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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!

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.

How much does it cost to self-publish?

how much does it cost to self-publish?

Now that we’ve covered how long it takes to self-publish a book, how much does it actually cost?

Let’s take a look at the costs, based on the process that we’ve covered so far:

1. Writing

Unless you’re paying someone to ghostwrite for you, you shouldn’t have any expenditure here. Well, maybe about RM100 or so for paper, pens, and printer ink. But if you want to be that nit-picky, you can count the cost of electricity, internet, food, water, etc.

Expected cost: NIL

2. Editing

Editing costs depend on the type and level of editing required. Here are the various types of editing, in suggested sequence:

Developmental editing

This looks at the overall big picture of your novel. How strong is your plot? Is there a plot hole big enough to drive a car through? Is there enough tension? Are there any slow, boring parts? Does your story make sense? Is backstory a problem (either too much or too little)? How can we improve and polish this story until it’s not just ‘good’, but ‘exceptional’? It’s pretty hard to find developmental editing here in Malaysia, but the numbers we’re seeing online estimate anything from USD1,000–USD6,000.

What we do have in place of this, are writing mentors, foremost of which is Gina Yap Lai Yoong. Hang about the Malaysian Writers Community and/or Twitter to see when some of our writers are looking to pick up new mentees! Most of these come at no cost to you, other than putting in the hard work and probably belanja-ing your mentor to dinner once in a while. An alternative is to find a critique group or beta readers that have great story sense that you can trust to give you honest feedback.

Line editing

A line editor goes into the nitty-gritty of the manuscript, focusing their red pen on everything from specific words, to sentences, to paragraphs, to chapters. They look at strengthening your work in terms of style, flow, structure, and readability, besides the usual correction for spelling, grammar, punctuation, and other basic/common language mistakes. Do your sentences flow well? Is your POV consistent? Do you flop between tenses? They may also help pick up obvious continuity issues—do you say A in Chapter 1 but then change it to B in Chapter 8?—though they won’t be going into the plot development itself. Line editing for a 50,000-word novel would range between RM3,000 to RM5,000 here at Teaspoon Publishing.

Proofreading

This is your final line of defence! At this stage, you’re pretty much just catching typos, concentrating on spelling, grammar, and punctuation, as well as other basic/common language mistakes. Proofreading for a 50,000-word novel ranges from RM2,000 to RM4,000 here at Teaspoon Publishing.

Some people tend to skimp on editing and jump right into just a quick proofread or do nothing at all. This isn’t really advisable, even if you’re an editor yourself, because it’s hard to find your own mistakes. It’s also really, really hard to tell if there are continuity issues or if things are confusing in your own manuscript because you know everything in your head. However, what’s in your head may not have all made it out onto the page in a way that others can understand.

If you’re really cheapskate (or you have really good friends), one way to save on this is to do a barter trade with your writer/editor friends, like I’ll edit your manuscript if you’ll edit mine. The results may not be really the best unless both of you are professional editors.

Expected cost: RM2,000 – RM5,000

3. Cover Design

A premade cover sourced online could cost about USD40 – USD80. An original cover could cost between USD100 – USD500, or more. We’ve paid between RM400 – RM750 for our covers. We recommend looking up Charis Loke Illustration and Magpie Designs!

Expected cost: RM150 – RM750

4. Formatting

Frankly, it’s not that difficult to format your own books—but it IS time-consuming, time that could be better spent writing your new book or doing marketing (ha). At Teaspoon Publishing, formatting generally costs RM60 per ebook format and RM100 for print layout (text only).

Expected cost: RM60 – RM280

5. Publishing

a) Online/ebook

The various platforms/distributors mostly take a cut of sales, generally between 30% – 50%. At the $0.99 – $2.98 price point on Amazon, they take a cut of 65% (I.e. you get 35% royalties on sales).

Expected cost: NIL.

b) Print

Printing costs depend on bulk. If you’re only printing 100 – 200 copies, you might want to check out these print-on-demand (POD) and/or book printing services:

Please note that we have not dealt with these services personally, but they have been referred to us or recommended on forums.
The higher quantity you print, the cheaper it is per copy.

OR, you can skip doing a local print run altogether and do POD with Lulu / CreateSpace / Ingram Spark. With this service, readers around the world can buy a physical copy of your book and have it shipped directly to their doorstep. You won’t have to pay anything upfront – the printing cost is taken out of the sales price & royalty paid to you. You can also print small batches of your book at their author price (cost of book + small markup for the printer)—but shipping from overseas is often the expensive bit.

