Smashwords and OpenOffice | Literary Abominations

Smashwords and OpenOffice

Smashwords, for all its good points (and they are many), suffers from a singular lack of support for open formats where their Meatgrinder software is concerned. This has caused a hue and cry from those of us who prefer to author our own epub and mobi files, and from those of us using OpenOffice and attempting to translate the style guide from MS Word to OpenOffice.

After much experimentation, I’ve come up with a template that works very reliably for passing muster both with the Autovetter and with the Premium Distribution channel. As the other templates I discovered online are not especially helpful for creating a book with pretty titles and extra front/back matter, I’ve decided to offer my own for the use of anyone who likes it.

So, I’m releasing my template into the public domain (here’s a version for MS Word). Download and use with OpenOffice, then save the properly formatted book in .doc format, and it should get you through the process painlessly. Needless to say, I make no warranties beyond saying “it’s worked very well for me,” but I hope all of you that wish to use it find it useful.

About the author

After a childhood in academia, J. Daniel Sawyer declared his independence by dropping out of high school and setting off on a series of adventures in the bowels of the film industry, the venture capital culture of silicon valley, surfing safaris, bohemians, burners, historians, theologians, adventurers, climbers, drug dealers, gangbangers, and inventors before his past finally caught up to him.

Trapped in a world bookended by one wall falling in Berlin and other walls going up around suburbia and along national borders throughout the world, he rediscovered his deep love of history and, with it, and obsession with predicting the future as it grew aggressively out of the past.

To date, this obsession has yielded over thirty books and innumerable short stories, the occasional short film, nearly a dozen podcasts stretching over a decade and a half, and a career creating novels and audiobooks exploring the world through the lens of his own peculiar madness, in the depths of his own private forest in a rural exile, where he uses the quiet to write, walk on the beach, and manage a production company that brings innovative stories to the ears of audiences across the world.
For news and free stories, sign up for his occasional newsletter. Or find his contact info, podcasts, and more on his home page at


  1. Thanks for the template, I’ll give it a try.

    The ironic thing is — from what I deduced a few months back digging into the process, so this isn’t gospel — Smashwords runs their meatgrinder on Linux and one of the first things it does is convert the .doc file to .odt (OpenOffice) format.

    However, I can kind of understand their desire to keep things simple by insisting on a single input format. At least they’re not asking for it in SGML.

  2. Alastair —

    SGML? *shudder*

    Still, I’m definitely looking forward to the day when they’ll be willing to at least take html, if not e=pub. SO much easier to make a good-looking book that way, particularly if we’re talking about a nonfiction book with diagrams and footnotes.

    Ah well–for what it is, it’s a great service. And hopefully, it shall continue to improve as it has thus far!

    Hope the template works well for you

  3. Import it into the template manager, then when you open a new doc, specify this template (see the openoffice documentation for how to do these things, or check out the tutorials on Once you learn how to use templates, it’s easy peasy.


  4. Werd up. I’ve never really used templates. I usually just open up a new doc and start flailing my arms against the keys like I’m having a seizure.

  5. One million thanks for the template, my last book looked horrible before I tried it, and now, it not perfect, but it looks reasonably good and readable.

  6. Dan,
    Template use is a step in the right direction. You should write a piece about the importance of creating and using styles based on Normal, because that is the main reason for failing auto vetter. I find Atlantis Word processor isn’t as hiccupy as MS Word but have never tried it for Smashwords. It will however create epub files. Worth the $30 it costs. I used .odt in my tertiary education digital publishing job, found it more stable than Word, held styles, etc. Thank you for the odt document. I’ll give it a whirl for my upcoming novel.

Comments are closed.