Posts Tagged ‘smashwords’

Smashwords’ Predictions for 2017

Hey Squiders, we’ll jump back into the nonfiction stuff on Thursday to answer the question “How many rejections is too many?” but for today, I’d like to share Smashwords’ 2017 predictions for the book industry with you. It’s kind of a sobering read, but I’d love to hear what you guys think and any trends you’ve noticed the past few years. As I mentioned when going over City of Hope and Ruin‘s marketing results last year, some of my go-to launch activities, such as advertising on Goodreads, no longer work as well as they used to, and I wonder if some of it comes from the number of books coming out/available these days.

Mark Coker (who runs Smashwords) also mentions that KDP Select has been a terrible thing for authors, and Kindle Unlimited is only making things worse. I don’t have much of an opinion on that as of yet–I’ve always gone wide with the exception of The Short of It, and since it’s been a week, I don’t have many stats to look at. People who have used KDP Select, do you like it? Have the changes that Amazon occasionally makes hurt you?

Anyway, here’s the article. It’s long, but it is an interesting read. Love to hear your thoughts!

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Smashwords vs. Draft2Digital

I’ve seen a lot of people talking about doing a wide distribution of ebooks (i.e., not just Amazon) lately, and, as someone who has never done Amazon exclusively, I thought it might be helpful to some people to do a quick rundown of the two major ebook distributors.

(As a quick aside, there’s two general ways to do ebook distribution, assuming you are doing it yourself and your publisher isn’t doing it for you. One is to upload your book individually at each ebook service. The other is to use an ebook distributor, which is what we’ll talk about today.)

Everybody knows Smashwords–it’s probably the biggest name in ebook publishing after KDP. I use Smashwords for the distribution of both Hidden Worlds and Shards. But there’s a new kid in town, which is Draft2Digital (or D2D, as I will refer to it moving forward). After some research, Siri and I decided to use D2D for distribution of City of Hope and Ruin.

Why did we forsake Smashwords? Well, let’s look at each service individually.

Smashwords is the big kahuna. You upload a document, which goes through Smashwords’ meat grinder and gets turned into a variety of formats, which you can then have distributed to the channels of your choice, assuming your manuscript passes muster to get into the Premium catalog. Additionally, you have a page on Smashwords itself where people can buy your book and leave reviews.

Smashwords distributes to a number of retailers, such as the iBookstore, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, etc. They also work with libraries so that libraries could potentially download your book into their systems. You can set a specific library price which is different from your sales price.

Occasionally Smashwords has site-wide sales that you can enter your book into rather easily (normally just by indicating how much on sale you’d like the book to be).

Draft2Digital is smaller and newer. It also distributes to the iBookstore, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, etc. It doesn’t have a library option as of yet, however. D2D does not have a sale page for your book on their site, but does give you a universal link that lists all available retailers (you can see the one for CoHaR here). It’s a leaner service than Smashwords, and distributes to fewer retailers.

Okay, pros and cons.

Smashwords is massive and has a huge reach. Most of the books I have sold on the site have been during sales, so I appreciate being able to jump into those with a minimum amount of effort. The sale pages are nice, though I’m not sure how many people use Smashwords as the main way they buy ebooks. The meat grinder is a pain in the butt. It’s gotten slightly less picky over the years, but essentially you have to strip all formatting out of your manuscript to get it to take it. So the version of your book that goes out to the retailers is pretty plain. Additionally, it can take a long time for your books to show up at said retailers, to get payments from the retailers, or to update changes. Every time you change something, you have to go through re-approval for the Premium catalog as well, which is a bit of a pain.

D2D is smaller, as I said above, and doesn’t distribute as widely. They also don’t convert to as many formats, only epub, mobi, and PDF, though one could argue that you don’t need much more. (Smashwords does have an online reader that you can open on their website, which is arguably nice.) What is nice about D2D, and is a major reason we went with them, is that they update fast. Changes go up in less than a day, which is good for, say, price changes at the end of a sale and whatnot. Sales and payment go through a lot faster as well. This may be purely coincidental, but I’ve sold a lot more copies of CoHaR through the retailers than any of the books uploaded at Smashwords.

