Sunday, September 15, 2013

My Journey with Self-Publishing, Part 4 – Smashwords

After publishing my books on KDP, I spent a few months advertising and trying to sell them.  I did okay for a first time author with no previous experience but in June, they stop selling.  I decided I needed to try something different so I started looking into publishing them on other sites, specifically Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Apple.

It took a little bit of work but I did sign up on both B&N and Kobo.  I hadn't started the process of publishing because I wanted to see what all of my options were before I began.  On Twitter, I had been following several authors and some of them mentioned Smashwords.  I was not familiar with Smashwords but assumed it was another online eBook retailer.  So I decided to check it out.  I am very glad I did.

Smashwords does sell eBooks but they are really a distributor.  Their website is very basic for viewing and buying books.  Their main objective is to distribute your book to other retailers.  Currently, they ship to B&N, Kobo, Apple, Sony, Diesel, Page Foundry, and a couple of libraries.  They also recently announced a distribution deal with Flipkart (India) and Oyster.  They do distribute to Amazon but it is limited and based on sales.  As I already had mine on Amazon, I opted out of this option anyway.

The great thing about Smashwords is that you upload your book once.  They take it and convert it to the format that is needed and then ship it to the different retailers.  Payments are sent back to Smashwords and they pay you quarterly.  Yes, they take a cut but it is fairly small and for me, it is worth it.  I do not need to know how to format my book for each retailer and if I need to make changes, I only need to do so on one site.  I love that!

Publishing my books on Smashwords was fairly easy.  It did take time because they do have their own requirements.  They provide you with a step-by-step guide.  I did have to make changes to the word document that I had for KDP but once I had it in the Smashwords format, I was able to use that format for Amazon.  When I completed by third book, I put it in the Smashwords format and used it for both KDP and Smashwords.

They also have requirements for your cover.  This was once again the area where I had the most trouble.  My covers were not sized properly for Smashwords so I had to spend a lot of time to get them formatted properly.  However, again, once I had formatted for Smashwords, it worked for KDP.

When you upload your book to Smashwords, it goes through an online auto check.  If you are only publishing your book to Smashwords, then it will be put on the website.  If you want to have it distributed to other retailers, then the book must first pass the auto check.  If the auto check finds any errors, you are notified and can correct them.  Once it passes the auto check, then someone at Smashwords will review it before it is distributed.  This took about a week for mine but I know it is based on their volume so the timeframe will vary.  Once it is approved, then it is listed in their Premium Catalog and they will ship it to the other retailers. 

Smashwords ships to some retailers daily and other weekly.  Once it is shipped, then you have to wait for that retailer to put it on their site.  So unlike, KDP, this does take more time.  You should plan for a minimum of four weeks. 

Another option that Smashwords has is pre-orders.  You can upload your book and have it available for pre-order with a future release date.  I am trying this for my third book, Trust Me, which has a release date of October 4, 2013.  I am looking forward to seeing how it works.  So far, so good.

I also really like the reporting that I get from Smashwords.  I can see how many sales I have on Smashwords immediately.  It also shows me how many samples of my book have been downloaded.  The one area that is frustrating is that I don't get immediate results on sales at the other retailers.  I know that Smashwords has no control over that but I get anxious. 

You might be able to get better royalties if you go directly with the retailer instead of Smashwords.  I didn't check that.  For me, it is not worth it.  I love the convenience of having everything in one place.  I definitely recommend Smashwords.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

My Journey with Self-Publishing, Part 3 – Promotion and Advertising

My last two posts dealt with getting my books published which I did with a lot of effort but no outside help.  So now what?

My books were out there, sitting on Amazon waiting for someone to notice.  Obviously, they didn't.  I needed to get the word out.  I needed to advertise.  But how?  One of the books I purchased about selling on Amazon had a list of Twitter accounts and Facebook pages that would advertise your book.  It was a very helpful list.  It gave me a place to begin.

I decided to offer my first book free for three days in the hope that it would attract people to my work.  This was fairly successful.  I had over 1500 downloads of my free book and then several purchases of my second book.  I used the Twitter accounts to promote the free book and I believe that lead to the purchase of the second.

After the first three days, my books continued to sell a little.  I was never expecting a lot of sales.  I know that what I write and the fact that I am unknown was not going to lead to a lucrative endeavor.  Over the next few months, I would sell about one or two books a week.  Then in late June, it dried up.  No more sales.  That is when I decided I would published my books with other retailers, specifically Smashwords (next week's blog.)

