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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.

Coupons!

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.

Categorisation


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.

Publish!

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.

ISBN

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.

Critique

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:

MYWriters: The Writing Community for Malaysians

Our last post talked about NaNoWriMo and how having a group of writing friends can help spur on your writing—and make you a better writer. But if you’ve just started on your writing journey, how do you find such friends?

Introducing MYWriters

MYWriters banner

One resource you can look at is the Malaysian Writers Society, fondly known as MYWriters, which was established in September 2016. An inclusive and non-profit initiative, MYWriters facilitates activities and programmes related to Malaysian writing and publishing that transcends genre, language, function, medium, and experience levels.

MYWriters runs on two levels:

The online community

The Facebook group, founded by Tina Isaacs in October 2014, provides a place for interaction amongst writers of all stripes in Malaysia. This is a closed group, with posts only visible to approved members, so that writers can have a safe place to discuss writing and publishing matters in private. The only criteria to be a member of the online group is an interest in writing!

Members regularly post calls for submissions, writing and publishing articles, and have discussions about their work. Write-in sessions and chit chat sessions are also organised on a regular basis.

Join the MYWriters Community here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/malaysianwriters/

Members located in Penang also have a MYWriters Penang group to discuss Penang-related matters. Join here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/MyWritersPenang/

The Society

Official membership in the society provides benefits that aren’t available to the members of the facebook group. This includes discounts on society events, book sales and publication opportunities.

Some of the additional benefits to come include publishing advice, mentorship programmes, an industry rate card, and representation at international book fairs. See the full list here: http://malaysianwriterssociety.org/member-application/members-benefits/

Did you know that as a member of the Malaysian Writers Society, you get 10% off all services and publishing hub packages here at Teaspoon Publishing?

Sign up for Malaysian Writers Society here: http://malaysianwriterssociety.org/member-application/

And follow them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/malaysianwriterssociety/

Write-ins

If you’re looking for company as you write, check out the following venues:

KL:

CBTL NuSentral: Saturdays, 8.30am to 1pm (weekly; check Facebook for updates).

Old Town Bandar Kinrara, Puchong: Sundays, 3pm – 5pm (check Facebook for updates).

Penang:

LUMA, Hin Bus Depot, George Town: Mondays, 7pm – 11pm (weekly).

 

MYWriters AGM

The Malaysian Writers Society is holding their second AGM on 10 November 2018 (Saturday) at the GerakBudaya Hall, Petaling Jaya. If you’re already a member and are interested to find out more about the society or would like to get involved in this young vibrant society, do attend the AGM.

For more details: https://www.facebook.com/events/695054964201548/permalink/695056687534709/

Malaysian writers, are you geared up for NaNoWriMo?

It’s the middle of October and we’re gearing up for NaNoWriMo. Are you?

What’s NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo logo
Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Participants are challenged to finish a 50,000-word novel in the 30 days of November, writing 1,667 words a day. Founded in 1999 by Chris Baty, it started off as a tiny group of writers in the San Francisco Bay Area who challenged themselves to write a novel in a month. 19 years later, NaNoWriMo now boasts more than 400,000 participants worldwide and hosts a Young Writers Programme in November to encourage creative writing in schools.

Whilst it may sound like ridiculous hype, great things have come out of NaNoWriMo, including Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, Hugh Howey’s Wool, Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, Jason Hough’s The Darwin Elevator, Marissa Meyer’s Cinder and Anna Tan’s Dongeng. Why not add your novel to that list?

 

50,000 words? In one month? That’s crazy!

Sometimes the problem with writing is… actually writing. Life gets in the way. School gets in the way. Work gets in the way. And then a new year rolls around and you’re still on page one of your novel. (At least, we hope you’ve started page one.) What NaNoWriMo does is add a little bit of challenge (and discipline) to your writing life.

Setting yourself an achievable goal of 1,667 words a day helps you to pace yourself—and before you know it, you’ll have completed the first draft of your novel! This kind of sustained, target-based writing exercise doesn’t work for everyone, so if you don’t hit the target, don’t worry. What you’ll have gained from attempting it is an achievement in itself, including:

  • Discovering that you are capable of writing more than you think.
  • Building more confidence in your writing and your writing process.
  • Gaining a new community of supportive writing friends.
  • Finding out if you’re a plotter (you need detailed outlines before writing) or a pantster (you write as the story comes to you without outlines or plots).
  • Working out if you prefer to word-vomit and edit later or if you need to scrutinise every word, sentence and paragraph as you write.
  • Writing more words than you had at the beginning of the month.

It’s a win-win situation!

