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.

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