A Quick and Dirty guide to getting on Smashwords
I have recently published Dirt on Smashwords as well as on Amazon. It was a difficult decision, to be honest, but in the end, as an unknown, I decided I had to reach a wider market than just Amazon and, to be honest, I needed to make the first book in the series free - something you cannot do on Amazon.
It was not especially hard to do, in the end, however, I did have some problems, so hopefully, this article will help you. I am going to cover:
- Preparing your document
- Sorting out tax!
So be aware that things might change a little as time goes on, and keep checking with the Smashwords website for the latest information.
Before you do anything else, go and create an account on Smashwords by clicking here. It is free to signup and to publish, so you wont need your credit card.
You will need a PayPal account to receive any money from sales; US citizens also get the option of being sent a cheque.
Once you sign up I suggest you sort out your profile, find your way around the Dashboard and fill out your Author Interview. You can either use their set questions, which are pretty good, or add your own.
You should also download the Smashwords Style Guide. This book tells you everything you need to make sure that your document is properly prepared and so will pass the automated tests.
I warn you, it is very long winded, hence this article which is the quick version. However, if you are doing anything more complicated than publishing an everyday novel, READ IT!
Preparing your document
Preparation is important. Smashwords goes through two processes. The first is quick and easy and just makes your book available on Smashwords itself. However, the main reason you will be publishing through them is to get listed on iTunes, Barnes & Noble and so on. To be on those you need to be accepted into the Premium Catalogue (it is free) and the review process is manual and much more fussy.
The recommended method of publishing is by uploading a MS Word document. Mostly, it is assumed that this will have been created with Microsoft Office, however, you can also create it with Libre Office (OpenOffice).
The document must be a .doc and not a .docx document. Neither should it include embedded fonts, macros or anything like that. Just a nice, boring, document. Got it?
If you are anything like me, you are starting with a double spaced simple document made from a good novel-manuscript template. Just as an aside, if you are not, then go and get one. It makes writing a lot more sensible one way or another.
The first thing to do is save it as something else - mynovel-smash.doc is probably as good as any.
Remove some bits
There are a few things you should get rid of immediately.
All headers and footers, including things like page numbers as this is not relevant to an e-book.
Table of Contents. If you have used the office automated TOC at the front of your book (which I always do) it can really mess up the Smashwords automated system, so you need to get rid of it and replace it, which we will do later.
Manual Page Breaks and Section Breaks. It really is worth getting rid of these and then we will add just a few later that we must have. To get rid of these, put your doc into draft view mode, then open replace. To get rid of manual page breaks type in ^m^p, make sure there is nothing in the replace with field and replace all. Now do the same for section breaks but use: ^b^p.
Now go back to print view.
There are several other things you need to get rid of which are a bit of a pain actually. If you are using a decent template, then your paragraphs should have been set up with a first line indent. Good! Unfortunately, some authors insist on either using a tab or hitting the space bar several time to get the effect - BAD! Go and get rid of them all.
Also, Smashwords does not like more than 4 carriage returns in a row, so go sort that out while you are about it.
The key here is that if you are using styles correctly in Word, that is, creating styles based on the Normal style that take care of things like headings, first line indents, centre text, paras in italics and so on, then your life is going to be one hell of lot easier. If you are hitting space bars and returns all over the place to get the same effect, then you are in trouble. You will have to clean it up. If it is a real mess, then the Style Guide has some tips on a sort of nuclear option for getting rid of everything.
A bit of nice formatting
Now we need to get with making this look like a book.
It is likely that your main text is Normal text and that your chapter headings are Heading 1.
So, start with Normal. open the normal style and Modify paragraph.
Now, make sure it is set for single spacing and that the first line indent is set for about 0.6cm. That seems to look okay on e-readers.
While you are about it, make sure that the font size for normal is something like 12. Again, this seems to be a good starting place.
