December 10 2013 Editor Assistance Newsletter
SmashWords is a great ebook distribution system. You load your book once into SmashWords. It then distributes your ebook to a large collection of other sites, including Amazon, Apple, Nook, Sony, Kobo, Diesel, Page Foundry, Baker & Taylor, Library Direct, Flipkart, Oyster, and more. Different countries tend to use different systems, so this helps your book reach a world wide audience. There's no fee at all to use SmashWords. You load your ebooks up for free. They then take a portion of each sale as their commission.
You can opt out of the different channels on a book by book basis. So you could select all of them for Book 1, and then for Book 2 you could choose for them not to distribute to Amazon. For Book 3 you could choose everything except Apple.
Why would you opt out of a channel?
I find that in some cases the SmashWords fee / commission per book is higher than if I'd loaded it in directly or via another system. So for my books, the ones that aren't Kindle exclusive, here's what I do. I always load directly into Kindle. I like Kindle's tools and reports. I load directly into Kobo. I also load into Lulu, which gets me free access to Lulu, Apple, and Nook all at once. So that's a three-for-one operation that saves me money vs using SmashWords. I then use SmashWords for everything else. That means each time I revise one of my ebooks I load it into four places. It's quite easy - it's all just a few button pushes and it's done. It then gives me visibility to a wide range of people.
The SmashWords system is straightforward. Just go to SmashWords.com and create an account. It's free to set up. The screens are straightforward to use, with you entering your title, author name, book cover JPG, and so on.
The content file itself deserves some mention. Unlike the other systems which want a MOBI or EPUB, SmashWords wants a Word DOC file. Not only that, but they are quite specific about the format for that DOC file.
If you set up your Word DOC file properly, it's really quite easy to load in the results. But that's the key. You have to train yourself to create that initial file properly, and then use that for all your ebooks. That way when you get to the SmashWords step it's an easy conversion to theirs.
So you want the chapters to all start with a chapter title which is tagged with the Word Heading 1 tag. You don't want to use tabs at all. Avoid hitting the hard return bunches of times in a row to "slide text down". Use page breaks instead when you want to force something to start on a new page.
I make my "actual" book in a DOCX file. It has my normal ISBN information on the copyright page, and the only tabs are in the header area where the page numbers are. The only "rows of hard returns" are on the main title and half title pages, to center those words.
Then, when I'm ready, I save that out as a DOC (old style Word) file. I know that the DOC file is my SmashWords file. I then make these changes:
* remove the tabs from the header area so now there are no tabs at all. You can search for a tab by searching for ^t
* remove the sets-of-line-breaks on the title and half-title page, so now there are no series of line breaks. You can search for this by searching for ^p^p^p^p
* remove ALL ISBN numbers from the copyright page and replace them with "SmashWords Edition". You want that to be on your copyright page.
* If you have any text larger than 18 point in your document, reduce it to 18 point. In my book that's only the title page, half title page, and chapter headings.
* If you have any images that are anything but "in line", change them to "in line". In my book there's only the one bio photo which has text wrapping around that, so I turn off the wrap there and instead put my photo beneath the bio.
* If you have any URLs that point to other books on Amazon or other sales sites, remove them. SmashWords doesn't want to distribute a book to the Nook, for example, that's promoting Kindle links. Pointing to your own website is fine. So, for example, for my Medieval books I link to my own website's page for each of the other books in the series. That page on my own website then points to where the book in question can be found on Amazon, Apple, Nook, etc.
Once the document has those formattings, you load it in. SmashWords converts it into formats for all its various channels, and off it goes!
ISBNs deserve special mention here. DO NOT REUSE AN ISBN FROM ANY OTHER SYSTEM FOR SMASHWORDS. Yes, I know technically that you should only need one ISBN for the EPUB format. You should be able to use it across distribution systems. However, Amazon and other systems have gotten notorious for delisting books that they see in other systems sharing "their" ISBN. It's better not to risk it. Use the SmashWords custom ISBN for this book. You don't want your book building traction and rankings and then instantly deleted.
A neat feature of SmashWords is that you get to see not only who has bought your book, but also who has downloaded the first-chapter sample they provide. So you get a sense of which of your books are catching the eye of readers. This can help you tweak your cover and blurb to do their jobs the best they can.
Let me know if you have any questions about SmashWords!
Lisa Shea, owner
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