3 Do’s for November:

  • DO enjoy yourself! Whilst it’s a competition (sorta?) the most you’ll win is a certificate, discounts, and bragging rights. If your participation is affecting your mental health, relationships, or life/work/school, take a step back and chill.
  • DO attempt to write every day. The point of NaNoWriMo is to help you get into a habit of writing regularly.
  • DO get involved in community. Writing is usually a very lonely endeavour. With a bunch of other crazy writers working towards the same goal in November, it’s the perfect time to find new writing friends (online and offline) for encouragement and solace.

How do I sign up?

Sign up at the website here: https://nanowrimo.org

If you’re looking for a community of Malaysian writers to join you on this crazy writing journey, join the NaNo Malaysia facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/257264007651665/ or join the regional forum: https://nanowrimo.org/regions/asia-malaysia. More participants are active on the FB group than on the forum, but you never know. Things may change year by year, depending on who’s signed up for the year.

Also look out for the occasional write-in posts—the KL group normally meets on Saturday evenings at various malls. If you’re based in Penang, the MYWriters Penang group has a weekly write-in at Luma every Monday evening from 7pm – 11pm. It’s not directly related to NaNoWriMo, but you’ll be in writing company!

Now I’ve signed up, how can I prepare?

  • Join a writing group in your area (whether face-to-face or virtual) for encouragement, writing tips, and to convince at least one of them to join you on this crazy journey!
  • Look out for any pre-NaNoWriMo meetups in your area (see above) or create one!
  • Prep your friends, writerly or not, to cheer you on (and provide tea, chocolate, and tissue paper).
  • If you’re a plotter, start outlining and collecting miscellaneous information so you’re ready to dive right in on Nov 1!
  • If you’re a pantster, clear up your writing space and remove distractions from your desk so you’re ready to dive right in on Nov 1!
  • Check out the NaNo Prep page for webcasts, tweet chats, events, and all the other stuff we’ve missed out.

See you in November!

Creating an EPUB via Scrivener

One of the downsides of publishing on E-Sentral and Google Play is the fact that you have to create and upload your own epub file. Other platforms, including Amazon and Smashwords, allow you to upload a Word file (.doc or .docx) and does the conversion for you.

What’s an epub?

EPUB is an e-book file format which is used on most platforms, including smartphones, tablets, computers and e-readers. It’s HTML based so even if you don’t have a specific e-reader on your computer, you should be able to open it in most browsers.

How do I create an epub?

We don’t know the specifics of how exactly you’d code an epub, but here’s the easy version using Scrivener.

Organise your chapters into folders.

Create Folders

Organising your chapters into folders will tell Scrivener where your actual chapter breaks are. In the screenshot, you’ll see that sometimes we put in several text files into the same folder. These are in-chapter breaks.

Update your front matter files.

This includes adding your cover picture (which can be done by dragging the picture file into the folder, creating a title page (as above) and a copyright page (per below).

 

Add your back matter.

add back matter

We usually add this to the end of the Manuscript itself, as there aren’t any pre-formatted folders for Back Matter. Back matter, as said previously, would include information about your other works or how to contact you via email or social media.

 

Compile your file.

Under “File”, you’ll find the compile function. There are several steps to this:

a) Select e-book format (with or without parts). This will tell Scrivener that you want to create an epub.

b) Select the cover file you previously added to the front matter folder.

c) Update your metadata.

d) Click compile!

 

Check your final files.

Now that everything is done, open your brand-new epub file to test that everything looks like it’s supposed to. You can also run it through this checker to make sure there are no errors.

And you have an epub file to upload to E-Sentral and Google Play!

 


 

If you have problems creating an epub file, or you don’t own a copy of Scrivener, check out our publishing hub. We’ll be able to create an epub file for you for as low as RM120.

New book release: A Still, Small Voice

A Still Small Voice cover

On her eighteenth birthday, Hono is to be crowned Queen of the City of Winter but the Dragon disrupts the coronation ceremony with a peculiar cry:

Listen. Listen. Listen!

There is one more task to free the City of Winter of all enchantment—and Hono must listen carefully for it.


Anna Tan’s new short story A Still, Small Voice released today! Head over to the Books page to purchase your copy.

Want it directly on your e-reader? Links to direct retailers are available on Anna’s website.

 

 

Applying for an ISBN from PNM

Applying for an ISBN from PNMGetting an ISBN from Perpustakaan Negara Malaysia (PNM) is really easy—and it’s free! Whilst many ebook distributors/aggregators provide free ISBNs and/or have their own tracking system (eg: ASIN on Amazon and GGKey on Google Play), E-Sentral does not. They require you to apply for one from PNM, as we mentioned in our post on publishing on E-Sentral.