Now, go check Heading 1. Again, modify paragraph and switch to the Line and Page Breaks. Make sure that Page Break Before is checked - it probably is.
Font wise, I leave mine at 12 (you can make it 14, which is the maximum allowed for e-readers) and I make it bold. But that is up to you.
Next, set up a Centre style. This is for things like the front matter. Create a new style, base it on Normal, make it centred and with NO first line indent.
For most books, that is probably all you need. If you have things like poems and songs that you want to make a little prettier, then by all means set up a style for them, but KEEP IT SIMPLE. Remember that this is an e-book not a print book and clever stuff does not work or will just get destroyed by the publishing process.
Sort out your Front Matter
And probably any end matter too.
Since you have removed any manual page breaks, if you had played with the front of your document it is probably now all scrunched up on one page.
Note: Since Heading 1 now has an automated page break, then your chapters are sorted out already.
So, this is where you add a handful of manual page breaks. For Dirt, my front matter is:
- Title Page
- The Dirt Books (list of other books)
All with a page break in between so they are separate pages. For all of these I use the centre style I created earlier. Where I want a bit of a title, like "Dedication" or the title of the book, I use this style then set the font size to 14.
AND THAT IS ALL I DO!
I do not use heading styles or anything like that and just stick to that one style.
Keep the information simple and short. The Style Guide has lots more on this.
My end matter I treat like chapters. In Dirt I have:
- Find out More about Dirt
- Books by CC Hogan
- About the Author
Each of these uses Heading 1, and then my normal text. Again, keep it all simple and don't try and be clever.
Table of Contents
I was doing so well up until this point and then I messed up. There are various ways of setting up a TOC, but the only one that is guaranteed to work is where you do it completely manually.
TOC's are essential in eBooks because otherwise navigating is a nightmare.
This is a two part process.
First you need to bookmark everything that you will be linking to. This probably means chapter headings.
Go to chapter 1, highlight the heading text, then go to Insert > Bookmark.
Type chapter1 (one word, no space) into the field under bookmark name then click on Add.
Repeat this with all your chapters.
Now, create your table of contents.
Go to your contents page and give it a title using your centre text style. How about Contents?
Now, type out your content list MANUALLY!
Having done that. Highlight a chapter in your list, click on Insert > Hyperlink and click on Place in this Document in on the left.
Now scroll down and select the chapter bookmark from the BOOKMARK part of the list. DO NOT use the Headings list!
Repeat this for all your contents.
Word has this bad habit of sometimes adding bookmarks that you do not understand and seem random. This is the thing that messed me up. When I submitted my book, it failed because the contents list did not work properly. Part of this was because of these strays.
Click on Insert > Bookmark. In the popup window. Click on the Hidden bookmarks check box. Now highlight and delete any bookmarks that you did not create.
Note: When you create your hyper-links and bookmarks, make sure you only highlight the actual word. Be careful that you do not stray as it might break it. Even when it works fine when in Word (and please check it first), when you upload it, the Smashwords Machine might misread it.
Uploading and checking
Assuming your books, like mine, are really simple, you are almost ready to go.
One note; avoid anything in your book that hyper-links to Amazon! People like Apple will reject this! (I wonder why?) However, links to your book's website or blog is fine.
I add a para at the end of my books saying something like "If you liked this, please add a review..." However, I make it very general and do not mention any particular review site.
Using the Smashwords Publish link (you will need to be logged in) go and fill in the details of your book.
NOTE: There is no Save Draft like you have with Kindle KDP - the button on the bottom will publish your book! So make sure you have all your publicity text ready in advance. Do not have any links or email addresses in this information.
Once you have done, the first thing that will happen is that your book will be converted by the automatic system and be published on the Smashwords website, warts and all, assuming it has not discovered any terrible problems.
At the same time, it will be cued to be reviewed for the Premium Catalogue. This process takes several days, so as soon as your book is on Smashwords, go and down load the Epub version of the book and check it with the Adobe Digital Editions reader. It is free and can be downloaded here.
