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swlogoWhen I started putting out my books as ebooks, I was initially overwhelmed. Just consider all of the platforms that sell ebooks: Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iBooks and Overdrive to name a few. Was I going to have to prepare my manuscript to meet the standards of each one?

Then I discovered Smashwords.com. It’s an aggregator of e-book platforms. I could upload my book once and have it converted to all of the necessary e-publishing platforms and then appear on the different sites. It was a godsend.

The site is pretty easy to use, too. You fill out book information and then upload a cover and the interior of the book. Smashwords converts the book into the appropriate platforms and then sends it out to the different retailers.

The one problem I have found myself having of late is that to qualify for a listing with all of those retailers, you have to format your book to certain specs. It was no problem for my novels. I just followed the tips that Mark Coker, the owner, posts for formatting and the process went smoothly.

The problem I run into is with my non-fiction books, which contain pictures. The pictures apparently cause a lot of problems in the conversion process. I must have tried six times to get my last book uploaded properly, but something kept going wrong. I think I may have it figured out, though, so I’ve got my fingers crossed for the next book I upload. (FYI, I will be setting my pictures at 96 dpi instead of 300 dpi. The latter is the standard for print publication. Since I’m not doing the print version, the web standard for pictures works fine.)

I haven’t made as much use of Smashwords as I can, which is something I’m trying to remedy. The site offers some useful tools for indie authors. You can easily change the book pricing. Unlike Amazon KDP, Smashwords allows you to make your books free of charge for an indefinite period. You can also alter how much someone can read of your book for free.

You can also use a set of marketing tools. Create coupons. Post an author interview. Link books in a series together.

These are just a few things that I’ve discovered so far.

Despite the advantages of using Smashwords, I also use Amazon KDP for the Kindle versions of my books. It does require some extra work to prepare the manuscript again, but most Kindle users buy their Kindle e-books from Amazon. I found that when I started publishing directly with Amazon KDP, my Kindle sales jumped considerably.

Still, uploading two versions of my books is a far cry from having to upload six versions. Now I just need to find the best ways to use the marketing tools at my disposal.

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I read Allen Taylor’s E-book Publishing: Create Your Own Brand of Digital Books as an Advance Reading Copy. I have published a number of e-books and thought I pretty much had the process down pat, but I still found information and tips in here that I will use on my next e-book project.

If you haven’t published an e-book yet, then this book is a great primer to get your first book up and for sale. It has plenty of step by step information to walk you through the publishing procedures for various platforms. Hopefully, Taylor will keep the book updated as changes are made with the different publishing platforms so that the book’s information stays current.

That was a concern I had about some of the data about e-publishing I read early in the book. The most recent seemed to be 2013. If the 2013 trends continued, I wouldn’t be so concerned, but I saw stories last year showing that e-publishing might be leveling off. So the rosy picture, Taylor paints, may not be so rosy. Don’t get me wrong. It’s still a great market to get into and this book does a great job of doing it.

Taylor has a relaxed writing style so you don’t feel like you are reading an instruction manual as he walks you through the process. You just do what he says and before you know it, you have a book electronically published. I’ve read some manuals where the steps get so technical that I felt overwhelmed, but Taylor makes you feel like he’s a friend talking you through the process.

What novice and veteran e-publisher alike will find useful are the chapters on marketing, pricing, and running a digital press. Publishing your e-book is really just the first step in a very long process of getting it into the hands of readers. Taylor covers a lot of strategies to accomplish this. Try them out and see what works for you.

He shows you how to publish your e-book in a variety of formats and also with a variety of publishers. My biggest concern is that the book has separate chapters on publishing your book in different electronic formats and also with different e-book distributors. Reading the book you get the feeling that you have to format your books a half a dozen different ways and then upload it a number of different web sites.

One thing I have discovered is that pretty much all I need to do is publish my book with Kindle and then Smashwords. I used to only do Smashwords because it formats your books to a variety of platforms including the ones that Taylor lists as separate chapters. Although Smashwords publishes a Kindle format (.mobi), I’ve found that nearly all Kindle users buy their e-books from Amazon.

So I format my book two ways and upload it to two sites, but then it is distributed to probably more than a dozen sites.

All in all, it’s a very handy reference book to have. I highlighted a number of different web sites and passages to study in more detail.

I’ve been publishing some of my work as e-books during the past year. Some of the projects have been full-length novels, but others have been shorter pieces, such as novellas, short stories and mini-collections.

The flexibility of the format is one of the things I like about e-publishing. It wouldn’t be profitable to publish a short story as a hard copy. You would have to price it way above the market in order to cover distributor cuts and printing. However, you can e-publish the same story and make a profit.

Authors are continuing to explore the format. Short stories are now often published with the first couple chapters of the author’s upcoming novel so that the affordably priced e-book also becomes a nice marketing piece for the author.  Other authors actually make the short story a prequel to the novel. I’ve seen James Rollins and Steve Berry do this.

Other authors are serializing stories. Dean Koontz did it this past summer with his Odd Interludes released in three parts. It also now appears that the single stories have been removed from sale and he’s selling them as a combined story so he gets double exposure.

Many of the non-fiction e-books have links within the copy that can take you right to the web site or source material. Other books have become interactive, which I’m guessing is being called an “enhanced e-book.”

I’m sure before too long some enterprising author will come up with another new way to market his or her work. I’m definitely using some of the formats to present my work, but mainly I’m enjoying the wide range of reading options.

I’ve been enjoying doing some e-publishing this year and have discovered some useful benefits with it. For instance, I’ll be turning one of my out-of-print books, Canawlers, into an e-book. This way, it stays in print until it goes into a new printing. This will happen since one of my future projects is a third Canawlers book. That’s when I figure the original Canawlers will be reprinted.

The newest use of e-publishing that I’ve found is for short projects that I’ve wanted to do for a while. These are projects that I didn’t have enough material to turn into a book-length project like novellas or ideas I want to try out first to see if they have an audience.

My newest venture is one of these short projects. It’s called When the Babe Came to Town: Stories of George Herman Ruth’s Small-Town Baseball Games. It’s a project I’ve had some interest in doing, but I don’t have a feel for whether it would be worth turning into a full book. I found myself wondering whether it was worth investing the hours upon hours of writing and research when there were other projects that I could be doing that would have a known market.

So I put together four stories of Babe Ruth’s barnstorming adventures and how he connected with his fans. They are fun stories to write and I hope readers enjoy them because there are plenty more stories out there.

If this first volume is successful, I’ll do another one that’s longer and if they find an audience, I could eventually put them together for a book. In this way, e-publishing serves as a way to test market ideas.

Let me know what you think of this new book. It should be available on Smashwords and Amazon later this month.

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