I attended the PublishersLaunch eBooks for Everyone Else conference in San Francisco on Wednesday. It was a great conference. I enjoyed meeting with authors, partners, agents and even competitors.
I gave a short presentation that explored the benefits of keeping ebook publishing simple. I embedded the presentation below.
My message: The myriad e-publishing options can sound intimidating for first-time ebook authors, agents and publishers. I urged attendees to not make their e-publishing adventure more complex and expensive than necessary. Complexity limits accessibility and availability. Expense limits profits and increases the price for readers.
I shared how we approach publishing at Smashwords. When I look at what's selling at the major ebook retailers, 80-90% of the ebooks readers purchase are what I call "simple books." Simple books, by my definition, are straight narrative (like fiction or narrative non-ficition), or narrative plus images. Simple books offer well-formatted reflowable text that easily shape-shifts across multiple e-reading devices and formats.
Simple books are inexpensive to create. As any Smashwords author can tell you, a word processor is an incredibly capable ebook creation tool when you marry it with the Smashwords Style Guide and our automated Meatgrinder conversion technology.
Simple, however, does not mean substandard. Smashwords ebooks support good design with custom paragraph styling, intra-book hyperlinks, NCX navigation, glyphs and images.
Meatgrinder, because it's an automated conversion system, has always drawn skeptics who question our ability to create high quality books with automated conversion. Some of that skepticism has diminished over the last couple years as we've improved the technology, though critics remain, especially among those who offer paid conversion services. I've got nothing against these professionals, and I agree they're well-suited for more complex books for which Meatgrinder was not intended.
To accommodate the books from these ebook design pros, we'll offer a Meatgrinder bypass option called Smashwords Direct by the end of 2012. That means it's coming but it's not immediately imminent. Even when we offer that service, I expect most authors will still choose the Meatgrinder route because it's faster, cheaper and, well, simpler.
If you're considering Smashwords, I invite you download the Style Guide and learn for yourself how easy it is to create and distribute a high-quality ebook with Smashwords. Learn more here: How to Publish and Distribute Ebooks with Smashwords.