I also tried a few other sites that advertise.  I needed to get the information in front of different people.  It helped and sales picked up some.  I am not a promoter but I have attempted to put my books out on any website, Twitter account, or Facebook page that will let me.  My books will never be best sellers and I will never be able to make a living writing but I do enjoy knowing that someone is willing to read my work. 

I am sure there are many other ways to advertise.  You can do press releases, book tours, conventions, and associations.  I haven't tried any of those yet.  I don't know if I will.  I am not a very extroverted person and interacting with a bunch of people to promote my books makes me a little uncomfortable.  If you are interested in those options, there are a lot of choices.  I have a few and will share if you wish to contact me.  You can do so via my website,

Below is a list of some of the websites and Twitter accounts that I have used.  They are still active as of today.  Some cost but some are free.  They all have some specific criteria or "rules" you need to follow so read the directions.  Most have a free option and a paid option depending on what you want.  All the websites also have Twitter accounts and tweet your books so I did not put those on the Twitter list.  I

If you are on any of the sites, please stop by my page (B. L. Blair) and "like" it or tweet it if you don't mind.  Every little bit helps.  Good Luck!

Book Listing Websites (cost)                         Book Listing Websites (free)                                                                                  

Twitter (some cost/some are free)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

My Journey with Self-Publishing, Part 2 – CreateSpace

After I finished self-publishing my books on KDP, I learned about CreateSpace.  This is an Amazon company that allows indie authors to self-publish their books in paper form.  I decided this would be a good idea so I set out to complete the process.

For me, this was much harder than publishing on KDP.  The website is very good about walking you through the process, but I did have several issues.  The first issue was the setup of the title information.  It should have been easy.  It was definitely my mistake, but I listed the book as volume one.  My book is part of a series so when there was a space for a volume, I put one in.  So on the Amazon site the paperback version of my book is listed as Convince Me: Holton Series #1 (Volume 1), and I cannot change it myself.  I might be able to get CreateSpace to change it for me, but I haven’t looked into that.

The second issue was formatting the interior of the book.  You have to choose the book size before you can upload the document.  I had no idea what size would be best.  They do give you several options and even recommend certain sizes.  I made a choice and then had to format my word document to match.  It wasn’t difficult but it was time consuming.  They give you a template so I was able to cut and paste, but I had already formatted my book for the kindle version so it was annoying to have to reformat it to work for a paperback.  I know now that you can have CreateSpace upload your book to kindle, but I didn’t know that at the time so I did it backwards.

The third issue was the cover.  I mentioned on my last entry that I have created the covers for the books in my Holton series.  The cover I used for the kindle version was the one I had planned to use for the paperback version as well.  Unfortunately, that did not work out.  The sizing was all wrong and once, I did manage to get the size to fit, the pixels were off.  The cover from the kindle version was just the front so I also had to match the back cover.  The color options on CreateSpace are limited so I could not match the green which was what I wanted.  I used a color that was close to the color of my title font.  After working on it for several days, I was fairly pleased with the cover.  They suggest that you get a proof copy of your book which I did.  You don’t have to do this step but I definitely recommend it.  It does cost, but it is not much-less than $7.00 for me, shipping included.  A few days later the book arrived.  The cover just didn’t look right.  The issue with the pixels made the picture a little blurry, and the back cover color didn’t look as good in the physical form as it did on screen.

So it was back to the drawing board.  CreateSpace has cover templates available so I used one of those.  When I uploaded my cover picture into this, it worked better.  The picture is only on part of the cover so the space was smaller.  I didn’t have the pixels issue.  I was able to adjust the color to work with the picture, and this printed version looked much better.  The only problem was the kindle version of my book has a different cover from my paperback version. 

The next issue I had was getting the paperback and the kindle version linked on Amazon.  The help section said that it sometimes takes awhile.  So I waited and waited.  I had the kindle version listed and the paperback version listed, but they weren’t both listed together.  I contacted CreateSpace, and they resolved the issue.

Finally, I recently found some errors in my book and wanted to upload a new document.  It is easy to do on KDP and fairly quick.  However, I once again had to reformat the document before uploading it on CreateSpace.  Also, they remove your book from Amazon while they are approving the changes.  That was annoying.  Luckily, the approval did not take long.

Reading this, it appears that I have a very negative opinion of CreateSpace, and that is actually not true.  I believe CreateSpace is wonderful option for indie authors to get their book into paperback.  I could not have done so without this website.  The site provides step by step instructions and templates for formatting of the documents as well as the cover formats.  The one time I needed assistance, they responded very quickly.  It is a good option.  I just had a lot of issues that made it a little difficult.  When processing my second book, I found it much easier.