Obtaining Premium Catalog Approval

I have a 2000 AD page where I link to all the 2000 AD issues I have talked about on this site, and now I've written a book collecting the posts. In a recent post I talked about uploading this new book, called Reading 2000 AD: an Unofficial Guide to Smashwords.

It went quite well. My .doc file was successfully formatted by their systems as an ebook and immediately listed on the Smashwords site as available to buy directly, but that is not where the ‘big’ money is. The big money comes from gaining entry into the Smashwords Premium Catalog. Inclusion in the Premium Catalog enables distribution to retailers such as Apple Books, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Scribd and library platforms such as OverDrive and Baker and Taylor Axis 360. Obviously, we want that.

The problem is that while a swift auocheck is enough to get listed on Smashwords, Premium Catalog status only comes after a further step where a real human takes a look at the file. Unfortunately, today I got an email telling me that Reading 2000 AD: an Unofficial Guide was flagged for requested modifications that would need to be dome before entry into said Premium Catalog.

Luckily Smashwords offers a lot of help in getting your book through their extremely finicky conversion process. Obviously it would be better if they just had a better ebook converter, but that doesn’t look like it is going to happen any time soon. Instead you are expected to read an implement the instructions in The Smashwords Style Guide, their formatting bible. It teaches you how to professionally format and design your file so the their ebook converter can cope with it. There is also a video that explains the arcane intricacies of adding navigation and enhanced backmatter to your file that their system is capable of recognizing and including in the converted ebook.

You can also contact the Smashwords Support team for help. They offer free online support and some FAQ, full of troubleshooting tips, and information on how to get the most out of the Smashwords platform. They also tell you what is wrong with your book when it gets rejected, which is something.

The problem that was found in my book’s review was that its NCX (the EPUB's Table of Contents) didn’t end up getting formed correctly in the EPUB file. This was no surprise to me. I have uploaded over ten books to Samshwords and none of them have been given a functioning table of contents by the Samshwords converter on the first try. I have always had to jump through hoops to help get this part of the conversion done right. This is something Draft2Digital’s system does much better. Just format your chapter headings as level one headers and it automatically does all the rest of the work for you.

My sales are better on Smashwords than Draft2Digital however – at least right now – so I want to make this work on Smashwords, even if I have to do a little more hand holding for their system.

In the email I was also told that the updated Smashwords Style Guide's Step 20 has troubleshooting tips and screen shots. Unfortunately this guide is written by people who use Word. I think forcing people to use proprietary software is bad. Luckily I found a blog post that explains in precise detail how to use LibreOffice instead of the horribleness that is Microsoft Word.

So ignore the advice in the Smashwords Style Guide to use Microsoft Word and use LibreOffice instead. I don’t need to pay attention to most of the advice because my specific problem was the book’s contents. For nonfiction, most outlets require a linked Table of Contents that includes entries for each individual section in the book. So I only had to look at the last section of the blog post.

So I went back to my source file, which although I am working on it in Libreoffice is required by Smashwords to be saved as the ancient .doc format. Then I started the long process of BUILDING NAVIGATION INTO THE MANUSCRIPT.

Step one was to type (or copy and paste) the table of contents. For my book that is a huge task, but I just had to knuckle down and get on with it. Once that was all in place, I went on to step two.

Step two was to add bookmarks throughout the document. I scrolled down from the table of contents, through my document, until I found each heading atop each section referred to in the table of contents. I highlighted each chapter heading and selected Insert –> Bookmark. I also remembered to give the bookmark a meaningful name, so I would know what it referred to later on, before clicking INSERT and moving on. With all the bookmarks in place I was ready to move on to the next step in creating the TOC.

Step three was to link back to the bookmarks I had just created. This is also called targeting the bookmarks. Following the detailed instructions I had found, I went back to my TOC. There I highlight the text of the first item in the table and went to Insert –> Hyperlink. Here was where things got complicated. There are different types of possible hyperlink, including internet and email, but the one I anted was document. I clicked document button, then the little icon that looks like a target, remember this process is also called targeting bookmarks. A second dialog box popped up beside the first, with a bunch of options. These options included a list of all the bookmarks I had just strewn through the document. I then selected the Bookmark I wanted to target and clicked Apply. Then I clicked OK, and both dialog boxes popped out of existence, leaving a single TOC entry behind. It’s not exactly an easy or intuitive process, that’s for sure.

Then all I had to do was continue through the entire document and repeat the above process for each and every entry. I uploaded the new version, and it can be downloaded right now.

To end, just a reminder that the best way to support this blog is to buy one of my books. Simply go over to Amazon, or Kobo and get one.