Monday, May 14, 2012

A smashing treat — a look at Smashwords

A lot of writers are talking about self-publishing these days. The expanding ebook market combined with the ease and affordability of digital publishing makes it easy to dust off the manuscript and hit a publish button. 
Mark Coker at PPWC
During the Pikes Peak Writers Conference in April, I heard Mark Coker, founder, CEO and Chief Author Advocate at Smashwords speak in a session titled Ebook Publishing Best Practices. He founded Smashwords in 2008 "to change the way books are published, marketed and sold." His efforts to get the book he co-wrote with his wife Lesleyann, Boob Tube, inspired him to start Smashwords. 


He's also written The Smashwords Style Guide (how to format an ebook), The Smashwords Book Marketing Guide and The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success. Smashwords only publishes digital books. 

Coker shared tips from The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success at the conference. You can download any of his books in a format for your ereader or you can view them online.

Using Smashwords in his words "is fast, free and easy."

Some tips he shared at the conference:
  • Your best marketing tool is a great book. Angels were singing (in my head) when he said this. Amen. 
  • Choose a good pen name. He said initials can be bad. For example is it J.F. Cane, JF Cane or J. F. Cane. How's the search engine going to pick up your name?
  • Create a great cover image — invest in a quality cover, don't mislead readers with the cover, use simple images due to the thumbnail size. To find inexpensive cover designers and book formatters, email list@smashwords.com. You'll get an automated reply with a list. 
  • Publish another great book. Readers want more when they've earned your trust.
  • Maximize your distributions. He encouraged writes to work with all the ebook retailers.
  • Give some of your books for free. He said Smashwords' highest grossing authors offer at least one title for free. 
  • Patience is a virtue. Ebooks are immortal, he said. So, as an author, you don't have to worry about selling out in a set period or having your books removed from the shelf. Books are like a fruit tree. You plant one at each retailer. Get reviews. Copies are sold and the book continues to yield fruit. 
  • Platform building starts yesterday! Platform equals your ability to reach readers. My aha moment when he spoke about platform was his mention of Google Plus — the Facebook like site. Coker said that Google gives preference in its search engines to G+ content. I rarely remember to post my blog on there. I need to do this.
  • Networking — "If you help fellow writers be successful, they may help you."
  • Pinch your pennies — "Expect not to make money" he said. Coker encouraged writers to never borrow money to publish, because they can't control the number of sales. 
For my childrens book writing friends, Smashwords limits the uploaded file to 5 MB. I checked with Coker about the options for picture book writers and illustrators. Picture books are not the company's strength, he wrote in an email. "We do best with straight narrative, or narrative + images."


He provided this link http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/52 from the Smashwords Style Guide to show how to compress the images so you can reduce the file size of photos.


Smashwords has an extensive FAQ section on the digital publishing process. 


I don't want to get into an argument about the benefits or drawbacks of self-publishing vs. traditional publishing. It drains me when either side goes on the attack. Author Anne R. Allen's Blog has a post on this topic: Indie or Traditional Publishing? Don't Take Sides: Take Your Time. She also included a great quote from Coker. 


Where are you in your writing process — ready to publish or are you still in the work-in-progress phase? Have you used Smashwords? What did you think about the process?

25 comments:

  1. Thank you for this succinct review of Smashwords and like you I applauded and his first tip, which will always remain true for every storytelling format! The initials thing hadn't crossed my mind. I always post to G+ but know I need to spend more time interacting there, as my main relationships are on FB, though I have people follow me every week on G+! Should I want to ePublish an MG or YA, I would certainly consider Smashwords.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Joanna, The initials things was an interesting point. I hadn't considered the search for periods, spaces, etc.

      Delete
  2. This is very interesting, Stacy. Thanks for explaining so much about Smashwords. I don't do G+ at all, so I supposed that's something else to look into. I am constantly mucking about with MG and YA novels, but I don't think I have anything good enough to publish yet! But you never know... one of these days... :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Susanna, I don't use G+ very often. Since I have it and after hearing Coker speak about the benefit of posting to it, I can at least post my blog on there. I didn't dare try it during the A to Z challenge.

      Delete
  3. Thank you for telling me more about Smashwords! I was thinking of publishing my book at Smashwords, and I've been learning more about it. This has been helpful! I've read books that were published by Smashwords, and they were very good! Covers and the format(s) were very nice looking!
    Erik

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Erik, You'll have to let us know if you do. Other writers, who have posted to Smashwords, say the guide books are helpful, especially the format book. Well, that one is required reading. :)

      Delete
  4. Thanks Stacy! This is great to help us decide. I might do a book of poems on e book eventually.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Catherine, a book of poems would be nice.

      Delete
  5. Is Smashwords similar to CreateSpace? I have started an investigation into what is the best way to get my collections "out there." I'll be going through the links you posted here today. Thanks, Stacy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Karen - Smashwords is digital only. I probably didn't make that clear. I've heard of other authors using a combo of Smashwords & Amazon/kindle for their ebooks and CreateSpace for print. I updated the post to mention this.

      Delete
  6. I love that we have choices and I really love this-Your best marketing tool is a great book. Sometimes publishing feels like having to find that mythical unicorn. It's nice to know that hard work and a good product can work.
    Thanks Stacy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Coleen, There's always a place on my bookshelf or in my ereader for a good book. :)

      Delete
  7. Hi Stacy! Very informative post. Thank you for sharing the links to Coker's ebooks. I'll have to take a look at them.

    I'm not ready to publish, but I think it is wise for a person to learn all they can about the different ways to publish. As writers, we all need to be informed as to our choices.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Good to learn more about Smashwords. I've not checked it out. Nor have I ever used Google Plus. Not sure I'd know how. But, I'm glad he emphasized our goal whould be writing a great book! Thanks for all of the info.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Patricia, You're fine not using Google Plus. I opened an account, but haven't utilized it to its full potential yet. Just keep writing.

      Delete
  9. And you had lunch with him, too! :)

    ~Debbie

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hey Stacy,

    As a Smashwords author, I can say that I've been very impressed with the whole process. Mark Coker has some excellent advice for authors.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nancy, I'm glad to hear from someone who's been there. I agree Coker does have excellent advice.

      Delete
  11. One of my writing friends (who will be interviewed on my blog, later this month) originally chose the name E.D. She has decided to change it, because she is tired of people calling her Ed.

    Have read some books on Smashwords that were excellent.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Beverly, I've read some really good ones on there too. Yep, I never thought about the initials. Ed is a perfect example.

      Delete
  12. What great advice/tips. I'll have to get my hands on Smashwords! Thanks for this :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jennifer, Yes. He has great tips. You can also sample books on Smashwords too.

      Delete

Comment moderation is enabled. This blog is now maintained at
stacysjensen.com.