Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Smashwords Adds Page Foundry as New Mobile Distribution Partner for Android Devices

Smashwords today announced a distribution agreement with Page Foundry, a developer of mobile ebook store apps for Android tablets and smart phones.

Below I've inserted images of how the app looks, using a test example of Phoenix, a YA fantasy novel by Smashwords author Jennifer Mason-Black, published by  Musa Publishing.

This new relationship will lead to distribution at the following four places:

Listings page
Book page
1.  ASUS:  Asus, a leading manufacturer of netbooks, notebooks and tablets, currently has about 8 million devices here in the US pre-loaded with the Page Foundry ebook store app, all part of their @Vibe media store.  Page Foundry is one of two pre-loaded ebook store apps on the Asus devices. 

2.  WIRELESS OPERATOR:  Page Foundry is powering the ebook store app for a leading pre-paid wireless services operator with 2.5 million smart phone customers (Smashwords authors/publishers will be informed of the wireless operator's identity in the author/publisher email alert going out today).  Starting this summer, all of this mobile operator's subscriber phones will ship pre-loaded with the Page Foundry app (previously, subscribers had to manually download the app from the operator's app store).

3.  VERSENT and INKTERA:  These are two sister e-reader apps, available for download to Android 
devices from Google Play (formerly known as the Android Market).  Versent and Inktera also sell books through their websites at and  Page Foundry set up these two sites as experimental showcases of their platform, though they've also started attracting some customers so they plan to continue operating the sites as indepedent ebook retailers.
Reader option settings

Page Foundry plans to add additional mobile operators and device-makers in the months ahead.

Like any new distribution channel, I expect the Page Foundry partnership to start small and then grow over time as their business grows.

As with all new Smashwords distribution partners, all Premium Catalog books will automatically go to Page Foundry unless you opt out, or unless the title is unpublished.  Visit your Dashboard's Channel Manager to adjust distribution settings.

 Learn more about Page Foundry at

Thursday, June 14, 2012

New Ebook Cover Image Requirements Coming to Satisfy Higher Resolution E-Reading Devices

Updated June 20 with additional examples.
Updated July 15 - B&N also now recommends larger images.

Heads up.  Effective on or about July 15, Smashwords will begin requiring higher pixel counts on ebook cover images.

Why the change?  Starting in August, Apple will require that all new ebook cover images be at least 1,400 pixels wide.  Their previous minimum was 600 pixels.

Why is Apple requiring higher pixel counts?  Most likely, it's because they want to provide ebook customers a more pleasing visual experience for their current and future higher-resolution iPads, iPhones and MacBooks.  Since we think the Apple's guidelines are reasonable (they help readers with next-generation screens enjoy your covers in all their glory), we'll adopt Apple's requirements as our new minimum standards for cover images.

Amazon recommends images that are 2,500 pixels tall, with the height 1.6 times greater than the width. In early July, Barnes & Noble notified me that they too are increasing their recommended (recommended, not a requirement) to a minimum height of between 1,200 to 2,000 pixels. This means that the new Apple/Smashwords requirements will help you create an image that's also more pleasing to current and future Amazon and B&N customers.  Three birds with one stone.

Let's dig into the math (eek!  math!):  Smashwords has always required vertical-rectangle-shaped images, where the height is greater (taller) than the width.  Most good-looking covers have heights that are around 1.3 to 1.65 times greater than the width.

Provided your cover is at least 1,400 pixels wide, you have flexibility here whether you prefer slightly wider covers or slightly taller covers.

Start with your width.  Although the new requirement is a minimum width of 1,400 pixels, I'd recommend a width of 1,500 to 1,800 pixels to be safe.  This will help you get closer to Amazon's recommended height, and will also provide you some measure of future-proofing for a couple years out when we might see pixel requirements increase even further.

Let's say you choose a width of 1,600 pixels.  If you want a 1.33 ratio, multiply 1,600 by 1.33 and you get a height of 2,128 pixels.  If you think that looks too short and squat, try 1.5.  Multiply 1,600 by 1.5 and you get a height of 2,400 pixels.  If you want 1.6, or 1.65, multiply by that.  Don't obsess too much over the ratio, though.  Focus on creating a cover that works best for your book.

Below I created some sample images to give you an idea of how the different ratios look from a width and height perspective.  These are thumbnails, so click the image if you want to see it larger.  When you enlarge the image, you won't get the full size (a limitation of how I uploaded them here), but the relative proportions are what you're looking at anyway.

