Saturday, November 20, 2010

Adventures in Uploading

Uploading your manuscript to Smashwords and Amazon is easy -- thankfully. I've done it a dozen times with Death By A Dark Horse. No need to feel hesitant, or fearful about mistakes. The world isn't going to see what you put out there until you hit the "publish" button, and even then it will take a little time -- a couple of days for Amazon -- for your book to hit the catalogs.

You already know I recommend scouring your manuscript using the Smashwords Style Guide. My totally arbitrary choice was to upload to Amazon first. You don't have to do it that way.

Once at the site I signed in (I already have an Amazon account, if you don't then create one) and followed the super simple steps to create my author account and upload. Don't worry if you mess up. There's very clear prompts that direct you back to the area you need to fix.

First, I uploaded the manuscript, then the cover (they're separate uploads), waited briefly and, when prompted, clicked on the "Review" option.


Yes. Review Every Last Page in the Kindle mock-up window.

"But," you say, "I've already done multiple read-throughs, had a content editor, copy editor, and beta readers go through it. Why am I doing this AGAIN?"

Because Odd Things Can Happen in the conversion process.

I feel somewhat compelled to repeat that -- how about you just read it again. I'll wait.

So, lets talk about what happened to me that caused the multiple uploads to Amazon I mentioned in the first paragraph. I might be able to save you some frustration.

The first couple of pages looked great, then…whoops. A small section had odd margins -- like a chunk of text had the left margin moved a number of spaces to the right…and…oh dear, there was no paragraph break for the second character's dialog.


And the further I got into the manuscript, the more frequently the peculiar margin problem and paragraphing problem happened.

Holy cow.

What a mess.

No way could I release this gobble-d-gook to the world.

I checked the Word Doc for anything that might have snuck in. Nothing.

I paced, ate chocolate, and stared at the screen. About then I noticed Amazon's instructions about downloading the HTML document created when I uploaded my manuscript. The instructions were to examine the HTML doc, fix the problem, and resubmit the HTML doc. How hard could that be, right?

Holy cow.

I must have stared at the screen for two solid hours trying to make some sense out of the pointy brackets, slashes, and plentiful-but-terse (and incomprehensible) coding. Never mind there were multiple colors. At long last I began to see a pattern. The same lines of code appeared before each of the oddly formatted sections and nowhere else. I tried an experiment -- how much worse could it get, right? I took out the errant lines of code and replaced them with the code that appeared regularly where there wasn't a problem. Just to be safe -- like a controlled scientific experiment -- I changed only one section. Then I resubmitted the HTML file and…


Non-techie me fixed the problem! All I had to do was replace each occurrence of bad code with good code and I was golden!

Five hours later (seriously, FIVE hours) with dinner hastily prepared and bolted, I was at my computer still exercising the search and replace function.

"What are you doing?" my husband asked.

I didn't take my eyes off the screen or my fingers off the keys as I answered. "I'm fixing this freaking HTML file of my freaking book so the freaking margins won't look like some freaking cat half digested my freaking book and freaking threw it up. I'm only one sixth of the way done, I have a freaking headache that starts in my freaking lower back and to be honest I just really don't feel like freaking chatting right now."

"Why don't you just make a new HTML file?"

"I'd have the same freaking problem."

"Use a different HTML generator," he said.

"A different one? That would fix this?"


I didn't believe him. He booted me out of my chair and ran the clean Word doc file through a different HTML generator…one on my computer. I didn't know I had it. I thought I had to use what Amazon created.

In less than five minutes we were uploading a new HTML file to Amazon. The peculiar lines of code (which I learned were obsolete HTML) were not there. To be honest I didn't think the problem would be solved. But…it was!

I don't know how the antiquated code got there, except that it obviously wasn't in my Word doc file and had to have been injected by the conversion process. I've heard that the conversion process has not been perfected yet. Guess it's true.

The moral of the story is: Check your uploaded book carefully. If you have problems like I did it may just take creating your own HTML file and using that to upload to Amazon. I hope they have the problem fixed soon. This kind of thing could get real discouraging.

Sorry about the long post. I was going to divide this in half, but I figured you'd want to know right away how I fixed the problem -- especially if you are experiencing the same thing yourself.


  1. Susan, you made me laugh. This sounds exactly like me fixing my book files except I never got to the part with the different HTML generator. I turned the file over to my son and he fixed it for me and got it uploaded.

  2. Not everybody agrees that uploading to Smashwords is easy. Some authors have ongoing problems with it. The main problem seems to be that the instructions are for Word docs. If you don't have Word and use Open Office or another program, the transition can be messy. I'm going to be publishing my first book sometime next year, so I'm just glad to have the heads up about potential problems, including the one with HTML. Thanks.

  3. Maybe the third time will be the charm with these darn Blogger comment issues. Anyway, glad to hear of your success. Can I borrow your husband?

  4. L.C. -- I'm so NOT a techie, but I grit my teeth and beat at it until either it submits or my husband takes pity on me (or the computer...I haven't really decided if it's me or the electronics he feels more empathy toward). Honestly, these quirks need to be straightened out. I'm sure they will be -- someday....

    Catana -- Yeah, I probably should have qualified that "easy" thing with Smashwords. They are totally geared toward Word, and can have sincere problems with manuscripts done on other word processing platforms. I know it's not an easy thing to put a conversion program together and be able to pump out all the formats that their "meatgrinder" programs does. Maybe someday that issue will be resolved, too.

    Nanette -- Yes!! Your comment came through! Yay!! I relayed your request to my husband. He asked if your request had to do with computers, and sighed (sadly) when I said yes. Poor baby. I cramp his style ;)

  5. Ah, technology! Aggravates us to no end....

    Susan, I named you as a Versatile Blogger in one of my recent blogs!

  6. Hey, thanks William! I'm honored! I don't believe I've been over to your blog. I must stop by!

  7. Great post, Susan! This info is very helpful. You're such a pioneer, making the "mistake" for all of us to learn from. :)


  8. LOL! Glad you're finding all this helpful. I think we often learn more from our mistakes than from our correct "guesses" -- that's my story and I'm sticking to it!

  9. Susan--I've been following your blog for a while now. You combine two things I dearly love--writing and horses (though not always in that order).

    We went through a lot of issues when submitting our e-books to both Kindle and Smashwords a couple of years ago. (Actually, my son was the one who had the problems--I'm a technomoron and wasn't allowed to even be in the room while this was going on.) I'd published fourteen books traditionally and was used to someone doing everything for me, so I was clueless.

    I'm still learning....

  10. I'm glad you're enjoying my blog, Norma!

    So much has changed from just 2 years ago. The whole e-book process is getting much better; easier, and more reliable. Not only that, but the entire industry is nearly unrecognizable from that time, too. Hard to keep up with all that's going on. Two years ago I never would have imagined I'd be self publishing my books. Now I wouldn't have it any other way. People like you, who have been brave and forged ahead have made it so much easier for the rest of us!