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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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Here is the short fiction that I’ve published electronically. Two are novellas and two are short collections. Two also have previews of novels with the same characters in them.

I waver back and forth as to whether I like e-books or physical books better. Both have their advantages, but one of e-books biggest advantages is that it has brought back the viability of short fiction.

I remember when I was writing a lot of short fiction back in the 1990s that a professional rate was considered 3 cents a word or more. That means you needed to get paid at least $75 on a 2,500 word short story. At the time, I was making at least 10 times that amount for a non-fiction article. Plus, the market for non-fiction is much larger.

While some novellas could be published as chapbooks, it could be costly, both for the publisher and the reader. I independently published a 65-page novella that I needed to retail at $5.99. That was really too much for a novella that size, but between the printing costs and the retailer cut, that’s what was needed to make it financially viable.

The one area that did work for short fiction was a collection or participating in an anthology. For me, anthologies were always iffy because I usually bought one because a favorite author of mine was part of it, but usually there were other stories in it that I really didn’t like. With short story collections, my impression is that they never seemed to be as big a seller as a novel by the same author.

Then along came e-books.

You can publish a novella and price it at a $1.99. You can publish a short-story collection, just a couple short stories, or even a single story and price them appropriately. Electronic publishing opened up a lot of new avenues for short fiction. These new avenues can pay royalties indefinitely, eventually making the author a lot more money than he or she would earn from publishing a single story in a magazine.

Short fiction e-publishing also makes a great marketing tool. First, these e-books are usually priced very affordably so that a reader would be willing to try out a new author. Second, these e-books can be offered as perma-free without the author feeling he or she is giving up a large royalty. Third, short e-books can be used to promote upcoming novels.

I have seen the latter happening more and more. The author has a new novel coming out in the fall. In the spring a short story is released for 99 cents. Besides the short story, there is usually a preview of the new novel attached at the back of the story. As an added benefit, publishing short fiction along with your novels helps keep your name out in front of readers.

As a reader as well as a writer, I’m happy to see the resurgence of short fiction. I’ve got quite a few on my e-reader that I read and enjoy.

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