So I guess it depends on your end goals and what is more important to you. And I know some people upload to both, so they can have the sale page on Smashwords and the potential library distribution, but still make use of D2D’s faster distribution and payment.

Have one service you prefer? Used one or both? Have horror stories? Inquiring minds want to know, Squiders.

Smashwords’ Read an eBook Week and Free eBooks (and a ROW80 check-in)

So, last week, Smashwords sent out an email to all its minions to let them know that this week was going to be Read an eBook week, and that we could discount our books and join in if we wanted to.

(As an aside, we at Turtleduck Press make great use of Smashwords. They distribute to almost every ebook retailer, which a lot easier on logistics if you are an independent author or small press. If you’re self- or indie-pubbed and not on Smashwords, you should get on it.)

And there never seems to be any reason not to play in specials, so I signed both Shards and Hidden Worlds up. You can discount the books by 25, 50, 0r 75%, or go hog wild and go all the way to free.

Which is what I did.

I figured what the hell, it’s only for a week, and I have heard interesting things about offering your books for free, though admittedly usually related to Amazon.

It’s been interesting thus far. The promotion started on Sunday, but didn’t sign up until Monday night because I cannot get my crap together this week. (Also I forgot about it until I was cleaning out my inbox.) Shards is “selling” pretty well, a copy every hour or so (and someone “bought” one and seven gift copies, which is somewhat fascinating to me). Hidden Worlds is “selling” pretty well too (although on a 1 to 5 basis with Shards), which I find a interesting, as it’s older and in a niche subgenre.

But it will be interesting to see what happens in the long run. My husband rightly points out that people are probably going through and binge-buying any free book that looks interesting. In the end, it make take forever for these people to get around to reading my books, if they ever do. (I am the poster child for downloading free books and then forgetting to read them.) From a marketing standpoint, anything you can do to get your book in front of more readers is a good thing, but if those readers never get to it, does it still count?

Also, my husband and I have a bit of an argument going, and I’d like your input. Do you think people judge free books harsher because they didn’t have to pony anything up to get their hands on said book? Or do you think people judge free books more leniently (…because they didn’t have to pony anything up to get it)?

As for ROW80, I have fallen into a pit and am about a week behind on word count. This is related to the fact that I’m drowning in freelance work. I’ve found that my writing stuff has fallen by the wayside, unfortunately, because everything else has to be done and the writing technically does not. It is a sad state of affairs, but I hold out hope that I shall climb back out before the challenge is over later this month.

Ebook Formatting for Self-Publishing

Ebooks!  Wave of the future!  Whether or not you prefer your novels cheap and virtual or paper, if you’re self-publishing these days you need to have your book on as many platforms as possible to reach the widest readership.  Ebooks are an excellent way for an unknown author to get their name out there, because it allows readers to try you out without investing a huge amount of money on you.

I spend a lot of my time formatting ebooks, as it’s one of the freelance services I offer.  (As you can see if you click the lovely ‘editing and formatting services’ tab above.)  Admittedly, formatting is a bit frustrating because the oddest little things will throw your book into chaos, but!  It is doable if you are patient and willing to spend time trolling internet message boards.  Or you can hire someone (like me) to do it for you if you are short on time/patience and don’t mind spending some money.

There are three ebook publishing venues you should be using (all are free, so if you’re not doing this you’re only cheating yourself):

1. Smashwords
Smashwords takes your Word document, converts it to a gazillion different formats and, as long as your book meets their standards, they’ll allow you not only to sell your book on their website, but will distribute it to pretty much every other ebook retailer out there, including the iBookstore, Barnes and Noble, Sony, etc, etc, et al.  They’ll even create a version that will run on Amazon’s Kindle, though last I checked, it will not list your book on Amazon for you.  (Note: Smashwords is one of only a few ways to get into the iBookStore.  Lulu.com is another, and something you should look at if you are publishing a print version through them.)

