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Editors: 3 questions to help you find the right one

Okay, so you’ve written your masterpiece, your 80K-word novel, your 40K novella, or something in between. It’s all shiny and pretty and you need to find an editor to make it even shinier. We talked a little bit about the different types of edits in the How Much Does it Cost post, so if you need a quick refresher on developmental edits, line edits and proofreading, check out that post. The question now is, how do I find an editor? Do I really need one?


Finding an Editor

One of the main reasons people tend to look down on self-published works is the quality of the writing. In the early days of self-publishing on Amazon, anyone could just put up their first draft, slap on a cover and hey, published! Then the entrepreneurial writers came along and made a business out of it, producing works polished enough to compete with trade publishing. However, the bad name still lingers—and you still do see some sloppy first drafts up for sale.

A traditionally published book is often pared down and polished until it shines. Sometimes, honestly, a self-pubbed book is sent out when it’s just merely gleaming. That’s often a big difference to readers—and yet, it’s an easy mistake to avoid. As we said in our very first post:

“Self-publishing isn’t about doing away with the gatekeepers. It’s about making yourself your own gatekeeper. Releasing a book that isn’t quite ready or good enough will harm your career as you’ll put off any potential readers. Before you self-publish, please be sure that your book is the best that it can be, not according to your own standards, but in accordance with worldwide publishing standards.”

Actually, let’s amend that: before you send your work ANYWHERE, make sure your work is the best that it can be. Because if it’s not that great, the agent/publisher isn’t going to take you on either.

So with all the freelance editors out there, how are you going to find the right one for you? Here are three questions to ask that will help you pick the right one.


Editors: 3 Questions to help you find the right one

1. What are your weaknesses?

It’s not nice to talk about weaknesses, but sometimes you need to. If you’re great at story plots but not so great at grammar, you’re better off looking for someone who’s more of a line editor. If your language skills are awesome but your plot and story development are meh, you should be looking for an editor whose strengths are in developmental edits.

Ultimately, every writer needs both, but when you’re hiring an editor, you should really concentrate on finding someone who can help shore up your weaknesses.


2. Does the editor understand your vision?

Everyone has agendas. Even you. You probably have a specific vision for your story and what you’re trying to achieve with it. And sometimes the vision your editor has for your story is going to be… different.

The most important thing about a good editor is that they understand what you are trying to do as a writer and then work with you to achieve that through your work. So if you’re aiming to write The Great Malaysian Novel using Malaysian English, you’re not going to work very well with an editor who insists on italicising every local term or correcting everything according to the Queen’s English.


3. Do you get along with the editor?

This doesn’t really have anything to do with your writing, your writing style, or your work. It’s to do with personality. You could have found a really great editor with really great pointers on how to improve your work, but if everything they say or the way they say it makes you bristle with annoyance, your partnership isn’t going to last very long. Either you’ll get upset, or they’ll get upset, and then one of you will up and leave.


So like that how?

What you need to do (and I’m sure the editor you’re scouting will want too) is a test edit. This could be a page or a chapter of your work, something relatively short and not time-consuming. This will give the editor a feel of your work and what you’re trying to achieve. You’ll also get a taste of how the editor works and what kind of comments they give (and how they give it).

From there, both of you can evaluate if your partnership will be mutually beneficial (and you wouldn’t mind paying money for their services) or if you should continue looking for someone else.

Remember that the editing process is a partnership. Not everything your editor says is correct, and not everything you want to do actually works. Finding the right editor is like finding the right dance partner: you need to trust each other to take the lead at different points in the process.



If you’re looking for an editor, consider Teaspoon Publishing’s Services. We’re nice, we don’t bite, and we specialise in fiction. 🙂

Reading Your Work in Public: Tips For Success

Whether you’re organising your own reading or you’re invited to read at an event, every writer unfortunately needs to be prepared to face the public. It’s a scary thing. You could, I suppose, get by without it and be the hermit-recluse-type—but it’s as much a promotional thing as anything else, especially as an unknown (not-yet-famous) writer.

People tend to buy books at events where they can get the author to sign and dedicate it to them, even if they were ambivalent about it before. You might even wow the crowd so much with your reading that they rush to buy more of your work (one dreams)!

Here are some tips to make your reading a success.

Reading your work in public

Nail down places, dates and times

You definitely want to show up at the right place at the right time and on the right day.

