OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
Ebooks are taking off in 2009 – with ebook readers, phones with ebook apps and the economy in a spin, you need to jump on the wave!
If you have the digital rights to your book, or if you have something you would like to self-publish, you can publish it as an ebook in a few hours and have it for sale today!
I have been selling my book, “How to Enjoy Your Job” as an ebook in PDF format for the last few months and have sold a few copies. I wanted to get it onto the Amazon Kindle, but they only accept US residents for upload. I also wanted it in other ebook formats but it seemed too complicated.
Smashwords is an ebook site where you can buy and sell ebooks in various formats. As an author, you can load your products onto the site for free (Smashwords takes 15% of sales), and it will convert your document into the various formats for you. Brilliant! This takes a lot of time and effort from us creative types who don't want to spend days reformatting.
You can have an author profile, and it will index your book for SEO and allow customers to sample your text. It has integration with Kindle and Stanza (for the iphone). You can load YouTube videos, and create coupons to allow special offers for your customers. The books can also be tagged on social networking sites so it is a great service.
Here is what I learnt from my Smashwords experience this morning which may help you:
- Read the Smashwords Style Guide first – definitely! Do not assume that your file is ok to load as is!
- I tried a few variations of formatting but the best one was plain Microsoft Word. Select All and make it Normal text. Then go back through and Bold or Underline or change font size. Delete all pictures and hyperlinks. Make it as basic as possibile and this seemed the best format for conversion. The style guide does not include instructions for Microsoft Vista. Reformatting my original (very well formatted) ebook into plain format took about 1.5 hours including loading and reloading. Take breaks so you don't get too frustrated!
- You load on the same page as you fill in all the header data, so if you make a mistake or the format is unable to be loaded, you lose this information. Keep a copy of your blurb text and tags separately so you can just paste it back in. (Recommendation for improvement Smashwords!)
- Check the HTML and Java versions and make changes, then reload as necessary. It took me a few tries!
- As a non-US resident I can sell on Smashwords, I just have to email a copy of the with-holding tax form and have 40% with-held. I get this with Lulu.com as well but what can you do! Legality is important! This is much better than the Kindle direct load which does not allow non-US residents.
- Once you are all set up, use the Smashwords Marketing Guide to see how to broadcast about your book.
To start the Smashwords publishing process, register for an account, and just follow the instructions. You load a profile with your websites and info, and then Publish your ebook. It is still in Beta (improvements are still being made) but you can start selling today!
After posting this, I had a great email from Mark Coker, who runs Smashwords. His team are looking into making the loading easier. This is also great customer service! Here is an interview with Mark at Joe Wikert's blog.
Smashwords is also now a catalogue on Stanza on the iPhone.
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