for help, but no response yet.

I'm excited about the new epub option (the Meatgrinder version was decidedly inferior for this kind of layout), for its first week on the scene. Just need to get past that pesky copyright error!

Unknown said...

I have a question. I'm working on a new Epub version of my book now, and hope to upload it in a few days. But it appears that I also need a new larger book cover, which I'm also working on now. My question is, can I upload the epub file and the cover image file at the same time, or are they separate processes? And if they are separate processes, which file should I upload first?
Thank you
Billy Winkles

Unknown said...

I just noticed that the epub file of my book that Meatgrinder made back in March 2009 is more than 2.3 megabytes, whereas a test epub I made today with Calibre is only about 450 kilobytes, less than one-fifth as big. And that's despite the fact that I'm using higher-quality images with bigger file sizes in this new version. If this is typical, then the bookstores could likely save a lot of bandwidth if large numbers of Smashwords authors decide to create their own epubs.

Unknown said...

Oops I forgot to sign my last post about the much smaller file size of my test epub as compared to the one that Meatgrinder made in 2009
Billy Winkles

Andrew Bowden said...

I recently added two of my books to Smashwords for the first time (I have a third but that's waiting for me to redo the cover so it meets the size guidelines). The reason I didn't upload before was because I had epubs and didn't want to have to redo everything in Word because I'm a Linux user who doesn't have Word and didn't want to create "yet another copy" of my books (I do have ODT copies of my books for creating PDFs and to be honest, I'd rather not even have that step - must try out Calibre)

Previously, I've been locked out of iBooks cos I don't have a Mac, and Nook because I'm in the UK. Smashwords will hopefully get me in both. If Smashwords can make my ePub in to other formats for me, that would be a huge boon and I'd probably stop selling PDFs directly from my site due to the convenience of it.

Posword said...

What Mark is not mentioning is that its been documented on the POD publishing Yahoo group that the Meatgrinder actually uses OpenOffice as it processes the file, so why not use it as the primary source anyway?

As many people in their comments have mentioned, this is a preferred option and the MS Word option means double the work for people having to convert.

So this new ability is so limited I'm feeling I might deal direct too.

Unknown said...

Great piece. I'm a cookbook author, and I wanted to echo the earlier sentiment about needing to be able to upload a larger epub file. I'm at 6+ mb, and I'd really love to be able to promote smashwords ebooks over the bigger names...but I can't use it yet!

Unknown said...

Just wanted to echo the earlier post about increasing file size. I hope you are able to do this soon, as my most recent book is 6+ mb (I'm a cookbook author, and images are pretty essential), and I'd prefer to promote smashwords to my readers over the mainstream venues. Thanks!

Andrew Bernhardt said...

I'm getting the same error the first poster received when attempting to upload an epub...

The book file you uploaded is in a format we do not support, or it has a filename extension we do not recognize. Your file appears to be a "application/octet-stream" file, and has a ".epub" filename extension.

Please upload your book in Microsoft Word 97-2003 ".doc" format, with ".doc" as the filename extension. If your file is in another format (Microsoft Word 2007 (".docx"), OpenOffice (".odt"), etc.), you'll need to save a copy of it, exported as a ".doc" file, first. (Use your word processor's "File>Save As..." or other similar export option.)

If you continue to get this error, try uploading with a different web browser.

Alternatively, if your ebook has already been prepared, you may upload it in the following format:
epub (.epub)
You can choose to do this later. Also, you may at a later time upload a .doc to convert to other formats that Smashwords supports. (Error UL4)

My epub passes the validation check, and I have no problems viewing it in an epub viewer. What gives?

Divertir Publishing said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Divertir Publishing said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Divertir Publishing said...

I posted our first book "Hurricane" on Smashword using the Meatgrinder. The book had beautiful line art on the facing pages to the chapter starts in the pdf that went to the printer; this line art is in the Kindle and Nook versions because they let me upload the mobi/epub files I created when I created the pdf. The Smashword version of the book does not contain any of the line art because the Meatgrinder stripped it out. When I started receiving complaints from both the author and readers that the Smashword version did not look as professional, I stopped publishing our books on Smashword. While this is a good start, in my opinion you need to support uploading the pdf (the same version I upload to Google Books) and .mobi files. I'll probably try to update the epub version of "Hurricane" and see what happens.

Ken Tupper
Divertir Publishing

Andrew Bernhardt said...

On the epub-not-supported error, I tried Chrome, IE, and Firefox. All returned the same error.

Cleo Peitsche said...

I was also getting the (Error UL4) error message. What worked was converting the file from epub to epub in Calibre. That version uploads without a problem.

Hope that helps.

Larry Kollar said...