Also ask if there is a sound check or any form of pre-event prep that you could attend just to get a feel of the place, understand how the microphones (if any) work, and to release some last-minute jitters.

If they can give you a run sheet of the event, even better! Then you’ll know who you’re reading after, how much time you have to panic in the bathroom before it’s your turn, and how much time you have to read.

Tip: The more prepared you are mentally, emotionally, and physically, the better you’ll do.


Choose Your Story/Excerpt

Who are you going to be reading to and/or what’s the audience like?

If it’s a children’s event, pick something fun and exciting and maybe a little weird (kids like boogers and poo and dinosaurs). You’re unlikely to get these invites unless you write for children, though.

At a general event, find out what’s the age range of people who are likely to turn up. You don’t want to pick something racy or full of swearing only to find that there are minors in the audience and you need to censor yourself. Though you might still need to censor yourself at a public event with or without under-eighteens.

Pick a story, or a portion of a story, that’s exciting! Make sure something is happening and it’s not just all descriptions. Dialogue is good, but can be a little tricky—you might have to add in some additional dialogue tags for the reading, especially if you don’t do voices (as in, read each person’s dialogue in a different voice/tone). If you’re reading an excerpt that’s in the middle of the story, plan a brief explanation of who the characters are and how they got to where they are.

Tip: An exciting, action-filled excerpt is usually a crowd-pleaser.


Rehearse Reading!

Most of the time, reading events are organised waaaaaay in advance. Which means you’ll have at least two weeks to a month (or more) to practice what you’re going to read. Do it.

Read it aloud several times and time yourself. Besides making sure it fits the time allocated, you also get to see how consistent you are in your reading speeds. Underline tricky words or passages. Mark up places you should slow down or speed up. Put in the crescendo and decrescendo points.

If that sounds like drama or choral reading, it is.

Tip: Think about it as storytelling.

I know, I know, people call it a “reading” because you’re reading from a book or something that you’ve written down before. You’re not some kind of oral storyteller of old or performer.


And this is an important but, reading straight from the text and reading as performance has very different impacts. Think about all the boring readers or preachers you know and you’ll find that they always speak in the same tone of voice and at the same unvarying speed, usually really slow. And droning.

What makes storytelling exciting? Injecting drama into the piece. Whether that means lowering your voice at tense times, speeding up with the action, or actually shouting when the character shouts, this helps to engage the audience. And that’s what you want, even if you’re “just” reading a passage from your book.


Turn up. Early.

Budget to arrive at least 15-20 minutes before the event (or the pre-event check) because delays always happen and then you’ll be right on time, instead of late. (Or at the least let someone know if you’re going to be late because of unforeseen circumstances so they don’t panic when you don’t arrive when they expect you to.)

Tip: Even if you don’t panic if you’re late, the organisers will, and that makes for bad mood/feelings overall.


As mentioned earlier, reading your work can be a key marketing or promotional tool, so the last tip is this:

Remember to bring along copies of your books!


If you’re looking to read from your work, or want to attend one to see what it’s about, check out Readings @ Seksan.

Copyright for Authors, a guest post by Tina Isaacs

Copyright is an important aspect of writing and creating content. It’s also a concept often confused by writers themselves.

What is Copyright? How can it protect your written works? How does awareness of Copyright save you, as a content creator, from getting into trouble with the law?

Copyright for Authors: Tina Isaacs

Creative works can exist in many forms:

  • a photograph, image or pictorial work;
  • sound recordings and musical works (a tune or song including its lyrics);
  • dramatic works (motion pictures, theatre productions, pantomime or choreography);
  • architectural plans and drawings; and
  • for authors, this refers to their literary works: novels, pieces of fiction, essays, articles, blogposts, poetry, graphic novels/comics and so on.

Copyright is a concept created in law to govern the relationship between the creator (Author) and the end users (Readers) in relation to a subject creative work (the Written Works). The concept of Copyright in law allows people to use and share content, while providing an incentive to its creators, enabling them to earn income from their works while providing appropriate protection under the law.


What are my rights?

The rights granted to the author or copyright owner are:

  1. economic rights – the right to make money from the publishing, sharing, and performing of their works; and creating derivatives such as translations, audiobooks, digital copies, movie/tv adaptations, and merchandise;
  2. legal rights to sue anyone who breaches these rights i.e. commits copyright infringement; and
  3. moral rights:
    • paternity rights – the right to be acknowledged as the author, and
    • integrity rights – the right to preserve the works from distortion or mutilation.