Check that everything looks right, is clear and CHECK THAT DAMN TABLE OF CONTENTS. (Sorry, but this really did mess me up!)
If the TOC is not working properly, or if only part is appearing, or some links are going batty, go back to your doc and remake it. You may need to delete it, delete all the bookmarks and have another go, being really careful and precise. Then re-upload it using the Upload new version link on the book's listing in the dashboard and NOT the publish link - that is only for completely new books.
Now you will just have to wait for the review process than can take a week. If there are problems, they will be listed at the end of the review process, though I can't guarantee that it will be totally helpful. Mine said that there were problems with the TOC, but not WHAT those problems were. You will just have to correct it and put it back into review.
I suspect that most problems will be solved simply by you downloading the Epub and checking yourself, to be honest.
At last your doc has passed the review process!
It will now roll out across the various partner sites, but it will take several days. Be patient - there is nothing you can do to hurry this up.
In the meantime, there are other things you need to do. Well, one in particular - Sort your tax.
Go to Account > Payment Settings here.
You will need to fill in all the information like address, proper name (name for tax purposes, basically), PayPal details and so on.
You will also need to add any tax information.
If, like me, you are not from the US, you need to sort out an ITIN - Individual Tax identification Number. If you do not do this, they will have to withhold 30% of your income for US taxes.
Countries like the UK have a treaty with the US so that UK citizens do not pay this tax. However, they need your tax details.
With Amazon KDP and Createspace, you simply give them your ITIN from your country - for the UK that is your normal NI number. However, Smashwords is currently a bit behind the times and their field wont accept the number. (They tell me that they are going to change this).
If you follow their instructions, you will end up pulling your hair out - so stop, and do this instead.
Go and get a W-8BEN form. You can get one from the US IRS here. Plus the instructions.
Fill in part 1 following the instructions.
In box 6, put your tax identifying number from your home country (note, you will need to check that the US will accept it for your particular country.)
In box 7, put the email address you used to sign up to Smashwords. This is so Smashwords can identify you.
In Part II you probably only need to fill in box 9 - I put United Kingdom in mine.
Print off the form and sign it.
Now, here is the clever bit - Go and email Smashwords support. Tell them you have filled in the form and can you upload it to them. They will be very nice and send you a special link. Scan your signed document and use the link to upload the resulting PDF. There, that save a lot of messing around with postage!
If yours is one of the simple countries, that will be it. Your withholding tax will be reduced to Zero percent.
Read the Smashwords guide on the ITIN #ITIN">here.
There are all kinds of things you can do.
The Series Manager is something I seriously suggest you consider if your books make up a series. Simply create a series, give it an image and add books. You can change the order and how they are listed. This just helps cross promotion.
If any of your books are free, then you will want to report those to Amazon to try and get them to force down the cost of your book on KDP to zero. This is really hit and miss, I am afraid.
Basically, you go to the book page on Amazon and look for the link under Product Description for Tell us about a lower price. Then use that to report that your book is free on Barnes & Noble, itunes and Kobo. Don't bother telling them about Smashwords, they are not interested.
Sadly, this link is not always there and they may just ignore you. It will possibly take weeks, maybe longer. This is a really big stupid mess-up with Amazon, to be honest and does nothing to help the struggling independent author that they say they support.
For a couple of good articles about it, go here and here.
Smashwords do not have any twitter cards or open Graph SEO meta tags on their book pages. So if you post a link to your book on Twitter, you will not get the Summary, which is a shame. It is probably worth making up some nice images that are 1024 x 512 pixels in size publicising your book and then when you post links, add these to your post. it will make them stand out.
And that is about that.
I haven't covered everything by any means and you must at least squint at the very important Style Guide, but this should get you started.
If you are looking for a slightly different take, but very helpful, then try this by the wonderful Veronica Sicoe.