Michelle Isenhoff

Indie Endeavors, Part 7: Why Publish ebooks on Smashwords?

So you’re thinking of self-publishing?  Jump into my how-to series…

Though Amazon (Kindle) is the busiest market for ebooks, it is not the only one.  I’ve found Smashwords to be a very handy site, one well worth investigating.  It’s an up-and-coming company that few have yet heard of outside the publishing world.  Therefore, I make very little money there.  However, Smashwords will convert your ebook into a variety of file format (to accommodate many types of readers), and it gives authors the opportunity to offer free downloads.  (Amazon, if you recall, will not allow a price to be set below .99.)
Why would I want to price my book free? you may be asking.  One reason.  Promotion!  If you’re reading this, most likely you aren’t someone with a household name.  To help spread the word about yourself and your work, you may consider giving your stories away for a limited time.  Readers who would never purchase from an unknown author will often read for free.  If they like what they see, they may come back for more.  This strategy is especially useful if you have additional books available.  Every time I’ve tried it, the sales for my not-free books have jumped.  Also, by setting the first book of a series to free, you may draw readers to your second volume and beyond.  Short stories are another great way to draw attention to your work.  They don’t take long to write, so throwing them out there as freebies makes great sense.  You can do this through the Smashwords website.
But maybe, instead of offering your book free to anyone, you’d like to give it away to only certain readers.  Reviewers, for instance.  For this, Smashwords has a very useful coupon feature.  You can keep your price set at whatever figure you like for the masses.  In the meantime, you can create coupons which may be passed out selectively.  The discount price can be set to anything you like, and you control the expiration date.  Your readers simply punch in the code at checkout and download their book. (You might also consider 30% or 60% off coupons for select groups, like the readers of a blog on which you’ve been featured.)
Another reason to publish on Smashwords, and I’d say the most important reason, is that the Amazon web-bot roams to and fro throughout the virtual world sniffing out bargains.  If it finds your book at a price lower than Amazon’s, many times it will match it.  Twice I’ve set my books to free on Smashwords only to have Kindle pick it up about two weeks later.  Talk about exposure!  Each time, my downloads topped 10,000 in the space of a week or ten days.  Needless to say, my other books did very well, too.  And this boost lasted even after I changed my price back.
Publishing on Smashwords is even easier than publishing on Kindle, because you can upload Word documents (only in the .doc format, not .docx).  The Smashwords “meatgrinder” will convert to several other formats for you.  However, for your document to convert to all these successfully, there are some specific formatting rules to follow.  I hit on most of them in last week’s Publishing on Kindle post, particularly the instructions for creating a free-flowing document, wiping out all of Word’s formatting, and swapping tabs out for automatic indentations.  If you’re brand new to Smashwords, I’d also recommend reading through the Smashwords style guide.  It’s a very comprehensive resource for all things formatting, including the creation of hyperlinked tables of context and the inclusion of pictures.
One last benefit of publishing on Smashwords is that your work will be distributed to a variety of other ebook retailers (if you choose), such as Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Stanza, Diesel, Apple, Aldiko and Sony.  Granted, I’ve never made any sales from these retailers, but it doesn’t hurt to spread oneself around.  You never know what might happen. (Last year, Smashwords was the only way to place your work on the Barnes and Noble Nook, but B&N now offers its own publishing program.)
So go sign up for a free account on the Smashwords website and you’ll be publishing in no time at all.
Part 8: Should I Create a Paperback?
For more information about Smashwords, check out my older posts:

How to Self-Publish on Smashwords 
How to Download ebooks from Smashwords and How to Use Smashwords Coupons
Reading ebooks on your Personal Computer – PDF, EPUB, MOBI and JavaScript (Some of the file formats offered by Smashwords)
Indie Endeavors, Part 7: Why Publish ebooks on Smashwords?

10 thoughts on “Indie Endeavors, Part 7: Why Publish ebooks on Smashwords?

  1. I think I’ll use Smashwords. I’ll start off with a low price, start advertising, go to free, keep advertising, when a lot of people buy my book, go to a bit higher on price. **note** First must finish book….Thanks for the tips Mrs. Isenhoff!
    Erik 🙂

  2. Michelle, have read both posts, including the one on Kindle. Don’t know what to think. Looked briefly at Smashwords. It has been drilled into my head that you need an agent to look out for your rights. Is there an editorial board that reviews books for quality? Is this primarily for novels and chapter books? I downloaded some picture books of a well-known authors that had been converted to an ebook. I was horrified a the errors and mistakes. The books were also in hard copy too. I know it’s a way to get published. I know uTales is an app for kids books led by Emma Dryden and Hans from Sweden. But there is an editorial review led by Emma to determine the quality. And, it is geared more towards picture books. Guess it’s best to keep one’s mind open.

    1. Patricia, I assume you are asking this with the view of possibly self-publishing. You seem to lean mostly toward picture books on your blog, and I’ve dealt solely with novels, so I honestly can’t tell you what of the following will apply. I also can’t answer for the mistakes in traditionally-published books that put out terribly edited ebooks (and I’ve found several). But I can say there is nobody doing quality control for self-publishers. We are fully responsible for our own editing, and that can be a very bad thing. Indies do have a terrible reputation, and in many cases, it’s well-deserved. The rest of us do our darnest to earn a professional reputation for ourselves.
      Speaking from my own experience (and you may have seen this in my recent post about editing), I learned this hard lesson by experience: no matter how well I edit, errors escape my notice. More eyes are necessary, but lots of indies (and blog reviewers) do a fine job helping each other out by beta reading manuscripts or ARCs for each other. In my case, it took a few tries to get my ebooks right. I still have a few early paperbacks with a handful of errors in them which I give out free in giveaways (probably the ones you have!), but with on-demand printing, those errors were fixed at the same time I fixed my ebooks, so any new paperback purchases through Amazon are clean. I made this mistake with all my early novels, because they were published so close together. Now, I am building in a peer-editing period before the launch of my next novel.
      As far as needing an agent, I don’t think they’re necessary. Their role of helping you get publishing contracts and navigate the process become obsolete if you are self-publishing. The author owns the full rights, and without a publishing house to sign them away to, there’s no need to protect them.
      If you are, indeed, looking to self-publish, I’d encourage you to keep researching picture book opportunities! This past year I met a neat lady who has very successfully published a couple picture books. You might look her up. Here’s her Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/fanofJDHoliday

  3. Thank you for such a thoughtful respsonse. I really haven’t thought about self-publsihing because of all of the research and studying I’ve done. Right now I’m just working in picture books and trying to perfect my craft. Although, I have thought about publishing through uTales, designed for picture books. MS are 300-500 words. But, it’s hard to find an agent with the competition so great.
    My blog covers all genres — my focus is on books that heal, and I lean towards special needs, but also include multicultrual, homelessness, historical fiction, ecology, social justice issues and peace. I also review occasionally a good parent book, and do author interviews. Tomorrow I’m reviewing a powerful book about child soldiers. On Friday’s I focus on perfect picture books.
    Thanks for the link from the woman who’os self-published a couple of picture books. Will check it out. Looking forward to reading your books.

    1. Boy you nailed it with that comment about competition!
      I’ve visited your blog several times. It’s beautifully done with wide variety of books. Child soldiers – absolutely shameful. I’ll check it out today.

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