Friday, June 6, 2014

Publishing Your Book to Smashwords - A Quick Tutorial

I have a love-hate affair with Smashwords. Here’s the link to visit their website -

I’m happy for the opportunity to get my books on all of the sites they support, but I can’t for the life of me figure out how to configure a manuscript to get it through their “meatgrinder.” The good news is I don’t have to.

After a week of pulling out my hair and fighting urges to smash my laptop against the wall I found a guy on Fiverr who’ll do all the work for me for five bucks. His Fiverr id is Bookaholic, and he does the job in three days or less. If you want to check out his gig here’s the link.

Here’s the least you need to know about Smashwords. They’re a third party aggregator that posts content on their own website, and on other eBook sites. Some of the sites they make your books available on include:
  • Amazon
  • Apple
  • Baker & Taylor Blio
  •  Baker-Taylor Axis 360
  •  Barnes & Noble
  •  Flipkart
  • Kobo
  •  Library Direct
  •  Oyster
  •  Page Foundry
  •  Scribd 

The big three are Apple, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble.

Apple is the toughest nut for independent authors to crack on their own because Apple requires you to use their own eBook authoring software that only runs on – you guessed it – an Apple computer.

Publishing your book

Smashwords does all of the heavy lifting for you. When you submit a manuscript to them, it gets run through their “meatgrinder.” This is what converts your manuscript into all the different formats they need to publish your book on other sites. To do this, they have very specific guidelines your manuscript needs to conform to.

For the sake of my own sanity and this book, I’m not going to cover their exact requirements. I suggest using the Fiverr gig by Bookaholic. 

If you want to go it on your own, you should check out the Smashwords Style Guide by Mark Coker. You can get your free copy here.

Your cover art may also need some minor tweaking to work with Smashwords. They require your cover to be a minimum of 1400 pixels wide, with a height greater than the width. You can resize your cover using paint, or ask your designer to redo it for you.

Once you have your manuscript and cover ready publishing on Smashwords is easy. Click on publish in the author dashboard. Most everything is self-explanatory.

The pricing and sampling section is different than on Amazon. You have the option to make your book permanently free on Smashwords. To do this select make my book free. Authors generally do this when they want to make their book permanently free on Amazon or other eBook sites. You’re also given the option to let my readers determine the price. If you’re feeling lucky, give this one a try. Readers can pay whatever they think your book is worth. Keep in mind, if you use this option, Barnes and Noble won’t publish your book if you submit it through Smashwords. The final option is charge a specific price for my book. Use this section to set the price you want for your book.

The section immediately after this lets you set up sampling. Amazon automatically sets sampling or the look inside feature to ten percent. Smashwords lets you select the sample size for your book. Twenty percent is the default setting. They suggest fifteen percent for full-size books and thirty percent for short stories. Choose the preview amount you’re comfortable giving away.

Section 5 lets you select the eBook formats to make your book available in. By default, all of the formats are selected. My suggestion is to leave it like that.

After you’ve completed all of the steps, select yes, I agree in Section 8 and Smashwords will begin to process your book.

Once you select yes, I agree your book goes into a queue waiting to be processed. When processing is completed, you receive an email saying congratulations your book passed the vetting process, or you will receive a message that your book had issues going through the autovetter. If you had autovetter issues, you can correct them, and resubmit your manuscript.

As soon as you receive the congratulations message, your book goes on sale on the Smashwords site. It also goes into review for premium distribution, which means it is good to be sold on other sites like Apple, Kobo, and Scribd. Most often it takes about a week to review your book and get it set up for premium distribution.

You can check the progress in your dashboard. The second to the last column at the far right of each book summary shows the premium status. When your book has been accepted it will show premium approved, and the date of approval. If there is an issue getting approved, you will be able to see the error code in the next column – retailer tickets. As soon as you correct the error, you can resubmit your book.

Selecting distribution channels

After you submit your book you have one last task to complete, you need to select your distribution channels. To do this select channel manager in the box labeled Marketing & Distribution Tools.

When you click into the channel manager, the first thing you see is an explanation of the royalties paid to sell your book on the different sites. To select your sales channels scroll further down the page until you see your first book cover. Smashwords shows you the different channels available and gives you the option to Distribute or Opt Out of each channel.

I list my books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo for myself so I choose to opt out of those three programs. This way I receive payment directly from both sites and don’t have to pay a commission on those sales to Smashwords. Others authors prefer the convenience of doing it all through Smashwords and just having one distributor. You can always change your distribution options later if you decide to publish to those channels on your own. I did this with Kobo when I discovered how easy it was to use their Writing Life interface.

After you’ve selected your channels to sell on it normally takes anywhere from one to four weeks for your books to start selling on those sites.

As expected, Apple is the most difficult vendor to work with.

When you format your manuscript make sure to remove all of the links to other eBook sites. I know I missed this step on several of my manuscripts. I usually include a clickable bibliography with links to where readers can find those books on Amazon or Google Books. That’s a big no-no with Apple unless you change to links to books in the iStore.

Another area I’ve been caught with my pants down on was where I included a link to my book on Amazon to ask for a review. Apple will reject your book if you link to Amazon, or even if you just mention that readers should stop back to Amazon to ask for a review.

To make it easy on yourself thoroughly check your book for links to other eBook sites and remove all of them.


Payments are made quarterly on Smashwords. Authors can choose to receive payment by PayPal or check. The payment threshold for PayPal is $10.00, for checks the payment threshold is $75.00.

Payment dates are:
  • January 31st (for sales in October, November, and December)
  • April 30th (for sales in January, February, and March)
  • July 31st (for sales in April, May, and June)
  • October 31st (for sales in July, August, and September)

To check out Smashwords FAQs click this link -


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