However, Smashwords requires you to strip your book down, getting rid of almost all your formatting, to ease the conversion between platforms.  If you have something formatting-intensive, you might have issues meeting their standards, or you might find you cannot get your book to look like you want.

Smashwords offers a comprehensive formatting stylebook to help you meet their standards.

2. Amazon
The Kindle still owns a good majority of the ebook-reading public.  Plus it’s something to see your book listed for sale on Amazon.  Amazon offers authors a 70% royalty rate within a certain price range, which you really can’t go wrong with.

The Kindle is kind of a pain in the butt to format for, however.  Each Kindle book is, at its base, an HTML file.  (Not unlike a website.)  If you know how to program in HTML, good for you.  You are good to go.  There are some programs that you can use to convert your book to HTML (or .mobi or .prc, the other two file formats Amazon will accept) though they are a bit buggy and I recommend fixing the HTML after you’ve done so.  There’s Mobipocket Creator (which I prefer to use, because although it’s buggy, it’s easy to get into its guts to fix things) and Calibre (I honestly think it’s easier to program your entire document from scratch than use Calibre, but your mileage may vary).

If you want NCX files or a lot of pictures and you are not HTML proficient, I recommend hiring someone.  You will spend a lot of time trolling the internet and it will be full of sad, confused people.  (Luckily, if you have a novel, both are usually unnecessary.)

3. Barnes and Noble
The Nook is the easiest of the three basic platforms to use.  You can pretty much just upload your Word document, no changes needed, and it will look pretty and be readable. Barnes and Noble holds about a fourth of the ebook market these days, so even though Smashwords will eventually get your book listed on B&N.com, I’d recommend going ahead and uploading directly to PubIt!  You won’t have to eat all your formatting and it will go live faster.

So there you have it, a very basic overview of ebook formatting for your self-publishing needs.  Have at it, Squiders.

Thursday Round-up

Science/Space
NASA Creates Material Ten Times Darker Than Black
Secret Space Plane Pictures
NASA Ejects Nanosatellite from a Microsatellite (With bonus spacesail)
Dark Matter Galaxies Orbit the Milky Way
Total Lunar Eclipse on the Winter Solstice  (Mmm, the writer in me likes this a lot.)
First Carbon-Rich Planet Found (Trekkie!Me wonders what class of planet this would be.)
Pictures of the Falcon 9 Launch
360 Degree View of the Night Sky (This is truly amazing!)

Science Fiction/Fantasy
Blake Charlton wants input naming the third book of the Spellwright Trilogy
Tor/Forge is giving away a mystery box!
Steampunk.com wants nominations for the Steampunk Book of the Year
BBC making an adaptation of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

Misc Books
Smashwords Author Primed to Make $25K This Year

Writing
Getting Google’s Attention for their New eBookstore
Out of the Slushpile: Getting Your Self-Pubbed Novel Noticed
How to Tell if You Should Cut That Scene
Three Signs Your Characters are Too Perfect

Thursday Round-up

Space/Science
Saturn’s Moon Rhea has an Oxygen Atmosphere
Classic NASA Video of Life on SkyLab (Don’t know what SkyLab is?  Shame on you.)
Picture of Colliding Galaxies
Awesome, Unedited Picture of Enceladus

Scifi/Fantasy
New to Scifi?  Some Recommendations
Review of Midsummer Night by Freda Warrington
Preview of HBO’s Game of Thrones
Exclusive Preview of Orson Scott Card’s The Lost Gate
Review of Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
Holiday Gift Guide

Misc Books
Saturday is Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day!

Writing
Smashwords Annouces New Pricing Scheme

Stay tuned to NASA today – they’re going to announce they’ve found a new form of life!