What’s an ISBN?

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number and is a unique number associated with your book. An ISBN is assigned to each edition (except reprintings) of a book, which means that your e-book, paperback and hardcover would all need a different ISBN. If you want a quick reference, pick up the nearest book, turn to the back and look at the barcode. There will be a 13-digit number (or 10, if the book is super old)—that’s the ISBN!

Why do I need one?

The quick and easy answer is that it’s the simplest way to track and catalogue your books. For print, it’s how the cashier can ring up your sale quickly, by scanning the barcode. Like we mentioned earlier, some online retailers have their own tracking system and do not require an ISBN, but you can also link an ISBN to books sold on those platforms if you wish to. They (meaning Amazon and Google Play) can get away with is mainly because they’re big enough.

If you’re going through a distributor or aggregator such as Smashwords or D2D, you will need an ISBN because it’s a requirement to distribute to sales channels such as Kobo, Apple, and Overdrive.

Do I need a different ISBN for each of my different ebook formats?

According to best practices, each sellable format of your book should have a unique ISBN. Which means that your ISBN on E-Sentral should be different from the one on Smashwords (but this would be the same for all platforms that Smashwords distributes to since they only distribute the epub version).

Confused?

Don’t worry. Just take it that each place you upload to BY YOURSELF probably needs a different ISBN. If you’re not the one uploading it personally, then the distributor or aggregator you use will kau tim that for you.

Okay, so how do I get an ISBN from PNM?

You need two things: a printer and a scanner. (Well, and a laptop, and internet access, and paper, but who’s counting?)

First of all, go to this page on PNM: http://www.pnm.gov.my/index.php/pages/view/18

That’s where you’ll get all the technical info we’re skipping over and the forms you need.

Download and fill Borang 1

Screenshot of Borang 1

Borang 1 is the application to be a publisher.

  • If you’re applying as an individual, you’ll need to scan your IC for them.
  • If you’ve opened a company/sole proprietorship, you’ll need to scan your Borang D plus the Pemilik printout from SSM that shows you are the owner.

The most difficult questions to answer (hah) are these:

Screenshot of Borang 1, section 2

Don’t worry. You can totally guess for #3. It’s “expectation”, after all.

Next, download and fill Borang 2

Screenshot of Borang 2Borang 2 is the actual application for the ISBN. For this one, you need to state the print shop (if you’re printing the book) or the website (if it’s an ebook).

You’ll need to send them the copyright page and the cover of the book with your form.

For first time applicants, leave the Publisher Identity section blank—the officer processing your form will fill it up for you. If you’ve applied before, you’ll need to fill this in based on the Publisher ID PNM gave you on your first application.

Screenshot of Borang 2, section B

If you’re printing your book, you’ll need to add in the printer’s name. If you’re publishing it as an ebook, you fill in the website, e.g. E-Sentral.com.my, Amazon.com, etc.

You’ll need to provide an estimated publishing date. Please do yourself a favour and don’t put it too soon—just in case anything goes wrong. You can also just fill in the month you target to publish it, instead of an exact date. Why? Because you have to submit your published book/ebook within 30 days of that date… and if something goes wrong and it’s terribly delayed, you can be fined up to RM3K!

Email everything to PNM

Once you have everything ready, email them to isbn@pnm.gov.my.

Well, you can go old-school and fax it over, but we’re guessing most of you don’t have a fax machine anymore (we don’t!). OR if you live near to the library, you can also walk/drive over and hand deliver your forms.

And you’re done!

Other things to note:

  • Only apply for a publisher ID and your ISBN when you’re almost ready to publish your book. We tried registering as a publisher without registering for any ISBNs yet (because we hadn’t yet compiled the info) but the officer asked us for the Borang 2 at the same time in order to process the Borang 1.
  • After the first application and registration as a publisher, you only need to submit Borang 2 for subsequent ISBN applications.
  • Processing usually takes about 3 – 5 working days.
  • Once you have your ISBN, you can proceed to upload to E-Sentral or print your books!
  • Remember that you’ll have to submit 5 copies of your print book or 2 CDs of your e-book to PNM within 30 days of publication. (Yes, CDs. THAT IS CORRECT.)

Let us know if you have more questions on applying for an ISBN with PNM!

Publishing on E-Sentral: A Step-by-Step Guide

Publishing on E-SentralNow that you know how to publish on Amazon, it’s time to learn how to publish on E-Sentral.

In our last post, we talked briefly about self-publishing strategies between KU (Amazon-exclusive) and Wide (primarily for the International market)—so what better way to put that into practice than to figure out how E-Sentral, the biggest e-book retailer in Malaysia, works?

