Sunday, December 28, 2008

Three websites keep indie authors out of harm's way

In this post, I wanted to recommend a few websites I think do a great job of helping indie authors navigate the shark-infested waters of self-publishing. As anyone who follows Smashwords or this blog knows, I'm a huge advocate for self-publishing both in print via services like Lulu or Createspace, and online via my indie ebook publisher, Smashwords. Although there are many reputable self-publishing companies such as our own who truly care about the authors they represent, the publishing industry is legend for somehow attracting the dregs of the earth to run scammy publishing services that take advantage of authors.

Below are three sites worth checking before you sign on with any publisher:

1. Predators & Editors - The other day, a Smashwords author wrote me and mentioned how he was about to sign a publishing contract with a publisher I heard had a shady history. I pointed the author to this page at Predators & Editors so they could understand the mistake they were about to make. A few days later, I was pleased to receive an email thanking me for the warning, and notifying me he had selected one of my recommended print publishers instead. P&E maintains listings on hundreds of publishers. The site also has listings of agents, both good and bad. The site is run by David L. Kuzminski. I don't know the full story behind the site, but I do see on the home page that he is soliciting donations to help him defend the site against a lawsuit. I just made a small personal donation and I hope you do the same.

2. Piers Anthony's Internet Publishing Survey - Best-selling sci-fi and fantasy author Piers Anthony has been an advocate for online publishing and authors rights for many years, and for quite a long time has maintained this great online survey of Internet publishing services. Given his prolific writing, I'm amazed he has the time to keep his list up to date, but he does an admirable job based on his own experiences and the reports he receives from his readers. I referred the aforementioned Smashwords author to this page for Piers' take on the suspect publisher.

3. Writer Beware - Writer Beware is run by writer Victoria Strauss. She maintains several web pages hosted at the Science Fiction & Fantasy Association's website filled with informative articles, and she also contributes to the Writer Beware Blog along with other fellow writers A.C. Crispin and Richard White.

Image credit: Wikipedia Commons

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Smashwords Book Marketing Guide Now Available

Independent authors, like those we publish at Smashwords, realize they need to take marketing matters into their own hands. With this in mind, last night we published The Smashwords Book Marketing Guide, a free ebook that provides authors actionable advice on how to market their Smashwords books. The Guide starts with an overview of the free marketing tools offered by Smashwords, and then provides a series of simple marketing tips authors can put to use today.

This is a living document and will be updated frequently as Smashwords authors suggest additional marketing ideas, and as we develop more do-it-yourself marketing tools for the Smashwords digital publishing platform.

Lightbulb image credit: Kaizen-Muse

Monday, December 22, 2008

Vote on Your Favorite Smashwords Ad

For several months now, we've been running a series of Smashwords print advertisements in some the leading writer's magazines, and it recently dawned on me that we've never shared these ads with our online friends, many of whom found us not in dead tree media, but online.

Below is a partial collection. Comment below and place your vote for your favorite. Also feel free to steal the images and post them on your own blog or website.

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The ads were designed by David Gee out of Toronto, who by day is an advertising copywriter and by night is a freelance book cover designer. He's also the designer behind the cover for my own novel, Boob Tube. See David's fantastic work at his blog, David Gee, Works on Paper.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Smashwords Introduces Coupon Generator for Self-Published eBook Authors

Smashwords today introduced a coupon generator that allows self-published ebook authors to issue promotional coupon codes for their books for sharing on blogs, websites, social networks and fan email lists.

Our mission at Smashwords is to provide independent authors the free tools they need to publish, promote and sell their ebooks. The Smashwords Coupon Generator represents a powerful new marketing tool for self-published ebook authors to create excitement and buying interest among their potential readers.

The Smashwords Coupon Generator give authors flexible options for how they design their coupon promotions, including designating cents-off or dollars-off list price, a flat percentage off retail price, and fixed expiration dates. Authors can also create coupons that entitle the recipient to receive the book for free, which can be useful for promoting the book to book reviewers or for use in limited time promotions.

For independent authors, there's never been a better time to publish ebooks on Smashwords. Authors simply upload their manuscripts as Microsoft Word files, and then Smashwords automatically converts the book into multiple DRM-free ebook formats, such as .epub, .lrf, .pdf, .mobi, .pdb, .rtf and .txt. Authors set the price of their books, determine the sampling percentage, and receive 85% of all net sales proceeds.

To learn more about the Coupon Generator, log in to your Smashwords account and click Dashboard.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Forget what you know about book formatting

One of my many joys of running Smashwords is working directly with authors every day who share my passion about the promise of ebooks. Their feedback, dreams and frustrations are what guide our development.

The biggest challenge these authors face getting their book into ebook form is that they're held hostage by their previous conceptions regarding how a book should be formatted. Traditional print formatting is very forgiving. If you use space marks or tabs instead of indents, for example, as long as the words are arranged where you want them on screen or in your PDF, the book prints reasonably well and all your bad formatting habits are forgiven.

Ebooks aren't so forgiving, because for the most part, formatting is the enemy of good ebook formatting. If my statement sounds circular and nonsensical, allow me to elaborate.

In the ebook realm, authors must abandon the notion of the "page." Pages have no meaning in ebook form, because pages become amorphous shape shifting creatures depending on the ebook reader; the reader's choice of font size, font style or line spacing; or in the case of the iPhone, whether they're holding it vertically or sideways.

When the notion of page disappears, it creates other problems for traditionally formatted books. The page numbers in your table of contents or index become meaningless. Your artificial page breaks, made via the common bad habit of multiple paragraph returns, create blank pages. Your forced page breaks disappear.

The secret to good ebook formatting is to keep it simple: A paragraph return at the end of a paragraph, a proper indent at the beginning of the paragraph, a couple paragraph returns between each chapter, things like that.

For long form narrative books, which is what most people read, readers buy books for the words, not the formatting. Don't let your formatting get in the way of the words.

For helpful formatting tips, read the Smashwords Style Guide.