I really needed to find an agent. I had been putting it off because I had heard so many stories about how hard it was to find a good agent. The struggle to find a willing publisher would be even worse. I was starting to realize that finishing and editing the book wasn’t even half the battle. It would be years before my story ever saw a sale.
Smashwords is a game changer. For an author new to the digital publishing world, getting your book into the major retail sites can seem just as daunting as the traditional publishing process. Smashwords takes that headache off your hands by converting your file for you and shipping it out the major sales sites. They have an automated ‘meatgrinder’ program that converts your file into all the major formats, and human staff that vet the file. Once your file is shown to be free of major flaws (they aren’t editing it for you, just a review of cover quality and general appearance) your book ships out to major retailers. There is no charge for this conversion, they get paid by a commission of 15% for each sale. Not bad when you realize that a traditional author would be lucky to get 15% percent of the sale, let alone 85%!
Congratulations! Just like that, you are a published author!
Don’t go rushing off to buy that bottle of Champaign just yet. You still have to put in some work to get ready for the conversion. You still need to format your book. Fortunately, Mark Coker’s Smashwords Style Guide provides a comprehensive review of all that needs to be done in order to get your masterpiece into premium distribution.
Nonetheless, I did hit a few small snags.
The first was the page breaks. I had put in page breaks to keep the chapter headings at the top of the screen. The style guide warns that the breaks might be stripped out during conversion and that you should put a couple of hard returns before and after so that some separation will be preserved. My problem was that too many of my chapters were ending so close to the end of a page that I had empty pages between chapters. I fixed this by taking out the two hard returns that sat in front of the page break.
The next issue that I came up against was my navigation points. Despite trying to be careful, I somehow managed to double up on one of my bookmarks and ended up with an extra chapter tag that led nowhere. I spent the better part of a day trying to track it down (the engineer in me likes complicated problems). I finally accepted that I could blow away the whole index and rebuild it in an hour. Finally – success – sort of.
I failed my first vetting because I had colored text. I didn’t figure the dark grey text in my chapter headings would be an issue, but Smashwords is very clear about text needing to be black. Colors can disappear on some screens. I changed them and re-submitted.
I failed my second vetting because I had colored text. I was kind of confused by this one – I had selected the entire document and changed the whole thing to black font so what could I have missed? Then I looked at the very end where the ‘About A.G. Claymore’ links were. I had to change the hyperlinks from blue to black. I fiddled around for a few frustrating hours before I realized that they weren’t going to change colors unless I changed the underlying hyperlink style in Word.
Finally, I had a convertible document. It went back through the meatgrinder and into review status on my dashboard. Within a couple of days I was pleased to see my status upgraded to ‘approved’! The book is now for sale at all major retailers.
All you have to do to start the process is – well – start the process. The two or three days that I spent formatting the first novel will likely only take a few hours for the sequel.
The only question you have to ask is this; do you want a traditional publishing deal where your books might get a couple of months shelf time for pennies a sale, or do you want them to sell as eBooks for as long as you want, for dollars a sale?
Smashwords can help you with that, when you’re ready.