These rights are exclusive to the owner unless he sells them, like a situation of commissioned writing, or licenses them to another. All use without permission is considered copyright infringement. However, there are exceptions, such as to encourage learning (education), commentary, and news reporting (fair use or dealings).

Copyright is one of the types of Intellectual Properties (others being Service & Trade Marks, Patents, Trade Secrets and Industrial Designs) which, although intangible, is considered property which can be dealt with under the law such as being sold, licensed, willed or inherited.


How do I get copyright protection?

The law creates Copyright protection over a piece of creative content, provided it is original (not copied from another source), automatically as soon as it is reduced into material form (recorded or written down). An author of a story or book, for instance, is generally not required to do anything further to enjoy copyright protection over her works.

In contrast, note that a story or concept which remains in the author’s mind and has not been crystallized in writing (no matter how well planned) can never receive copyright protection. Creative works which are not reduced to material form are regarded as ideas and are not upheld by the same shield of the law. Anyone is free to come up with different versions of the same story idea (think of the numerous versions of the story of Cinderella or Dracula in movies and books) because these are mere instances of the copying of an idea. That’ll be a reminder to never blurt out that brilliant story plot the next time you have a round of roti canai with a bunch of writers!

However, the copying of the way or manner in which an idea has been presented (the use of the same or similar words, exact plot or storyline, for example) by another writer is prohibited by law, as this amounts to plagiarism or copyright infringement.


Is my copyright applicable everywhere?

Because Copyright law is territorial in nature, the rights and protections available under Copyright may defer depending on the territory (country) in which that right is being asserted. Although general concepts of Copyright seldom differ, one of the most important differences is the way that copyright disputes are upheld (for example, some countries like the USA require that copyright owners register their right for administrative purposes, to aid proof in copyright disputes).


How long does my copyright last?

Another glaring distinction is the duration of copyright protection granted to the author/maker across territories. For example, the duration of copyright held by an author of works published in USA and UK is 70 years, calculated from the end of the calendar year in which the author or the last remaining author (if there is more than one author) dies, whereas that duration is only 60 years in India, and 50 years in most other countries including Malaysia, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines.

Any works that have exceeded that term becomes available for public use and sharing, subsequently referred to as works in the Public Domain. This is why classic literature such as Shakespeare is so cheap to buy in printed form, despite its brilliance. The term Public Domain also applies where the author, during his lifetime, gifts his work for general public use, i.e. has expressly waived his Copyright over it. You see this happening with some works shared under Creative Commons, and free and open-sourced programming software such as Freeworks, which have been specifically created to liberate users of the Internet.


So what do I do if someone copies my work?

Now you have copyright: does that mean you can rest on your laurels while someone copies it?

No, that right must still be enforced if you want to stop an infringer and claim compensation. As an author, you must actively assert your rights. The Courts are the upholders of your rights, so any copyright infringement must be taken up by way of a court action in the territory where the infringement occurred.

Like any other legal right, sitting idle for a long period may mean you end up waiving that right! Malaysian law, for example, requires legal action to be instituted within 6 years of the copyright infringement occurring (or is discovered). During a civil court trial, it all comes down to evidentiary proof: can you prove that the perpetrator copied your work or can he show that he had written it himself, i.e. that the offending work was original to him?


What about stuff I find on the Internet?

So, we’ve established that any content creator is entitled to copyright protection over their works. It must follow that one cannot copy any pieces of works they happen to come across and use it without the owner’s permission or license.

Common examples of blatant acts of copyright infringement are:

  1. copying photos from the internet and using it in your blog or as the background to your book cover;
  2. quoting someone else’s song lyrics or poetry in your story;
  3. splicing and inserting a snippet of a Hollywood movie in your book trailer which has been posted on YouTube;
  4. inserting an audio clip from a radio interview into your podcast.

But, if this is so wrong, why is everyone doing it so openly, you ask?

Mostly, because the copyright owner might not be bothered to take legal action against them for now. If a thief steals a cake from your bakery, you may not give chase or have them arrested, but you have every right to, correct? What if the copyright owner decides to make an example of people downloading and sharing her eBooks? She can, if her legal reach is large enough, make every owner of pirated copies cough-up settlement payment in the form of monetary damages.

