- Part 1: My Eight-Year Journey
- Part 2: Tradtional vs. Self-Publishing
- Part 3: A Word About Editing
- Part 4: Cover Images
- Part 5: What the Heck is an ISBN?
- Part 6: Publishing ebooks on Kindle
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.