Friday, September 10, 2010

Linsey's Excellent Smashwords Adventure

I've been wanting to experiment with a bit of self-publishing for some time now. So this Labor Day weekend, I decided to take the plunge and do something on Smashwords.

Smashwords? What's that?

I've heard the name "Smashwords" bandied about for some time, but I wasn't exactly sure what it was until I looked into it.

Turns out, Smashwords is a do-it-yourself e-publishing platform that allows you to self-publish almost anything online. Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoirs -- you name it. Smashwords is also a distribution platform, which means they help you get your stuff "out there."


The bad news is that you have to format your book to their specifications. Well, it's not so bad. It's just not what you're used to if you've been submitting to editors and entering contests.

Small paragraph indents. Plain fonts. Not too much space between paragraphs. This is all so your book will look good in a myriad of e-reading mechanisms like the Kindle or an iPhone. If you're thinking about going with Smashwords, I HIGHLY recommend you read their Style Guide from cover to cover. It's thorough and well-written. Follow it carefully. It helps to know Word pretty well, but the guide tells you everything you need to know.

The good news is that Smashwords converts your Word doc into a bunch of diferent formats. EPUB, MOBI, PDF, RTF, HTML, and more. I say, the more the merrier! Your friends can read you on the beach.

The First Book

So I downloaded the Smashwords Style Guide, read it, worked over my manuscript, got a cover together. At long last, I was ready. I held my breath and clicked Publish. It told me I was something like number 1384 in the queue. Guess a lot of people had decided to publish over Labor Day weekend. It took all night to do it, but the next morning, I was e-self-published. Whoohoo!

The first book was the short story I wrote for the February Challenge on Petit Fours and Hot Tamales. Here's the excerpt:

After six years as a private investigator, Stacey Alexander has the strangest day of her life when she falls down a hollow tree and meets her new client, a nutty old dude with a crown who thinks he's a king. She'd climb right out of there, except that the crazy dude wants her to find his son, the Prince. And that is one hot-looking male. She'd be crazy herself not to take this case.

I priced it at the minimum allowed, 99 cents. Too much? C'mon, that's less than a McDonald's cheeseburger on sale. When you eat out, you tip more than a buck, don't you? A writer works and sweats over a story at least as much as a waitress does over a customer, right? Okay. Enough tacky sales pressure. If you'd like a copy of The Clever Detective, you can download it here.

That felt good. Now for more books.

The first book went out into the e-world without a hitch, so I decided, why not put two more short stories I had written out there? These were very short, so I offered them for free. One is the story I wrote for last year's October Treasure Hunt. (By the way, I'm doing a sequel to The Clever Detective for this year's OTH.)

Here's the synopsis for The West Wind Blows:

Halloween. Not Danica Marshall's favorite time of year. Especially when her young son is so upset. But when an old heartache from the past returns in the flesh, she wonders what their future might hold.

While I was on a roll, I put out a new short story I wrote that no one but my beta reader has seen. It's called Careful What You Wish For.

Christina Vallente, a woman who once was one of the city's top architects, has had a very bad day at work. But after she comes home to confide in her husband, she can't imagine how much worse it's going to get.

Intrigued? Download a free copy here.

Free is Good

While the 99 cent book has only 7 downloads (no purchases) (see cheeseburger pitch above), after less than 24 hours, Careful What You Wish For has an astonishing total of 73 downloads. The West Wind Blows has 70. That's amazing. Someone even gave me a three-star review for both books.

I'm becoming convinced Smashwords is a great way to get your name out there.

What's Next?

Who knows? No Hollywood agents are lined up on my door and no editors are calling with million dollar contracts -- yet. So I guess I'll keep writing. I've fallen in love with the short format and intend to write more short stories in the future. I'll let you know when I have something new out there.

So what's your opinion of e-publishing? Self-publishing? Do you like to read longer stories or shorter ones? Which do you prefer to write? Give me your take on Smashwords.