I think Smashwords is the best place to get started with your self-published works. After you format your book to their specs, they distribute it to all the major players, e.g. Amazon, B&N, the Apple store, etc. You can also sign up for a few of these (in particular Amazon and B&N) on your own and increase your book's exposure.
I think of J.A. Konrath's blog, A Newbie's Guide to Self-Publishing, as possibly the best resource for writers who want to go this route. Not only does he spell out the mechanical aspects of it, he is also indie publishing's biggest booster (and one of the biggest success stories with his own books).
Smashwords gives you a page to describe yourself and your book that can be edited constantly, and they have a "Dashboard" that you can check to keep track of your sales.
Marketing is everything. So (brace for a shameless plug!), please check out my Smashwords site and check out my novel, When I Am Singing to You (the title comes from a line from one of my favorite poets, the Chilean Gabriela Mistral).
the very next thing I do after I say thanks to you, will be to #1 check out the newbie's guide blog site and #2, buy your book. That's the most wonderful thing about epublishing -- it opens up a world of opportunity for us vis a vis exposure and it affords SO many writers who have been told "no" too many times, but not for lack of merit, it affords us the potential world of "yesses" even though we know the marketing is laborious.
Thanks for taking time to weigh in. I was leaning that way and now, based on your comments and others, I think I'll go with SmashWords for my memoir, (reciprocal plug)
A Woman With a Past: The Post-Apocalyptic Approach to Men which is the prequel to the sequel I'll be working on this summer. Off the Leash: Road Stories With My Dog. Thanks again for the tips and I'll look forward to reading your novel. It's all about supporting one another and your book (nice cover!) sounds great.
Jean Ellen Whatley
I've had a good experience with Smashwords so far. Formatting my novel for the platform was much easier than I expected--Mark Coker offers a step-by-step style guide. There's a sense of community there and a nice group of Smashwords authors on a Facebook page, too. (They call themselves Smashers!)
Drawbacks: It's supposed to only take a week to get into the premium catalog, which distributes to Apple, Sony and so on... but because of a huge crush of new authors in May (6,000, of which I was one!), the approval process has been delayed; it now takes about two weeks. So that's a drag, because you don't know until they inform you whether your novel has passed the formatting test. They say 80 percent of sales come from the premium catalog.
I've just published my first completed novel, "The Leaving," and a short story on the site, and I'm pretty happy with the control they give authors over the process:
But so far, of course, no huge sales!
I like Smashwords so far. I have this lovely page for my book:
It even let me put videos up about it.
I like Smashwords in conjunction with a POD source, so that I can have both ebooks and print books.
I know quite a few authors who have done legacy printing and are now using Smashwords for their back-list publication. Once you learn how to format (as someone else said a few posts up) with The Smashwords Style Guide, and learn just what needs to be done to publish to Kindle and B&N it's pretty easy. All the authors I know are doing Smashwords, Kindle, B&N. Apparently, they get better profits by doing Kindle and Epub separate. If you can get into the Premier Catalog for Smashwords, it helps also.
One major thing to consider, is Use a Cover. I am one who passes by books without covers anymore. I assume they are just hobbyist and not serious about writing. I know, I shouldn't but I can't help that.
My husband is working on an anthology that he will be uploading to Smashwords, and then I will help him to figure out how to load it to Barnes and Noble and Kindle. With proper formatting of course, as those two are a bit different from Smashwords formatting. Like Sj...I like that there are different formats to download. I usually go for PDF just because it is the one I seem to be able adjust the font to a larger size for reading.
I know...I write too much. Sorry. *smile*
I'm in the middle of dealing with Smashwords' process right now. I have to say, I found CreateSpace much less stressful, for a couple of reasons. One, this much touted step-by-step guide on how to convert a document to make it Smashwords-ready has an inordinate amount of padding. All they had to say was a slightly more detailed version of "strip your doc of all internal formatting," which takes a sentence. Instead, I found myself wading through page after page of unnecessarily wordy information about how to convert this document. In all, it took me about 4.5 hours last weekend (one Saturday, basically) to convert a rather short little book which has already been produced via CreateSpace. I am glad I did it; the platforms that Smashwords covers are comprehensive. However, I'm not done with the process, so the book is, as yet, not completely accepted, although according to my dashboard it was "published" last week. We shall see how it all goes. If I get revenue, so much the better.
What I would have preferred knowing from the start is: if you already have a Word doc of your manuscript, make a copy of it and completely unformat it, then be prepared to re-format it Smashwords' way. Also, have an image of the right size of your cover, or be prepared to read through unnecessary pages of documentation telling you the same thing over and over again, about how you could be buying this designed cover from some cover designer guy.
I wish the process had been more intuitive, and that the guide to reformatting your text/doc/file be rewritten for simplicity of use and clarity. This is not to say that the CreateSpace concept is remarkably simpler or more straightforward; it took me awhile to format that book, but I was much happier with the whole process at the end, possibly because I have been a book publisher and I knew what I was doing when I was formatting that documentation a lot more quickly than with Smashwords. Smashwords is, in my opinion, made more difficult than it has to be. When all is said and done, formatting Smashwords is a very simple process; easier to say in hindsight, though, having learned from my own mistakes.