The Ease of Self-Publishing

Last year, I published Hidden Worlds, a fantasy adventure novella, through Lulu.  Why I chose to do this particular project myself instead of going a traditional route is another blog subject. 

What’s important to this blog is that I received good interest and reviews and I am putting out a second edition under the Turtleduck Press label later this year.  So, in the interest of making the book as widely available as possible, in addition to Lulu I am also releasing the story through CreateSpace and Smashwords since there are no exclusivity contracts with any of these services.

Now, there are tons of articles out there arguing about which POD service you should use because of royalty rates, distribution, professional services, quality of product, whatever.  You are free to read any of those that you would like.  What I’m going to focus on is ease of getting your product together and ready to go out into the world.

As I said, I published Hidden Worlds on Lulu originally.  I had done some work on an anthology published through them and had been fairly pleased with the experience, so I chose them because they were familiar.  Lulu is straight-forward; you pick what you’d like to publish (hard cover or paperback), put in a title and author name, and go through a variety of options (binding, size, paper type).

CreateSpace works more or less the same way here.  Their language is a little different but it’s not too hard to figure out what they’re talking about.

Lulu will then ask you to upload your interior file.  It then checks it and lets you know if it thinks there’s something wrong with your formatting.  Lulu converts it into an interior file, allows you to view it, and then moves on to the cover.  You can upload your own wraparound cover or use their cover creator, which is fabulous.  There’s separate templates for front and rear covers.  The whole thing is easy to use and versatile enough that I didn’t find it hard to adapt it to what I wanted the book to look like.  Again, after it has converted the file, you can view it and make sure everything looks okay.

And when I revised the book for the second edition, it was as easy as uploading a new cover and a new interior file.  Lulu automatically updated the product page, the preview, and kept my ratings and reviews with it.

CreateSpace also asks you to upload an interior file.  But, unless I am missing something (and my Google Fu says I am not) there is no way to view this file once it’s uploaded.  This is a Bad Thing.  Hidden Worlds uses a non-standard font for the title page that sometimes does not translate over when I upload the pdf.  Lulu’s preview functionality has helped me catch that issue before the book is released for public consumption.  I have no way to know if the font copied over properly until I receive my proof copy in the mail.  Admittedly I won’t release the book until I have the proof copy, but I shouldn’t have to wait two and a half weeks* to see if I need to fix the interior file. 

CS also lets you upload a complete cover or use their cover creator.  Their cover creator, however, is not nearly as versatile as Lulu’s is.  You cannot pick and choose different templates for the front and back covers.  And there is exactly one template for a full front cover which means you’re stuck with the back that comes with it.  Yes, it is easy to use.  Yes, CS lets you preview your cover file to make sure it looks as expected, and it does warn you if the graphics you’re trying to use are low-resolution.  But the lack of versatility is a major issue in my book.

*CS requires that you buy a proof-copy of your book before you list it with them.  That’s fine, I think most of us would agree that we would like to see what we’re putting out and make sure that it’s something we’re willing to put our name on.  The issue here is that the shipping prices are ridiculous.  Hidden Worlds, for example, costs $4.38 for the proof.  (Which is admittedly quite decent.  My proof at Lulu is $7.91.)  Shipping is $3.61 but it takes almost three weeks to arrive.  If I want it in two weeks, it goes up to $6.39.  If I want it in any sort of reasonable length of time, is costs twenty-five dollars!  I ship books all the time.  It costs me $3 to send a book across country priority mail through the US Postal Service.  Those books arrive in 3-5 days.  Lulu, admittedly, is pretty expensive/slow on shipping as well but not to this extreme.

Now, since I am waiting three weeks for my proof, I cannot tell you how easy it is to make changes if necessary and get the product out to the public.  I do not know if I will need to buy another proof before I can release the book if I need to upload a new interior.  Those are subjects for another time.

But based on my experience so far, in terms of ease of use and ability to get your product to look how you would like, I think Lulu’s winning.  We’ll see how things play out in the long run.