Paranoid Fortune Tellers and Smashwords

Today was an exciting day.  Not because of the great win by Darren Clarke at the British Open, or because of the wonderful, albeit disappointing, final of the Women’s World Cup, but because it was the day I decided to prepare Henry Wood Detective Agency for ereaders (Kindle, Nook, Sony, et al).

If one is considering self-publishing, then the name Smashwords should be familiar. It is a company who, using a program called ‘Meatgrinder’, takes one properly formatted document, and makes it compatible for all the major ereaders.  They do take a small cut of the author’s royalties from the sale, but for me, it is worth it.

I’ve already formatted the first, pre-rewritten, Henry Wood Detective Agency, for Kindle, and it was a lot of work.  I never got my TOC (writer lingo for Table of Contents) to work correctly, as the NCX file baffled me.  I also failed to make my cover visible when one hits the view cover bit on the Kindle.   I like my cover, so this was unacceptable.  I know one isn’t suppose to judge a book by it’s cover, but that was probably a quote from the president of “Sucky Cover Design Inc.”  I prefer the old adage, “Buy a book with a sexy black art deco cover and you’ll be adored by all. Seriously, just carry it around, and people will be drawn to you, like a moth to a moth zapping device.” –unknown

So it was completely unacceptable to not have the cover show up.  Smashwords is going to teach me how to do all of these steps.  When one signs up on the site, they recommend a free book by Mark Coker, “Smashwords Style Guide”. It is excellent and, on occasion, rather funny.  There is one underlying theme to the book.  I paraphrase, but it goes something like this.

Follow our instructions.  Seriously, I’m not kidding.  I don’t care if you are a publishing expert with 20 years experience, follow the damn instructions.  There is one exception.  For those who want to fail, spend 300% more time on the formatting, and have no fear of being driven terminally insane, and are generally narcissistic bastards, you may do as you please.  For the rest of you, follow the instructions. Repeat after me, “I will follow the instructions in the style guide or have a pox upon my house.”  Now say it 37 times, turn around and hop on one leg.

I could go on, and believe me, I want to, but you get the idea.  The 1st half of the book is devoted to putting the fear of god into the reader, the second half has the really well written instructions.  I read the book twice, and so I had the fear of two gods put into me and am glad, because every time I felt my eyes wanting to skip ahead, I carefully returned to the step at hand.

During this process, I turned off Twitter and Google +.

And you know what, it is working.  The author, Mark Coker, says it should take 2 hours to complete and admittedly, I took longer, but part of that, was due to double checking the instructions with the paranoia of a superstitious fortune teller on Friday the 13th, outside the ACME Black Cat and Ladder emporium.

Mr. Coker also says that people, who are familiar with the process, can probably do all the style formatting in under an hour.  I believe him.  One of the nice things he teaches us is how to program the ‘normal’ layout in Microsoft Word.  This means, those steps will be done for HWII.  I’m sure the 2nd book will probably take 90 minutes, but by the time I get ready to format Henry Wood: Perceptions, I’ll be completely comfortable with the process.

Knowing how to use Smashwords is a powerful tool to the indie author.  Once mastered, the world of self-publishing possibilities will seem endless.  Well, that is how it seems to me now.

So if you are considering publishing a book, give Smashwords a try. If you have already tried them, feel free to share your experiences.  If you are a paranoid fortune teller, you probably should stay away from ebooks…they can steal your soul!