Interested in becoming a published author? Publish on SmashWords and control your work from content to distribution and pricing. SmashWords is one of the largest – if not the largest – distributor of indie (independent) books in the world. The retail customers include iBooks (Apple), Nook (Barnes and Noble), Sony, Kobo, Diesel, and more. If you want to make money as a writer – especially as a book author – use SmashWords. This post has a step-by-step process for publishing on SmashWords. If you really want to cover all eBook bases, refer to the recent post with a similar tutorial for Kindle.
eBooks are quickly overtaking print books as the media of choice. iPad, Kindle, and Nook reader sales are strong and eBook sales will surpass printed book sales (see graph) in 2017, assuming current sales trends remain. Writers need to consider and embrace the eBook platform if they hope to be successful.
Before jumping into eBook publishing, have your story or other work formatted correctly and ready to publish. Refer to SmashWords founder Mark Coker’s guide for eBooks as a reference. Also be sure to have cover page artwork prepared and ready to upload to the site. SmashWords has a no-nudity policy for its covers; if writing erotica, know this in advance. SmashWords current cover guidelines:
They (covers) should be vertical rectangle-shaped (the height is greater than the width), not squares, and must be a minimum width of 1,400 pixels. A recommended size is approximately 1,600 pixels wide by 2,400 pixels tall (the proportions of most paperback books in the USA, which have height 1.5 times greater than their width). To view the pixel dimensions, right mouse click on the image and click properties.(2) Updates and examples are found at http://blog.smashwords.com/2012/06/new-ebook-cover-image-requirements.html.
Some lessons I learned after publishing several eBooks on SmashWords:
- A TABLE OF CONTENTS IS A MUST. Especially for iBooks.
- DO NOT USE TABS. You may want to make a book of poetry look pretty or visually appealing, but no in eBooks, yet.
- DO NOT USE EXTRA SPACING OR LINE RETURNS. This is another guarantee that “Meatgrinder” will reject the file.
- SmashWords uses the “Meatgrinder” program to convert a .doc (MS Word) into an .epub file. Errors are common the first time through, don’t get discouraged.
- Create a separate title page from the body text. “Meatgrinder” does not know the difference between title page and body page. Use the “page break” option in Word for this.
- Most autovetter error messages are very confusing and opaque. You can follow the style guide and try to correct the problems. It is often slow and frustrating.
- Help yourself and do not use numbered lists at all. My most recent eBook had one bizarre error, and that was for several numbered lists in my book. I removed all numbered lists and the error resolved.
- Instead of numbers, use bullet points: the “-“ works well. Nothing fancy, just basic.
- Be consistent with paragraph styles throughout your eBook. Use the same font (arial, times new roman, courrier) and no larger than 14 pt.
- Use the “save as” feature and save your document in compatibility mode. Word version 2003 or .doc format.
- SmashWords is not nearly as fast as Kindle for mass distribution. With Kindle, the eBook (assuming no errors) will be on sale within 12 to 24 hours. SmashWords, while immediately on sale (at SmashWords store) after publication, won’t show errors or distribute to its affiliates (via the Premium Catalog) for several days. Don’t be shocked if you wait for 5 days or more. Since the affiliates include Barnes and Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Diesel and more, your eBook must be error-free.
- Microsoft Word has many hidden formatting issues. Use the paragraph icon (show/hide) to reveal extra spaces and line returns (see below).
- Download Adobe Digital Editions to review your .epub file. epub is distributed to all SmashWords affiliates.
These tips won’t cover all errors – sometimes Word files become corrupted for no known reason. In these cases, backup the file and copy and paste all of it (ctl + a) into WordPad or Notepad to remove all hidden formatting. Copy the program back into a new Word file.
Create an account on SmashWords (free) using an email address. If you are charging for your work, you will be paid within 40 days after the end of each quarter. If in the U.S.A, payment is by paper check or PayPal account. If outside the U.S., PayPal is the only option. You will need to supply an address and tax ID number too. Payment thresholds are $75 for paper checks and $10 for PayPal.
Existing accounts don’t need to go through the setup process unless something has changed or you are using a pseudonym (pen name). SmashWords allows multiple pseudonyms, but the payment information (for taxes) should be the same.
Click on the publish tab in the toolbar as shown below:
- Enter the title of the book
- Select pre-order (see description) or publish immediately option (note above about distribution to affiliates)
- Long and short descriptions are important – they are the similar to the back and inside cover of a print book.
- Choose the language and dialect (if appropriate)
- Set pricing. You have 3 choices: Free, Let Reader Set Price, or set a price more than $0.99. About pricing – this can be difficult. Too low, and readers may think the book is cheap (content). Too high, and readers won’t buy. Many authors choose $2.99 for a 15,000 to 20,000 or more word book. Research pricing against similar products.
- Set sampling. This is a preview of the first part of your eBook. For short stories, 25% to 30% is good, for novels, 10% to 20%, depending. Sampling includes the cover page, title page, and table of contents page. Adjust sampling accordingly.
- Choose the category. Category and Tags are part of the metadata for your eBook. If a reader searches for paranormal romance, they don’t want ABC and 123 for kids.
- If your eBook contains adult content, choose that button. SmashWords publishes only original and legal works. Period.
- Select the eBook formats desired. By default, all available formats are selected including: ,epub, .mobi (Kindle), PDF, RTF, plain text and more.
- Click on the browse button to upload the cover
- Click on the browse button to select the eBook text. .doc is preferred, but ePub is currently in beta testing. I have not tried uploading an .epub file yet.
- Click on the agree box
- Click on PUBLISH IMMEDIATELY
The file will go through the “Meatgrinder” process and spit out the results. You may receive errors as mentioned above. If not, go to the dashboard and assign an ISBN number to your work. After an ISBN is assigned (required for Apple iBooks), click on submit for review and addition to the Premium catalog. This process will take several days and may give errors too. You will receive an email notification when the process is complete or if errors occur.
Congratulations! You can now claim to be a published author!