HomeWritingPublishing on Kindle and Smashwords Part 1

I now have self-published three small (and cheap–I mean inexpensive) e-reader formatted books at Smashwords and Amazon and a free story up at Smashwords. I could put this into a book and offer it for sale, but I’m not like that. I’m all Christ-like and Buddha-nature and all. So read on, dear friends, read on.

What you need to know how to do to publish on Smashwords and Kindle:

It really isn’t HARD to publish on Smashwords and Kindle, just fiddly. Here’s some stuff about it.

First, why publish both places, since Smashwords formats for Kindle? Well, mostly because I wanted to fast-track into the Amazon catalog.

Downside: Amazon wouldn’t let me price my book for less than $1, and the publishing agreement was that I wouldn’t price it for less anywhere else. I wanted books to GIVE AWAY as promotional items.

Workaround: I priced the books for $1 on Amazon and $1 on Smashwords, but Smashwords let me generate a coupon for the price of the book, and I sent the code to people on Twitter and Facebook and certain email lists. So it was sorta free and sorta not free.

So anyway, I went to http://Smashwords.com and signed up and downloaded their free Style Guide. Then I found OUT STANDING IN THE FIELD: THE INDIE AUTHOR’S TWO-STEP GUIDE TO PUBLISHING IN THE KINDLE STORE by FREE PRESS Publications. I got the free Smashwords edition, but it’s also available in print: Print Edition: ISBN 1438293461 http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1438293461

Good stuff. I recommend you read both documents. They both walk you through doing this and that, but just in case they want you to do stuff you don’t know how to do, a walk-through from me follows this blah-blah.


Okay, so I downloaded and read the Smashwords style guide and the FREE PRESS Kindle guide. I saved the document I wanted to publish in two new places: Kindle Version and Smashwords Version. Tell you why later.

I went through the Smashwords style guide point by point and made the formatting revisions asked for. In MA’S HOT FLASHES, I used block paragraphing because my paragraphs in the micro-mini-flash fiction are so short indentions would seldom show up. In THE KING OF CHEROKEE CREEK, I used first line indents. The style guides are really good at telling you how to do these, especially with my walk-throughs as additional guides.

I went through the FREE PRESS Kindle guide and made the formatting changes for that. I like the notion of setting the size of the page and the margins to emulate what the Kindle format will look like. ONLY A GOOD NOTION FOR THE AMAZON SITE PUBLICATION! Smashwords publishes in multiple formats, and what you see on your screen is NOT what you’ll get in most of those formats. Amazon only does the one version, though, so using FREE PRESS’ suggested page size and margins works really well for formatting your book for them.

My graphic arts skills are practically non-existant, but I have a daughter and a friend who are wizards at it. I knocked together a cover for MA’S HOT FLASHES and emailed it to both of them. Each gave me a critique of it, which helped me make it look halfway decent. I also read the THE NON-DESIGNER’S DESIGN BOOK by Robin Williams (not that Robin Williams–a different Robin Williams), a most excellent book about typographic design principles using just fonts (proximity, alignment, repetition and contrast). MOST useful.

I opened GIMP (like Photoshop, only free) and clicked File, New and made it 600 wide x 900 tall, with a dpi (ppi) of 300. I think I didn’t need to do this, because I think either Amazon or Smashwords or both turned out to have a cover design wizard or something I could have used. Since I work on dial-up, I do as much work off-line as possible, so I preferred to mess around with GIMP myself. Also, I just like to mess around.

I went to http://dtp.amazon.com and signed up and signed in. DTP stands for Dead Tree Prevention. No, it doesn’t; it stands for Digital Text Platform. Anyway, I followed the on-screen instructions, remembering to click Save Entries at every step, previewed the book on a Kindle emulator, liked it, and clicked Publish. A couple of days later, I saw that lovely word, LIVE next to my manuscript!

Meanwhile, I went to http://smashwords.com and signed up and signed in. Followed their on-screen instructions, sat there for a bazillion years while their “meatgrinder” converted my manuscript to various formats. It converted. Came back a couple of days later and saw that my manuscript wasn’t up to snuff for the Premium Catelog because of poor formatting–I had forgotten to enter twice before page breaks (about which more later). So I did that to my Smashwords Version manuscript, uploaded again, sat there for another bazillion years for it to convert again, and came back a couple of days later to find I had done it right.


Tomorrow, my particular tips and walk-throughs in case the manuals have you tearing out your hair.

WRITING PROMPT: Why would one of your characters want to self-publish a book? Not you–a character. What would it be? Why would they self-publish rather than go through a publisher?

QUESTION FOR YOU: If you’re reading this because you’re considering self-publishing, why are you considering self-publishing? I did it because my mother kept suggesting I collect my short stories, so I collected some that had already been published and added some new ones. What about you? Inquiring minds….


