I used Smashwords to prepare my manuscript of Sally Bangle: Unexpected Detective and transform it into a variety of digital formats (epub, mobi, PDF, RTF). The Smashwords Style Guide (free to download and easily read online) is a bit jargony but worth working through as a) these are terms and processes you should probably become familiar with and b) reading this will definitely enable you to get your manuscript ready for digital conversion. Essentially the guide advises you how to strip all the formatting from your manuscript and make it amenable to conversion. When you know what might gum up the works it will help you not stick these formatting things into your future ms. Traditional publishers will probably also be grateful for this. I never appreciated how much work formatting (half of which I don't even do on purpose as I write) must create for publishers.
Once stripped I then went through line by line and double checked for excess carriage returns and spaces as these can cause havoc in digital formats. I am glad my ms was only 36,000 words long. It is tedious work but essential to avoid later problems. And if you do it well you only have to do it once. This is your baby - you want it to be clean and looking its best don't you?? Once you have run that fine tooth comb over it and you have your cover jpeg, ISBN's, and front and back matter you can load that sucker up. You will have to choose the price and how much folk can sample before they buy. I based my decisions on what most other people are doing. Most of these things can be altered easily.
Many folk use only Amazon KDP or KDP Select (KDP Select ties you in to a 3 month exclusive period). There are plenty of discussions online debating the pros and cons of going solely with Amazon versus throwing your net wider. While it might seem smarter to have your e-book distributed to a variety of e-tailers (Smashwords distributes to Apple, Sony, B&N, Kobo and others) Amazon currently has the biggest sales and the exclusivity is rewarded with promotion and allows for occasional free giveaways. I decided to throw my net wide with Smashwords (probably a philosophical decision as much as anything) but chose not to distribute to Amazon via Smashwords and loaded the ms up directly with Amazon (not taking the exclusive option) at the recommendation of a fellow scribe. The manuscript stripped for Smashwords did not need much alteration for loading on Amazon. Do make sure you have customized your front matter accordingly though. Amazon books should say Amazon, Smashwords books should say Smashwords.
You can pay someone else to prepare your manuscript for conversion. There are folk in NZ who do this regularly. At first I thought I would let someone else do it and then I figured I should try doing it at least once myself. That was a good call as it wasn't as complicated as I thought it would be, I saved myself some money and ultimately I think its better that the buck stops with me. Please note folks that both Amazon and Smashwords will allow you to update the ms at any time. If you find an error, a typo or something you've simply just changed your mind about you can fix that puppy up and reload it. Keep saved versions separate and appropriately named so you don't load the wrong one. And avoid interruptions to your books availability. If it stops being available through an e-tailer, even briefly, you can lose reviews, interest and sales momentum and this can be a mission to get back.
Once your e-book is loaded and is approved and available for purchase your attention can turn to letting folk know they can now buy it. You should also be considering whether you can get your e-book reviewed. Is it eligible for any awards or prizes? Are there other options for distribution? Can you get your book into libraries? I think those are questions for my next post - look out for part 3 coming to this blog soon...
Educational Resource: A Winter's Day in 1939
- Educational Resource: The Were-Nana
- Educational Resource: The Half Life of Ryan Davis
- Educational Resource: Made With Love
- Educational Resource: The House That Went to Sea
- Educational Resource: A Winter's Day in 1939
- Educational Resource: While You Are Sleeping
- Educational Resource: The Song of Kauri
- Educational Resource: Fuzzy Doodle
- Book List - Complete List of my Publications