We figured this also would be the best time to walk you through how to publish on E-Sentral since we’re in the midst of uploading A Still, Small Voice.

 

What is E-sentral?

E-Sentral is the largest e-book repository in Southeast Asia, founded by our very own Malaysians in 2011! Granted, the main market seems to be Malay and Indonesian books, including school books. Still, it doesn’t hurt to test it out since even the big international e-book distributors/aggregators tout that “we distribute to E-Sentral!” (Be proud of Malaysia, kan?)

It has 3 main bases: Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. The platform itself offers a “studio” for you to craft your ebooks, but since we’re already using Scrivener to create our epubs, we didn’t take up the extra option.

Several things to note about publishing on E-Sentral before we walk you through the (very) simple steps:

  1. It doesn’t have great category options for fiction, unlike Amazon or Smashwords.
  2. It only sells books in epub format—no PDF, no html—and uses DRM so it can only be read on their dedicated e-reader (which you can download for free). This basically means you’re publishing into a closed market. That’s alright since they don’t require exclusive rights.
  3. It only accepts payment via debit or credit card—and only Malaysian cards at that, at least on the Malaysian portal. We’re assuming the Singaporean and Indonesian portals will accept credit cards from their respective countries.
  4. It has its own e-library system, similar to Overdrive.

What you need to publish on E-Sentral:

  1. Epub file
  2. Cover file
  3. ISBN

How to publish on E-Sentral

Publishing on E-Sentral is actually really, really easy. You probably don’t even need this step-by-step guide, but it’s here just in case you want to have a look before deciding if you’d like to create a publisher account. They’ve also just upgraded their interface so everything looks pretty snazzy right now!

Basic book details

Basic Book Details

1. Fill in the title of your book.

2. Fill in your author name.

3. Fill in your selling price in RM. The system will use this price to set prices in other currencies. If you don’t like the price they’ve converted it to (or you want to price differently in different markets) you can manually change it. You’ll note here that most of the currencies offered are for Southeast Asian countries. (Currency not shown in print screen: Vietnam Dong.)

4. Enter your e-ISBN. Unlike other publishing platforms, E-Sentral does not offer free ISBNs. Instead, you have to obtain your own ISBN from Perpustakaan Negara Malaysia.

5. Fill in your book synopsis/blurb.

6. Stare at the categories and laugh. Pick what best fits your book. As mentioned earlier, there aren’t many categories for fiction, unless you’re writing in “major” categories like Romance or Chick-Lit… or maybe Children.

7. Next you can choose a release date. If you don’t choose one, it will release once it’s been processed.

8. We don’t really know why they have “Language” and “Content type”, which seem to refer to the same thing, but as you can tell, E-Sentral does BM and Mandarin, which aren’t always options in, say, Amazon. We’re also not sure why “Music” is a content type, but ok.

9. The “Tag” option works, as far as we can tell, like what Amazon’s “keyword” section. Enter in all the words you’d like related to your book here. In this case, we figured it’s a great place to note that A Still, Small Voice is a short story, fairy tale, and fantasy.

10. Imprint is the “who’s publishing this” section, so we put Teaspoon Publishing in this space. If you don’t have a publishing house or if you’re self-publishing it under your own name, you can leave it blank.

Library Purchase Programme

You’ll actually need to sign an extra agreement to participate in this programme, so don’t worry if it doesn’t appear on your upload page! It’s not set to appear unless you’ve already subscribed to the library programme. This works something like Overdrive, where if you subscribe to it, the library can purchase a copy of your book to lend to their patrons. As you can see, you can set a special price for libraries, whether higher or lower than your normal selling price.

Uploading your books

The final step is to upload your epub file and your cover file. It’s a drag and drop function, so that’s fairly easy.

Several things to note about uploading:

  1. Although the upload e-book box says it accepts files up to 100 MB, it often hangs if the file is more than 2MB. So try to get the smallest sized file possible!
  2. If this doesn’t work, try using the bulk upload option.
  3. All the other platforms I’ve seen will provide an automatic preview file (usually 10% – 20% of the ebook). E-Sentral doesn’t. If you want to provide a preview (or Look Inside as Amazon puts it), you’ll have to create a separate epub with the exact amount of content that you want your potential readers to see.

Once you click submit, it will tell you that your submission has been uploaded, or it will give you a warning if there’s anything missing or wrong.

If you’re the kin cheong type, you can check on the status under the “submission status” tab.

That’s basically it!

We’re pretty sure you have two questions now:

  1. How do I create an epub?
  2. How do I get an e-ISBN?

We’ll cover that soon!