While I recommend all authors publish to Amazon Kindle, I believe that authors shouldn’t put all their eggs in one basket. I recommend self-publishing to other platforms, including Apple iBooks, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and many others. This can be done efficiently by using Draft2Digital (learn how to self-publish to D2D), or Smashwords. Both are self-publishing distributors. The beauty is that you upload your book once and they take care of getting your book downstream to all the retailers. You can log into one place and see your sales dashboard. This follow-up blog describes how to self-publish using Smashwords.

Why Self-publish using Smashwords?

As I explained in part 1, Amazon can and does change the rules from time to time. So why not hedge your bets by selling your book on other platforms? Through other retailers, you can reach 26% of the U.S. e-book market. Furthermore, the long-term outlook on the non-U.S. e-book market is good. Consider the growth of phones and tablets in undeveloped parts of the world. As an indie author, don’t you want to be in on the ground floor of new markets?

Smashwords is an e-book distributor. The company makes it efficient for authors to upload their books once, and publish to a variety of online book retailers. The key difference from Draft2Digital, is that Smashwords sells your book through their own online store.

Smashwords Pros

-Distributes your book to the following online book retailers: iBooks (51 countries), Kobo, Barnes & Noble, OverDrive, Scribd, Inktera, Axis 360, Gardners, Baker & Taylor’s Blio, Oyster, and more to be added.

-Access to a dashboard that presents your sales from the various online bookstores in one place. Also includes a daily sales tracker.

-Increases your audience beyond just Amazon.

-Smashwords claims to be the world’s largest indie e-book distributor.

-Saves you time and effort since you upload your book once and Smashwords handles the distribution to various online retailers.

-Distribution to libraries via OverDrive, Gardners, and Baker and Taylor.

-Most importantly, you are the publisher and retain all rights to your work.

-Smashwords pays royalty rates of 85% of the net proceeds from sales directly at Smashwords.com.

Smashwords Cons

-Requires different book formatting than Amazon, so you’ll need to create a new format specific to Smashwords (I explain how in Chapter Eight of my book, Author Unleashed: Simple Strategies for a Successful Book Launch).

-Smashwords can be picky with formatting requirements. There’s a time delay with submitting your book and getting final approval to submit to the downstream distributors such as iBooks.

-Smashwords takes a cut for each sale to their downstream retailers; they pay 60% of list price to the author for most retail distribution partners. Compare this to 70% royalties from Amazon (when priced between $2.99-$9.99, otherwise your royalty is 35%).

How it Works

  1. Create an account and upload your book:

Start by visiting http://www.smashwords.com and signing up for an account. Once that’s completed, select the “Publish” tab. You’ll see a series of fields to complete. They are the standard fields such as title, author name, series, description, etc.

Notice that the release date field allows for a pre-order. When you hit “Publish” in Smashwords, your book will be for sale right away in the Smashwords.com store (provided there are no formatting issues picked up by their tool).

You can make your book free or set a price. Also, Smashwords allows you to let your readers determine the price. I haven’t tried this feature, so I can’t recommend it. If you’re feeling adventurous, try it out.

I recommend you enable sampling of your book and set the first 15% of your book free.

You’ll then be prompted to select your primary category and an optional secondary category. Take the option to add another category, since you want as many readers to find you as possible. Smashwords also lets you add tags. I recommend you consider using the same or similar keywords that you entered into Amazon.

Smashwords lets you choose the specific formats in which your book will be available to readers. I recommend choosing all of them to provide your readers with more choices.

Adhere to the file type and dimension requirements when uploading your cover. Next is uploading your Word document. Important: Be sure to download the Smashwords style guide and use that to format your book. There are many requirements within the guide that you’ll need to follow, and there are many differences from how you format for Kindle. This can be time-consuming, so consider allocating several hours for formatting. As a point of reference, I spent two hours editing an 11,000-word book for Smashwords my first time using it.

  1. Wait for Smashwords to review your book:

Once you click publish, your book will be converted using the Smashwords proprietary tool. There are two stages of Smashwords review:

  1. Autovetter – Smashwords software will check your upload and flag any formatting or technical errors. You’ll receive a notification if that happens. If there are any issues (and plan that there will be), you’ll need to correct them in your Word doc and upload again.
  2. Manual review – After you pass the autovetter, your book will be reviewed by a person. Note that they only review during weekday normal business hours. In my experience, this review can take between 2 to 4 business days. If they find any issues or concerns, you need to upload again, which means you go through autovetter and manual review again. Be sure to allow enough time!

Lead Time

A drawback of Smashwords is that there’s a considerable lead time for making your book available. My experience has been the following:

– 2 to 4 hours formatting your Word doc using the Smashwords style guide (more if you’re not Word savvy).

– 2 to 3 days to correct any autovetter issues that are found.

– 2 to 4 business days for Smashwords to manually inspect your book after you pass the autovetter (before it gets sent to the downstream retailers).

– 3 to 5 business days for any back and forth with the Smashwords team.

– 2 to 7 business days for your book to be sent downstream and appear on iBooks, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, etc.

TOTAL lead time: Between 9.5 and 19.5 days for your book to make it to other retailers. Your book will be available for sale on Smashwords as soon as it goes through autovetting (as quick as 4.5 days, and even less if you format well).

I’m curious if you’ve tried Smashwords to know what your lead time experience has been. Am I off here? Please leave a comment and let me know.


  1. There’s an extensive FAQ list on the Smashwords website. If you seem to be experiencing formatting issues, be sure to check the list of questions, because you may be running into a common error.
  2. I experienced a delay of several days because, at the end of my books, I always include a brief request asking readers to please leave an honest review for my book. The first time I uploaded via Smashwords, my book was kicked back because I had requested my readers leave a review from wherever they purchased it, and I specifically mentioned Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, etc. Smashwords came back and requested that I change that to be generic, so it became, “Please leave an honest review on the website from which you bought my book.” Once I made that slight change, my book was good to go. Their reasoning was that the distributors don’t like to see other e-book retailers mentioned.
  3. You can embed a YouTube video into your Smashwords retail page! First, post your video to your YouTube channel. Then, right click on your video and select “copy embed code.” From your Smashwords dashboard, there will be a link for your book’s “settings.” From there, you’ll be able to edit any details for your book, and you’ll see a link that says, “Associate a video with this book.” Paste in your embedded code from YouTube, write a short description, and voila! You have a video that you can use as a trailer to your book.


I hope that by reading this, you’ll see how it’s possible to go beyond Kindle and self-publish using Smashwords. For more about book launch strategies including how to launch your book in only 3o days, check out my book: Author Unleashed: Simple Strategies for a Successful Book Launch. While you’re there, be sure to download my FREE book: Author Unleashed: Simple Strategies to Write Your Book–FastClick here to learn more… 

Author Unleashed