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It seems like about everyday we have some posting on here about someone having trouble getting their novel through the difficult process at Smashwords.  Then there are endless replies trying to help that poor soul that got bogged down in the Smashwords swamp.

Obviously the Smashwords publishing system is poorly designed  so that makes it difficult and time consuming.  I have never heard of anyone having any trouble getting their novel through the Amazon system.

I actually managed to get one short story through the  Smashwords system and for that I am very proud.  However, I had trouble with the next one.  The trouble is that Smashwords use a word document for submission that has to be perfectly tuned to what they want. There is even a lengthy manual that details how to do this.  Getting the document right is difficult to achieve without a lot of time spent and endless frustration.

There are a lot of distractions that keep us from writing our novels.  It seems that Smashwords is just another one.  I value my time so I decided to stop playing the Smashwords game.  And that is what it really is.  A puzzle that you have to solve.  If you solve it, you may get a few extra sales.

Is Smashwords just an unnecessary distraction that keeps us from writing on our next great novel?
 

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Not necessarily.  If you upload some free short stories there for people to read online, that's certainly good publicity, and you don't have to go through all the rigamarole of trying to format it perfectly, getting an ISBN and all that because it doesn't matter.  It gives your "fans" and potential readers quick access to new material from you.  On the other hand, uploading your book is a waste of time unless it gets accepted.  When and if it does, however, its made available at the Apple and Sony stores, amongst others.  I don't see how that could possibly be a bad thing.  Plus, now that my book has met their strict standards, I've noticed that they've posted my trailer on sites all over the place.  I thought that was pretty cool, because I didn't even have to do anything!  (Googled myself and my book title this morning for the hell of it, was shocked at the two pages of results that popped up.)  So while it may not be the be-all end-all of everything, I wouldn't necessarily call it a waste of time.  I've even made some sales on Smashwords.
 

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I'd say that most of the writers here don't have any problems getting their work through Smashwords, most after a difficult first one (and I think you'll be in this group).

What I do now is write my word document in Smashwords-acceptable format from the get-go.  I do this because, as you've pointed out, the meatgrinder over there can be picky but I don't want to sacrifice the invaluable service that SW provides -- porting our books to so many sales platforms.

It's easy to bash the meatgrinder but it does have a formidable task -- converting a single document to, what, 8 or 9 different formats?  I don't know enough to comment except to say that it seems like the source document would have to meet a lot of standard, basic requirements for this system to work.

I'll say this though.  I recently spiffed up my Man of Steel and finally gave up trying to get the new version approved for the premium catalog.  The text of the story is full of newspaper articles and headlines, and I spent a lot of time setting these up to look neater.  It looks perfect in my own .epub, .mobi, word and .html formatted files but I just don't have the energy to keep working on getting the meatgrinder to like it.  So I feel you on this...
 

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I like Smashwords.  They distribute to a lot of other stores and increase my exposure.

As far as the difficult process goes, I've published 3 novels and 5 short stories.  It took me about a half hour of reading the Smashwords style guide the first time and ten minutes of refreshing my memory on the second book.  Since then, it takes me no time at all to convert each of the books and I've been approved for premium distribution right away every time.

I think it's important to go all in if anyone wants to truly make it with their writing.  That means distributing to every legitimate distributor out there.
 

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I think it took three or four tries - and an immense amount of hair-pulling - to get my first title in the Premium Catalogue. The second pretty much sailed in, and the third should do the same.

I think listing on Smashwords is essential, for the following reasons:

1. It gets you listed on all those extra sales channels: Apple, Kobo, Sony, Diesel, ScrollMotion, and they are adding more all the time. Sales may not be significant on those channels yet, but Kobo is making a big play internationally, and I fully expect them to compete with Amazon in several key international markets. In addition, since Apple banned in-app purchases, I expect to see a lot more sales go through the iBookstore rather than through the Kindle app.

2. It gives international readers a way to avoid the Amazon Surcharge (where $2 is applied to most e-books if you live outside the official Kindle countries, plus Canada, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand). Since I started directing those affected readers to Smashwords, my sales from the site itself have jumped from near nothing to over 10%. When I factor in the increased royalty rates from Smashwords, that could be around 15% of revenue. Not nothing, and the readers themselves are very thankful they can avoid the surcharge. Remember, they can't buy from Barnes & Noble at all. For many, it really is there only option.

