Saturday, June 30, 2012

How tough is it today to put your book on Smashwords?

I uploaded my second book to Smashwords recently, so I thought I’d give a report on how well that process went. Here’s the summary:

It’s about as slick as greased glass.

OK, if you are as anal as I am, you sweat the small stuff. In my case, I took between 3 to 4 hours to get the book content ’just so,’ which is not to say that the process calls for grueling, painstaking steps that you must grind through that whole time. Not at all.

You see, I’m a bit of a perfectionist (the nice way to refer to someone who’s anal). I want my product to be spiffy and top notch. I don’t want errors or inconsistencies, no matter how slight. I want it to shine. Which takes time. It takes checking and rechecking. It takes grumbling over how a paragraph looks or how a story intro meshes with the opening sentence. It takes tweaking the layout and adjusting the overall flow. It takes imagining yourself as a reader holding a Kobo, Kindle or Nook.

This is the responsibility and work of a publisher. In the case of Smashwords, that’s you. You make the decisions on how it should look and feel. Once you’re happy, you push it to market. But it doesn’t end there. You can go back anytime and make changes, add content, improve the product. You are the publisher. You decide how it will be. The power rests in your hands.

So that’s all fine and good, but... getting back to the Smashwords process... just how tough it is these days?

If you have your document polished, your cover art image ready, and you can follow some step-by-step editing guidelines, you can do it in 2 – 3 hours. No sweat. Smashwords provides aspiring authors a decent instruction set that takes you through the process, including what gotchas to beware of and what to do when things don’t go as well as they should. In short, this is a process that demands attention to detail, but don’t let that scare you. This is not rocket science or black art. You can do it. Honestly, if you just don’t want to be bothered with the effort, you can even hire someone to tackle this, possibly for as little as $50. Bottom-line: if you’ve got a book ready to go, you should press on and do it.

Just a couple of brief observations:

  1. Be sure you have your book cover ready to go. Smashwords just upped their requirements on the image dimensions. It now should be no less than 1,400 pixels wide, ideally a bit larger. The height should end up being a multiple of the width by like 1.3 or 1.4. This is considerably larger than the old requirements they’ve used.
  2. Before diving into the Smashwords Style Guide process steps, take the time to refine your manuscript file to make it as polished as you can. Once you start the publishing process steps, you won’t want to be detouring to deal with beefing up your manuscript format, not if you can avoid it.
  3. Check out the Smashwords publish web page and especially review the meta data you’ll need to provide at the time you upload and publish your book. I recommend you think about each of the inputs and prepare your information in advance, ready to cut-and-paste into the fields on the Smashwords web page. That approach is a lot better than waiting until the moment you publish your book’s file and rushing through entering the meta data. It matters. Think like a publisher would, because that’s you.
If you’re sitting on the fence about publishing via Smashwords, I hoped I’ve convinced you to take the plunge. With a little effort on your part, you can be selling your book in just a few hours.

Good luck!

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