Like many indie publishers, I began my publishing journey with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Since learning to publish an eBook was more than enough knowledge to digest on its own without learning to publish on multiple platforms at once, I decided to stick with KDP for a while until I had a better idea of what I was doing. However, with the launch of my latest book project, I decided it was time to finally expand beyond Kindle and Nook and learn how to use Smashwords.
The leap from Kindle to Nook eBook publishing was a no-brainer. I wanted my print books to be available in brick and mortar bookstores like Barnes and Noble, and I wanted my B&N customers to also be able to access my books on their eReaders. But I knew there was still a vast audience that had no access to my books.
Considering the fact that my latest book includes work by other authors, I knew that had to change. I owe it to my writers to sell this book as far and wide as possible. I am no longer a “self-publisher.” With my new indie publishing company, Elderfly Press, up and running, it was time I started to think like a “real publisher.”
So, I spent yesterday evening learning how to use Smashwords. The great thing about Smashwords is that it gives you the option to expand your distribution to platforms like Kobo and Sony eReader, all in one place. It is also relatively simple to use.
I had no trouble revamping my Kindle Word documents to meet Smashwords guidelines. The following are the main changes that I needed to make in every document:
- Copyright Statement: Smashwords has specific guidelines regarding copyright statements. If you plan to sell your eBooks on this platform, check out the Smashwords formatting guide for information on how to word this statement that must be included at the beginning of every Smashwords eBook.
- Tables: Smashwords does not support the use of tables in its eBooks. So, one of my tasks was to remove and/or reformat the table of contents for each of my books to ensure that there were no tables embedded in the documents.
- Cover Photos: The third and final task that I needed to complete (this may be different for you, depending on the formatting of your source documents) was to change my Kindle cover photos so they would meet the formatting requirements for Premium Distribution. This turned out to be the hardest task of all. Read on for details.
Resizing Cover Images for Smashwords
The problem with my original cover photos was that almost all of them consisted of the Kindle book covers I had created on KDP and then downloaded to my computer. The problem was, they were all too small for Smashwords. This turned out to be a major problem for me, at least for a little while.
The only photo software I have at home is Microsoft Office Picture Manager. (If there are any designers out there, you are probably cringing at the very idea… I know, I know!) I like Picture Manager because it’s easy to use, and I can do pretty much everything I need to with it. Usually.
But when you’re getting into cover design, an area that – honestly – is NOT my forte (obviously), you need more than just a basic, free image editor. Luckily, I have access to PhotoShop elsewhere. Unluckily, I am pretty clueless when it comes to using it to do anything more than the most basic tasks. But I was desperate. I had five titles sitting in my Smashwords account with Autovetter errors, and they needed to be fixed so I could move forward. I tried and tried and tried again, but I just could not get my cover photos to work with Smashwords.
And then I did what I always do when I get stuck. I Googled it. And I found my answer. This FREE online image resizer totally solved my problem! With a couple of clicks, I was able to enlarge my cover images to the proper size and upload them to Smashwords. My books have all made it through the Autovetter and are now awaiting approval by Smashwords’ human book vetters.
As of writing this blog post, I now have five titles that are currently “Under Review” on the Smashwords platform. While these are still being reviewed to see if they qualify for “Premium Distribution” (to various retailers, etc.), the books are now available to purchase on the Smashwords website. Check out my page at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/amandawebster to see how it turned out!
The folks at Smashwords are quick when it comes to reviewing books for eligibility for Premium Distribution. Unfortunately, mine all came back with errors. However, the errors were quickly fixed. These are the errors that came back on my books. I am sharing them so you may learn from my mistakes!
- The author name that I had listed on my book covers did not match the name that I had listed on my Smashwords account. I have my name listed as “Amanda L. Webster” on the covers of all of my books. However, when you set up your Smashwords account, it does not give you the option to add a middle name. So, I went back into my account and added my middle name right after my first name in the first name field. Hopefully this will fix the error because I do NOT want to have to try to redo all of my book covers for this!
- This is another common error that was found in my books: “Please do not link or refer to any other digital download source other than Smashwords. Our retail partners don’t want to see links to Amazon, or mention of the Kindle, etc.” I am in the habit of adding links to buy my other books within my eBooks. This has never been an issue with Kindle, so I didn’t really think about it when I modified my books for Smashwords. It will be an easy fix, though. Since most of my books are now on Smashwords, I can simply change the links to my Smashwords links. In fact, this will be a benefit for me, considering Smashwords pays better than Kindle does.
- Yikes! I don’t know about this one. Luckily only one book came back with this error. This one is going to require some additional research: “Your book is failing EPUB Check. For more information on this error, please go to http://www.smashwords.com/epubcheck. Here is a website to test your epub at http://validator.idpf.org/. Since EPUB Check failures can be difficult to fix, you can get help from a low cost formatter found on Mark’s List at https://www.smashwords.com/list. When finding a formatter, make sure they know how to fix EPUB Check errors as well as the nuclear method.”
- I don’t think I’ll even bother with this one: “Your cover image is too blurry; please upload a cleaner, crisper image for your cover by going to Dashboard: Settings.” It only came up on one book, and frankly, the effort to redo the cover image is more trouble than this particular book will ever be worth to me. I’m just going to leave this one alone and not worry about getting it out for Premium Distribution.
Fortunately, the books that I consider most important to distribute widely came back with the easiest errors to fix. Hopefully I can make those adjustments, resubmit, and have the books on their way around the world by the end of the week!
Elderfly press is currently accepting submissions. Please review our submissions page for details.