I'm seeing many people who are investigating the guidelines for self-publishing at distributor sites like Smashwords. Some blog posts seem to contain nothing but complaints about how hard it is. I can only tell you that this is absolutely true. Publishing and putting out a truly readable book for readers is really hard. I decided in this blog post to talk my experience in light of some of the complaints I have read.
Complaint: Sales on the Smashwords site are low.
This might be true from a certain point of view, but it could also be that the Smashwords readers are discerning--very, very discerning because they have access to thousands of selections there. If you are selling anything to the Smashwords readers, I would put that in a plus column because they have a lot of fresh choices all the time.
From March 11 to March 31, I sold 7 copies of Dating Dr. Notrorious (Book 2) at Smashwords. In that same time period over at Amazon, I sold 53 copies of both books (Amazon made me price Book 1 at .99, Book 2 is $2.99 everywhere). I haven't seen any numbers yet for what happened at Sony and Barnes and Noble and my books were available there for about 5-6 days before March ended. I'll see those numbers at the end of April I think. I know about several Sony sales because readers told me they bought Book 2 there. I put myself up at Amazon and am letting Smashwords handle all the other channels, including Barnes and Noble, another site I could have done myself, chose not to. I can't do it all. I like letting them do some of it. Like all other writers there, I wish I could get faster numbers from channel sales and I wouldn't mind being paid more frequently, but I appreciate the business will grow with me. I am new. They are new. I view them as a business partner.
Complaint: Preparing a file for ebook publishing is hard
Yes it is. Here's a big thing about working with Smashwords--I did not know how to do anything in the self-publishing world until I read and followed Mark Coker's guide for formatting a pub. Yes, it was hard and I had to learn MS Word better. I have a technical background and have sent files to traditional publishers before. It was still hard. I had to upload my file and fix errors to get into the Premium Catalog, but when I saw my work done--it looked good. I owe them some respect for making me fix things and make it right for my readers. I have learned the importance of my obligation in the three weeks I have acquired readers who will tell me if I am not doing what I should.
It is hard, simply hard work to produce a viable product. The creative work is excruciating I know. I just finished Dating A Saint (Book 3) of my series. I am mentally exhausted from the creative part of it, from finally, finally resolving the story. However, next week I will begin the tougher business part which includes the editing (to the best of my ability), the revisions (always needs it), and making sure the book file follows all the other parameters of making it the cleanest, best work I can produce.
Value not mentioned much that I get from Smashwords: Reader support
Readers who have access to literally thousands of titles at Smashwords (with daily fresh additional titles) have downloaded 1500+ copies so far of Dating a Cougar (Book 1) and multiple readers there have given me 5 star reviews on that particular piece of work. They could have done this for any number of other writers (many reviewers have not published there). You can even look the reviewers up and see who they have read and reviewed, see what they written, see what they read and enjoy. When I look at those reviewing my work, and see they have only reviewed a handful of books, it makes me even more grateful to think my work is worth reading and reviewing to them.
Additionally, a reader/reviewer of my Book 1 who also read Book 2 gave a 4 star review to the second book partly because the book needed more editing. I worked on the second book about a third less than the time I spent on Book 1. I haven't been able to afford a professional editor yet, but hope to settle into a working relationship with one soon. The reader has given me incentive to do so. I do view what I am doing as a business and appreciate the need to produce the best product I can for my readers. I appreciate the readers at Smashwords, those who again I will say--can read thousands of other books, are going to tell me what they really think if/when they bother to read my work.
I like my readers at Smashwords. They give me feedback. I like being a writer there and am staying. As a newly published writer, the benefit of reader contact at Smashwords is as important to me as future dollar amounts. I think the future dollar amounts will be directly related to my ability to produce a good product.