Smashwords was launched in 2008, and whilst it isn’t quite as big as Amazon or the “big 5“, it’s still a pretty established e-book retailer. The main thing that goes for it is the fact that it is both a retailer and an aggregator. Meaning, once you upload your book onto the site, it can help you distribute your ebook to almost all the top five retailers (except Amazon) as well as other e-book sites and libraries.
One of the main reasons Smashwords didn’t take off as much as it could have was because of their conversion system called the Meatgrinder. To get your ebook on Smashwords in the past, you needed to upload a formatted Word doc and get it processed through the dreaded Meatgrinder for conversion into the various supported file types, like epub and mobi (Kindle). Because the Meatgrinder was so finicky, many people just gave up after receiving multiple error messages. That bad will has kind of followed it since, although the Meatgrinder has been simplified quite a lot and it’s much easier to use. You can also directly upload an epub file now, so that’s a bigger plus.
Still, if you want to really know what formatting an ebook is about, Smashwords is the way to know the ins and outs, with some hair pulling along the way. But at least after that, you’ll be like eh, every other formatting is easy peasy. We’ll talk about that in the next post, though.
First, we’ll walk you through the Smashwords dashboard and how to upload your book.
The Smashwords Dashboard
There’s a lot to see here, but we’ll mainly be looking at “Publish” and Metadata Management in this post.
Clicking Publish will bring you to the uploading page, but first:
Basic Book Information
1. Title and Release Date
The good part of making your book a preorder is that you’ll be able to streamline the release of your book across all platforms, taking into account Smashwords’ review process (usually 1 to 2 days) and the distribution process (usually between 3 to 5 business days). Readers can preorder the book as and when it’s distributed. However, because Smashwords is weird, the site itself doesn’t actually let readers preorder. It just creates the book page and tells you when the release date will be.
2. Book Synopsis/Description
Smashwords requires a short description but also lets you put in a longer one for their site.
To write one, think about the books you’ve read and what made you decide to read it. Oftentimes, the cover attracts our attention, but it’s the description of the story that sells it to us.
The main points to consider are:
- what is this book about?
- who is it for/who will like it?
I love the Commonwealth/International option because not everyone writes like the Brits. Or like the Americans either. At any rate, Smashwords accepts a whole range of languages, including Chinese!
One good thing about Smashwords (we think many good things about Smashwords) is that they offer a very comprehensive breakdown of your expected earnings so that you don’t get caught unawares. In this case, this “billing fee” projected is the Paypal charge per shopping cart, which will fluctuate depending on how many books a reader purchases at the same time. Take note that this pricing is before any withholding tax. Before Smashwords releases your earnings to you, they’ll still handover the 30% US Withholding tax, so you’ll only get 70% of that $0.56 earnings per book.
The “Let my readers determine the price” option sounds super cool but makes your book ineligible for distribution to most other platforms, so use with caution.
This is the standard across all platforms.
Smashwords allows you to choose up to two categories.
Smashwords has an adult filter that users can turn off/on so that erotica will not be displayed to minors and to users who do not want to read that kind of content.
Similar to “keywords” on Amazon KDP, tags are search terms that relate to your book! Start typing in your keywords (they can be phrases) and you’ll find lists of common terms that others on the site are using. You’ll also find a lot of these terms have been misspelt.
The Actual Book
6. Book formats
Who uses PalmDoc and LRF nowadays? Do those devices even still work? But hey, if it allows older readers to read your book, why not? One thing to note about Smashwords is that once someone purchases a book, they can download it in multiple formats, including PDF, AND allows for reading online (html version) so it’s not the safest platform for anti-piracy. But if you link that with their old-school very un-snazzy website, you kind of realise that they’re pretty much trying to cater to older users of the internet who maybe don’t want to upgrade or can’t be bothered to get new fancy tech anymore.
7. Book Cover
Oh finally! Smashwords has a 1400 pixels width minimum, so make sure you take that into account. They also need the Author Name to match your metadata (the name you’re publishing under). Not doing this will increase your chances of your book being rejected during the manual review.
8. Your Manuscript
Ah, the formatted manuscript. As mentioned, they need a formatted .doc file (not even .docx!) or an epub. Note that the epub comes with a lot of caveats. But we’ll get to the actual formatting of the manuscript in our next post, because frankly, this one is too long already.
Agree to all the legal stuff and publish!
As a publisher account, we can create “ghost accounts” for people we publish for, which is how we set up your Smashwords account and book for you before we transfer it over to your account. As an individual user, you won’t have this option.
And then you wait…
First, for the automated conversion.
Yay number 1: Book page is up. This page will load automatically once it’s done.
Yay number 2: Autovetter and epub check passed! This will appear in your email.
Now you can HEAVE A SIGH OF RELIEF. 90% of the time, if you pass the autovetter and epub check, there won’t be any problems with your file during the manual review.
You’ll be getting a few emails now, one of which will tell you that you haven’t got an ISBN! You’ll be able to fix this in the ISBN Manager under Metadata Management.
You can get your own ISBN from PNM, or you can get one from Smashwords. Either way, you’ll see that once you click +Assign an ISBN.
Once all that is done, you should see your book on your dashboard:
The Pending Review refers to the manual review as to whether the book can be shipped out to the “Premium Catalog” (i.e. other retailers and libraries. If you do an immediate release, your book will already be available on the Smashwords site. As mentioned before, it usually takes one to two days for approval, and then three to five business days for distribution.
Either way, you’ll have a pretty book page you can share now.
Note that this is what it looks like when you’re logged in. No one else can see all the information about sales and downloads, nor will they be able to download the full versions unless they’ve purchased the book. They will be able to get the first 20% sample though, so that they can check out if they want to buy it.
There’s a bunch more cool stuff to talk about Smashwords, but we’ll save that for another time. This includes global pricing and coupons!
Until next time.