Recently I self-published through Smashwords and made it through the vetting into the their premium catalog! I made it through their vetting process within 48 hours of original submission. This means that I gain access to all of their eBook distributors like Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Page Foundry, Baker & Taylor Blio, txtr, Library Direct, OverDrive, Flipkart, Oyster, Scribd, and Baker-Taylor Axis360. So this list will be based on my experience specifically with Smashwords.
The list also includes Amazon KDP but there are some stipulations before they deliver to Kindle. The biggest of which is that your book needs to make $2000 before they will accept it. Which is odd because KDP has very low standards for what they will accept for people to publish through them. So to start off we will talk about 10 Dos and Don’ts of Self-Publishing that will help you get through the dreaded meatgrinder of vetting.
1. Finish Your Manuscript, Don’t Start the Publishing Process Until You’re Done
If you start before you’re finished you can get stuck and frustrated if you’re pulling focus from your work. Focus on your project first and foremost.
Get your work edited, get Beta Readers and finish your manuscript fully. There are a lot of things that you need to catch before publication to save yourself some embarrassment. Some mistakes in finished works are unavoidable and that’s ok. You shouldn’t be a perfectionist, because you may end up re-editing your work forever. But if you never feel comfortable enough to publish, then that may be saying something.
On a side note: One really nice thing about Smashwords is you can upload an entirely new manuscript with no problem to fix a mistake you found after publication.
2. Start Self-Promotion As Soon As Possible, Don’t Be Afraid of What Others Think
Some recommend promoting yourself six months before your release date. This is smart, but it really depends on where you are in your project. For example, my project from inception to publishing took five months and two days. Obviously I wouldn’t have been able to give it the full six months. However, as soon as I knew I had something I wanted to promote I jumped in with both feet.
“Both feet” mean you need to manage your social media presence which can be a job in and of itself. If you haven’t already, start a twitter and facebook page dedicated only to your work. Share with your fans what’s happening with your project and how it’s working for you. It will offer everyone clarity and you can inspire other Authors by letting others know your struggles.
3. Do Research Everything, Don’t Rely on one Source
If you have a question about something, don’t rely on one source when you ask a question. Potentially you could receive five different answers from different points of views. It all depends on what is right for your project.
The first step is to look at their background and what they are currently working on to see if it aligns with yours. They could potentially have a new insight into what you’re doing that you hadn’t even considered.
4. Read Everything, Don’t Skim
When you find articles regarding your questions make sure to actually read them. If you’re only going to just skim over them why are you asking the question to begin with. There is a lot of information on the internet. Take advantage of the knowledge offered.
This means when you get to the publication stage you need to read the fine print and pay attention to Royalties. These two things are very important to pay attention to.
5. Choose the right company for you, Don’t jump in before you know
The right company for me was Smashwords. They are the highest rated distributor out there, one of the easiest to use and it’s basically a one-stop-shop when it comes to distribution if you get entered into their premium catalog. And the best part? They are completely free! They even offer you more royalties than any other distribution site at 85%.
Your choice should be based on the first two Dos and Don’ts. Find out what is best for your project and run with it.
6. Follow the instructions on formatting to the letter! Don’t skip anything.
Smashwords does this amazing thing where they completely walk you through the formatting of your manuscript. They provide not only an amazing step-by-step guide they call The Smashwords Style Guide by the founder Mark Coker found here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/52. They also provide a complete template for the formatting as well making it really easy.
7. Follow-Through, Don’t Underestimate the Work
Though Smashwords makes it as easy as possible it can be difficult if you’re not familiar with Microsoft Word or you’ve never understood how to correctly format your writing. I.E. Grammar and spelling is not the only thing you need to worry about. The Style Guide still walks you through all of it and even gives what they call a “Nuclear” option which strips every single bit of formatting out of your manuscript so you have a fresh start.
If you can’t figure it out then they also offer a list of people who are willing to format your manuscript for a low price!
8. Be Patient, Don’t Give Up
My manuscript got kicked out immediately from the auto-vetter after submission at Smashwords because my pixels weren’t the right size in my cover photo. Twenty-four hours later the human-vetters kicked it out with an apologetic note about a small and easily fixed problem with my formatting. They even referred me to the exact rule in the style guide to help fix it. Less than twenty-four hours after that I was approved for the premium catalog!
It can seem like a daunting task but in my opinion it was the easy part in compared to editing my book. But I also enjoy formatting and the type of work associated with documents. You will get through it one way or another and if it’s really not your forte then ask for help. Asking for help doesn’t mean you can’t do it on your own, it just means it will save you time and maybe you’ll learn for the next time.
9. Set Your Standards High, Don’t Release Something Until You Know It’s Ready
Even though it’s harder, make sure you follow through with the formatting, editing and the nitty-gritty details. I have a problem with Amazon KDP because of their lack of standard in publishing. It’s my opinion that by lowering the standards to get to publication they actually hurt the industry and in turn hurt the Indie Authors who actually want to take their work seriously.
Every time an Indie Author who doesn’t take advantage of the information out there, aren’t diligent in their work and takes the easy way by publishing through Amazon KPD directly it hurts the industry. Without subjecting their manuscript to a higher standard it produces a product that isn’t good enough. It also limits their availability to one distributor. KDP still controls nearly 65% of the eBook distribution but Apple is hot on its tail and could potentially overtake it in the next five years. Apple iBook has some of the highest standards in the industry for their distribution which is why in turn Smashwords does since it’s one of Apple’s main brokers.
When you tell people that you’re an online published author there is a lot of negative connotations involved because of the writers that put out half-finished work, just to say they are published. Most people will assume your product wasn’t good enough to be accepted into the Traditional Publishing (TP) industry, which isn’t always the case. TP is extremely hard to break into and you usually need to know someone who knows someone. But even then if they don’t like you or your personality and don’t think that you are marketable then your manuscript will be turned down. But I will save that for another time.
10. Be Passionate, Don’t Doubt Your Work
If you don’t believe in yourself, who will? Keep that in mind when you approach every project. Keep yourself impassioned. It will make all of your work that much brighter. Never stop talking about it. Find that thing that lights you up and go for it.
Until Next Time…
Smashwords gets two thumbs up from me across the board and I would recommend it to any burgeoning Author.
Email me with any questions at SMWinter@winterwarren.com