Adventures with Smashwords

So, as I mentioned in my last post, I recently published my new Super Sporty Short Story not just on Amazon, but on Smashwords as well. My reason for doing this was because I wanted my story to be free to download, and Smashwords lets you set your price to Free. Smashwords also uploads your book to lots of other retailers like iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo (and the price is still Free on all those sites). Not only that, but I could then make it free on Amazon as well, by asking them to price match.

Now, in this post, I'm going to talk about Smashwords's submission process, its requirements, and ultimately, whether it's up to scratch.

First of all, signing up for a Smashwords account was super easy. You just enter your name, email address, password, etc., and you're in. You also have to specify whether or not you're under 18, because if you're under 18 Smashwords won't show you books with adult content in them. Which is nice.

I'm going to go off on a bit of a tangent here and say a few words about the Smashwords store. It is pretty fantastic. There's a whole section of FREE books (over 56,000 of them), and there's a handy little button you can click to send the book straight to your email. This is especially useful for reading books on an iPhone or other Apple device, because all you need to do is open the email on your device, tap "Open in iBooks", and start reading. Pretty cool, right?

So, anyway, once I'd set up my account, I clicked the tab at the top that says, "Publish" (Unlike Amazon, where the link to Kindle Direct Publishing is in really small letters at the very bottom of the page, Smashwords proudly displays its "Publish" link at the top). I filled in all my book details, uploaded my ePub file, and hit "Publish".

It was then that I ran into a problem. You see, I made my ePub file by converting my original Kindle file to ePub using a free online converter. For some reason, Smashwords didn't like it.

So I went for Smashwords's other option: a Word document.

Now, I know what you're thinking. "A Word document? That's awesome! You mean you can just type out a manuscript, upload it and you're done?"

The answer to that is: kind of.

When you upload a Word file to Smashwords, it gets put through some software that Smashwords affectionately calls Meatgrinder. What Meatgrinder does is it takes your Word document and converts it into nine different formats (ePub, mobi, pdf, plain text, and I forget the rest). These files are automatically uploaded to the Smashwords store, no matter how atrocious the formatting is. That's called being in the 'standard catalog'. The only problem is, I wanted to be accepted into the 'premium catalog', which is the catalog that gets uploaded to iBooks, B&N, Kobo, etc. And the only way you can be accepted into the premium catalog is if you follow all the directions in the 400-page Smashwords Style Guide.

I must have tried about eight times to get that formatting right. But eventually it worked, and I was able to upload my file with no error messages from Smashwords's AutoVetter. Then, I waited.

It takes a while to get your book accepted into the premium catalog, because Smashwords reviews all the submissions manually to make sure they meet the requirements of the various stores (Apple is apparently the most stringent). However, within a couple of days, my book was approved for the premium catalog. In a few more days, my book was listed at iBooks, B&N, Kobo, etc.

So, that was it. Easy peasy(ish).

Will I use Smashwords again? Almost certainly. I have another Super Sporty Short Story (Signed, Anonymous) out which I'd like to make free. However, it's currently enrolled in KDP Select (an Amazon program which gives you extra promotional options in exchange for not publishing your eBook anywhere else), so I'll have to wait until October, when my subscription to the program runs out, to publish it on Smashwords. As for my other books, we'll have to see.

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  1. Hi Ellie, I'm glad to see that you are publishing on Smashwords! I know a couple of authors that publish on Smashwords: Lisa Brunette and A.L. Meinhold.

    I'm pretty sure that if you reach out to one of these ladies on social media, they will be more than happy to share some tips for using Smashwords with you. Who knows? Maybe Lisa or A.L. will be able to tell you how you can upload ePub copies directly into Smashwords so you can avoid having to navigate the 400-page style guidelines.

    Let me know if you can't find them on social media. I should be following both of them on Twitter and Facebook, so I can help you contact them.

    1. Thanks, Charity! Yes, I'm still rather new to the whole Smashwords thing, so I'll be sure to check out those authors you told me about.