Alternatively, think of it from a writer’s perspective: how would you feel if someone copied your work and passed it off as theirs? Even if they were to acknowledge your authorship, would you be happy if they went on to benefit from their post, leaving you with nothing but a nod of credit?

As a writer yourself, you must learn to assert, and respect copyright owned by other content creators. Just to err on the side of caution and to maintain integrity of your reputation (especially if you are a business owner), do the right thing: pay the small license fee to use a stock photo for your blogs; request for permission to quote a passage from your favourite song/book/movie; shoot your own movie clip or animation sequence for your book trailer; hire a model and photographer to shoot your book cover photos; hire your own book cover designer!

Remember that copyright infringement always costs. You either pay before use (a small token licensing fee or taking the painstaking and circuitous route of contacting the original author for permission – a relatively paltry sum or effort) or you pay a fortune (after being sued in Court). Look around your workspace today – how can you better protect your work and stop yourself from wrongly infringing the rights of others?


Wah so mafan.

The intricacies and nuances of Copyright Law are numerous – lawyers like me take years to master it – but I’ve touched on the basics as far as authors and writing is concerned, with the hope that it provides some illumination. I pray you’ve found this post useful and worthwhile food for thought.

If you’d like to know more about Copyright and Writers, feel free to visit my blog on this topic at www.tina-isaacs.com/copyright-writers/.


This was a guest post by Tina Isaacs: Lawyer | Author | Actor | Vocalist


Tina Isaacs is a litigation lawyer turned fiction writer based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and is the founder of the Malaysian Writers Society. She has published numerous short stories internationally and within the region, most notably winning Runner-Up for the DK Dutt Memorial Award for Literary Excellence 2015, and having her story ‘Undercover in Tanah Firdaus’ chosen for the Short Story Collection of the 2015 SciFi Film Festival in Parramatta, Australia. Other than her qualification in law, Tina has a Master in Creative Writing from the University of Tampa, Florida, USA; is an active performer in the Malaysian musical and theatre industry; and is presently working on her debut novel, a dystopian thriller.

Follow Tina’s work at www.tina-isaacs.com, FB: tinaisaacsauthor, Twitter: @isaacs_tina.

Two questions to ask before you start a blog

In this highly digital world, authors are often pressured to have an online presence. One question new writers frequently ask is: do I need to start a blog?

Our answer: it depends.

Ask yourself these two questions before you start yours.

Two questions to ask before you start a blog

1. What is the purpose of my blog?

A blog can be about anything you want it to be. It can be full of random musings about your life, your family, and your cats. You may decide to write about your writing projects or make it a technical(ish) blog, like this one. It could be about books you’ve read, short fiction, or just pictures. The Internet is full of blogs, so what will make people want to read yours?



  • If you’re planning to keep it mainly for friends and family, posts about your cat or dog or random musings about your life may be enough.
  • For fiction writers, snippets of your book, some short fiction and flash fiction, or updates on your writing projects may be the calling card you need to engage new and existing readership.
  • If you’re writing a non-fiction book, posting about your expertise could help increase your credibility and visibility. People who read your blog and find your posts useful may very well go on to buy your book!

You need to know why you want a blog before you start one. Otherwise, it will just be a lot of work for no reason. As a writer, your blog is a place that can help you promote your work but if your blog is only filled with “buy my book” posts, what’s the point?

Ultimately, your blog should be about whatever you want your readers to know about you.



2. How often am I able post?

Blogging is a very time-consuming task. As you can see from the (in)consistency of this blog, it’s a lot of work! (We’re trying to do better, promise!) Writing a post can take anywhere from 5 minutes to four hours, depending on what you decide to write about. Obviously, if you’re just posting cat pictures, that should take about 5 minutes… except that you need to take the perfect picture of your cat, and then you get distracted by cat memes and oh look at the time! You’ve been writing that one cat picture post for two hours.

You don’t need to blog every day. To help you decide how often you should post, estimate:

  • how much time you normally take to write a post, and
  • how much time you can spare to write posts.

You can then set a posting schedule that works for you, whether it’s once a day, once a week, once a month, or anything in between. Consistency is key, even if we’re not the best examples of that. Regular posts help readers know when to check your blog for your latest updates.


So should I blog or what?