The first image has a 1.33 ratio (height is 1.33 times greater than width).

The second image has a 1.5 ratio.

The third image has a 1.6 ratio.

Note how the lower ratio gives you a wider image, and the higher ratio gives you a more narrow image.

Apple's new requirement applies to new ebooks, and new cover updates.  If your book is already in the Apple iBookstore with a smaller cover image, you're grandfathered in, UNLESS you try to update your cover image in the future, in which case they'll reject it.  

Since Apple will begin enforcing the new requirements in August, we'll help our authors and publishers get ahead of the change by making the 1,400 pixel minimum a Premium Catalog requirement starting on or around July 15.  

The Smashwords FAQ and Smashwords Style Guide are now updated to reflect the new recommendations and requirements.  

Like Apple, we'll apply the standard to new titles and cover image updates.   If we previously shipped your smaller cover to retailers, we won't require the new cover image size unless you update your cover image or republish a previously unpublished book. The minimum dimensions do not apply to the images or cover image inside your .epub file.

How NOT to create a new cover image

Don't use a photo or image editing program to enlarge your current image.  That will cause pixelation (blur).

How to create your cover image

You'll find some tips in the Smashwords FAQ, though unless you're a professional graphic artist, my best recommendation is to hire a professional.  Send an email to to obtain my list of low cost cover designers and ebook formatters (they're all freelancers, we don't receive a commission or referral fee). Their rates range from about $40 to $100, a range I consider very reasonable.  Review their online portfolios so you can determine if their style and capabilities match what  you're looking for.  If they don't match what you want, post a note at the Smashwords Facebook page to ask your fellow authors for references.  There are many great cover designers out there (too many to fit on my list), and most are very affordable.  

Your cover image is the first impression you'll make on a prospective reader.  If you're planning to revise your cover image, use this as an opportunity to produce a cover that looks as good or better than what the big NY publishers are producing.  See my free ebook, The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success, for comments on why a professional ebook cover image is so critical to a book's success.

Once you have your new cover image, click to your Smashwords Dashboard, then click "settings," and then upload your new cover image.  Smashwords will then distribute the update and the new .epub to all our retailers.

Please share this post with your fellow authors and publishers so everyone has ample advance notice.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Smashwords Delivers Faster Shipments to Apple and Kobo

Until recently, Smashwords "shipped" new book releases, new book updates and metadata updates to Smashwords retailers (Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Sony, Diesel, Baker & Taylor, etc) on a once-weekly basis.  As promised in December, in the last couple weeks we've begun increasing shipment frequency for the retailers that can support it.

About one week ago, we began doing once-per-day shipments of new Premium Catalog titles and metadata updates to Kobo.  This means you can make a price change at Smashwords today, and it'll be reflected at Kobo likely within a day or two.

Today, we pushed the envelope even further by commencing near-real-time shipments to the Apple iBookstore.  This means you can change a price from your Smashwords Dashboard and the new price, in multiple currencies, will reflect across Apple's 32 iBookstores, often within an hour of your change.

Price updates will appear the fastest, especially at Apple.  New book deliveries or other book updates are subject to processing times at each individual retailer.  The holy grail - which won't be achievable anytime soon - is true real-time or near-real-time updates across all retailers from your Smashwords Dashboard.  It's the direction we'll always drive toward.  We know Smashwords authors and publishers appreciate the power, convenience and time-savings possible when they can centrally manage all aspects of their ebooks from the Smashwords Dashboard.  Faster deliveries mean faster time-to-market, and greater control over metadata and promotions.

These faster shipments are made possible by a development initiative here at Smashwords that has been underway for many months.  It's also made possible by the great work of our retail partners who share our same commitment of putting the power of publishing in your hands.  In the months ahead, we hope to increase shipment frequency at other retailers once they give us the green light.  Our new shipment systems are technically capable of shipping real-time.

In the old world of publishing it took a book 12-18 months (or longer) to reach market.  In this new world, authors, publishers and literary agents we serve want faster time-to-market, and more control.

On a related topic, we're increasing staffing in our vetting team to enable faster Premium Catalog approvals (we're backlogged now).  Ian, the latest member of our vetting team, starts Wednesday.

My thanks to the 44,000 authors, publishers and literary agents around the world who use Smashwords to publish and distribute over 125,000 titles.  With your support, today's exciting development is just the latest of many new developments to come at Smashwords in the months and years ahead.

If you haven't yet partnered with Smashwords, visit our How to Publish and Distribute with Smashwords page to learn how to reach more global readers.