I’ve been playing with their magical Meatgrinder

One of the blessings of publishing ebooks, rather than books on paper, is that they can be updated easily – at least at the publishing outfit I use. If you format the manuscript properly, the Smashwords converter – playfully named the Meatgrinder – can turn your text into six different kinds of digital versions in a couple of minutes. It’s amazing.

If you don’t format properly, though, it can output your precious work as garbage or insert characters that will confuse your reader. You want to follow the guidelines carefully.

Ebooks aren’t formatted like traditional print books, especially if you’re planning to issue them simultaneously on multiple platforms like Kindle, Nook, and Kobo. You don’t want to add too many blank lines, they can turn into a series of blank screens. What you get aren’t standard pages anyway – each of the formats is sized differently, as are the reading devices. (You don’t number your pages. Think of those who will be reading on their Smartphones or tablets, while others will be at their laptops or desktop terminals.) I think of the appearance more as a scroll.

By the way, I still can’t design my books to get a new chapter to come up at the top of the next page, though some of the ebooks I read manage to do so. I’ll keep trying.


About a month ago, I experimented with changing the appearance of the text itself in one novel and was so pleased with the results that I then applied the new look to all of my other ebooks.

I can report that Meatgrinder is a friendlier and more flexible beast than I’d been led to believe. Yes, it still changes Ariel into a nice serif in the Kindle editions, but that doesn’t bother me.

And so I’ve been playing with new touches to make the text itself easier on the eyes.

Delightfully, I’ve discovered that Meatgrinder will keep typefaces the color you have in your Word document, and I’ve just done that for all of my title pages and chapter headings. Cool beans! A big improvement in the appearance of my ebooks. It doesn’t have to be all-black, one end to the other.

I’ve also found that you can add a blank line between lines or paragraphs to allow the text to breathe more. Yay! No wild unexpected results there.

Better yet, the text doesn’t have to be single-spaced. I find 1½ spacing better for the fiction and double-spacing for the poetry to be quite an improvement … admittedly much easier on the eyes.

And I even added more air as blank lines around what would otherwise be a printer’s fleuron to separate sections within a chapter – the   ~*~   figure you see here or a   = + =   in the revised novels.


Uploading a new version isn’t limited to correcting typos or adding new material, either.

You can change the cover, if you want. I did that with Hometown News a while back to give the book a better sense of newsy urgency.

And I recently added subtitles to the title page of each of my novels. I’ll tell about that in an upcoming post.


I do feel that reading an ebook is a different experience than reading paper.

What about you?


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