This Self Publishing Guide will focus on Smashwords. Smashwords is a third party aggregator that will send your books to Barnes & Noble (Nook), iBooks (iPad/iPod/iPhone), Sony, Kobo, and Diesel. They are a one-stop-shop for self publishing and have a lot of fans. As I explained in my Barnes & Noble Nook Self Publishing Guide, the B&N process is so simple, there is little reason to have Smashwords do it for you (and take a cut of your profits – currently 15% or less of the net or about 10% of the asking price). When I published my first book, Bob Moore: No Hero, Smashwords didn’t have a deal with Amazon so I had to put it up there myself. Currently, they have penned a deal but they’ve yet to distribute a book. Since Amazon’s process, as I explain in my Amazon Kindle Self Publishing Guide, is fairly easy, there is little reason not to distribute it there yourself as well.
iBooks, on the other hand, is a different story. See my iBookstore Self Publishing Guide (out soon) for more info.
Anyone that has spent any time on this site knows I’ve had my issues with Smashwords (detailed here and here). But they do play an important role (other than providing a virtual mountain of erotic “literature”) in the self-publishing world. There are a few outlets where it is easier to use a third party aggregator. In fact, some of the ebook retailers won’t let you submit directly. Smashwords is an easy and, mostly, free source. The traditional problem with Smashwords are two-fold. First, they don’t respond to email. This is well documented online; you don’t have to take my word for it. You might get an initial response to your first inquiry but if you have an issue, they immediately shut down.
The second is the formatting. Their formatting guide is about as clear as mud and is written from the perspective of someone that hasn’t just spent the last few months/years/decades on a book and JUST WANTS TO GET IT PUBLISHED ALREADY!!! Believe me, if you feel like that, you are not alone. I downloaded their formatting guide and just about passed out. Really? I need to read all this? Can’t I just upload my Word .doc?
Well, you could, but either they’ll reject it out of hand or it’ll be FULL of errors and formatting snafus. You didn’t spend all that time on your manuscript just to have it look like crap right? Not only that, but if it doesn’t meet their requirements, they won’t allow you in their Premium Catalog and you won’t get into any other bookstore anyhow. Honestly, that’s why you went to Smashwords in the first place.
So, if you’ve already followed my Amazon Kindle Self Publishing Guide, you’ve got a Word .doc you can start with. If not, follow the link and go through to the end of the Formatting section (before you output an HTML file). Using my Kindle_formatting_Template, you’ll have a document that is mostly Smashwords ready. From here, there are only two additions you’ll need to make.
First, change any links to other websites (like Amazon) into something generic. On my website, I have a Books page and a page for both Bob Moore: No Hero and Bob Moore: Desperate Times. These pages have links to all the different outlets for each of the books. I also link reviews, interviews, excerpts, and other news about the books. Since the Smashwords version will, eventually, be going to multiple outlets, sending them back to Smashwords or to Amazon/iBooks/whatever doesn’t make sense.
The first addition/change you need it to make sure you title page looks something like this:
Copyright 20XX by FirstName LastName
Copyright FirstName LastName 20XX
Published at Smashwords
Copyright FirstName LastName 20XX
Published by XXXXXXX Publishing at Smashwords
Note: I copied that directly from Smashword’s website here. This next bit I got from the Style Guide:
They will be looking for a title page that looks like one of the above. Second, on a separate page (you can use a Page Break for this), you’ll need a License Note. If your book is free, use this:
Smashwords Edition, License Notes
Thank you for downloading this free ebook. You are welcome to share it with your friends. This book may be reproduced, copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes, provided the book remains in its complete original form. If you enjoyed this book, please return to Smashwords.com to discover other works by this author. Thank you for your support.
But if it is not free, use this:
Smashwords Edition, License Notes
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
For both of the above, make sure that you’ve used one of the Styles I included in my template.
So, you’ve got your book ready. Uploading with Smashwords, depending on when you do it, doesn’t take long. A few hours at most. Once it is up, download every format you can and then test it out. See what it looks like. I wouldn’t worry much about the “Online” versions – they universally look bad. You mostly want to make sure the .Mobi (Kindle) .EPUB (iDevices, Nook, Sony, Kobo, others), and PDF versions look okay. If you have followed my previous formatting guides correctly, this should go off without much of a hitch.
The next thing you’ll have to do is wait. While getting your book through the autovetter (basically a computer program that checks for common formatting errors) shouldn’t be an issue, to get into the Premium Catalog requires overview by a human. Smashwords says they get to every book within a few days. In my experience, you’re lucky if they approve it in a week. My first book took three weeks for the first round (they came back with a small problem which I immediately fixed) and then another 3 weeks before it was finally approved. Bob Moore: Desperate Times, the book I based all these formatting guides on, went through without a hitch…ten days after I submitted it.
Smashwords: Pros and Cons
After reading all my guides, you’ll quickly realize there is absolutely no benefit to paying Smashwords to distribute to Nook and Kindle. It is far too easy to do it yourself. Not only that, the statistics reporting on Smashwords for their distributed sites is abysmal at best. While I have over 80 reviews of Bob Moore: No Hero on iBooks, according to Smashwords I haven’t shipped a single copy (I found out recently this is because they don’t report the numbers for free books even though they, technically, have them – a piece of information that should be prominent on their site). From the standpoint of statistics reporting, doing it yourself means you get real time data on sales from each of the sites.
On the other hand, Smashwords will provide you with an ISBN number for sites that require them (like iBooks). This can be a huge money outlay and I don’t blame people for thinking that it makes sense to have Smashwords absorb this cost (especially if their book is free – like Bob Moore: No Hero is). Also, Apple doesn’t make distributing through them easy and I’m sure many will deal with a few formatting issues in exchange for having Smashwords deal with Apple.
I do want to sing a bit of praise for Smashwords, however. They are the only outlet that will email you every time you make a sale and every time your book is reviewed on their site. I LOVE this. I wish Amazon, Apple, and Barnes & Noble would do this as well but, to date, they don’t. The other thing that is really nice about Smashwords is you can give out coupon codes. This allows you to give your book away (or at a discount) without changing the price for everyone. You can create different coupon codes for each application (or in many cases – persons) so that you can track how each sale/whatever is going. When authors provide free coupon codes for reviewers, it is nice to know you can track to see if they are giving that code out to all their friends (they send you an email with each coupon usage so you know if they are being abused).
My personal feelings about Smashwords aside, I’ll continue to use them for Kobo, Sony, and Diesel at least, and perhaps for iBooks in the future. The coupon codes are nice and it is one more outlet for people to find and review your book. With my guide in hand, you should have no problems getting your book uploaded and approved.
If this guide has been helpful, please consider supporting me by buying one of my books.
Other Self Publishing Guides:
CreateSpace (coming soon)