3. Coupons. These are marketing gold. Smashwords is the only site I know of that lets you use coupons. You can do a no-cost giveaway, you can tie a discount into some promotion, you can give them to reviewers. It's worth listing for that alone.

The first time is a real pain. After that, it gets much easier. Plus, you only have to do it once, then you get all the benefits listed above. To me, it's a no-brainer.

Indie author Heather Adkins put together a superb guide to formatting for Smashwords here: http://heather.bishoffs.com/?p=1769

Dave
 

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I fail to see how any sales channel can be a distraction. No gain without pain as they say. Why bother writing a book and for some, investing in covers, editing and proof reading, only to put all you eggs in one basket. Some of the sales channels through smashwords are proving to be lucrative for some. itunes has a potential customer base of 96 million. Barnes and Noble, through their nook is proving to be fertile market for some and Kobo has thrown up some winners in the sales stakes. The only problem with smashwords is the style guide which would have been better written short story style to make it easier to take in.

Think about your international customers, or should I say lack of them in a lot of cases. Why buy from Amazon if you live in say Australia and have to pay an extra $2 charge when you can buy through smashwords without the charge. As an example, I looked at your books and the cheapest Amazon price shown on my screen in Brazil is $2.99. If they were available on smashwords they would cost me 99c, which would make it an easier decision to buy.

Just like you have to forget how a paper book should look when formatting for kindle, forget how a kindle should be formatted when formatting for smashwords and follow their guide. Instead of using your existing kindle formatted Word doc, start a new one. Keep it simple as the guide says.

To make it easy I have produced my own simple condensed formatting guide which covers both kindle and smashwords, with easy to follow Word screen shots. I have 16 titles on smashwords and had every one approved first time.

http://declanconner.com/kindle-formatting/ and smashwords
 

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dgaughran said:
The first time is a real pain. After that, it gets much easier. Plus, you only have to do it once, then you get all the benefits listed above. To me, it's a no-brainer.
Help! I'm having that problem right now. It says, "You have books requiring modification prior to inclusion in Smashwords premium catalog."

How do I figure out what modification they are talking about? I dont see any error messages or anything to let me know what they want.
 

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I had a really good smashwords experience. When I tried to do my formatting I decided to go for Mark Coker's "nuclear" option right off the bat. Going back into the document and setting my paragraph styles, formatting, and re-inserting my bolds/italiacs was actually helpful to me. I feel like I learned a lot about Word, honestly. And in the subsequent shorts I've published under a pen name, I knew how to format it from the get-go. I found that once my stuff was ready for smashwords I had to do very little to it in order to get it ready for kindle and pubit.

As far as the temperamental meatgringer, I agree with the previous poster who pointed out that it is trying to format your book for a lot of different outlets- a harder task than just turning it into a mobi file.

I don't have any sales on smashwords (just was accepted to premium last week) but 19 people have downloaded samples. In my mind, that's plenty good exposure for the effort I put forth.
 

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I produced some spiffy-looking files with the titles and chapter heads and section breaks done as graphic images that I used when I uploaded directly to Amazon and BN. To get the books into the Premium Cat on SW so they can be distributed elsewhere, I "dumbed down" the formatting after one novel made it through the process with no problem and the other novel, formatted EXACTLY THE SAME, did not. Their manual review is obviously not 100%. So a buyer will get prettier versions from Amazon and BN than from SW.

As Patrick notes, it's probably worth it for the SEO alone. The coupons and freebie options are just a plus. In terms of making any real money, not so much. For me, 2 books, 4 months, 20 bucks. It's more an investment in exposure and goodwill. Part of the price of marketing. It's all a time suck.
 

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kookoo88 said:
I like Smashwords. They distribute to a lot of other stores and increase my exposure.

As far as the difficult process goes, I've published 3 novels and 5 short stories. It took me about a half hour of reading the Smashwords style guide the first time and ten minutes of refreshing my memory on the second book. Since then, it takes me no time at all to convert each of the books and I've been approved for premium distribution right away every time.

I think it's important to go all in if anyone wants to truly make it with their writing. That means distributing to every legitimate distributor out there.
I haven't published to Smashwords, but I'm going to and thanks for the heads-up. Some say easy, others say not so. I'll soon see.
 

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Adam Pepper said:
Help! I'm having that problem right now. It says, "You have books requiring modification prior to inclusion in Smashwords premium catalog."

