Initial Impressions of Smashwords

I decided to jump back into publishing via the e-book route first. Having done my due diligence, I chose Smashwords as the best outfit out there. They have automated software they call their meat grinder that turns a Word MS into all the different e-book formats. They do this for FREE! All they ask is [that] they manage your e-book sales. They do this for a 15% cut or, if you want to give others the privilege of selling your e-book as affiliates, they get an additional 15% for them. DEAL! This does not relieve you from the obligation of marketing; however, it is a huge support system.

The first thing I did was to go here to learn how they do what they do. This entailed downloading two well-written e-manuals—one a style guide and the other focusing on e-book marketing. Both were easy to understand. In reading the style manual, which focuses on what you need to submit to them, I discovered I had to drop back ten and punt. All my interior design work was for naught, as far as e-books go. The reason is the various e-book readers have their own way of laying out the books they read. The using person can change fonts and sizes to suit his needs. That means all the pretty designs go out the window. Forget drop caps and cute little illustrations, they just get in the way.

This means I had to go into my InDesign file, select all the text, and paste it into Word. Then I had to save it as a text file, stripping out all the hidden InDesign code. Table of Contents and Indexes are stripped out since they won’t make any sense in the e-book readers. Chapter Numbers and titles are changed to a common sans serif font, in my case Helvetica at 14 point, and the text should be common, in my case I’m using Times New Roman at 12 point. I’ve had to eliminate my pretty ornamentals I use to show text breaks and go back to 3 asterisks. Because I stripped out all styling, I’m having to go through to replace the italicized text that was lost in the process. I also have to insure there are no tabs or excessive paragraph symbols or spaces.

Once I have rendered this simplified file that will play on all the different formats, I’ll be ready to send it to the meat grinder. Smash Words has routines that check for my compliance with its style requirements, which is a good thing. Obviously, this will take some time, but now I know what I have to do for my four other mysteries. Everything they require is for good technical reasons. Their style manual made understanding them easy. Their marketing manual is practical and in keeping with common sense guerrilla marketing principles. So far this has been a positive experience except for the redoing of the file, which will take time. I hope to have that finished by tonight. Then, I will be ready to complete their application and send my file to their meat grinder. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

This is a cross-posting from Bob Spear‘s Book Trends blog.

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