Well, it’s definitely been an experience. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started this self-publishing journey. I read just about every blog and website I could get my hands on about how people were doing (financially and in the reputation department) to find out all I could about why digital self-publishing was better or worse than traditional publishing.
On the one hand, I knew it would be both faster and give a bigger royalty no matter who I went with as a distributor, versus the “honor” of being traditionally published and backed by one of the Big Six; especially since I couldn’t even get passed second base with any agents or publishers, big or small. On the other hand, I would be responsible for coordinating everything – cover, formatting , editing, marketing, the whole nine yards – and that’s a lot of work. Coming back around again, though, even traditionally published authors these days do their own marketing and really, having control over editing and cover wasn’t a bad thing.
And despite the looming work, I was too aggravated by the constant “No!” from the traditional publishing world when I know my work is good! I might not be Shakespeare, but then, who is? So I said, “What the heck!” and threw my hat in the ring of digital publishing. I decided on Smashwords and Kindle as my first contact. They seemed to have the biggest reach and combined, they pretty well cover the whole market in one form or another.
That decided, it was time to get a cover artist and make a last pass at editing. And here smashwords helped out a ton because they had a free list of reputable artists to draw from (no pun intended). From it, I found Tatiana from http://tat-94.wix.com/viladesign who did a great job on Flux’s cover. And of course I already had an editor, Katy of http://katysozaeva.blogspot.com/, who is just wonderful. They both made it pretty painless (aside from the scads of editing I had to do when I got the manuscript back, but that’s my fault as the writer ;o))
Next up, preparing the document itself for uploading to the two websites. Now, they both have pretty simple upload procedures, but first you have to go through completely different formatting steps to get them up to acceptable levels to be uploaded.
Formatting, by the way, is a bitch when it comes to smashwords, especially if you don’t have MS word as your default program which, as a recovering poor person, I don’t. I actually had to borrow someone else’s laptop to get a “clean” copy of Flux ready. Their ebook on how to prep the document is very long and detailed, which is good because it’s pretty exhaustive on every possible problem you might have, but also makes things a little too complicated for a first timer. At least in my humble opinion.
There’s also something called “autovetter” on smashwords that determines if you pass the first level of formatting rules. Now, this is supposed to be instant once you’ve uploaded the file, but I never got an email and waited, and waited, and waited. 11 days isn’t long in the grand scheme of things, but when you’re a first-time self-publisher, it’s an eternity. Come to find out, there should have been an email right away telling me, “No, dumbass. Your formatting’s fucked up. Re-do it and upload again,” but in nicer language. I never got that email, though, so the “pending review” of a human kicked it back to me 11 days later. So I redid the formatting, then got an almost instant, “You’re good to go!” email from autovetter, and was placed in “pending review” again… where I’m still waiting seven days later.
Now, this doesn’t mean that nothing’s happened with your manuscript; you’ve been uploaded to smashwords in general and people are either buying or downloading your book for free, depending on what you’ve chosen as a pricepoint. Once it passes that human inspection, though, Flux will be shipped off to a “premium catalog” which includes Barnes & Noble, Sony, and a bunch of other ebook distributors. Getting on that premium catalog is my goal, of course, since the more places people can find it, the better.
As for kindle, I have to say their process is way simpler. You format it according to their specs, which is a simple html with minor formatting, and then upload it and boom! You’re good to go. They do the conversion to kindle format for you (as does smashwords, btw, to the various formats on various e-readers). But then, that’s just for amazon and not distributed to other outlets like B&N, et al, so maybe that’s why it’s so simple.
All in all, kindle formatting might be easier and faster, but smashwords gets you to more places. You’re better off using both to cover your bases. Plus, once you get used to how to format on smashwords, it’ll be easier for your next novel. (Which I’ll be uploading in the next couple of weeks!)
And if anyone’s interested in stats… in 21 days:
Smashwords (free downloads) – 443
Kindle ($4.99 – couldn’t figure out how to make it free) – 5 (one randomly sold in Germany!)
I’ll be changing smashwords to the $4.99 price point in the next week or so and then we’ll have a real horse race. I’ll update the stats in about a month just to compare them on an equal basis.
Next on the journey of self-publishing… Print-on-Demand or not? I wanted to wait and see how Flux did on the digital platform, but as a friend reminded me, not everyone uses e-readers. She wants it in her hot little hands. Truth be told, so do I. As the author, I should have a hardcopy for my bookshelf, friends, and marketing tools/giveaways. So I’ll be researching that part next and will let you know how I fare.