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Publishing on Kindle and Smashwords Part 1 — 30 Comments

  1. Excellent and a laugh out loud post as well. Why did I spell LOL out? I can’t help it, I’m a writer. You asked; why am I self publishing. Unfortunately many publishers are unwilling to take on new writers who break certain rules. Perhaps their genre doesn’t fall neatly into one category but might fit both YA (Young Adult) and Adult fiction. Maybe, as in my case, it is a fantasy that uses mythical creatures that they are either tired of or opinionated about that they prefer to be extinct, LOL, instead of in print. In my case, I am tired of being told, “We love it, but it doesn’t fit.” I have many followers who have read my book. So, I thought, I’ll give it a shot, it can’t hurt. But putting it up on kindle and Smashwords may hurt in the effort.

    Thanks for your post,

    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

    • YES! It’s so great that we can be our own publishers for projects that another publisher won’t take for one reason or another. Kindle and Smashwords aren’t really difficult, they just have formatting guidelines that one must follow. Drop in tomorrow for some nitty-gritty!

  2. Thank you for the specific info.

    I’ve been considering e-publishing for many reasons. First, as I sat down to begin the umpteenth revision of my book at agent request, it occurred to me I was writing to please agents and publishers rather than the readers I want to reach. Next, I re-read my MS and saw that, while several revisions had made it more technically correct and a bit more accessible, it had all but lost its heart. Finally, publishers believe that a commercial book shouldn’t use a vocabulary above an eighth grade level, even for the adult markets. The recent phenomenal success of series that violate that stricture hasn’t changed their minds.


    • I have a book that happened to! I finally went back and pulled all the “finished” versions apart and put the book back together with the heart in. I sent it to another publisher and she wants changes. I’m still considering whether to do that (everything she says makes sense) or self-publish it, even though it’s “wrong”.

      You’re so right about vocabulary ATTRACTING young readers! A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS is brilliant in teaching vocabulary, not just denotations but connotations and general contexts.

      Best of luck with your writing and publications!

  3. Is there a more current guide for publishing on Kindle? The one you reference is from summer 2009 and costs $1.50 on Amazon…why isn’t there a free reference guide available for publishing on Kindle? Ideally we should not have to pay, and the guide we use should be updated since technology changes soooo fast….
    Thanks, j

  4. I published an old story on Amazon months ago–and somehow after days it seemed to come out all right. First I went to smashwords, and I just purchased Word 2010 and I can’t remember why, but I gave up. I’m working on my psych thriller and am striving for an August 22 first draft finish date. My question is–my novel is scheduled-lol- to be 60K words-and polished and edited. Do you know anyone who formats these for Smashwords-Kindle or B&N? I see advertisments-but just wanted your feed back. Thanks

  5. Does that mean you are not allowed to give away kindle books for free on amazon? i.e. they is a minimum price which you have to adhere to? I was hoping to publish one and give it away for free via kindle format..

    • I’m afraid that’s right, Jonathan. The big publishers can work a deal but, so far, I don’t know of a way for just us folks to give stuff away through the Kindle store. NOW, that said, you can do three things: Put the book up at the Kindle store for $0.99, which is practically free, put the story or book up at Smashwords (in multiple formats, including for Kindle) for free, or put it up as a PDF download on your own web site or blog. IF you put the book up for free at Smashwords and for $0.99 at Amazon, I’m not sure if that will make Amazon drop you or if they’ll change your price to free at the Kindle store. Personally, I wouldn’t want to take the chance.

      You might go to the Kindle publishing forum and ask what other authors do.


  6. Thanks for the tips. I just published my first book, The Ex-apprentices , on Kindle and now I am psyching myself up to go through the Smashwords process. I’ve heard that Smashwards is a lot more difficult. Doing it on Amazon wasn’t too painful. Just time-consuming.

  7. Thanks so much, Marian! Wow, I’m just getting ready to e-publish, and this is EXACTLY what I needed to hear! VERY HELPFUL! I just followed you on Twitter and added you to my list. (As to your question on why I chose to e-publish, I just wrote a blog post on that… http://ionaportal.com/blog/ ) I believe self-publishing really is the wave of the future, and your blog here is just the kind of thing us newbies need to know! Thanks again! – Robert David MacNeil

    • Glad I could be of help! Don’t neglect to read Amazon’s, Smashword’s and PubIt’s guidelines as well, though. I’m told my PubIt (Nook, ePub) conversion is less than perfect. What I have here is a good place to start, though, for folks who don’t know the terminology the guidelines consider so basic they don’t explain it.

      Following you back. 🙂

    • Honestly, dj, it’s just a getting-started post. The style guides at the particular upload sites need to be studied and conformed to; I’m not updating the posts if anything changes. I was mostly concerned about people who aren’t familiar with some of the terms and procedures and reasons behind requirements. 🙂

  8. Hi Marian. These two articles are very helpful. I’ve been considering putting Angel Sometimes into e-book form, as well as my next book. It’s daunting, though. I have a question. Is it best to have the book written on full pages (8.5 X 11)? Currently my books are written for 8.5 X 5.5

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