How to self-publish on Kindle and Smashwords

Now is the best time to be a budding author. In the past, you had to tout your book to the traditional publishing houses, hope one of them condescended to read it and publish it, accept a small royalty (usually 6% which is why most authors were poor) and if you had an agent, you had to pay a cut of that to them.

All that changed when Apple launched it’s iBookstore in conjunction with the iPad. They were willing to pay self-published authors 70% royalties for a proper original ebook formatted in ePub with an ISBN. This alarmed Amazon, whose Kindle store offered only 30% to self-publishers (while the Kindle was the only game in town, their deal sounded good compared to the traditional publishers).

Amazon responded by raising their royalties to 70% for books priced between $2.99 and $9.99. Meanwhile Smashwords, the independent publisher, was offering royalties of 85% for books sold through their online store, plus a free ISBN number, plus additional distribution of your book to the Apple iBookstore, the Barnes and Noble store, the Sony bookstore and Kobo.

If you are American, and have a Mac, and your own ebook ISBN, you can upload directly to the iBookstore and get a 70% royalty. Otherwise I recommend you use Smashwords – you get 60% and Smashwords gets 10%. After uploading onto Smashwords, I recommend you upload your book to the Kindle store.

How to format for Smashwords

Smashwords has a smart converter that will convert a Microsoft Word document into a number of formats: html and javascript for customers who buy directly through smashwords and want to keep the book within their smashwords account; a .mobi file for mobile phone and Kindle apps; ePub (so they can distribute it to Apple, Barns and Noble and Sony); .rtf so that it can be downloaded onto any PC with the Windows operating system and the Microsoft ereader; pdfs; palm docs for palm reading devices and plain text files.

They also encrypt it when they convert your document into the above formats, to protect your intellectual property.

However, you need to ensure that your microsoft word document is properly formatted so they can convert it easily. I recommend you read the following style guide to make sure you have the copyright notice in the front of the book and all the paragraphs formatted correctly: Smashwords style guide. You will also need to prepare an ebook cover.

Once your book has been converted successfully, follow their instructions to get an ISBN, and they will do the submission to Apple and the rest.

Smashwords disburse royalties to you via Paypal, once you have reached $10. Note that you will need to declare your tax status – if you are overseas in a country that has a double-taxation agreement with the USA, you need to complete the appropriate forms they send you to ensure that no tax is deducted (so you can pay the tax to your own government when you do your yearly taxes).

How to submit to the Kindle store

Once you have your ebook uploaded to Smashwords, you need to format your document for Kindle (no you can’t use the format Smashwords has created, they feel it is proprietary and I understand their stance).

First convert your word document into an html file (simply by saving it as .html)

Go to Mobi Pocket Creator (which is an auto kindle ebook converter, and has now been purchased by Amazon) and download the free software to create an ebook. When you have the software on your desktop, load it up and click to create a blank publication. Name your folder and then add your html file, and your ebook cover and complete the meta details (the name of the author, the ISBN number, which you will have got from Smashwords, and the price).

Then click “build” and let it create an ebook for you.

Then go to the Kindle store, and upload your ebook cover and the ebook that mobi pocket creator has produced. When clicking upload, make sure you enable digital rights management so they encrypt it to protect against theives. Then set your price (make sure it is between $2.99 and $9.95) and within 24 hours Kindle will have placed it in their American, British, French and German kindle stores.

Once your books have been uploaded you need to promote them to make sure that they make sales – See the following post on how to market and sell your ebook.