List your book with Smashwords

Go to Smashwords.com and click Join for Free:

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Complete the simple sign up form, entering an email address, username, password, age, country of residence and name/pen name. For this, you should write the name that appears on your book cover. If you write under initials (like J.K. Rowling), enter these in the First box and your surname in the Last. Ignore the drop down menu that allows you to add Jr, Sr or VIII, unless, your writing name is, indeed, Joe Bloggs VIII.

Once you’ve confirmed your email address and proved you’re a human, account setup is complete and you’ll be returned to Smashwords’ website.

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Payment Settings
Before you publish your eBook, it’s a good idea to complete your payment settings so Smashwords knows how to pay you. To access these, select the Account tab:

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Scroll right down to the bottom of the page and click Payment Settings. You’ll be presented with a stream of information. Read through it and then complete the form underneath. For my answers, I’m going to assume you’re a UK citizen:

Tax Information
Are you a U.S. entity or U.S. citizen or resident?
Select No and then Individual or Sole Proprietor

You’ll now be prompted to fill out form W8-BEN. This is the same form that you completed with KDP. Its purpose for UK residents is to stop Smashwords witholding 30% of your earnings to hand over to the US government.

Complete Part I: Identification of Beneficial Owner with your name, address, date of birth, country of residence etc. When you type your date of birth, remember to do it in US format: month first, followed by day and year. Leave the question about SSN/ITIN numbers blank. These are US tax numbers which, I assume, you don’t have. Instead, enter your National Insurance Number into the box which requests your Foreign TIN (Tax identifying number issued to you by your tax reporting country).

In Part II: Claim of Tax Treaty Benefits, select United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland, No. Ireland) – 0 from the drop-down menu. The 0 indicates that the UK has a treaty which allows its citizens to pay 0% tax to the US government in circumstances like this. Under Explain the reasons the beneficial owner meets the terms of the treaty article enter: Beneficial owner is resident of the UK so meets terms of the treaty.

In Part III: Certification, check through the boxes and tick them all.

Payment Information
How would you like to be paid?  This isn’t really a question for anyone outside the US as the only method available is PayPal. You still need to select it from the drop-down menu, though or you won’t be able to complete the form. If you don’t have a PayPal account, then click on the link provided to sign up for one. It’s completely free and a great way to accept and send money online.

Enter your PayPal email in the appropriate field.

Confirm and Sign
Finally, tick the boxes confirming the information you’ve supplied is correct and consenting to an electronic signature. Type your name in the correct box to give this signature and press the green Accept & Save Payment Settings button, at the bottom of the page.

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List Your Book
Select the Publish tab:

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The form is a simplified version of the KDP one. Complete it as follows:

Part 1: Title and synopsis

Title
As always, make absolutely sure the spelling and grammar are correct. There isn’t a separate box for a subtitle so if you have one, add it here.

Release date
As with Kindle, you can make your book available immediately or set a release date for some point in the future. This will make your book available to pre-order on both Smashwords’ website and the retailers that have pre-order facilities, currently Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.

You can set your book’s release date up to 12 months in advance and even opt for something called an assetless preorder if your book file/cover isn’t ready yet. In this case, select I will upload my final formatted manuscript later, complete the box telling Smashwords the approximate word count and agree to upload the final manuscript and cover at least 10 days before your selected release date. Just as with KDP, pre-orders create lots of registered sales for launch day, placing your book higher up the bestseller charts and creating hype just when you need it.

Long description
Copy and paste your book blurb. Follow Smashwords’ instructions displayed beneath the box and omit any email addresses, hyperlinks, book prices, or promotions.

Short description of your book
A few retailers don’t provide space for a long description so you need to come up with an abbreviated version of between 50 and 400 characters. Think of a catchy phrase or two that sums up your book and type it in the box.

Language of book: I’d select English (dialect unspecified) rather than British/Scottish/Welsh/Australian/USA etc, unless the location of your book is key to its themes and general feel.

Part 2: Pricing and Sampling

Price
Unless you want to give your eBook away, select Charge a specific amount for my book and enter the price in US dollars. Make it identical to your Amazon.com price. Firstly, because it’s not good to annoy readers who’ve spent money on your book only to find it cheaper elsewhere. More importantly, though, if you opted for KDP’s 70% royalty rate, you entered into a contract promising you wouldn’t undercut their price. Doing so will result in an unpleasant email from Amazon threatening to remove your book from their catalogue.