I would think that, since EPUB is standards-based, that an EPUB-based Meatgrinder would be easier to set up and maintain. Since I write in Scrivener, it takes at least 10x the effort (and no, I'm not exaggerating) for me to produce a Meatgrinder-worthy DOC file as it does to produce a very nice-looking eBook. And since Amazon accounts for 2/3 to 7/8 of my sales, it's a lot of effort for not so much return. (I have no idea why that is, a friend of mine gets 75% of her sales from Smashwords and we don't do anything different as far as linking.)

Anonymous said...

Funny that Apple requires epubcheck compliance, since iBooks has many places where it renders compliant epubs improperly.

Larry Kollar said...

Just tried uploading my first EPUB and it gave me errors about iTunes files not being included. Huh?

Kelly said...

First off, I applaud you for allowing us to create our own ePub and publish that directly.

While I don't have any particular complaints about using Word (I refuse to purchase the 365 or 2013 version though), it's nice to have the option of uploading a home rolled ePub.

That said, I would like to see either direct publishing of mobi files or conversion of ePub to the mobi format. I ask this because Amazon recently released the "Kindle Previewer" that allows me to import an ePub file, spits out a mobi file, and shows me what the work will look like in a few of their readers. That tool is helpful as hell to see what my color images will look like in "E Ink."

For those interested, the tool is available here:

Thanks again, Mark, for allowing authors and publishers to upload their own ePub files. I look forward to future improvements.

author Christa Polkinhorn said...

Hi Mark, first of all thanks for your great service and all the effort you guys put into this. You really help independent authors like myself.

Yes, I have thrown a few choice words at your Meatgrinder (what a name to begin with!). I created a TOC/NCX according to the style guide and it works wonderfully in all the formats except for the ePub that comes out of Meatgrinder. It screws up the TOC in the beginning, linking one heading to the wrong target, although all the links work in Word. I have tested the thing back and forth. Oh, I'm sure it's some quirky thing, but it drives me nuts. Unfortunately, the ePub I created with Calibre (which works beautifully on other venues) gets rejected by your bouncers with a bunch of meaningless (for me at least) messages.

But otherwise, I'm happy with you guys.


Unknown said...

I'd like to add my voice to the anti-Word brigade.

As I understand it, Meatgrinder is creating browser preview type stuff that helps the indie booksellers market the book. I want this for my author.

After many experiments, I have found the html is the only practical way to control what is happening in the original source file form which all versions will be created.

I tried to use the Word document as the base file, since Smashwords requires it, but it is such hard work to get a good epub file going through Word, and so hard to make sure Word doesn't do anything nasty when you come back to do edits. And it is all so easy in html. Well I make websites, so I find html easy.

I was slow to realise that I can't use the epus and mobi files that Smashwords creates to sell on the author's own website, so I have to do these files independently.

From the html base file I can create the epub, a mobi version, and can upload it to Kindle. I need to go through Smashwords for everyone else - but I can't use my html file.

I have to take a special step to go from html back to Word, then spend time checking the Word file to make sure it is ok for Meatgrinder. This is a royal pain, and if I can avoid doing it I would like to. It is just time (and money for the author) going backwards from my near-as-perfect html document to muddy old Word.

So if we can get the same multiple files without having to go backwards to Microsoft Word, I would be very happy.

Vincent said...

Why do I always have .mobi failed status when I upload an .epub? I passed the epub validator and still have this .... problem!

Anonymous said...

Discovered Smashwords doesn't accept any .doc file other than official microsoft word files. I've tried to upload other word programs/software but they are all specifically blocked. What other word programs DO you accept? I tried Kingsoft office word program but it was blocked, tried A LOT of conversion software programs and they are all blocked. Unfortunately for me, Microsoft Office will not download to my computer anymore after it crashed and I had to delete it.

Dovetail Public Relations said...

cwybrick, you can use just about any word processor because most word processors will allow you to save your document as a Microsoft Word .doc. Open Office will work too -

Another option is to hire a low cost formatter on my list at Smashwords Mark's List You can send them virtually any format and they'll deliver a file ready for upload.

Revolution of the Gods said...

So am I to understand that nothing much has changed with SWD for 16 months now?

Unknown said...

I am most annoyed by the facet that no changes were made to the epub upload since dec 2012. Come on guys. Epub 3 has been out for 1 year now.

Word Doc formatting is a nightmare especially 97-2000. Please at least support DOCX files.

My 2 pence

Ranger48 said...

I would like to see some comments from authors who write science, math and engineering books with a lot of math inside.

Unknown said...


Any option to Bulk eBook Upload on Smashwords,I have more than 100 titles to upload.

Dovetail Public Relations said...

Sorry, Walid, this is not an option. You'll need to upload them one at a time.

Unknown said...

Great Article. Smashwords direct does not support table, it will be great if that option is included in future upto three columns. Other than it's perfect.

Smashwords formatter.

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