You finally finished your book! You uploaded it to Createspace, maybe to Kindle, and you want to get it out to as many places as possible. How about putting it on Smashwords? What is that? According to smashwords.com:
“Smashwords is the world’s largest distributor of indie eBooks. We make it fast, free and easy for any author or publisher, anywhere in the world, to publish and distribute eBooks to the major retailers and thousands of libraries.”
Smashwords distributes to Apple iBooks and Nook, which are important retailers. According to Roger Gerald Scott, on the Authors Helping Authors blog:
“Estimates vary from person to person, but generally it’s safe to assume that, at the present time in the USA, Apple’s eBook market share is approximately 15%, Amazon’s is 50%, and Barnes & Noble is 20%. This means that by uploading your book to Smashwords, you’ll be able to access potential buyers from Apple iBook and Barnes and Noble, thereby increasing your sales distribution by 35%.”
Doesn’t that sound good? Well, it’s not quite that simple. Smashwords has some very complicated requirements for formatting your book. They do allow you to download their 117-page Style Guide for free, and if you’re familiar with Microsoft Word, you won’t find it too complicated. But many authors have found the Style Guide complicated.
Author Jonathan-David Jackson writes in one of his blog posts:
“If you have decent knowledge of Microsoft Word, you can forget the Smashwords Style Guide and save yourself a couple hours of reading.”
He provides a simple list of the quickest way to format your document for Smashwords. Basically, you use Word’s style options, not individual carriage returns, paragraphs, or spaces.
However, if you don’t understand Word’s various style features, download the Style Guide and follow it to a “t.” Otherwise your book will be rejected.
Smashwords is a great way to get your ebook distributed to a wider audience. And while Smashwords does a good job of making your work available to various sites, including Apple’s iBook’s, Nook, Kobo, OverDrive, Scribd, and others, the competition is Amazon’s KDP Select. Smashwords’ website says that your book can also be distributed to Amazon; but the truth is, you must be considered a “premium” author with over $2,000 in sales before your ebook is forwarded to Amazon.
Don’t assume that everything will go easily once you get your book on Smashwords. In her article on how to format for Smashwords, Maggie Bonham says:
“One of the many problems that I’ve run into with the meatgrinder is that it is supersensitive to formats in Microsoft Word. Because I deal with a number of editors and authors who have their documents specially set up, I can’t guarantee that everything is how the meatgrinder likes it. Because of this, I spent many a night pulling out my hair trying to figure out why something was corrupted, that doesn’t show up in the document itself.”
Here are a few points to remember about Smashwords:
- Don’t upload your work to Smashwords until it is COMPLETELY ready for prime time. Unlike Amazon’s Create Space or Kindle, you can’t easily make changes once you set it up in Smashwords. It can take a considerable amount of time to fix a problem after you’ve initially uploaded your file, so check everything carefully before uploading!
- If you uploaded your file to KDP Select, you can’t use Smashwords for 90 days. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a Kindle book, but your digital book won’t be eligible for all those special promotions from KDP Select.
- If you don’t use Word, you can use a professionally designed epub file. According to the International Digital Publishing Form, “EPUB allows publishers to produce and send a single digital publication file through distribution and offers consumers interoperability between software/hardware for unencrypted, reflowable digital books and other publications.” Believe me, if you don’t understand that sentence, you should hire someone to create an e-pub for you. 😊
- The best way to work with the Smashwords Style Guide is to download it as a pdf and print it so you can refer to a hard copy as you’re formatting your book. If this sounds kinda retro – it is. And you’ll find it much easier to format this way, unless you’re used to reading complicated instructions from your computer, tablet, or phone.
- Fortunately, the Style Guide has a lot of pictures, which will help when you’re trying to figure out how to follow their instructions.
- If your manuscript has gone through years of changes, multiple computers, etc., you may have a lot of unusual formatting in the document that you can’t see. The Smashwords Style Guide describes a process they call “The Nuclear Option.” This is where you copy and paste your entire manuscript into Windows Notepad. Then you copy and paste your entire manuscript back into a new Word document. This gets rid of all the extra character returns, formatting, etc.
- DON’T FORGET TO BACK UP YOUR WORK BEFORE UPLOADING. You don’t want to “go nuclear” and then find out you just lost the latest copy of your work.
- Carefully choose the style you want for your book before trying to upload the file. Do you want to have the pages formatted so they cover the whole page, or do you want them left justified? Do you want indented paragraphs or block text? Not sure? Check out the MacMillan Press’s guidelines – MacMillan should know, right?
- When you’ve finally uploaded your manuscript to Smashwords, (and even if you decide to use Kindle instead) check out the free books offered by Smashwords creator, Mark Coker, Smashwords Book Marketing Guide and The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success. Both books have great ideas about how to advertise your book to the public.
- Smashwords sends payments to their authors quarterly.
Personally, I’m still working on taking out all those many extra spaces and carriage returns that came from years of manual typewriter use. Soon, I will be ready to upload my books to Smashwords.
Then we’ll see how those marketing ideas really work.