If you are a book author of any flavor, and whether already published or not, you have just stumbled across some vital information that could transform your writing, publishing, marketing, and maybe even your life. This is not a sales pitch of any sort, though. It is merely a sharing of some very good material that I discovered a few years ago.
First, Smashwords.com is an extremely easy, completely free, and highly effective means to not only publish your book, but also to distribute it to major online retailers. Second, Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords.com, has my respect. Author of three information-rich books to empower independent authors to improve the writing and marketing of their babies, Mark has given this information away absolutely free, no catches. Here are links to his three free ebooks.
Smashwords Style Guide, by Mark Coker, http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/52
The Smashwords Book Marketing Guide, by Mark Coker, http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/305
The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success, by Mark Coker, http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/145431
Mark’s books are a pleasure to read, easy to understand, and written in a way that will quickly convince you that he knows what he’s talking about. I highly recommend reading all three of them. Then, re-read them periodically or take notes as you read and review your notes often. Below are my “cheat sheet” notes, reminders for me of the things I want to keep working on with my own books. But, please, by no means should you forego reading Mark’s books just because you think you may get the gist of his books from the tips below. These notes hardly do justice. Get Mark’s books and study them. Let’s improve our craft together!
Key Tips from Smashwords Style Guide
A simplified and very specific book format is required in order to successfully have the Smashwords “Meatgrinder” convert your book into all the popular ebook reader formats. Mark’s book teaches you exactly how to achieve the proper format for publication. It’s not that hard, folks. Following the well explained instructions in Mark’s book, I was able to reformat two of my books in just a few hours and then successfully pass the Smashwords conversions and immediately publish them. Woohoo!
The notes below are an example, after reading the book, of what is enough of a reminder to me in order to successfully format a book to meet Smashwords requirements.
Always make a backup copy of your work before attempting any radical reformatting.
It is best not to have your book cover inserted in your book text document because it is automatically inserted by Smashwords for several primary ebook reader formats (and would therefore appear twice).
Save your book as a Word 97-2003 doc.
Activate Show/Hide formatting (backwards “P” looking symbol).
Turn off AutoFormat and AutoCorrect.
Optional “nuclear” method to blow away formatting (if your file is really hosed): Copy and paste entire book text into Windows Notepad. Close Word. Open new Word document, and paste text from Notepad.
Select entire book text and make it all Normal Paragraph Style. You will tweak some of the text later.
Unify all (and hidden) font sizes by setting fonts only within the Normal Paragraph Style.
Format paragraphs, again only within the Normal Paragraph Style, using either first line indents (usually for fiction and narrative non-fiction), or block paragraph method (usually for non-fiction), not both. Never use tabs, space bar, or hard returns to format paragraphs.
Not all ebook reader formats honor page breaks. It is best to put one or two paragraph returns before and after a page break so that if the page break disappears, the paragraphs/chapters won’t smash together.
Some ebook reader formats won’t honor the centered text done using the Word centering button. Create another Normal Style called “centered” then apply it to the text you want (this is great for chapter headings because you can make it bold and slightly larger font too).
Recheck formatting and correct any items. Check that paragraph returns are at end of paragraph only and not in between paragraphs.
Don’t use the copyright symbol because it may not convert correctly into some formats. Instead, just use the word “copyright.”
Navigation (hyperlinked Table of Contents to chapters and back): Generally it is recommended. You can manually create TOC with bookmarks and hyperlinks. Just make sure to delete all hidden bookmarks. But if you want to keep it simple to start with, just name your chapters starting with the word “Chapter.” The Smashwords “Meatgrinder” will detect and build navigation links for some of the ebook reader formats.
Always create a copyright page and license notes per Smashwords recommendations.
Consider adding information at end of book about the author, a list of other titles by the author with hyperlinks, social media links to author, ways to contact the author, and even a few chapters of another of the author’s books.
Key Tips from The Smashwords Book Marketing Guide
Start your marketing hype long before you ever even finish your book.
Create digital paths to your books from everywhere. Publish hyperlinks (in your blogs, fans’ blogs, social media sites, other websites, Press Releases) that point to your Smashwords author page or book page.
Specifically post notices on your websites that your books can be found at Smashwords. Be sure to point to your personal websites from Smashwords as well.
Share information and help other authors. They are your partners, not your competition. Write reviews of others’ books. Get involved in online author and reader forums or blogs. Guest post on others’ blogs. Invite other authors to guest post on your blog. Do interviews of authors on your blog.
Use Twitter as described in this book and you’ll be added to a Smashwords author listing on Twitter, and your tweets about Smashwords will be promoted on Smashwords Twitterbuzz.
Publish multiple books. Advertise your other books in each book you publish, with hyperlinks.
Issue Press Releases about publishing your book on Smashwords. Announce limited free downloads (using coupons). Great examples of press releases are provided in this book.
Use coupons for creative promotions from your blog or other social media.
From Tip #22 in the book, “Create multiple Google Alerts at http://www.google.com/alerts, and Google will email you whenever a new conversation, or a new news story or blog post on a given subject, appears.” This is a way to find a means to connect with others already interested in the topic(s) of your book.
Make a YouTube video and insert it in your Smashwords book page.
Print business cards with links to your books and hand them out like candy and post them on every bulletin board you can find.
Insert sample chapters from one of your other books at the end of your book.
Get your books in online ebook listings.
Key Tips from The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success
Mark conveys this simple yet profound point repeatedly: Make your book the best it can be (story, editing, format, cover, COVER) and it will sell itself. Mark says, “Marketing gets you First Readers, but only the best book can unleash the Viral Dream.” Writing a good book is more difficult than publishing your ebook.
Use metadata to your advantage.
Keep writing more books.
You (the author) are the “brand.” Have integrity.
Diversify your distribution just as you would your monetary investments.
Give some books away for free.
Don’t give up or be discouraged by negative reviews.
Mark says, “Remember why you’re a writer. If you write simply to make money, odds are you’ll probably make more if you get a part-time job at McDonalds.”
Share your tricks with others. Mark sums up his generous philosophy nicely, “You might wonder why I’m giving this ebook away for free. The reason is simple: I want to help all writers approach their ebook publishing with eyes wide open, with realistic expectations, and armed with the knowledge of professional best-practices…Your success becomes our success, and our success becomes yours. We’re all in this together.”
Thank you, Mark. Live long and prosper.