On writing‎ > ‎

Publishing at Smashwords

I know that there are a lot of aspiring authors out there and I thought it might be helpful if I shared my recent experiences of epublishing. I've now published five books at Smashwords.
Why Smashwords?
I first became aware of Smashwords in the comments section of an online newspaper article about the demise of the Borders and Angus and Robertson chains of bookshops here in Australia. The commenter mentioned that they had decided to epublish using Smashwords and were happy with the result in comparison to publishing in hardcopy, particularly in a small market such as Australia. So I checked out Smashwords and decided that I would take that leap of faith and finally put my "babies" out there for public scrutiny.
The process
After I published Heller, I read a few articles on the internet complaining about Smashwords' strict requirements for formatting to satisfy its automatic text converter "Meatgrinder" (and yeah, it would have been smarter to do more homework before I published, but hey, you are what you are). I can appreciate the point of view that if you have high standards of presentation and really want to produce a professional-looking book for your readers, Meatgrinder's requirements reduce your lovely formatting down to basics. But I also appreciate that Smashwords can only exist if it provides an automated process and that fancy formatting is not perfect for ebooks. So I stripped down my formatting, took out the beautiful calligraphy "H" I was using to show the Heller's logo, removed all the accents from words, changed my preferred sans serif font into boring old Times New Roman and turned my book into the best formatting for ebooks, following Mark Coker's very precise instructions (which are free to download).
And although I had no autovetter errors, when Heller published and I checked it in the HTML format as recommended, I noticed some slight wonky formatting that I was able to immediately fix and upload a new version. And I think there might be some more formatting problems (nothing major, but I'm a perfectionist) that I'll sort out in my next upload of it.
The pros of Smashwords
  • Provides a platform for all authors, published and unpublished, to submit their work to the world.
  • Provides ability to fix typos, incorrect information, update links, etc quickly and efficiently.
  • Ships your book to big distribution places such as Apple, Sony and Barnes and Noble.
  • Provides instant updates of downloads at the Smashwords site.
  • Provides authors with a homepage where you can link to your website, twitter, facebook, blog.
  • Gets you and your book/s onto Google searches.
  • Allows you to publish under a pseudonym, as I do.
  • Mark Coker provides you with a formatting guide and a marketing guide (both free to download).
  • Not that this affects me yet, but the royalties at Smashwords seem to be generous.
The cons of Smashwords
  • Provides a platform for all authors to submit their work to the world. Wow, there's some pretty racy stuff published at Smashwords and as a non-erotica author, it's kind of surreal to see your book wedged between a short story about women who like to be spanked while tied up in chains and a treatise on finding the true path to the messiah. Smashwords offers an "adult filter" to weed out all books with content not suitable for under-18s, but there would be a lot of books like mine that don't contain explicit erotica, but are still not suitable for the young-uns because of the violence, the language or the sex scenes, that would be weeded out with this filter.
  • Some other authors complain about the amount of time it takes to find out sales results from sites other than Smashwords. But I can't see that this is Smashwords' fault - big players usually set their own rules.
  • Another thing that isn't Smashwords' fault - the whole tax rigmarole for someone like me not in the US. Is a nightmare.
  • Doesn't yet ship to Amazon [UPDATE: and as an aside, WHY doesn't Amazon allow authors to upload free books for its readers? Amazon customers should be manning the barricades over this].
  • You're on your own - it's totally up to you to market your book. Your ebook will appear for only about a minute on the homepage of Smashwords before being pushed out by newer publications.
  • Because it's growing so quickly, the time taken to review your book for the premium catalogue is longer than suggested in the formatting guide [UPDATE: Smashwords has hired extra staff to ensure that this review is done expeditiously].
Final words
Don't die wondering - maybe you are the next Shakespeare. Let the world decide.

Blogs/forums on Smashwords

Here are some of the ones I read regularly:

JDN  25 January 2012