Saturday, 7 May 2011

Ignore Smashwords at your Peril

Who are you? Whoooo are you? I really wanna know.

There are blogs that have an audience of authors, blogs that have an audience of book readers and blogs that just aim to inform, entertain, thrill, shock, annoy or share knitting patterns. This is one of the latter.

Now, I've knitted PERIL at Smashwords for all and sundry. Smashwords needs no explanation to seasoned indie authors and, as one of the last indie authors in the world to go on Smashwords, I'm not going to try and teach my grandmother to suck eggs (don't do it, Grandma, there's salmonella and other nasty things inside.) But for book readers and novice indie authors I'd like to take a few moments of your eye time to explain what it's about. Back to the knitting analogy.

Folks have different tastes in clothes. It's sometimes to do with our shape. Mens' shirts come in different shapes - regular, fitted etc. Collar size according to amount of neck. Jackets and trousers have long, regular and short arms and legs. I've unusually long legs, short arms and a neck that...never mind. Ladies - well you have that infinitely variable thing going on with the upper area and a complexity of hem lengths and cuts of cloth that bewilders the menfolk. Similarly, in the world of fast developing technology (as I slip seamlessly into this improbably comfortable knitted bustier of ebook analogy) there are myriad variations on how people want to read a novel.

We all have paper books and I'm addicted to those. So much so that I end up buying multiple copies of the same one and giving them away. My dinner guests rarely leave empty handed. We serve large portions. The Original Sins anthology is a paper book and people have lapped it up here in Ireland. The last few copies were wolfed down this weekend and therein lies the problem.

Original Sins was a limited edition print of 1000 copies that might never be repeated. What if other people want it? What if someone on the other side of the planet fancies reading a sample or wants a copy and they're all sold out? In fact, this book is almost history already, just one month after being launched! It's like a catwalk dress from a boutique designer. except that high street clothes retailers are unlikely to produce lookalikes. The answer - when all the hard copies are gone we'll turn Original Sins into an ebook. Let's go Kindle.

Groan! Okay, so Kindle is big in the US and maybe 1 in 6 UK adults now own a Kindle, but here in Ireland there are more leprechauns than Kindles. But what is big everywhere is technology. Folks are playing with their Windows and Android phones, iPhones and iPads all over the place. There's an app for this, an app for that. Amazon have Kindle apps for a lot of devices but not everyone wants to do that. Kindle is the front runner in the ebook race but the pack is close behind. That pack includes, as well as the flexible handheld thingummies above, dedicated ebook readers from Sony, Barnes & Noble (Nook) and others. This is where Smashwords comes in.

Smashwords lets the author and reader meet for a little cosy-up on a device of the reader's choice. It offers ten different formats of ebook to suit reader preference. There's no one size fits all approach. Smashwords knits the golden threads of the author's hard work into garments to suit all tastes. I've included a summary of Smashwords' knitwear range, the accuracy of which is limited by my ebook and wardrobe knowledge.

Online reading (html) is the woolly scarf of formats. It's colourful, functional and easily thrown around the neck of your computer screen on a chilly day.

Online reading (JavaScript) is a knitted beret. It looks good on some, less so on others. Depends upon the shape of your head and if your JavaScript is working.

Kindle (.mobi) is the same department store offering that Amazon offer. It's a nice little twin set with matching patterns on the cuffs, collar, waistband and ankles. Delightful, but everybody will be wearing it to the party.

Epub (open industry format, good for Stanza reader, others) is a popular place where people meet, have a drink, another drink, and knit ebooks. Time now please, have you no homes to go to?

PDF (good for highly formatted books, or for home printing) is the good old knitted tank top. It goes in and out of fashion depending upon wear by celebrities. Always functional. Washes well.

RTF (readable on most word processors) is knitwear for those that know what they like and to hell with fashion. There's a drawstring around the waist, for people like me with no hips or bottom, to keep their trousers up.

LRF (for Sony Reader) is an essential knitted accessory for the walkman and woman, PlayStation and flatscreen TV addicts (yes, that is a Sony. I bought it in the Sony shop.)

Palm Doc (PDB) (for Palm reading devices) is a magic knitted bobble-hat that lets you tell the future by reading other people's palms.

Plain Text (download) (flexible, but lacks much formatting) is a raw ball of wool, without knitting needles. Make what you will.

Plain Text (view) (viewable as web page) is a Christmas jumper from your aunt.

Most of the above are dry clean only. Knitting patterns are all available in the excellent free Smashwords Style Guide

Clearly, I've lost the plot. But I've learnt how to spin a yarn.

PERIL is now available in all these knitwear styles and in any colour you like, as long as it's red.

Note for novice indie authors: Smashwords Premium Catalog is a gateway to online bookstores beyond Amazon. Smashwords Distributes your ebook to the Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony Reader Store, Kobo and the Diesel eBook Store.


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  1. I love this - Thank you. I love the analogy with knitting. I'm going to post this to my blog for others to read, and adding as a follower to your blog!

  2. Very good post. I'm going to link it on my FB page through twitter.

    I think it's essential to have your book both on Kindle and Smashwords to cover all e-book formats.

  3. @Lisa thanks! Let's make a quilt!
    Cheers, Ruby

  4. @Susanne, thanks. Much appreciated. Yes, Epub looks quite nice on Adobe Digital Editions, probably a better check than the kdp viewer.

  5. I really like Smashwords. Although I noticed that something I had on Smashwords for free was for sale on other sites for a few pence- ( the cheeky bleeders! ) So it's out me off listing freebies a bit, but that's no bad thing I suppose. Interesting post!

  6. Great post, Ruby. I loved the knitting comparisons!

    I myself am a fan of putting my books up on Smashwords. I want to make sure that whichever way people read, I'm accomodating that.

    Now, I'm off to knit me a sweater. :o)

  7. This is a great post! My book is on Smashwords and I agree that it makes so much sense for all the reasons you suggest. I do find though, that I haven't figured out yet how to get something going with Smashwords sales though - my Kindle through Amazon sales are much higher. I've tried using coupons and promoting that on twitter, but not a thing! Any suggestions would be SOOO appreciated!

  8. @Melissa Ann, I have another post here which talks a bit about what Smashwords and other routes have contributed so far:

    I put my first book to free on Smashwords and went shouting about it on Twitter. By the time I'd worked out how to see my Smashwords sales I found that over 1000 people had taken it up free on B&N. Some paid sales followed, but not high volumes. I don't sell high volumes anyway but I'd say maybe 1:10 for Smashwords:Amazon.

    I used the coupons to do a membergiveaway on LibraryThing and that worked well with a takeup of 80%.