Smashwords deals exclusively in dollars so you don’t need to worry about setting a price for different currencies. External retailers with national sites will automatically convert to the appropriate currency, where appropriate.

Make my book free
If you want to give your book away, select Make my book free. Before doing so, ensure that you’ve chosen the 35% royalty rate at KDP. Unlike the 70% rate, this doesn’t entail a promise not to undercut their price, meaning you’re not breaking any contract by giving your book away on Smashwords.

If you also want your eBook to be free on Amazon, follow the instructions, here.

Sampling
I think sampling (making a portion of your book available for free) is an excellent marketing strategy. Many readers hesitate to part with money for an unknown author but will happily download a free sample to try. A generous 25-30% will allow them to get involved in the book and make them more likely to pay to download the rest. If they dislike it, it will prevent them feeling resentful for having spent money on it and avoid negative reviews.

If you don’t enable sampling, your book will be excluded from some mobile app retailers.

Part 3: Categorization

You can pick up to two categories. The same rules apply as when you selected these on KDP. Think carefully: placing your book correctly will help potential customers find it. Remember, selecting Fiction -> General is a waste of time if you can possibly specify further.

Adult Content:
As with KDP, don’t just tick this automatically because your book contains a sex scene. It’s a specific category meant for adult erotica/seriously graphic themes.

Box Set
This would be a collected edition of multiple works. If you have several books, it’s much better, from a marketing point of view, to publish them individually so I suggest you select No for this.

Part 4: Tags

This is the same as KDP’s Keywords only this time you’re allowed ten of them. Enter the word or phrase into the box and then click Add Tag before typing another. Smashwords gives you a bit of help with this, suggesting frequently used keywords as you type. Unfortunately, tags only work in Smashwords’ own store and are not exported to other retailers.

Part 5: eBook Formats

Select them all. There’s no reason not to, unless you’re uploading an ePub file and then your book will only be available in ePub. This isn’t really a problem as it’s the format that Smashwords uses to distribute to the biggest retailers: Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble etc.

Parts 6 & 7 Cover Image and Book File Upload

For each section press Browse and upload the relevant file. For your book interior, make sure you select your Smashwords rather than your Kindle version. For more details on preparing your manuscript, see my instructionals or download the free Smashwords Style Guide.

Part 8: Publishing Agreement

Agree to Smashwords’ terms and conditions and click the yellow button at the bottom of the page to either publish immediately or make your book available for pre-order.

Your manuscript will enter what Smashwords calls ‘The Meatgrinder’ to be converted into the correct formats. There may be a queue of books waiting to undergo the process so you’ll need to wait a while. Once done, Smashwords will email to tell you either that the conversion’s been a success or that there’s a problem.

If the latter, go back to their style guide and rectify the issue before uploading your file and putting it through The Meatgrinder again.

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Add an ISBN
Select the Dashboard tab at the top of the page:

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Scroll down to Book Summaries and you should see your eBook listed as published (or pre published) but under review for the premium catalogue. This means, it’s available to buy (or preorder) from Smashwords’ own site but isn’t currently listed at any other retailers, like Apple or Kobo. Only books included in the premium catalogue are distributed to external retailers. You can’t gain access to this until you assign your eBook an ISBN.

Scroll back up to the top of the page and select the ISBN Manager under Metadata Management:

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You’ll be taken to a page of instructions, outlining a little about ISBNs and eBooks. It basically explains that Smashwords can provide you with a free ISBN or you can use your own as long as it’s not the one from your print edition or your KDP eBook (if you even gave that an ISBN).

Click Assign ISBN and select the free one on offer or copy and paste your own. There’s no good reason to spend money on your own ISBN but if you really want to, there’s nothing to stop you either.

Unlike your print version, the ISBN doesn’t need to appear on your copyright page.

Smashwords advises that it can take up to couple of weeks to approve your book’s entry into the premium catalogue. When this happens, you’ll get a nice big tick by your book’s details on your dashboard and your eBook will gradually filter through and become available on sites such as iBooks, Kobo and Barnes & Noble.

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Checking your eBook

In the mean time, your book will be available on Smashwords and you can download a free author copy whenever you want. It’s a good idea to download both the ePub and Mobi versions to check through on your own reading devices.

If you don’t own any tablets or eReaders, you can still check the files on your computer. To view the ePub one, download Adobe Digital Editions. This is also the software you use to transfer an eBook to ePub compatible reading devices, such as a Nook or a Kobo. To check your Mobi file, download Kindle for PC or Kindle for Mac.

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Sales Reports

You can keep track of sales via the Sales Reporting box at the top left of your Dashboard. Don’t be alarmed if the number of sales under Books Sold at Smashwords is rather low. As the name suggests, this refers only to books sold on Samshwords’ own webshop. Most of your sales will take place at external retailers, like Apple’s iBook store, Kobo and Barnes & Noble.

To see these, select Sales and Payment Report. This lists sales for each and every channel. There’s likely to be a time lag between an actual sale and when it’s registered on the report. It all depends on how regularly the individual retailer reports sales to Smashwords. Apple, for instance, only sends sales data once a month. Unlike KDP, this makes it difficult to judge the effect of promotions in the short-term. However, it’s a minor inconvenience compared to the breadth of service Smashwords offers.

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Royalties

Smashwords provides a service and therefore charges a commission, just as KDP do. For sales through Smashwords’ own store, you’ll receive 85% of the list price after a modest fee for credit card processing has been deducted. The percentage of your profits this transactional fee eats into depends on a variety of factors, including your list price and h0w many books the customer is buying at the time. If it’s several, then the fee is spread between all of them.

With so many variables, it’s impossible to give an exact percentage for royalties. However, the following figures should give you some idea. Assuming yours is the only book in customer’s basket at the time of checkout, you’ll receive $8 for an eBook priced at $10, $2.21 for one at $2.99 and $0.56 for one at $0.99. You’ll then lose a tiny amount (around 0.5%) as a fee when PayPal converts your earnings into pound sterling.

The majority of sales don’t come through Smashwords’ own webstore but third-party retailers. The royalties for these vary from retailer to retailer.

For sales at Apple’s iBooks and Barnes & Noble, you’ll receive 60% of the list price but only if your book sells in their US store. In other stores, including the UK, France and Australia, VAT is added to the list price meaning the percentage you receive varies.

Kobo offers 60% for their US and Canadian sales but only 38% for sales in other currencies.

If you want exact details of royalties for each retailer, click on Channel Manager in the Marketing & Distribution Tools section of your Dashboard.

Payment Schedule

Smashwords pays you all the money that’s in your account monthly, within 40 days of the close of that calendar month.

This will include sales from Smashwords’ own store and any payments from third-party retailers that have reached your Smashwords’ account during the calendar month in question. Be aware that some retailers can take up to 60 days to register sales and transfer the money to Smashwords, meaning you could potentially wait up to about 130 days to receive payment. To make this clearer, let’s take a concrete example:

  • 1st January – eBook sells at third-party retailer
  • 2nd March (60 days later) – third-party retailer pays Smashwords
  • May 10th (40 days after the close of March) Smashwords pays the author

This is the worst case scenario. Many retailers pay more rapidly than 60 days and most of Smashwords’ payments to their authors go through within 30 days. A more likely scenario for a book sold in January is that Smashwords receives payment sometime in February and the money arrives in the author’s account towards the end of March.

However long it takes, be assured, you will be paid eventually, providing your Payment Settings page is up to date and all information entered is correct.

Payments are made to your PayPal account. There’s no minimum threshold so even if you’ve only sold one book, you’ll get the royalties from it.

Coupons

Smashwords offers the ability to generate voucher codes for you to share with whomever you please. This either gives the recipient(s) a specified discount or allows them to download your book for free. These are called coupons. To create one, select Coupon Manager from the Marketing & Distribution Tools section of your Dashboard. Then, on the Coupon Code Manager page, click Generate Coupon and complete the following form:

Coupon discount/New promotional price
Choose the level of discount you want to offer. This can be calculated either as a percentage off or an exact price. If you want to give your book away, type 0 in the New promotional price field.

Projected proceeds from each sale
Once you’ve complete the Coupon discount/New promotional price fields, Smashwords calculates your royalty payment based on this new price.

Coupon expires
Set an expiry date.

Description
If you’re going to use a lot of coupons, label each one to avoid confusion. Titles might indicate what percentage off they offer or the particular event they’ve been created for. This label will only be seen by you, not your customers.

Metered Redemption
If you want to limit the number of people who can redeem a coupon, complete this box. For instance, if the coupon is for a competition winner to claim a free eBook and you only want it to be used once, enter 1 in the box.

Make the coupon public
If you want the coupon to be available to all customers, then tick the box and it will be displayed on your book’s Smashwords page.

Click Generate Coupon and you’ll receive a 5 digit code. You can share this privately (by email) or publicly on your website/blog.

The customer enters the code at checkout to receive their discount.

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