Expected cost: ???

6. Distribution (for print)

This doesn’t appear in the timeline for self-publishing, but it’s a cost that you might want to consider if you want wider distribution if you decide to print your book. Most independent bookstores will ask you for a 30% – 40% “discount” on your retail price. This means that for every book you sell at RM20, they’ll pay you RM14 (30% discount) or RM12 (40% discount). This is how bookshops make their profits.

However, getting into chain bookstores (MPH, Popular, Times, Kinokuniya, Borders) normally needs you to have a distributor/agent. The only options we’ve come across so far are Inspiration Hub (30% royalty) and GerakBudaya (approx 55% discount). You’ll have to decide for yourself if this is cost you’re ready and willing to bear.

Expected cost: ???

Total costs of self-publishing

All in all, self-publishing an ebook may cost you between RM2,200 – RM6,000—and that’s not even including print! Yet 90% of this cost is from that one step you really shouldn’t skip: editing.

 


 

At Teaspoon Publishing, we believe in empowering authors to take control of their career. If you need a boost on your journey, check out our Publishing Hub to see how we can help!

How long does it take to self-publish a book?

How Long Does it take to self-publish?One common question we’ve received is how long does it take to self-publish a book? This is usually tied to another question—what’s the process of self-publishing a book?

Here’s a very rough guide to the process of self-publishing a book, including the estimated time each stage would take.

1. Writing

Some writers can finish writing a novel in a month, some take months, even years. To make a meaningful estimate of the length of time it takes to self-publish a book, we won’t include the initial writing phase of the book in this estimate, assuming that the process we’re looking at will start at the point where the manuscript is finished and ready to be sent for editing.

2. Editing

Depending on the wordcount and the editor’s schedule, a full edit can take anything from a week to a month, maybe more. A good estimate for a 50,000-word book would probably be one to two weeks for the initial edit. After that, it would be wise to budget a week for writer’s meltdown and wallowing in self-pity, another two weeks for rewrites, clarifications, arguments over what to change and whether to change them, and maybe a fourth week for finalisation of the manuscript.

Best estimate: one month.

3. Cover design

Cover design can be done concurrent with editing, assuming you’re pretty sure you aren’t going to rewrite the whole book or give up on the project altogether. It also assumes that you’ve already decided on your title.
This stage really depends on your artist so this is something you’ll need to discuss with them. You could get a premade cover online which would probably be updated in three days OR you could get an artist to conceptualise something specific for you, which could take anything from one week to three months. Remember: the more customised and the more handmade/hand-drawn it is, the more time it will take.

Best estimate: one month, possibly concurrent to editing.

4. Formatting

Layout and formatting for a text-only book should only take two to three days per format. A manuscript with pictures, graphs, or diagrams would take longer to format.

Best estimate: three days.

5. Publishing

a) Online/ebook 

Publishing online will only take a few hours of your time, assuming you have all the required materials ready (price, categories, back cover description, cover, formatted manuscript, ISBN, etc). Do also budget some time to review the converted file to make sure it’s up to standard before publishing. This is the best time to catch overlooked errors, typos, or formatting glitches, which would need a quick fix.

Best estimate: one to two days.

b) Print

Budget in at least two to three weeks for the printing process as the printer you send it to would have to review the files and get everything in order before starting the print run. If they need to send the files back to you for revisions, that would extend the time as well.
Best estimate: three days.

Total time: two-and-a-half to three months.

Do remember the time estimates noted here would vary for each writer and each contributor at every stage, and some stages may cycle back and forth several times. This estimate is also created assuming that the publishing of this novel is the sole priority of every contributor. This isn’t the case in the real world. Sending your novel to an editor doesn’t mean that they will be able to work on it right away. They may have other jobs they are currently working on that needs to be completed prior to yours, or they could be juggling multiple projects at the same time. The same goes for all the other stages, unless you’ve already booked their time in advance.

All in all, really proficient self-published writers can publish a new book every 3 months whilst traditional publishing generally takes 2 years from acceptance of the manuscript to final print. Our advice is to not rush the process as rushing may lead to sloppiness and more errors in your final book. You want a product that you can be proud of—and that takes time.


At Teaspoon Publishing, we believe in empowering authors to take control of their career. If you need a boost on your journey, check out our Publishing Hub to see how we can help!