30 August 2011

How To Tackle Smashwords

To the newbie author: First of all, congrats on writing a book. Second, let me welcome you to the rapidly growing world of indie authors and commend you for having the courage to take on the do-it-yourself e-pub challenge. Below are a few tips to help you along the way.

Tip #1: Adjust your mindset. Think of Smashwords as a toolbox overflowing with gidgets and gadgets, all at your disposal. Whatever tool you need is inside. You may have to dig for it or learn how to use it, but it's there. At any roadblock, the support team is quick to assist and boot you in the right direction again. So relax, take a deep breath, and crack your knuckles. You have a long road ahead.

Tip #2: Follow instructions. If Smashwords has done anything, it's spend plenty of time simplifying the complex publishing process. Start by planning your metadata info, read the FAQ page, and make a copy of your manuscript. For obvious reasons, it is unwise to use your original as a formatting guinea pig. For subsequent books, you will likely find yourself arranging your page set-up in the Smashwords style before the first word is ever written. This makes publication a snap and the format-correction headache a distant memory.

Tip #3: Perfect your digital manuscript before you start. Read it silently, read it aloud, and then do a polish edit. Take the time to double check questionable grammar, eliminate passive voice, and spell-check. Once you've begun the formatting/publishing process, you will not want to be making spelling, grammatical, or content adjustments.

Tip #4: Use the Smashwords Style Guide. (See rule #2) Nothing spells fun like an entire evening redoing your format because you missed a step. On the bright side, the author of the guide has a fun personality and the book is actually entertaining. I felt like the instructor was talking directly to me, sooo I talked back during the entire process. It helped keep the mood light and the experience pleasant.

Tip #5: Prepare your market playground. Once you get through the meatgrinder and suffer the loooooong week-long wait to see if you made Premium Catalog, it's time to market. While Smashwords is busy distributing your book across the internet, you have time to create a professional looking author page, design a website, start a blog, open forums, join book clubs, and link up with Smashwords on facebook and twitter. Zero in on your target audience and show 'em what you've got.

Tip #6: Get involved. Smashwords is extremely interactive with their authors and encourages them to intermingle with each other, which is not easy for many writers (typically introverts). Even if it goes against the grain, stay proactive, stay visible, and learn internet marketing. Pay attention to Smashwords FB posts and always keep busy. I write at night, every night, and either I'm working on my next project or I'm marketing. Personally, I despise marketing but LOVE the results. So the time investment is worth it.

Tip #7: Protect your fans. Of all the advice you'll receive, this is the most critical. You've neglected your family, spent a fortune in supplies, invested time and research, and busted your tail editing, publishing, and marketing your work for one thing: READERS. Whether you've earned one die-hard fan or a thousand, it's your job to maintain a healthy relationship. People work hard for their money--remember that when you ask for it. People's time and attention are worth a fortune; just note the cost of advertisement. Every ad, every business, and every other author is vying for just a piece of someone's attention--respect what you get. Don't squander it.

Tip #8: Maintain a professional public profile. Readers have high expectations for their authors and expect professionalism, even in the face of adversary. They don't care if you're an indie or traditional author, and they're not interested in the business nonsense--only you are. To them, it's about the product. In exchange for all your hard work, they've given time, money, and reviews. Don't let them down.

As of this writing, I've published two ebooks from The Entangled Series at Smashwords. It's a happy union, far nicer than the paperback arena and far more author friendly. All I have to do now is become an extroverted marketing master and I'll be well on my way. My success is entirely up to me. I will say this, there is no feeling in the world that compares to standing in the presence of a starstruck fan or walking into the dentist office and being surrounded by a staff of avid readers asking for autographs or to have a stranger hurry and catch up so she can touch 'a real author'. To achieve even one of those moments is the definition of success and is enough to keep any author plugging away for the next bestseller. If that means taking the extra time to follow instructions and get it right, then I'll do my part and let Smashwords do the rest.    ox, D.C. Sargent

Valuable Links

Publish Instructions
Smashwords Style Guide
FAQ Page
Ebook Terminology
Marketing Guide
Smashwords FB Forum
Site Updates

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