If you’ve got answers for both questions, you should have a good feel of whether starting a blog is right for you. Don’t worry if it isn’t. Not everyone likes blogging and it’s best to not have one if you’re just going to hate doing it and then end up abandoning it anyway.

If you need help getting started, the upcoming Blogging from A to Z Challenge in April is a brilliant way to get organised. Whilst the schedule is gruelling at first, it’s a great way to fill your new blog with content and then ease down into a schedule that works for you once you’ve gotten into the habit of blogging. It also comes with an inbuilt community of supportive bloggers with whom you can network and find great support!

Organising an online book launch

In recent months, we’ve personally been getting several queries about book blog tours and online book launches. After typing up email summaries several times, we’ve decided to just compile all those emails into one post about organising an online book launch!

organising online book launches

There are several ways to do an online book tour, but most of them have to do with bloggers. Bloggers are your friends, if you still know anyone who blogs (you’ll probably find some on KLBAC).

Organising an online book tour/launch is as easy as asking all your family, friends, and random strangers on the internet to host you during launch week (or any random dates you think up). It’s also as difficult as planning launch materials, coordinating dates with the bloggers, or maybe hosting a live Facebook event. There’s a lot of coordinating and networking to do, so it may be best to leave it in the hands of the professionals!

If you’re considering an online book launch, here are several standard posts to consider.

The Cover Reveal

The cover reveal is like a pre-release drip, where you share the cover of the upcoming book plus basic details. This post works best if there are existing fans who are excited about the series, and if there is an ability to pre-order the book. At the bare minimum, post materials should include:

  1. the shiny new book cover (duh!),
  2. the book blurb/description,
  3. pre-order links (you gotta channel that excitement somewhere), and
  4. pre-order sales or promotional announcements (e.g. discounted price for pre-orders, exclusive goodies, additional bonus material, previews, etc)

The Launch Post

Usually posted on the day the book goes on sale, this is a general announcement to say hey the book is now out! Post materials usually include the following:

  1. the book cover,
  2. the book blurb/description,
  3. buy links,
  4. launch promo/sales announcements, if any (e.g if the launch price is only valid for a period before it goes up, discounts on earlier books, etc),
  5. author bio,
  6. author picture,
  7. tour graphics/banner, if any (mainly because pictures make it easier to share & garner interest), and
  8. an excerpt or preview (not too long, preferably an exciting hook from the book).

A Review Post

Reviews would usually be posted on or about the launch week/month. If they’re posted before the launch, resharing these posts will help you build more organic buzz as this is what others are saying about the book instead of you just announcing BUY MY BOOK. Reviews have the most impact 2 weeks before (if you take pre-orders) and 6 weeks after the actual release date (crunch time for a new release).

Review posts are slightly trickier because you need to send a review copy (digital or otherwise) to the reviewer hopefully one to two months before the launch so that they have the time to read and write the review. It’s also tricky because there’s always the chance that the reviewer might not like the book! If you can, politely request the reviewer to also post their reviews to Amazon & Goodreads when your book is available.

Post materials should include:

  1. a review copy to be sent to the reviewer/blogger 1 – 2 months before launch (they shouldn’t be sharing this with anyone else), and
  2. Everything from the launch post (the blogger can then decide what they want to add to the post)

Guest Posts

A guest post is usually an opportunity for you to talk about your writing and/or your book. Some bloggers have a theme for their blog, others keep it open to the authors. If a blogger offers/agrees to host you, check with them if they have a specific topic in mind and if they have word count limits. Post materials would generally include:

  1. A guest post of about 500 – 800 words, and
  2. Everything from the launch post (the blogger can then decide what they want to add to the post)

Author/Character Interviews

This is just a bit of fun to get to know the author better. You can predraft a generic interview with FAQ-type things, but most bloggers would have their own questions to ask the author. Just make sure you have everything from the launch post on hand (especially your book cover and buy links)!

Facebook Live Events

Got a Facebook Page? Schedule a launch event where you invite all the fans on your page, and your newsletter, and random Facebook strangers to listen to you ramble about your book! Some launches use the live facebook video (which can be a scary thing) whilst others use frequent posts concentrated around a few hours on the web. This is a great way to interact with fans (and friends), give out some freebies, or con them into buying your book.


