This spring I decided to publish some of my manuscripts on the Smashwords website. It will never make me rich, mostly because I’m a terrible marketer, but I’ve made a little fun money at it. And it’s rewarding – extremely rewarding – to see my stories finally find an audience. I recently encouraged a fellow writer to publish his work online as well, and it caused me to wonder how many other writers out there might benefit from this up-and-coming outlet.
If you’re not familiar with Smashwords, let me explain. This is a site where you can purchase original titles from a variety of genres in any ebook file format from independent authors. (Click for a listing and explanation of ebook formats.) The files can then be uploaded to any reading device, including Kindle, Nook, Kobo, phones, or apps for pcs. But the greatest thing about Smashwords is that aspiring authors no longer have to aspire. They can publish their work and sell it at no cost to themselves.
How do I get started, you may be asking. Simple. Just head to the Smashwords website and create your own account. Then read through the FAQ on the dashboard at the top of the page. It will give you all the information you need to get started. Let me point out, however, that Smashwords does not offer an editing service. You have to make sure your manuscript is in tip-top shape before you publish it.
When you are ready to begin formatting for publication, it is vital that you read through the Smashwords Style Guide, a free-to-download manual with lots of tips and shortcuts. READ IT! It will save you time and tears. Believe me, I tried it on my own first. After several hours and lots of frustration, I ended up reading it anyway. Also, let me put in a punch for the “nuclear option” it recommends. Same story. (Here’s a tip: I downloaded the Style Guide to my Kindle where I could reference it easily as I used my computer to format.) If you’d rather not format on your own, the Style Guide suggests others who will do it for you at a cost.
Once your manuscript looks good, upload it and publish! It will automatically become available for sale on the Smashwords website as is, whether it has errors or not. It’s a good idea to download your new ebook and preview it in the MOBI and EPUB formats, since these are the two biggies. If your pc won’t open one of them, look into free software downloads. (Check out the MOBI and EPUB subtitles on this blog post for some options.) It’s worth taking the time to check them out, fix obvious errors, and resubmit.
Smashwords then offers a variety of ways to market your published work. You will be given an author page on the Smashwords website. And you’ll want to gain acceptance to the Smashwords Premium Catalog, which will list your work with all the major online ebook retailers like Barnes and Noble (Nook), Amazon (Kindle) and others. Once you’ve published your work, it will go into a queue to be checked for “autovetting” errors (which may take several days, depending on how many publications are ahead of yours). If there are any errors, they will be listed with an explanation and resources to help you fix them. Fix your errors and resubmit! Only when your publication is free of errors will it be admitted into the catalog and offered to retailers, so it pays to take your time and format correctly. For other suggestions on marketing your work, check out the free-to-download Smashwords Book Marketing Guide.
Then where you take your book is up to you. Link to your book from your blog or website. Offer free downloads to bloggers who do reviews. Check out the FAQ for creating coupon for freebies and discounts. Join Goodreads or Shelfari and promote your work. The sky is the limit! But first you have to take that first step. Go to Smashwords and create your account right now.