Monday, September 12, 2011

Publish in Print or on the 'Net? Part 4

A friend of mine had added me to the ResearchWritingCenter.com group on Facebook and I've come to value the writing tips from their sister website, www.dailywritingtips.com. One day, I saw a comment about www.smashwords.com, an ebook distribution website. I got curious enough to visit it.

Curiosity turned to interest as I kept reading. Basically, they were promising to take my book, convert it into different formats that would be readable on the Kindle, the iPad/iPhone, the Sony Reader and more. They would put the book on their "shelves" for people to see and, hopefully, buy. They would also distribute it to several ebookstores like the Apple iBookstore, the Sony Reader Store, the Kobo eBook Store, and others.

As I read, I was looking for something like, "it will only cost you...," but there was none to be found. What were they saying? I could publish for free? It sounded unbelievable. And what's this? Free ISBN? Were these guys for real?

Aha! One of the reasons why they were free was that they will accept your book even with grammatical or spelling errors. Smashwords was a distributor, not a publisher. They will not edit or proofread your book. That was your responsibility. If your book is poorly written, it won't sell, it was a simple as that.

They also do not actively market your book. They'll put it on their shelves and they'll send it to other distributors who will put it on their shelves. You'll probably get some sales from people who browse through these virtual bookstores but, if you want your book to really sell, you'll have to do the marketing yourself. I wondered if New York Times reviewed ebooks.

85% royalties! Wow! That was way, way more than the 5-15% that print book publishers gave authors and you didn't have to go through all the rigamarole of submitting and rejection. While I admire the tenacity of people like Kathryn Stockett (The Help) who endured 60 rejections in three-and-a-half years before her book was finally accepted, I wasn't willing to go through the same path and receive just 5-15% of the price of the book.

I bookmarked the website and took a little time to think. It wouldn't hurt to try. I could go through the motions and if they suddenly ask for money or too much sensitive information, I could stop and forget about it. I made the decision to go for it.

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