How do I figure out what modification they are talking about? I dont see any error messages or anything to let me know what they want.
I have that for Man of Steel. For me, "You have books requiring modification prior to inclusion in Smashwords premium catalog" on the dashboard for this book is a hyperlink. If I click it I get this explanation:

"Your book contains some possibly corrupt formatting. If you take a look at the EPUB, you'll notice there are slight font size differentiations. This is caused by your mix of inconsistent on-screen formatting. One option is to do a CTRL-A and change everything to Normal style, then modify the style to enforce the characteristics you want. When you're finished correcting your book, go to Dashboard: "upload new version" to upload the new version. Thanks."

I haven't been able to solve it, but at least I know what the complaint is...
 

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Adam Pepper said:
Help! I'm having that problem right now. It says, "You have books requiring modification prior to inclusion in Smashwords premium catalog."

How do I figure out what modification they are talking about? I dont see any error messages or anything to let me know what they want.
Have you clicked on the link in Premium Status column in your dashboard? I cant remember what the link says before you get accepted - possibly "in process" or something similar. It should take you to a page showing what the errors are and with some notes on how to fix them. Otherwise, click on the "Comments/questions/customer support? Click here!" link right at the very top of the page and ask for help. I've found Smashwords to be extremely fast and helpful with their customer support.
 

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mashadutoit said:
Have you clicked on the link in Premium Status column in your dashboard? I cant remember what the link says before you get accepted - possibly "in process" or something similar. It should take you to a page showing what the errors are and with some notes on how to fix them. Otherwise, click on the "Comments/questions/customer support? Click here!" link right at the very top of the page and ask for help. I've found Smashwords to be extremely fast and helpful with their customer support.
I click on and there is no details as to what they want. There's a box with a bullet point and no text.

'll try my luck with support. Thanks!
 

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I haven't published yet but on a lark while doing my formatting research I nuked a story and reformatted using the smashwords style guild and then made it an epub with calabrie and aside from one mistake with the first chapter head it didn't look bad at all.  All told I think I spent maybe and hour, hour and a half max reading and working on my word document.  So that part wasn't to hard, granted that is as far as I have gone so far, I'll have more to say once I get my final edits back and do this for real.  
 

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Any sales outlet I can get my book into is worthwhile, even if the sales are disappointing for the required work.

I had issues with my file several times.  It passed the autovetter the first time every time, but on manual review, there was a specific item in my TOC that for some reason kept forcing a new page.  I even sent it to a pro, who couldn't figure out why it would do that.  So, I nuked it, spent an hour or two reformatting everything to make it pretty again, and eventually resubmitted, and it sailed through.

The Smashwords Style Guide is not hard to follow at all, and if you do follow it to the letter, you'll pass the autovetter every time.  If you pass the autovetter, but fail the manual review, you'll be told exactly what needs to be fixed.  Personally, I like this about Smashwords... KDP will accept anything anybody tosses up there, with no regard to formatting or how professional it looks.  Smashwords demands a little more out of us.
 

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I recommend the nuclear option.  I find that my MS Word files get those little corruptions (smaller text, anyone?) over time.  I have all six of my books up over at  SW and after the first one, I knew better what to do and mostly have sailed through.

Amazon is going gang-busters right now and I'm all for it.  But I worry about having all my eggs in one basket.  For that reason, and the coupons, and the $2 surcharge at Amazon, Smashwords has been invaluable to me.

Plus, a nice little royalty is coming my way on August 1 :)
 

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I've really only had problems in one case - when I released an updated version of Alive From New York in May, it failed the ncc file creation.  After a bunch of trial and error, I discovered that the meatgrinder was not smart enough to handle both my custom table of contents and chapter headers with the word "Chapter" in it. I could see the minor problem when I looked at the epub generated by meatgrinder.

However - I have since uploaded another book that should have had the same problem and it didn't.  I believe my May experience was during the time when they made several changes to ncc file generation over a few week period, and I think it works fine now.

Anyway, six books up and really very little problem.  Very little sales too, but I do better on Apple than on B&N and since I don't have a Mac, I'm more than happy to go via Smashwords for that.
 

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Smashwords can be frustrating in the beginning but I see it as an advantage and in the long run a time-saver. They submit your work to many different places. I don't want to have to submit my work to iBooks, Kobos, Diesel, etc. individually. They do it for you. So I feel it's my best interest to work with them. It can take some time to get the formatting they require right but I feel it's worth it.
 
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