How to publish your e-book: Smashwords

Self-publishing was considered to be for people whose books were not good enough to get the attention of agents and big publishing companies.


 Now, with arrival of e-books, the situation has changed.

E-books sales are on a rise. Publishing your e-book takes minutes, often there is no upfront fee, and you can sell your work around the world. Your work becomes immediately available to millions of people, you don’t need an agent, and your e-book never goes out of print. Do you know that J.K.Rowling, author of Harry Potter books, is planning on distributing her new books (yes, there are more books!) 100% via her website?

Everybody’s heard about Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, but Smashwords is becoming more and more popular, especially with indie authors. So, here what you should know about Smashwords.


Though less popular than Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, Smashwords is the biggest self-publishing platform for indie authors. Smashwords distributes your e-book directly to the readers and though major e-book retailers, such as Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo and Diesel. Currently, Smashwords is working on distributing its catalog though Amazon stores.

Before uploading, you have to format your e-book according to Smashwords’ guidelines, otherwise it will be rejected. You can download the Smashwords Style Guide for free and do it yourself, otherwise you can ask a Smashwords author to help you do it for a low price (around $25/hour). Read the guide carefully, even if you choose to go with help. Some authors are not happy with how their books look on Smashwords; the guide describes how to avoid most of the problems by formatting your e-book properly.

After you formatted you book, go to and open a free account. Click on “Publish” and you are in business. You upload your e-book in Microsoft Word format, and Smashwords converts it into multiple e-book formats, so your e-book can be read on all e-reading devices. Smashwords doesn’t provide digital rights management (DRM), so your readers are able to convert your book into the format they prefer.

Smashwords likes to give their readers a free sample of e-books they are about to buy. Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords, explains that if a reader likes what he reads on first 20 pages, he or she would be more inclined to buy a 300-pages book. You can choose how much of your book readers can read for free, usually authors choose between 20 and 30%.

Smashwords distributes your book through three catalogs:    

  1. Standard Catalog:  After you upload your e-book and go through conversion, it becomes available for sale at Smashwords.
  2. Premium Catalog: To be approved for  the premium catalog your e-book has to meet criteria set by online retailers. Once your book is accepted into the Premium Catalog, Smashwords distributes it to major online retailers. It can take from 2 to 3 weeks for your e-book to appear on bookshelves of major retailers.
  3. Atom/OPDS Catalog : This catalog distributes samples of all books that are sold on Smashwords to e-reading apps on iPhone and Android mobile devices. These e-reading apps alone reach over 5 million readers combined.

You are also in charge of pricing your book, and there is no limitation: you can charge $1000 or give it away for free. You will get 85% of the sales through Smashwords, and 60% of the sales though retailers.