Saturday, September 10, 2011

All right Smashwords, you win

I resisted for as long as I could. I really, really didn’t want to have to deal with Smashwords to get my book out there, but the more I researched alternate sales avenues, the more I came to realize: there aren’t any alternate sales avenues. At least, none that work very well.

I gave up on Google Books today. They’re impossible to deal with, they give away too much of the book for free, and I haven’t been able to get them to do the one thing I wanted: sell my ebook! So I sent them a request today to remove my book and account. It isn’t worth the hassle. Kobo is just as bad. Despite multiple emails, I have never received a response to my inquiries about publishing directly to them. So again, I give up.

Smashwords won. I spent all freaking day converting my book to Word format. It was tedious and I have a massive headache, but for the most part, it came out well. I had to give up on some of the fancier things in my hand-coded ebooks: the fancy chapter titles (images – too big a hassle in Word) and the footnotes in the research notes section at the end. So the book is more plain-looking, but it does the job. My only issue so far is that, for some reason, the formatting in the HTML (the read online) edition is still screwy. It won’t center anything except the headings. Very irritating. Though it was worse the first time I submitted it. That time, anything I styled in anything other than the Default (OpenOffice’s version of “Normal”) paragraph style was showing up in a different font than the rest of the book. It looked awful. Again, only in HTML format. So I fixed that, but ended up losing my centered text in the process. Frankly, my head hurts too much to care at this point. As long as the ePub and other formats look fine (which they do), I don’t really care that much about the HTML one. That’s not the version other stores will be selling – it’s only viewable at Smashwords, and most people aren’t going to buy through that site. I have to pick my battles, and I’m tired, so I’ll give up that one.

Still, the best version of my ebook is going to be what people buy directly from Amazon or Barnes & Noble, because I was able to publish Kindle and Nook on my own, using the files I hand-formatted.  But at least now everyone can buy my book, regardless of which reader they prefer. I felt like I was discriminating against the other ereaders by only offering Kindle and Nook. Now I feel better, and maybe once it’s on those other sites, my sales will pick up a little! Here’s hoping it doesn’t take forever to pass Premium Catalog approval. I’ve heard that can takes weeks sometimes.


  1. I actually haven't even looked into Google Books, Kobo or B & N yet. I published a collection of poetry for family through Smashwords, so I'm familiar with the process. Still, I'd like to format for Kindle directly when I have time.

    As far as I understand it, you just convert your files to HTML, don't you?

    I'm sorry to hear you couldn't do the formatting you wanted. Back when I did my poetry collection, I was so upset that I could add headers, footers or page numbers. I could envision a book without any of those things. But it makes sense.

    Every eBook reader is different and page numbers wouldn't help since readers can change the font size and type. Still, I completely know where you're coming from a sympathize.

  2. @E. S. Lark I would definitely recommend doing Kindle yourself. It wasn't too difficult, and you have better control over the end result. And yes, you would use an HTML version of your book. I used MobiPocket Creator to them produce a Kindle file from the HTML, so I could preview it on my own Kindle before submitting anything. That way you can be sure it's just right.

    Yeah, with ereaders, there are no page numbers. It's just one long file, which in some ways makes it easier. There's a lot of formatting that goes into a print book that you don't need to worry about with ebooks. I think my print version too the most time to format!

  3. Conratulations, fellow Smashwords author.

    I'm not familiar with OpenOffice, but maybe the default paragraph style is set to something other than the one you want to see? God knows something similar happened to me with Word.

    Anyway, good luck in your endeavors.

    After seeing your post on Absolute Write, I'm thinking of going directly to B%N and Amazon myself. Sounds like you've been happy with them.

  4. @Michael E. Walston Hi Michael, and thanks for the congrats.

    I think that it's a great idea to publish directly anywhere you can. You have more control over how the final product is going to look, which was the big draw for me. But it's also nice to be able to see nearly real-time sales figures, which I understand isn't possible with SW. I can be impatient to see results, so it's nice to be able to keep up with how I'm selling, especially in the first few weeks of being published! I found the process for both Amazon DTP and PubIt to be pretty smooth and easy.