Saturday, November 13, 2010

Ebooks As Far As The Eye Can See: Self Publishing With Smashwords

If you want to self publish your ebook in as many electronic formats as possible, then Smashwords is probably the best bet.

In a nutshell they take your .doc document and turn it into up to seven formats for you. They call it the meatgrinder conversion process.  And that's pretty much all they do. You can get an author's page and book pages, and you can embed your youtube book trailer, but when it comes to self publishing Smashwords is the least option rich offering.

Which is great if you already have your whole package together. If you don't need editing, a cover, book reviews, a physical book, etc... Smashwords is perfect. And since you can do Smashwords as well as other self publishers, there's no reason not to put your book on Smashwords.

So, how to get on Smashwords?  First off start downloading.  Get yourself a copy of Smashwords Style Guide.  It's free and goes through every single step you need to do to get your book ready for Smashwords. Following this guide is important because Smashwords is going to take your document and make it readable by virtually everyone.  So, if you want something that looks just as good on a computer screen, as a Kindle, as a Nook, as an iPod, you need to follow the guide.    

I thought the Smashwords website was a tad clunky when it came to finding the information I was looking for.  (Example: how do I get an ISBN?  Hmmm... it's not in the publishing section.  Typing ISBN in the search function brings up every book that has one, so that's not helpful.  Finally I checked Dashboard, and it was there under ISBN manager.)  But it is very easy for getting your book in online.  Fill out the forms, download the document, download your cover, (You only need a front cover image on Smashwords because they don't sell physical books.) pick your category, write up your description and tags, and hit publish.  Then wait while Smashwords does it's magic formatting, and eventually you've got an ebook.

Now to the part you really want to know about, royalties.  Smashwords does a very easy royalty calculation, take the price of your book, subtract the paypal processing fee, multiply that number by .85, and you've got your royalty.  Or, more plainly, your royalty is 85% of whatever is left after the processing fee has been removed.  You can chose to be paid by Paypal or paper checks mailed to you.  Payments are one month after any quarter where you've got more than $10.00 accrued, if you go with Paypal, or $25.00, if you go with paper checks.  Quarters end in March, June, September, and December, so payments happen in April, July, October, and January.

Royalties get a bit more complicated if you go with the Smashword Premium Catalog.  The Premium Catalog lists you with Barnes and Noble, Apple, Sony, and Kobo.  Each of these retailers has their own royalty set up: for example, Apple does a 60% royalty.  You control where your book sells, so you can opt in or out of any distributor you like.  Unlike CreateSpace, you don't pay for the Premium Catalog for Smashwords, but you do have to have a properly formatted book with an ISBN, (A new ISBN, the one you used for your print book won't work, but they can hook you up with a new one.) a proper copyright statement, and a good cover image.  But, I would hope if you are going to publish, you'd have all of those things already.

Unless you don't have a way to turn your manuscript into a .doc document, there's no reason to skip Smashwords.  It's free.  The royalty rates are the best I've run into yet.  Formatting your book properly may take a while, but having it available for pretty much anyone, everywhere is worth your time.  

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Interview with John Hartness

John Hartness was willing to answer some of my questions about his adventures in self publishing.

KR: Why did you chose to self publish? Did you try to get The Chosen traditionally published? Why did you pick CreateSpace, and did you self publish anywhere else?

JH: I chose to self-publish because I'm largely an impatient person. I don't have the patience to query agents for months and months, then if I'm lucky enough to get picked up by an agent, to have them query publishers for months and months, then if someone wanted to publish the book, to wait a year or more to hold a copy in my hands. Self-publishing is much better for someone with a miniscule attention span :).

I queried a few agents, got some polite and some very encouraging rejection letters, and then moved along.

I published a couple of collections of poetry last year using Lulu, and moved to CreateSpace because of the ease of getting listed on Amazon (since Amazon owns CS) and the lower price on author's copies. I figure at least for a while, most of the books I sell will be face to face at book fairs, so if I can get my price per copy down, my profitability goes up. I did use Lulu for the hardcover and to get the book on the iBookstore.

