Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Writing Tips: Smashwords allows direct uploading of EPUB files

This is big news for indie authors: Smashwords is now supporting the direct uploading of EPUB-formatted books for sale through its e-retail network.

According to the Smashwords Official Blog, the new Smashwords Direct “allows our authors and publishers to upload their own professionally formatted EPUB files for sale at the Smashwords store, and for distribution to the Smashwords retail distribution network.”

Until now, listing your book on the Smashwords e-catalog meant starting with a .doc file, formatted exactly according to Smashwords’ specifications, and uploading it into their proprietary Meatgrinder software. If you do everything just right (which isn’t that hard), Smashwords will give you back an e-book in whatever format you wanted, and list it on their e-bookstore.
If you follow all of Smashwords’ recommendations, it will also list your book in other e-bookstores: Barnes & Noble, Apple’s iBookstore, Diesel, Kobo and all the others — except for Amazon. And that’s because of Amazon, not because of Smashwords.

The Meatgrinder system is fully automatic. If you feel proficient with a word processor that can save a .doc format, you don’t have to learn another software application. Meatgrinder takes care of the formatting, program codes and everything else.

However, it is a little limiting. As someone who learned desktop publishing way back when, I like the ability to choose my typeface and format my pages the way I want them to look. Learning to use an EPUB creation program like Caliber is no sweat to someone who learned, successively, PageMaker, QuarkXPress, InDesign and then HTML.

To quote Smashwords itself:

EPUB files uploaded through this new Smashwords Direction option must still adhere to the formatting best practices listed in the Smashwords Style Guide. Books will still be reviewed by our vetting team before shipping out to our retailers.

The company points out some limitations to the new option. First, Meatgrinder converts a .doc file into nine different formats for just about every e-reader there is, including PDF and .MOBI for the Kindle. If you upload an EPUB file, that won’t happen. “Nor will you get the downloadable samples,” Smashwords says, although it promises to improve sampling and add the ability to upload PDF and .MOBI files directly, as well.

You can upload your book as a Word .doc file first, formatted to the Style Guide, and then replace our EPUB with your own (assuming your EPUB is higher quality). This way, you'll have the major formats covered.

The author’s best friend

While Amazon is by far the biggest e-bookstore (although I have not found any reliable market statistics), I think that Smashwords is the indie author’s best friend. Amazon’s Kindle Publishing System works in much the same way as Smashwords’, but the output is restricted to Amazon’s e-retailing system. What’s more, Amazon takes 30% of the selling price of the book, while Smashwords takes only 15%. (That commission rises, of course, for books sold through other bookstores like B&N, as each player gets a cut.)

Smashwords head honcho Mark Coker’s Secrets to EBook Publishing Success is the clearest and most useful explanation of how to create e-books that I have ever read, and the Style Guide is an indispensible tool. Amazon just doesn’t have anything like it.

Smashwords also has an easy-t0-use coupon system, which allows the author or publisher to offer discounts, even free books, to individuals.

You can also set your price to zero. Amazon only allows you to do that for five days out of ninety, and only if your book is exclusive to Amazon. I have tried it with some success, but overall, I prefer having my books on more than one retailer.

In short, Smashwords, the little guy, gives authors a whole lot more.

Check out the documentation for Smashwords Direct at And tell Written Words if you’ll try it.

1 comment:

  1. Smashwords is a good service, but I stopped using them because I wasn't happy with the output from the Meatgrinder. The Style Guide is awesome, but *applying* it can be an exercise in frustration. Having direct EPUB uploads is a welcome (and long-awaited) feature. It may lure me back.

    But for the moment, I'm holding out for, who also takes direct EPUB uploads. They don't have quite the distribution reach as Smashwords, but I'm sure that will change over time. I mostly just want to get into the iBookstore anyway. (I already upload direct to KDP, PubIt!, and Kobo.)

    The problem right now is that D2D is in "beta" and is accepting new authors incrementally: I'm on their wait list [taps fingers impatiently]. The cool thing though is that they have monthly reporting & payment (unlike quarterly--when you're lucky--at Smashwords), and they do direct deposit rather than PayPal. Also, books reportedly appear on the retailer sites faster than with Smashwords, as do updates to your titles.

    In case you are wondering, I don't have a financial interest in D2D, nor do I work for/with them. ;-) If they don't accept my request for an account soon, Smashwords will get my business after all.