Book launches and blog tours can be exciting things… or they can be super dead. It really depends on who’s on your team and who’s excited enough to share your books (and about you) on social media! It’s also really cheap to organise if you’ve already organised your materials, can work out some graphics on Canva, and can work out a simple spreadsheet to coordinate who’s posting what when. Make sure you also share their posts on YOUR social media!


Publishing on Smashwords: Meatgrinder and other functions

In our second instalment on publishing on Smashwords, let’s get to through the icky stuff first: The Meatgrinder. Smashwords has a free style guide you can download here, where founder Mark Coker gives you several ways to format your book, but by far the easiest and the most effective way is what he calls the Nuclear Method.

Meatgrinder and other Smashwords functions

Here are the quick steps to formatting for Meatgrinder:

  1. Copy all your text and paste into notepad.
  2. Open a new Word document.
  3. Cut everything from notepad and paste into the new word doc. This ensures that there’s no weird formatting left over from whatever Word did in your last document.
  4. Highlight all your text and add in your first paragraph indent. DO NOT TAB FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. If you’re not sure what that means, it should look like that bit circled in Word.Indenting a paragraph
  5. Go through your text and
    • add all your italics/bold/underline (if any) back into the text. This extra step, while annoying, also helps you proofread your book one last time. And because you’re not focusing on the words per se, it helps you pick out random typos that you’ve probably glossed over because you’ve read it too many times.
    • Add in page breaks after each chapter.
  6. Format your chapter titles and save them as bookmarks.
  7. Add in your front matter. We have a standard template front matter that we just paste in and change details.
  8. Create your table of contents (“TOC”). This is the most annoying part because, to make sure it works right, you have to do a manual one. DO NOT ON ANY ACCOUNT USE WORD’S AUTO TOC. You’re just giving yourself more trouble. What you do is list down all your chapter titles. Remember the bookmarks you saved in #6? Yeah, now you link those bookmarks here.Sample Table of Contents and bookmarks
  9. Add your end matter. Again, create a standard template that you can paste in and change details. This usually includes other books you’ve written, an about you, and a nice “please review” request!

So this means I won’t get any Meatgrinder errors?

The most frequent cause of errors, by far, is caused by hyperlinks, because Word likes to add them in randomly. We know. It has caused us pain many many many times.

This is what it looks like:

Random hidden bookmarks

These bookmarks tend to pop up like ghosts. Like you could look at it in one version and it appears to be clean, but if you deselect and then select hidden bookmarks, they suddenly jump out at you. You just have to patiently delete them one by one, because there is no “delete all button.”

What you want is a clean file like the picture below, or the one under #8, which only shows the bookmarks you’ve created and which are linked to your TOC.

Clean bookmarks look like this

The second most frequent culprit in Meatgrinder errors is your line spacing. If you cut and paste your text to a new Word doc, this usually won’t cause any troubles. But just to be sure, your line spacing should show “0” or “Single” everywhere otherwise your epub might have some weird spacing issues.

Clean spacing

Still too difficult? We’re more than happy to format this for you!

Okay, now that’s out of the way, let’s head to the cool stuff about Smashwords!

Global Pricing

If you’re worried about how fluctuations in USD will affect the price of your book, Smashwords gives you a global price lock to fix the prices in foreign currency.

Global pricing for Smashwords

Just go to “global pricing” on your dashboard, and then “Add lock”.

Series Manager

Got a series? No worries. Match them all here. Way better than having to email back and forth with Amazon to get it done.


Premium Distribution

One of the things that Smashwords has going for it is that it is both a retailer AND a distributor/aggregator. If you want to check (or control) where your book is being sold, head to the channel manager.

Once you’re approved for the Premium Catalog, you can head over to the Channel Manager to decide where you want Smashwords to distribute your ebook to.

We usually just opt out of shipping to Amazon because there are some weird conditions as to when Smashwords will actually be able to distribute to them (after a thousand copies sold or something?). It’s also easier to just upload directly on Amazon, especially with Kindle Create.


This is by far the one feature we wish every other platform would also offer. Want to give someone a discount? Or have a sale specifically for a small group of people? Smashwords lets you create discount coupon codes that you can limit or privately distribute instead of having a store-wide sale for the whole world.


What’s your experience with Smashwords been like?

Did you have a terrible time? Do you love the platform? Do you have any tips or queries? Let us know!

Publishing on Smashwords: A Step-by-Step Guide

Publishing on Smashwords: A Step-by-Step GuideSmashwords 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

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:

Publish Your Book

The rest of the process is pretty similar to how you would publish on Amazon or E-Sentral.

