Blog by Toby Welch

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Amazon Versus Smashwords for E-book Publishing?

There are many routes you can take to get your e-book published. My e-book journey had to satisfy two self-imposed criteria. First, it had to be technologically simple. I gave up trying to figure out how to use a Palm Pilot in the early 2000s and I’m only now mastering GIFs so you can see why I needed a route that wouldn’t be too technologically challenging. The other criterion was that it had to be free. As I am a full-time writer (i.e.: starving artist), I didn’t want to fork out any money to get my e-books published. If finances are not an issue for you, you can always hire someone to do all or a few of the steps along the way.

Amazon’s Kindle e-book program is by far the most popular e-book publishing website in the world. Kindle e-books are downloadable onto the iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, a PC, Mac, Blackberry, and almost every other device except your toaster. But considering that the Kindle Direct Publishing program required tech skills and patience that I don’t have, I opted to use Smashwords initially to get my e-books published. Once you have your book written but before doing anything else, I recommend you download Mark Coker’s Smashwords Style Guide, a free e-book on the Smashwords website. If you don’t have an e-reader, you can download it onto your computer and read it that way. It’s 76 pages but each page is short so don’t let it intimidate you. To save yourself a lot of time in the long run and to get your book’s formatting done right the first time around, opt for the nuclear method of formatting. Coker goes into great detail on how to get your e-book formatted and as long as you have Microsoft Word, you’ll be good to go. As I was so meticulous, it took about three hours to format my first book but it was worth it as I got it right the first time around.

Smashwords sells your e-books on their site but they also distribute the e-books to Barnes & Noble, Baker & Taylor, Flipkart, Inktera, Library Direct, OverDrive, Oyster, Scribd, Sony, Kobo, Apple, Diesel, and txtr. They are currently working with Amazon to be distributed through their Kindle program but it looks like that hasn’t happened yet as they are still “working to complete technical integration.” Since Kindle is the #1 e-book seller, you may want to get your e-book on their site. The good news is that you’ll already have your book formatted in the Smashwords nuclear method on Word, which Amazon accepts. So it shouldn’t take you more than ten minutes from start to finish to upload your e-book onto the Kindle site. Actually, it took me longer to sign up for an Amazon account than it took to get my first e-book on there. The whole process is fast as they don’t ask you for anything that you didn’t already provide on the Smashwords site (like a synopsis, keywords, e-book cover, and such).

You do not have to use Smashwords – you can upload the e-books onto the individual retailers yourself. If you do use Smashwords, there is a handy section on the website where you can pick and choose which retailers you allow them to sell your book on.