KR: How many copies have you sold? What marketing has worked best for you?

JH: I've sold about 50 copies, ebook and hard copies. So far my biggest marketing successes have been through Facebook pages and book fairs. But the book just came out in August, so I feel like I'm just getting started.

KR: Who did your cover? Did you come up with the idea or did he/she?

JH: I have a great friend, Lindsay Birmingham, who did the cover to The Chosen and my new novel, Hard Day's Knight. She's a photographer and Photoshop whiz, and I gave her a rough idea and she came back to me with the cover. We tweaked font colors, and then we were good to go to print. She's been great to work with and I highly recommend her.

KR: Why did you call it The Chosen? (as opposed to The Choice, say.) There's already a very famous book with the same title, and it's not precisely similar to yours.

JH: I'm not terribly bright, and didn't Google the name before I titled the book. I was not familiar with Potok's novel, and I thought The Choice (which was the original name) sounded too much like a romance novel. I thought The Chosen felt a little like Dean Koontz's book The Taken, so I went with it.

If you'd like to know more about John and his works, go check him out at

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Indie Book Review: The Chosen

There is a tiny subgenre of fiction that will make me squee with delight like a Twilight Fan discovering Robert Pattinson is coming to her high school and she will be showing him around.  It probably doesn't have a specific name, but I'd call it Theology for the Well Versed and Irreverent.  Up until now it was such a small subgenre that I had only found three examples, Good Omens, The Life of Brian, and Dogma.

Make that four now.

The Chosen by John Hartness is an example of all that is good and joyful in fiction.  I love this book.  It's fast paced, very well voiced, and genuinely funny.

In a nutshell, Adam, as in Adam and Eve, Father of Humanity, has to gather up his family, and head off with the Archangel Michael (described as a skinnier version of James Marsters) to find the human who will make another Eve level choice.

What's an Eve level choice?  Well, there's where some of the irreverent theology comes in.  Every so often one human is picked to make a choice that will effect them all.  Eve made the first one, and others have followed, and now it's time for the final massive, humanity altering choice, and everyone who was there for the first choice has to show up for this one.

So, Adam, Eve (his very ex-wife), Cain (can't you already feel the how much fun this family reunion is going to be?), Myra (Adam's latest girlfriend), and Emily (their 23 year old daughter and stand in for Able, who, for obvious reasons, can't make it) need to find the man who will make the choice and get him to the place of choosing.  Along the way Michael and Lucypher (This is my only quibble with this book, Lucypher?  Really?  There's no need to muck with the spelling on that one.) lend a hand (or fiery sword).

Along the way expect fist fights, lots of booze, guns, and the ever present voice of Adam, done with perfect pitch and tone.  It's easy to believe this character has been around since literally the beginning of time and has seen it all. 

The plot is fairly simple, find all of the main characters, get them all into the same place, and then make the choice.  If it was a role playing game, it'd be called linear.  It's the characterization and voice of these characters that make this book so much fun.

The theology is light-hearted and likely to annoy the true believers.  Call it Eve was set up, rather than Eve was framed.  If you liked the theological precepts of Good Omens, you will like this book.  Actually, let me go further here, if you liked Good Omens for any reason, you will like this book.

The first link goes to the book form of The Chosen.  The second link takes you to the Kindle edition.  At $9.99 for the book and $3.99 for the Kindle edition, both versions are priced well for the content.  It's two hundred pages long, so in addition to being fast paced, it's also a fast read.  I easily finished it in two evenings, and wished it was longer.

So, here is is, my first five star review.  Please, go buy this book and then review this book.  Link to it on Facebook and tweet about it.  There's only one way that self published books get attention, and that's when everyone who liked them lets everyone within the sound of their voice know about them.  So, go give it a read and give John a hand getting the word out.