Basic Book Information

1. Title and Release Date

Smashwords: 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?

3. Language

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!

Money stuff

4. Pricing

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.

5. Sampling

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.

Critique Groups: Workshopping your novel

You’ve finished your novel, and you’re at the stage where you don’t know whether it’s good or bad or… meh. What do you do next? You could send it off to a publisher and see whether they like it or not. Or you could workshop it with a group of fellow writers (whether online or off) in what’s sometimes called a critique group.


What’s a critique group?

A critique group is a place for writers to get and give feedback on their current work. Some of it can be guided, where the group has a list of things to check off or that needs to be addressed, or non-guided, where everything is quite free-flow. These groups can also be online via email or private groups, or in-person meetings, like the ones they have monthly at MYWriters Penang.

How does a critique work?

Each person submits a piece of their work, usually within a set word count, to the group. Then they read the pieces that other people in the group have submitted and give their opinions on it. Some of these can be very structured, but at the least, they should cover points like:

  • What’s your overall impression of the piece?
  • Was it confusing? If yes, why?
  • Did anything stick out to you (whether good or bad)?
  • What caught your attention?

The main things to remember in giving a critique are:

  • Be honest … but kind and tactful
  • Don’t bash people or genres
  • Don’t pick fights
  • Don’t forget to praise the good stuff
  • Remember, your opinion is just that: your opinion.

The main things to remember about receiving a critique are:

  • Listen, but remember that their opinion is just that: their opinion
  • Consider each suggestion at least briefly
  • Decide what’s best for your work

How does a critique really help me?

The reason critiques help is that they provide you with a fresh set of eyes on your work. The questions your peers ask or points they raise can help you figure out the problem areas in your story, highlight potential areas of confusion, or simply let you know where you did something well. Critiquing someone else’s work also helps you think more critically about the writing process and how your own writing may come across to readers.

Critiques shouldn’t be mean-spirited, but be an open way to share your work and grow together with fellow writers. You’ll find that both JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis came out of the same writing group known as the Inklings. Here’s a list of famous writing groups.

If you’re still looking for a writing community, we’ve found most of our writing friends mainly from MYWriters and NaNoWriMo, because there’s nothing like a unified goal to help bring people together.

Remember, you can always quote your MYWriters member ID to get 10% off all services at Teaspoon Publishing. Register today!

I’ve written a novel… now what?

The question most people ask after NaNoWriMo is: Now What? Sometimes that question means ‘what do I do with this 50K novel I’ve written?’ Sometimes it’s ‘I didn’t finish my novel, what do I do now?’

The answer to both is: keep writing.

I've written a novel... now what?

Just because you’ve finished one month of writing doesn’t mean that you just stop there. Because whilst the point of NaNoWriMo is to have written a novel, if you’re serious about writing, you can’t just only write for one month of the year. You’ve got to make it consistent—and that’s the real point.

You can think of it this way:

Isi Tersurat: write 50K in a month… win!

Isi Tersirat: create a writing schedule (daily/weekly/monthly) that works for you so that you’re on track to be a serious full-time novelist… win! Remember what we said in this post?

But practically…

  • If you haven’t finished your novel yet (whether or not you hit 50K), keep going. You’ve already started your novel, you might as well finish it.
  • If you’ve already finished your novel (whether or not it was 50K), now’s the time to take a step back and look at it with a critical editing eye.

The Easy Yes/No Questions:

  1. Does the story have a solid beginning, middle and ending?
  2. Does the plot make sense?
  3. Is this story worth telling/something you really want to share?
  4. Are you satisfied with it as it stands?

If you answered yes to all four, then you can start working on editing and polishing it into something for others to see.

If you answered no to ANY of the above, then it’s time for rewrites!

What’s rewriting?

Rewriting is when you pull your novel to pieces and then put it together again to make it better.

You’re addressing all the questions above, making sure that your story has a good plot that makes sense and is complete in itself. It may also mean you need to restructure the whole thing if you write anything like we do, haphazardly jumping from scene to scene, up and down the timeline.

When you’ve finally come to the point where you’re satisfied with your story, or where you don’t know how else you can make it better, that’s when you workshop it or bring it to a critique group.

And will be the next post.

For now, here’s a short article on rewriting: