Smashwords founder Mark Coker has created an Introduction to Smashwords slideshow, to get the word out to more authors. I sometimes come across authors who plan to self-publish eBooks but have never heard of Smashwords. My experience with Smashwords has been wonderful, so I’m always happy to tell others about it.
Christy Pinheiro over at Step-By-Step Self-Publishing maintains a list of reviewers that accept self-published books. Earlier this week, she released The Official Indie Book Reviewer List. It’s only 99 cents and offers more detailed information about a subset of the review sites listed at her website.
I’ve been using Christy’s online list to find potential reviewers for my fantasy novel, but I still splurged on her eBook. It was worth it. Review policies are sometimes vague (“I’ll read anything!”), so having more details about some reviewers has allowed me to consider or eliminate them with more confidence.
Christy offers a word of caution about not querying or sending books to reviewers who don’t review your genre. Please heed this advice. It gives all of us a bad name when someone wastes a reviewer’s time by querying them about a book in a genre they’ve said they don’t accept. And since the reviewer’s audience probably won’t be interested in the book, there’s no point.
I’d also be careful about sending books without querying first. I would never send a print book to a reviewer who says, “Send me your book, but I don’t guarantee a review.” To me, that’s just an easy way for someone to get free books. I only break the “query first” rule when an influential site accepts eBooks and explicitly states not to query.
Christy’s list and eBook are superb resources. If you’re seeking reviews, check them out.
Eping Wang of Epingsoft was kind enough to provide me with a license for his ePub Maker application, so I could try it out. ePub Maker converts Word documents to ePub books. I used my fantasy novel as a test case. I converted the Word file that I uploaded to Smashwords.
- It’s easy to use. You load your Word document into ePub Maker, press “Make ePub,” and voila, you have an ePub file
- It has a friendly user interface
- All formatting is preserved
- It has an option for starting chapters on a new page and generates a linked Table of Contents. To take advantage of the auto-chapter split feature, you have to mark each chapter as a new section in Word, but it took me literally five minutes to go through my Word file and mark each chapter
- You can include a book cover
- The licensed version costs $39. If you don’t buy a license, you can still generate ePub files, but an ePub Maker advertisement is inserted after each chapter
- The generated ePub file doesn’t pass epubcheck, a program that checks ePub files for compliance with the ePub standard
- I didn’t see an option for saving a project, so you have to re-enter book information every time you want to regenerate an epub
- As I mentioned, I tried the product with a fantasy novel—straight text, no fancy formatting beyond italics, no images. If you have an image-heavy book, a lot of mathematical equations, or other special formatting requirements, the generated ePub may or may not be formatted as well. You’ll have to download the trial version and try it out.
If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to convert Word files so you can read them on your eReader, ePub Maker might be for you. But if you’re a self-publisher wanting to convert your Word files so you can submit them to the Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, and other stores that require ePub files, ePub Maker isn’t ready. Places like Apple will reject files that fail epubcheck.
There’s also the $39 price tag. But hey, if you’re not tech-savvy and you’d have to hire someone to convert your books for you, ePub Maker is a bargain (once the epubcheck problem has been fixed). It will cost you at least $50 (probably more) for someone to convert ONE book. In that light, $39 for ePub Maker could save you a lot of money in the long run.
But unfortunately I can’t recommend it for self-publishers until the epubcheck problem is fixed. I reported the problem to Eping Wang. At first he said that he wasn’t planning to do anything about it, since the epubcheck messages aren’t serious and the generated files can still be read on eReaders. That’s all true. But…
I responded that if he hopes to target the self-publishing market, the generated ePub files have to be compliant; otherwise they’re useless to those hoping to submit them to online bookstores. He wasn’t aware that bookstores are strict about compliance and use epubcheck as part of their validation process. Now that he is, he’s planning to work on the problem.
This is definitely a tool worth watching.
If you’re not American, you might think you don’t have to deal with the IRS. But if you receive royalties from U.S companies, you do. Places like Amazon and Smashwords will withhold 30% of your royalties for the IRS. Can you get around it? Sure, if you live in a country that has a tax treaty with the U.S. and you file a W-8BEN form with each company. But it’s not as easy as filling out the W-8BENs and sending them in. You need what’s called an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number).
Cheryl Kaye Tardif, a fellow Canadian indie author, has written a great post about how to go about obtaining an ITIN. I’m in the middle of that process right now. My application is “in the mail,” and if all goes well, I should have my ITIN by December 1st.
Like Cheryl, I used an acceptance agent. You can prepare the application yourself, but I’d read so many stories around the net about applications being rejected for the most trivial of reasons that I decided to pay an acceptance agent and increase my chances of having my application accepted the first time around. The other advantage to using an acceptance agent is that copies of your documents don’t have to be notarized. The acceptance agent vouches for them.
If you decide to do it on your own, the best ID to use is your passport. The IRS requires the original passport or a notarized copy. If you feel okay sending your passport through the mail and being without it for up to two months, go ahead, but personally I wouldn’t do that. However, the IRS is picky about notarized copies. It won’t accept a copy notarized by a Canadian notary, but it will accept a copy notarized by the issuer of the passport.
Fortunately the Canadian passport office will make a notarized copy of your passport—for free! Take your passport to your local office and explain why you need a notarized copy (taking along a copy of the ITIN application instructions would be a good idea). You’ll have to leave your passport with them for a few days, so don’t do this right before you’re about to travel.
Another option is to get an EIN, which is a tax ID for companies. Some people think it’s okay to get one of those as an individual self-publisher. Others don’t. If you’re interested in exploring this route, drop by Catherine Ryan Howard’s post about the subject.
Anyway, all of this is a PITA, and given how borders are meaningless (for the most part) on the internet, I hope tax laws designed for physical businesses will be modernized for those of us doing business on the net. I’m not holding my breath, though!
Finally, my last post about CreateSpace. I left off at the point where I’d ordered a proof and was waiting for it to arrive. When it did, I discovered a missing word when I proofread the story. Can you believe the word was ‘a’? Normally I would have let that go, but since the book is tiny and the proof only cost around $5 total for printing and shipping, I decided to correct the error and order another proof.
I approved that proof today, so I’ve now completed the CreateSpace publishing cycle. It took so long for me to reach this point because I was also in the process of releasing a book through Lightning Source, which took priority.
When I approved the proof, I asked for an eStore for the book, mainly so I could see what one looks like and show it to you. Here it is—the eStore for A Tragic Romance. An eStore is easy to hang off your website, as I’ve just done. The only drawback is that a single store can’t handle multiple books, so if you wanted to offer more than one book, you’d have one store per each. It’s worth noting that sales through the eStore pay the highest percentage, so if you were to drive traffic and sales to your eStore, rather than to your Amazon page, you’d make more money. However, I have no idea if eStore sales count toward your Amazon sales ranking. I suspect they don’t.
A Tragic Romance is a book in the public domain. It’s quite rare, so I had to buy a copy off eBay. When I last checked, none of the usual public domain sites had it, probably because it was hand-sold by the author back in 1904. There’s an interesting story behind the author, which I’ve included in the book.
It’s a short story, so the book is only 34 pages long (not counting the title and copyright pages). Unfortunately, I had to price it at $4.95 due to the printing costs and the share that CreateSpace takes. At that price, I’ll make less than a buck per sale.
But that wasn’t the point. I’d been curious about CreateSpace for a while and decided to try it out using this book. I typeset the interior myself and used CreateSpace’s cover generator, hence the cheesy template cover. The short story is actually very interesting for reasons I go into in the Afterword. If you’re curious, I’d buy it from the Kindle store, where it’s only $0.99. But if you’re wondering about the quality of CreateSpace printing, here’s a book you can buy cheap to check it out.
So, having worked recently with both CreateSpace and Lightning Source, I have to give the thumbs up to CreateSpace for ease of use, and the nod to Lightning Source for distribution. Here’s how I see it: if you’re just interested in seeing your book up on Amazon and maybe offering it through an eStore, there’s no easier route than CreateSpace. But if you want to make the most money per sale, and you want maximum distribution into online bookstores, then you need to use Lightning Source. LSI can be more difficult to use, but mainly when you first open an account and when you prepare your files for each title.
When you open your account at CreateSpace, you’re treated like an individual. Provide your contact details and a credit card, and you’re done. Lightning Source deals with you as a company, so you have to first create a company (easy to do if the company name will be the same as your legal name, though that’s not recommended). Then there’s a multitude of paperwork to do, but you only have to do it once.
When it comes to setting up titles, LSI’s requirements are much more stringent than CreateSpace’s. With CreateSpace, I created a “High Quality Print” PDF and that worked fine. LSI requires PDFs in the PDF-X:1a standard and a 240% maximum ink limit on covers, among other things. If you hire someone to do your interior and cover or you know how to do it yourself and have the appropriate software, it’s not a big deal. But for publishing newcomers, it can be daunting.
If you’ve worked with CreateSpace or LSI and have an opinion about either, I’d love to hear it. Let me know in the comments section.