http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/313068

Op-Ed: Trying out Smashwords- E-book publisher for everybody Special

Posted Oct 19, 2011 by Paul Wallis
Smashwords is a wide-distribution publisher. Their approach is somewhat like existing publishers like Lulu, but they’ve got a much bigger range. I was put on to Smashwords by a friend in the States, and I have to say that so far they’re a cut above.
Reading a novel on Kindle
Reading a novel on Kindle
goXunuReviews/flickr
Smashwords is an “upload and publish” site. I got interested partly because unlike other e-book publishers, this one is known to sell, although Smashwords is very upfront and tells authors that e-books can sell in thousands or not at all. Another thing that interested me was Smashwords’ distribution model, which is excellent. Smashwords distributes e-books on a very wide range of platforms.
The e-books are formatted for PDF, RTF, Epub, etc. for readers like Kindle, Apple, Sony, and other major brands. This is a very broad retail base, and with the huge burst of e-book sales, I wanted to check it out.
The book I chose to publish on Smashwords was The Good Manager, a character study of competent management using the baseline character of a talented person with their own ideas and methods for management. It’s written in my usual catscratch style, (who needs sharp objects when you can write?) and I wanted to get some feedback from this market.
Publishing on Smashwords is actually pretty easy, if you follow the Style Guide. Unlike most Style Guides, this one isn’t a series of “Thou shalts”. It’s more of a fixer and explanatory thing, and the basic message is to keep it simple. That’s very good advice. If you’ve ever published anything anywhere, you’ll be aware of the issues with using third party publishing methods, and Smashwords has basically said “ditch the Word formatting bells and whistles”, which makes conversion to different e-reader platforms much simpler.
I did OK, apart from leaving out the copyright notice, (Ahem… I do know better, when I’m awake) and then had to revise because of too many paragraph breaks which were created by the page break dropping out on the copyright page and having to reformat. That may sound complicated, but it took seconds to do.
Smashwords has an “AutoVetter”, which checks the book for possible formatting and other problems. This is a very good idea, because the possibilities include blank pages in the middle of the e-book, fudged lines, etc. So on the third attempt, it went through. I also got a free ISBN. The ISBN is required by Apple, Borders and Sony. The free ISBN is good news for authors, because it’s a universal reference and means your book automatically appears in searches.
Smashwords is also a good example of how straightforward and easy publishing should be. Most publishers don’t seem to get one basic fact- Writers hate bureaucracy. We’re not clerks. We don’t get paid for fiddling around with minutiae. We loathe endless multi-step processes. We’re ideas people, not mechanics.
I got very tired of playing Post Office about 5 years ago. I’ve actually seen publishers produce large “How to format a Word doc for submission” epics including margin sizes, spacing, etc. What they don’t tell you is that on the end of this utterly mindless and unlike Smashwords practically totally unnecessary ritual is an intern with a checklist and the business instincts of a staggeringly unambitious gerbil. Do you think Romeo and Juliet, as a book about early teen love, sex, suicide and murder, would fit in to the standard straitjacket of modern publishing criteria? These guys hire “marketing experts” to tell them to publish clones of the bestseller lists, and then wonder why they don’t sell.
Publishers should be looking for commercial product values, not “how to publish what everybody else is publishing and get paid for doing it” stuff. Nobody needs another Jeffrey Archer or Danielle Steele. I’ve read reviews of my work by fully qualified NYC literary idiots who read the story and managed to miss the whole point of it in the synopsis. I’ve had couches covered in first class mail from publishers that couldn’t even be bothered getting a decent template or promotions for their own websites and used clone covers- the sort you see in bargain bins everywhere. Smashwords is very different, and it shows.
Check out Smashwords, because you’ll at least be getting a bona fide platform for selling your books into a well-defined, well-organized distribution network. Beats crap out of the paper chase, and definitely a billion times better than the vanity publishers.
Important- Read the Style Guide! Unlike 99% of guides, this one has direct practical applications, doesn’t tell you “how to be a good little sheeplike writer” and makes sense. You also won’t feel patronized to death after reading it.