September 25, 2012

Getting Your eBook Up and Running Guest Post by James Keen, author

Today, I’d love to introduce you to James Keen, author of Trinidad Express.

Jim is an amazing writer and friend. He will always hold a special place in my writer circle, because Trinidad Express was the first novel-length manuscript I professionally edited. It’s an amazing read, especially for sailing aficionados. (I didn’t know much about sailing before I read it, but I sure was gung-ho to learn after reading it!)

Please welcome Jim as he shares his experiences with preparing Trinidad Express for Smashwords.


Getting Your eBook Up and Running—Smashwords Style.
by James Keen, author of Trinidad Express

My first experience with digital publishing required a fair amount of work, but it was a very satisfying experience. Let me recap the process:

Start by going to
Smashwords. Then…

  1. Download their free eBook smashwords-style-guide.pdf. This is an invaluable help in digital publishing.
  2. Follow the style guide—to the smallest detail. Digital formatting is very different than print formatting.
  3. The guide requires that you start with a MS Word copy of your book, then format it by following the step-by-step procedures very carefully.
  4. You then upload your book file to Smashwords for processing by their "meatgrinder" program. The output of that program is several digital formats for different eReaders—make your choice.
  5. Expect to repeat the upload process after making format error corrections. I had to do it 3 times and still have a minor problem in formatting. Remember, your readers will be using different digital readers with different screen sizes. Your readers can also change font size, etc. which makes for a better reading experience but makes formatting very hard.
  6. Smashwords will review your book and include it in their premium catalog. It will then be distributed to Apple, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, and the Diesel eBook Store. Amazon is no longer a retail channel partner and will not be able to distribute your book from Smashwords.
  7. Cost: Nothing to create the digital copy. If Smashwords sells your book from their catalog, they take 15% commission. If an affiliate (like those listed above) sells the book, they take an additional percentage. The Smashwords contract that you sign does place restrictions on you selling the eBook on your own. You must sell through their catalog or through a retail channel partner.
  8. Smashwords automatically creates an Author Page for you that includes your book for sale. This page allows customers to download a sample of your book (I chose 15% of the text as a sample) as a teaser before buying.
  9. All you have to do is advertise your author page address. Click on my author page for an example.
  10. The Smashwords digital publishing process has no effect on your copyright ownership. You retain full rights to your book. You may remove it from the Smashwords catalog at any time.
I have only had my book with Smashwords for a short time, but I am very impressed with the service. I realized my goal of digital publication of Trinidad Express. In my print book, I was able to include only 20 pictures (because of cost), but I included over 60 online color photos in the Smashwords Edition and could have included more. I am pleased.

It’s still a thrill to go to the Nook Store and see my book offered for sale. Check it out here.

I hope you will have similar success.

Purchase the print edition here

"As for myself, the wonderful sea charmed me from the first - Joshua Slocum."


Thanks, Jim, for sharing your knowledge.

I hope everyone will check out Trinidad Express!

If you have any Smashwords pointers to share, please leave a comment below. Or feel free to leave a question for Jim. Thanks!


Living Life Through Faith said...

Jim, thanks for all the great information. It seems publishing is going this way. Now people can brush off those manuscripts and get them out for us to read!

Tia Bach said...

I agree. Jim, thanks so much for sharing this information with my readers. Congratulations again on Trinidad Express.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Thanks for the great info, Jim, and thanks to you, Tia, for hosting him. This sounds like a terrific book, but I'm curious. Jim, did you try to go the traditional route first with an agent & brick-and-mortar publisher, or did you decide from the get-go that you were gonna publish it yourself? I think most writers get to a point where self-publishing sounds like it may be the best choice for them, (I'm about there right now) but I'm always curious as to when a writer makes that choice. Thanks again. This was a very helpful post.

Jo Michaels said...

And this is why I wrote The Indie Author's Guide to Building a Great Book. It walks you through a digital and a print version of your book. Smashwords is great and all, but I have found their service lacking when it comes to B&N (my cover never did show up there. Since they fell out with Amazon, I have a difficult time seeing the need to format for their meatgrinder (the formatting is weird) when I can just do it myself on KDP and never have an error. Just my $0.02. :)

Great interview. WRITE ON!

Unknown said...

Susan, my decision to self publish is all about expectations. I had a limited audience sailing adventure story to tell to family and friends then maybe someone else would read it. I found a great editor, a graphic artist, and a way to publish the print book in a reasonable period. My chances as an unknown author with a obscure piece, I judged, had little chance in the traditional publishing world. Then I wanted to be out in the digital world. Smashwords put me in the Aether, or at least the internet, in about 10 days.

Unknown said...

Jo, I find the meatgrinder more of a blessing than a problem. I used the suggested nuclear method of removing all print formatting, then followed step-by-step the instructions to comply with varied digital formats.

I may not have a "perfect" audience with Smashwords commercial partners, however getting on the B&N catalog without cost was valuable to me. Just look at the requirements to get on the Amazon catalog. Forget it!

I did it all without cost and in about 10 days.

Elise Fallson said...

Hi Jim!
I didn't realize you published Trinidad Express on Smashwords, good to hear that you're satisfied with their service. I'm not at the publishing phase yet, but hopefully I'll get there soon. Take care. (:

Unknown said...

Elise, you'll be there soon. BTW, I really enjoy your blog - the different view of an expat in France. Love the Crackmeupology.

Tia Bach said...

Thanks again to Jim for sharing his experience and hanging out on my blog. I so appreciate it!